South Africa Day 06

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Even with an 0400 alarm, I was in the car by 0431. I'm getting used to getting ready in the morning. The plan is to go out to the main road (the H3) and then go north up the H3 as far as Afsaal where there is a cafeteria, a shop and, more importantly, a loo.

It's dark when I leave the camp. At about 4K, the car in front has stopped and is using a torch to shine on an animal that is in the bush but close to the road and is between our two cars. It's a young lion. After a few moments about 4 cars have turned up and it is looking upset either by the attention or by the fact that it doesn't know where his mates/parents are.

I journey up the H3 and decide to stop to make some coffee at the Ronosterpan, a waterhole just off the H3. It's 26K to the waterhole, and before I get there, I see an elephant, 2 elephants, 2 more elephants, a male warthog and another male warthog.

I'm on my own approaching the waterhole and there is no other car there. Just as I'm approaching, a hyaena dashes out in front of me. It's followed by several more. Another car comes from behind. We continue to the waterhole.

Gradually all the hyaenas make it to the waterhole. There are 4 adults and 2 cubs. Hyaenas love to wallow in the water, and these six are no exception. And the cubs keep running around.

The hyaenas leave after a while, and so does the other car. I stay for a little while longer. After a bit, some impala turn up for a drink.

5K up the H3 there's a big collection of cars on the left hand side of the road. It's a pride of lions. I count about 7 including some cubs and after quizzing the driver of a game drive vehicle I learn that there are 11 in the pride. The others must be somewhere around.

The is lots of jostling of cars as the lions move around a bit. It's not quite as bad as the traffic jam for yesterday's leopard as the road is wider.

I make my way to Afsaal. It's about 0645 and so the cafeteria and shop are not yet open, but luckily the loos are.

I decide to return to the camp by going a long way: first by going south down the H3 for a bit, then go east down a side road, then go south down a road that runs parallel to the H3 and then along a side road that goes west back to the H3.

After leaving Afsaal I first return to see the lions again and soon afterwards I see a hyaena. It disappears into a culvert that runs under the H3.

The I turn east along a side rood. I soon see lots of buffalo but they are a long way away as they are on the other side of a dried up river. . When I get to the end of the side road, I decide to go further east along another side road. This produces lots of monleys, a saddlebilled stork, many elephants and one male kudu.

There is a bird hide alongside this side road called the Gardenia. I decide it's time for another rest. So I get out of the car and go into the bird hide. It overlooks a small waterhole. There's little to see, just a couple of quail-like birds. But, at waterholes, you have to wait and things often happen.

I see a giraffe looking over the bushes to see who is at the waterhole. At the same time, I hear another car turn up. Suddenly, a young adult elephant turns up and at the same time a woman from the car gets to the bird hide. I signal to her to be quiet, not that she has made much noise. I think she starts to apologise but she then sees the elephant.

Her partner arrives and the elephant starts to enjoy himself with the muddy water, throwing this all over himself. Even though it's muddy, it makes you jealous. Two more people arrive. And after about 10 minutes of washing, the elephant seems to get curious about the bird hide. He seems to use his trunk to work out where an unusual smell is coming. It could be the ladies' perfume. Or it could be me! Anyway, after doing this inquistion with his trunk for several minutes he leaves.

Wow, that was exciting. The other 4 people leave. During this time, one of them has spotted a terrapin and what looks like an owl (in a distant tree).

I hang around for a bit longer wondering whether the giraffe will come back. After one look of the elephant, it was off.

After about 5 minutes, another elephant turns up followed eventually by three more. After having a wash, one of them approaches the bird hide eating the grass outside. It seems to be staring at me. I start to panic. When it gets close enough that it could put its trunk through the open window of the bird hide, I decide to move further back into the bird hide. Of course, this frightens him. And so then they leave.

A few minutes later, another elephant turns up, followed by others of various sizes from very small to very big. This waterhole now has 19 elephants drinking and washing. Wow!

Pretty scary as I guess if they knew I was in the bird hide, they could easily start to break it down. I was also checking which way they were leaving as I didn't want them to demolish my car!

After the 19 leave, another 5 turn up. And then they leave. All goes quiet again. When some people turn up, I decide it's time to leave.

What a morning; the lion at the start, the 6 hyaenas at Ronoster pan, the 7 lions, and now the elephant-infested waterhole.

I continue along this side road. In 1K there are two cars. There are more lions! Yes, the occupants are looking at 6 lions that are under some bushes on the opposite side of a dry river. More excitement.

Just round the corner, the dry river is full of elephants. Even though this is only 1K from the bird hide's waterhole, I think it is yet another set of elephants.

1K further on, there are two rhinos under a tree on the far back of the dry river.

Although it's over 30K back to the camp, I see very little on the way back. Still, I'm overwhelmed by this morning's sightings.

I didn't have much of a plan for the afternoon's game drive, and so not much happened! I decided to return to the Gardenia bird hide.

At about 16K into the trip, I saw some elephants on a path parallel to the road some distance away and surrounded by bushes. There was a youngster to begin with, and then an adult appeared. I thought there most be more than that. And then another youngster and another adult appeared. Good.

So I turned and looked forward ready to start off again when a young adult lion strides across the road about 30 in front of me from the bush on the right to that on the left.

I immediately grab the camera and shoot 3 frames through the front windscreen.

Curiously, he has come from the side that the elephants are on. And see there are even more than the four I saw at first.

The lion is walking further into the bush and it is difficult to see it. I don't believe this lion is on its own. So I start searching the bush where he's walking, and also keep checking that no other lions are crossing the road.

After having driven further up the road, I see an adult male lion resting under some bushes.

Another car arrives. I tell them about the adult and say there's another lion somewhere. I leave them staring at the adult whilst I try to find the first lion. I do find it, but then lose it again. I return to where the other car is, they say thank you, drive off, and I can't see the adult lion any more.

After 10 minutes of driving up and down, I give up: the lions have gone.

It's another 10K to the bird hide, and, when I get there, there was nothing to be seen. I stay for about 10 minutes, but then it's time to return to the camp. I go via another waterhole but there is nothing at that waterhole too.

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