After CT, we flew to Johannesburg. We stayed at African Dreams B&B then went back to the J’hb airport in the morning to catch the City Bug Mini-bus to drive to Nespruit. From there, our guide Craig, with Nkomazi Safaris (www.nkomazisafaris.co.za), took us to stay at Grand Kruger Lodge (www.grandkrugerlodge.co.za/). What a great place! It was next to the more than 7,000 square mile Kruger National Park. When we tried to book our safari, Lelanie, from Nkomazi Safaris, said we would have to make a cash transfer to pay for the safari in advance. My friends said it sounded like trouble and I should look elsewhere. I was finally able to get Lelanie to accept my credit card. As it turns out, cash transfers are common transactions in Africa. I'm just more comfortable with credit card purchases. Both Nkomazi Safaris and Grand Kruger Lodge provided outstanding service and I highly recommend them. Lelanie worked closely with us to fit our safari into our itinerary rather than just offer nonnegotiable dates and set activities like other companies. In addition to the day Kruger Park trips, we scheduled a sunset drive. We saw great herds of animals then. The lodge also has a world class chef.
We stayed in a very comfortable bungalow. I told Leon, the owner, that I couldn't get into the shower. He got me a hand held shower nozzle the very next day - it worked great. Craig told us not to go out after dark as 2 chaps were eaten by man eaters a couple of years ago. We were also told that after dinner in the main lodge, we should have a security guard walk ahead of us to our bungalow, shining his flashlight on the path. When we asked why, we were told this is to scare off snakes. I asked what kind of snakes they had and Craig said, "We have black mambas, green mambas, puff adders, spitting cobras..." about a dozen in all. We're pretty sure we didn't read about that in the tour guide but it may have been in the extra fine print. We were told, beforehand, that this is not the best time to come on safari as the temperatures can be very hot and all the new green foliage may hide the animals. To make a long story short, we had hundreds of wildlife photos, as wildlife were easy to see. I tried to limit my posts here to one photo per species. We also had perfect weather. We were awakened at 4am, and gathered into the truck, at top, to leave the lodge at 4:30am while the temperatures were cool and animals were feeding. This guy, in the middle picture below, is a wart-hog, the preferred food of leopards. They like to live under the bungalow porches because they know leopards are afraid of man - well, not all leopards. Craig told us two weeks before we got there a leopard killed a wart-hog under a porch and made a horrific sound.
Our guides were very knowledgeable and had keen eyesight. We saw herds of animals but I chose to post mostly individual shots. We also saw other animals, including crocodiles, but we didn't get shots of all animals. The last line of photos requires some explanation. That yellowish bird is a weaver. Whenever someone would leave a lunch table, these birds would swoop in to clean up the left-overs. That dark colored giraffe above is a male, the other a female. The male was more amorous than the female, as is often the case with humans. Since we left the lodge at 4:30am each morning, it was still cold so they passed out blankets to passengers - including Laurence, my travel buddy.
The lodge and bungalows had porches on them under which the warthogs lived in order to avoid leopards. Two weeks prior to our arrival a leopard killed a warthog under one of the porches. They say the sound was horrendous. In the far left photo, Laurence pushed me to make contact with our warthog visitor. The warthog pushed back. I figured it wasn't safe to play with these guys. In the center, above we have a sausage tree. Next to it, the road was flooded as we were there during a rainy summer.
On the left is Stanley who worked at Kruger Lodge. Stanley is Zulu. One day we were talking and I told Stanley I have traveled in 40 countries. He said, "We should call you Sizwe (pronounced seas-way). It means one who visits many nations. In the center are our new friends John and Glennis from the UK. On the right is a snail we saw on the walk. I placed a 6 inch eye glass case next to it to give perspective. It is the largest snail I've ever seen.
On the subject of rhinos, did you know that there are five living species of rhino. The two African species are the White Rhinoceros and the Black Rhinoceros. The main difference between black and white rhinos is the shape of their mouths. White rhinos have broad flat lips for grazing and black rhinos have long pointed lips for browsing on foliage. The name White Rhinoceros was actually a mistake, or rather a corruption of the word wijd (wide in Afrikaans) because of their square lips.
As an unexpected benefit, we were educated about bio fuels. The price of sugarcane has gone up since it was identified as a source for bio fuels. As a result, much of it is grown around Kruger Park. Unfortunately, sugarcane fields attract many rodents, which in turn, attract many poisonous snakes, which in tern take a toll on human life. The fields also require huge amounts of water, which is pumped from rivers, which lowers water tables, which concentrates crocodile populations, which eat more people.
"It cost so much to be a full human being....One has to abandon altogether the search for security, and reach out to the risk of living with both arms. One has to embrace the world like a lover, and yet demand no easy return of love. One has to accept pain as a condition of existence. One has to court doubt and darkness as the cost of knowing. One needs a will stubborn in conflict, but apt always to total acceptance of every consequence of living and dying." Morris West: "The Shoe of the Fisherman" I think this quote is an appropriate epilogue. We went to places in South Africa that others would have feared to visit. Our luggage was lost for four days and we managed to adjust, to improvise. We were told this is the worst time of year to go on safari because of the super hot summer and inability to see animals in tall grass. It turns out the weather was ideal and we saw plenty of animals. Sure, it is wise to seek console before traveling but I assure you, there are no guarantees in life. Live before it's too late.
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