Out to Spot the Big 5

Monday 18 April 2011

Our visit to Kapama included 2 game drives every day.  Each morning we’d get a wake up call at 5 am.  (I know, 5 am on holidays is not really that appealing but when you know you are there to see animals, you must get up early!)  We’d meet for a light breakfast at 5:30 and take off thereafter.

Our Safari Vehicle - The Unstoppable Land Cruiser

Guiding us each drive was our Ranger, Mike and our tracker Vusi.  Vusi would sit on the small seat on the front of the vehicle and both him and Mike would watch for tracks and other signs of animals like how the grass was packed down, birds in the areas and animal droppings.  They would be able to tell how old the tracks were and we’d head off and try to find the animals.  Sometimes, it was unbelievable how they’d be able to see such a small mark and know exactly what it was and when it was there.

Vusi sitting out front with the ranger Mike in the driver s seat.

The elephants always seemed to leave a trail of destruction so it was usually easy to see where they had been.  We could get pretty close to these guys but the dominant male let us know when we were too close as he’d approach and flap his ears, causing us to move back.  They are giant, beautiful animals and you could easily just sit quietly and watch them for hours.

A family of elephants - there were probably 8 in total together here

Telling us they need a little space and we certainly don t want to mess with him!
Some animals were seemingly easy to find (impalas, buffalo, warthogs) while others alluded us for days.  Our ranger had led us to an area where he believed one of the female leopards had been staying so we hoped we’d see her lazing in a tree.  As we neared the area, Mike and Vusi stopped the vehicle and jumped out quickly to check out some tracks.  After agreeing that she had just been there, off we go to track her.  It was probably the most exhilarating hour of the entire trip.  We’d speed off in the direction of the tracks and when they stopped, Mike and Vusi would get out and investigate only to jump back in and speed off again.  The leopard always seemed to be just a few steps ahead of us and that day we never did catch her.  A couple of days later, we got word she was hunting in a different area so off we went again and this time, we found her.  We couldn’t follow her for very long as she really wasn’t happy that we were on her trail but we did watch her until she did a leap and a growl.

The animal that surprised me the most were the giraffes.  You really have no idea how large they are until you are standing a few feet away from them.  Male giraffes can get up to 6 metres tall!  You can spot the females by the black tuffs of hair on their horns.  We did some tracking on foot on morning and got close to some giraffes.  Before we could see them, we felt the vibrations in the ground as one had started to run.
Because Kapama Karula is such a small lodge, our safari vehicle was never full.  For the most part, we had 2 or 3 other people with us but near the end of our stay, we had the entire vehicle to ourselves.  This was great because the plan revolved around what we wanted to see.  It was also nice to be able to talk with Mike who was a wealth of knowledge about the animals.

Rhinos - There were always little birds hanging out on the big animals. They eat the bugs on them.

A Zebra hanging out with some impala.
On the first day, we came across a lion and a lioness lazing around in the grass.  During the day when it’s hot, they aren’t very active.  We were able to get quite close to them in the vehicle and they didn’t really bat an eye.

We were probably less than 10 feet away from this guy.
The real thrill was when we began our night drive later on.  Each night we would leave camp at 4:30.  We would continue until sundown when we’d park to have a glass of wine before carrying on.  In the dark, Vusi would have a big spotlight with him on the front of the vehicle waving it back and forth looking for animals.  We came across the lion and lioness from earlier but this time they were hunting.  (Keep in mind, pictures do not do this justice!)

The Lioness
The lioness was often ahead of the lion trying to find some prey.  The lion followed several feet behind spraying and leaving his scent to mark his territory.  The scary thing about this was we only had one spotlight so that meant we only had the light on one of the lions at a time.  At one point, we were parked to the side watching the lions when the male walked around the back of the truck to come out directly beside Joe.  He was so close that Joe could have reached out and touched him.  We held our breath!
Not everything we saw was big!  We were greeted by the largest spiders I have ever seen in my entire life.  These could easily be as long as my fist and there were literally, hundreds.  Often times, they’d stretch their webs across trees and while we were offroading, it wasn’t uncommon to hit one.  Imagine being in the dark and feeling a web across your face and not know if one of these was on you?

Their web was thick and strong like fishing line.
It was for this reason, I never sat in the top row of the Land Cruiser!
We saw so many more animals and have too many stories to post here but we’d be happy to show you the rest when we’re home this summer.  Joe and I never really thought much of safaris before this but I must tell you, this was one of the coolest things we’ve ever done and you absolutely must add this to your list of things to do before you die.  (We’d love to go back so feel free to invite us!)

The End

**Note:  All comments previously posted were lost in the transfer of this blog post.  Sorry!**

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