After having just seen four different species that all made me very aware of my own lack of power by being a human (elephant, lion, crocodile, hippo), you might consider the next species to be somewhat uninspiring but I beg to differ. It was a Lilac-crested Roller Bird, and man, I was inspired. If you look at the photo below, I think you can see why. What a beautiful bird, with such colours! Take into account that I’m mesmerized by pretty much all birds, and you can see why I would be even more so enchanted by this species.
A quick aside – why am I mesmerized by birds? How could anyone not be? True, there are some very plain-looking ones and ones that can get very annoying (I think of my local park at home and the Canadian geese), but take a moment and think about the birds themselves. They’re very existence is amazing. To wonder how they evolved in such a way to exist in their form, and the adaptations that each species has. Beaks, feathers, wings! Then the differences in the types of beaks between different birds. When I start thinking about things like this, I just get slightly overwhelmed by how truly astonishing nature is. And that’s just thinking about one group of animals – take into account the mammals, the reptiles and such. Then go further and include all the plants, the fungi and a seemingly unending amount of bacteria. That’s not taking in the environment and then all the other science-y bits, the chemistry and the physics that make up our world and beyond. Overwhelmed doesn’t really cover it. Anyway, enough of going along that tangent and let’s return to Kruger and the wonders there.
Our next sightings were mostly repeat species – waterbuck, a crocodile, giraffes and an impressive male elephant. But repeats are fine with me. I absolutely love waterbuck. They remind me slightly of the red deer in the UK with their bearing, plus they have those heart-shaped marks on their noses – very endearing. This viewing was also quite exciting as they were at a waterhole with a crocodile. Slightly macabre, but I was half-hoping to see an attack. Not that I wished injury or death on the waterbuck of course, yet it would have been interesting to watch in a behavioural researcher kind of way.
For a while after this, the sightings were much the same – waterbuck and zebras. As mentioned, I love the waterbuck and if you know me even vaguely, you’ll probably know that I am slightly obsessive about zebras (my undergraduate dissertation was on their behaviour). One thing did bring me out of my general excitement and into curious mode – the zebra in the photo below (apologies for the slightly unfocussed quality of the photo). I’ve not yet seen a zebra with an ear like that – seemingly partially folded over. Maybe a birth defect or injury? If you’ve seen it before and it is neither of those, then I admit my mistake but until then I shall wonder.
Following an increasing number of zebra and waterbuck sightings, we came across three gorgeous kudu bulls who helpfully provided a scenic photo opportunity. I was hoping that they would walk back towards us and I could catch them all in the same position, but unfortunately not. Such is wildlife.
Further sightings: bustard (a bird), zebra (including the adorable youngest below), an unidentified snake on the road, hippos and kudu. Our last Big 5 animal sighting before leaving the park was a very flaked out white rhino. He was so still then we initially worried that he might have been dead. Thankfully he flicked his ear and we gave a sigh of relief.
As dusk started to settle in, we headed for the gates, keeping an eager eye out for any last sightings and hoping that we’d see a leopard. Our luck was out for that, but we did see a dwarf mongoose group as they arrived back at a sleeping refuge. Being slightly obsessed with them, we stopped the car and watched them for a while. Which caused amusement amongst us, as this in turn meant that other cars would stop near us and look for our sighting. Whether they saw the mongoose, I don’t know. If they did, it is likely they were quite puzzled at us stopping for such a small animal. Hopefully, they appreciated them, though I doubt it could be as much as we did.
Our last sightings as dusk fell were an ostrich, a steenbok and a vulture (unsure of the species). Driving out of the park, we felt very satisfied with our day, despite not seeing some of the animals we had hoped to see. However, we had come to the park with the full knowledge that wildlife does as it wants. On the drive back I watched the stars come out, appreciating the waning moon and the evening star, before contentedly falling asleep.
And that my friends, brings my day out at Kruger to an end. But I should warn you, I went on another game drive later in the week and if the events from that aren’t worthy of a blog post, I don’t know what is! For now, I shall say – prepare yourselves to be jealous.
I wanted to add more photos to this post, but the internet is playing up I’m afraid.