Saturday, November 29, 2014

South Africa Trip, Day 15: Last day in Kruger

Kimberly Writes: Trees play a vital role in the way of life here, for the people and for the wildlife. We've spent some time trying to learn some of the common trees of the region, and we'd come to recognize and admire a few of them, like the Baobab and the Mopane. But today, our appreciation for the trees was taken to a whole new level, as they provided the backdrop for some of the most sensational discoveries of the trip.

During a stop at one of the camps to stretch, and replenish our water supply, we discovered a small group of Epauletted Fruit-bats roosting in a large tree!

I love bats, and have spent a great deal of time watching Little Brown and Big Brown Bats at home in Ohio. It was wonderful to see larger bats, roosting in a spot that allowed for great observation, and I even got some photos!

A close up up one of the Epauletted Fruit-bat reveals a 

cute, dog-like face! How could anyone not love bats?!

You don't drive through Kruger expecting to see a big cat. You hope, but you do not expect. These are elusive animals, mostly active at night, and some of them are very secretive. We'd had mind-blowing encounters with lions and cheetahs, and for that, we were deeply thankful. But we had failed to connect with a Leopard. 

Until today. 

That changed in the form of golden eyes staring down at us from high up in a tree. Set in a face awash in spots, it was not the piercing look of a fierce predator. No, the golden eyes stared down at us with sleepy indifference, but it was enough to make my heart slam against my chest, and make me give thanks for living in a world where something so extraordinary exists.
Sprawling on a limb, high in the tree and deep in the foliage, our first Leopard gazed at us with drowsy indifference. But even looking relaxed and sleepy, it was an impressive beast, as if someone took the best attributes of the lion and of the cheetah and blended them together into one fabulous big cat!

We felt certain that the Leopard was the discovery of the day. But late in the afternoon, with time running out before we had to be inside the camp gate, the trees provided one more very special gift: a stunning adult Bateleur Eagle! 
It was in a perfect spot for observing, and we spent more than an hour watching, photographing, sketching, and falling in love with this amazing bird! As the light shifted into that golden afternoon glow, it gave the bird an aura that was a sight to behold.

This is a place of magic, where distance isn’t measured in miles traveled, but by the ocean of golden savanna grass whispering in the breeze. By the vast mopane woodlands that sweep across the landscape and color the world a bright and brilliant green. 

Here, time passes in a different fashion, 
and all sense of time vanishes in the sweet, sweet face of an infant Vervet Monkey...

...and is lost in the soulful gaze of a wise old elephant.

I am sad to leave Kruger, but now we look forward to the last leg of our journey and adventures in Cape Town. Bring on flamingos and sugarbirds!  

1 comment:

  1. Great blog! Would you add your bat photos as a citizen-science observation to the AfriBats project on iNaturalist?:

    AfriBats will use your observations to better understand bat distributions and help protect bats in Africa.

    Please locate your picture on the map as precisely as possible to maximise the scientific value of your records.

    Many thanks!