Sunday, November 23, 2014

South Africa Trip, Day 9. Kruger National Park

Kimberly Writes: A long drive between camps today resulted in some of the most interesting and captivating wildlife observations of the trip. Yes, having a pair of wild lions mating six feet away from us was definitely a highlight, but today’s encounter was pretty dramatic in its own right.

By mid-afternoon, the temperature was soaring, and it was punishingly hot. The shade trees hosted a wonderful variety of animals, but shade wasn’t the only thing the animals were seeking. They were also in search of water. On the top of a gentle rise, we spotted a massive bull elephant; the largest animal we’ve seen on the trip. And although we’ve already seen hundreds of elephants, we couldn’t resist stopping to watch this amazing animal.

He was visiting one of the artificial water holes scattered throughout the park, 
and even watching him perform the simple act of drinking and spraying water up 
onto his back was spell-binding. 

As we sat alongside the road watching from the safety of our car (getting out of your vehicle is prohibited in Kruger NP), we noticed some dust rising to the right of the water hole. Eventually, the dust cloud resolved itself into a female White Rhino and her two older calves.

They were obviously in need of water, but were extremely reluctant 

to approach this massive bull elephant.

As we watched, a herd of zebra appeared over the little rise, and they, too, 

stood watching the elephant, bucking, kicking, and jostling one another 

as they pondered their options.

From a distance, it was an astonishing scene.

After several minutes, thirst won out over fear, and the Rhino began making her 
way very cautiously toward the water, her calves behind her. As she neared the 
edge of the water, frighteningly close to the big bull, both calves turned away, 
poised to run should the need arise.

Eventually, the bull had had his fill, and he turned and slowly made his way over the hill. The rhinos moved into the water, and the zebras joined them.When all the animals were finished drinking and began to move on, we realized that we’d been sitting there for nearly two hours! There’s a magic here that slows the hands of time, and I have run out of superlatives to describe this experience. It’s a piece of heaven – right here on earth.

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