It was nice to have slowed down the pace of travel while in Mauritius, but the boys were ready to head back to South Africa and look for animals again. We first spent a few days in Johannesburg with some old friends. We met Geraldine and Martin in 2003 when we were traveling in Brazil. They graciously hosted us a couple of years later when we visited South Africa for the first time. At the time we were kid-less, and Geraldine and Martin had a 1 year old daughter. It was great to reconnect with them, especially considering they now have 3 girls to our 3 boys.
After a fun weekend in Jo'burg, we were very excited to be heading to Kruger National Park. But I must admit that I was a little unsure about what to expect. I remember having such a wonderful time when Mary and I first went to Kruger 13 years ago, and we had heard from so many people that Kruger was their favourite game park. However, after having so many wonderful wildlife experiences in Namibia, I wasn't sure if Kruger would live up to my expectations. Luckily, Kruger turned out to be even better that we could have hoped for.
Mary's parents met us in Johannesburg. They arrived late at night, and we hadn't planned a lot of rest for them despite the long flight from Calgary. Seeing as the boys were so excited to go back to looking for animals, we left Jo'burg early the next morning for Kruger. Kruger was able to impress us right off the bat. Within thirty minutes in the park, we saw over twenty elephants , three white rhinos, and of course the requisite impala, warthogs, and baboons. With such an abundance of animals right away, it was difficult to convince Mary's parents and ourselves that it wasn't actually a zoo.
We spent a total of four nights in Kruger, and had a number of noteworthy sightings. One morning, we came across a family of hyenas that were resting by the side of the road. At first we thought that there was only two hyenas, but then we realized that the mother lying down was actually nursing a baby. Then a juvenile hyena and two other pups came out and started playing. It was so amazing to be able to watch the young ones playing. One of the pups was so inquisitive that he came right up to the side of our van.
Later that day, we decided to take a short drive close to sunset before the camp gates closed. We weren't having much luck spotting animals, and after about an hour of driving we decided to head back. Luckily we took a small dirt road to go the last few kilometers to the camp. As we turned on to the road we saw something walking on the road a fair ways away. It turned out to be a leopard that was casually walking towards us! We were able to watch the leopard walk down the road and pass right beside us. It definitely gets the heart rate going when you realize you are only 4 feet away from a leopard with an open window.
The boys were definitely most excited to see any type of cat, and encountering a leopard only got them more excited. One night we signed up to do a guided night drive. The guide was excellent and we were able to see many small cats and other nocturnal animals that we had never seen. We saw the African Wild Cat, serval, civets, genets, and porcupines.
The real treat came on our last full day in Kruger. We were out for a slow drive and we noticed a car that appeared to be flashing its lights at us. They informed us of a lion spotting a few kilometers away. We headed to the area to find twelve lions that must have killed a cape buffalo earlier that morning. The poor buffalo was lying just off the road and was half missing. Eleven lions were lounging around with full bellies, and one young male lion was still eating away. Fortunately, we were able to view these lions by ourselves for about 30 minutes....so special.
Shortly after leaving the lions and on our way back to camp, I had to indulge Mary and pull over for her to take a photo of a tree. While she was taking the photo, her father kept talking about how something was moving in the tree. All of us said he was crazy, as none of us could see anything even with the binoculars. Then we realized that he was referring to the dead tree just in behind the other tree. Sure enough, a cheetah was standing on it! Needless to say, I learned my lesson that I should always stop for tree pictures when Mary asks (at least while in Kruger)!
We had one last cool sighting on the way out of Kruger. There was a dead impala in a tree just off the road. If you have been on safari before, you probably know that this is a leopard kill. A leopard had killed the impala and dragged it up into a tree in order to protect it from other predators or scavengers. Mary's parents didn't know this, and they had an amusing discussion about how odd it was that someone shot the impala and it fell up into the tree. We had good laugh at that one.
All in all, Kruger was a great experience for us. In fact, the kids have said that they would be happy to move to South Africa so that they could go to Kruger every year.