Game Drive- Safari

Baboon family in the street

Game totals….

Vampire baboon...

Sunset from Imfolozi

Safari jeep.

Hluhluwe/Imfolozi Park/Safari: We woke up early in Durban and made the 2.5 hour drive to the state park for our wildlife tours and safari. After driving through uninhabited areas from the outskirts of Durban, we finally arrived to some dodgy areas and in the midst of sporadic shanties and a school, you enter this vast state park. Within 2 minutes, we drove up on rhinos. The proximity to the outside world is amazing and we did see some locals walking within the park on the road. We were told not to. We drove another 12 miles in the park to our Hilltop Camp, which is on a Hilltop. Weird. During our drive, we saw more rhinos, giraffe and baboons but we really wanted to see lions and leopards, but weren’t too hopeful about the leopards. After checking in we arranged to join a nighttime safari drive in an open air jeep, which seats about 12 people. There were four of us, two Austrians that weren’t smart, and two sets of two Germans. The Austrians asked if the rangers fed the lions…”no”, he replied. “They feed themselves.” Do you feed the animals that feed the lions? No, once again… When the Austrian continued on about the prospect of seeing a lion, our ranger said that he hoped to and saw one hunting earlier in the day. “Did you shoot it?” No, the lion was hunting…we preserve the animals, we don’t shoot them.” At this point, I laughed out loud. As the sun set, we turned on our spotlights and began looking for animals near the road or looking for their eyes reflecting off the spotlight. Almost immediately we came across two sets of rhinos. Then nothing for about 45 minutes…and the weather was a little chilly with small micro climates of cold air. We did have blankets, as well. Then, a hyena ran across the street and the ranger mentioned a kill was nearby. He said a lion was close. He began searching the bushes with his light and backed up. About 25 yards in, we could see a lion…and she was eating. He cautioned us that he was not allowed to drive into the bush to get closer. So, he drove in. We parked maybe 10 feet away, straight away from the lion as she devoured an enormous buffalo. A second lion was directly behind the lion eating, but was resting. The lion that was eating was completely focused on the buffalo and barely gave a thought to us. The only thing that could have possibly distracted her would have been a Vuvuzela…the lion would spend minutes at a time chewing, ripping the skin and meat and attacking the flesh. While the visual was pretty raw, the sounds were one of a kind. The grunting, breathing, but most of all the bones cracking and breaking from her bites was just awesome. She would stop after a few minutes and just breath heavily to get her breath back and go in for more. We could have stayed there for hours but our guide got nervous and wanted to press on. As we pulled away, the hyenas were waiting. As calmly as a dog laying in the backyard, two hyenas just sat by and waited for the lion to finish…and it will be a few day wait. We pressed on and stopped a mile up the road to stretch our legs and have a drink. We all got out and I took a nature pee in the dark…the most nervous pee I have ever taken… As we pressed on we came across a huge elephant walking down the road. Apparently, he was a dominant male and didn’t think too much of us. (Now, to the German. He was concerned with the obvious and everything was loud…really loud. We were told to only talk in low voices. As we saw the elephant that you couldn’t miss, he screamed “Elephant!” Shh, said the ranger. ) The elephant looked back at us and began to turn…and he was maybe 15 feet ahead of us. The ranger put the jeep in neutral and stepped on the gas. The loud revving of the engine spooked the elephant and he headed just off the road as we put it back in gear and sped off. Our German friend continued to make friends with us and point out animals after we had seen them. Upon seeing a buffalo next to our jeep, he screamed again. The buffalo ran off. “That’s why we don’t scream and shine lights on them- would you want to be woken up while you were sleeping? , asked the ranger. A couple more sightings and were almost home. A jeep in front of us was stopped and shining their lights in a tree, so we crept up slowly. It was clearly an owl. But, the German asked anyway. “What is it” An owl, responded the jeep. He yelled, an eagle!…as the owl flew away. We couldn’t stop laughing about him at dinner. For once, it wasn’t the Americans that were loud. Next up, a 6:00 morning drive.

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2 thoughts on “Game Drive- Safari

  1. Brian,
    Who was dumber, the Austrian or the German? Seems like it was a neck and neck battle. Sounds like quite an experience.

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