Posted: 12/1/2007
Title: AFTERNOON TEA WITH A PRIDE OF LIONS

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    You can enter the gigantic Kruger National Park for a relatively small fee, maybe $15.00 US and theire are lots of different options to spend the night, from tents to huts. It is even cheaper for South African residents. You can go for the day but 3-4 days seems to be the average stay, and being the size of Israel, and 6 million acres or 2 1/2 million hectares, there is a lot of variety. They are even knocking down the fences and joining up with the parks in Swaziland and Mozambique next door, since animals don't know about borders.

    Also there are many private game reserves, most would accommodate 40-50 paying customers at a time, but I am to be the special guest of Kapama Private Game Reserve, www.kapama.co.uk which can accomodate 200 or so guests at one time in luxurious accommodations. 13,000 hectares or  32,000 acres.

    I am accommpanied by Leslie and Mike from the Southern Cross Schools on a four hour late afternoon to evening drive in the bush. First of all we enjoy afternoon tea on the terrace of the main lodge. with tea, cakes and juices. The elevated walkways between the  stone clad walls are built of native African woods and thatched roofs.  We are then introduced to Natalie the driver and RedWell the tracker. The means of transport is a large Land Rover with 4 tiers of raised seats and the tracker sitting on a chair in front of the vehicle, which reminds me of Chitty Chitty Bang BangRedWell looks at the spoor to tell where and when which species has passed by. We soon approach some gazelles. Some of the mothers are pregnant and ready to drop, while we suprise one mom with her one day old baby that is still shacky on its legs. They soon learn to move fast because Lions love to eat them.

    Next we come across our first Zebras, with their beautiful stripes. Their skin is very soft and thin and sometimes the Lions or Leopards pounce and come away with a patch of skin after the zebras serve a potent kick to their attackers and get away. We see Dwarf Mongoos playing with the roots of trees and ready to disappear down their warren of holes and then we come across a Pride of Lions, who decide to lie down and relax 10 feet in front of us on the trail. There are two young females and two males with their growing manes.  They won't attack the vehicle, but if you get out, which is not allowed, you might become dinner. The animals are not fed and fend for themselves and if they grab a giraffe it might feed them for 5 days and they won't eat again for a similar time. a 2 ton Giraffe is quite a meal. We see small Kudus and Steen Buck and the large Wildebeast, that look like buffalo.

   We are tracking some Elephants which we can hear, not very far away, and Redwell looks at spoor and dropping. There are some baby elephant dropping on the trail still warm and they are attacked by dung beetles the size of my thumb. Its fantastic to see them go to work and divide and conquer the nutrient rich droppings, and then scurry to their nests.  We drive through the undergrowth but the Elephants prove elusive.You can see the damage they have made to the trees. Finally when we stop for 'Sundowners', at a large water hole, Jackelberry Dam, one large Elephant pokes its tusks out of the trees on the far side and then disappears. Sundowners is a tradition, where, as the sun goes down the tracker fetches a table and tablecloth and fills it with Cape White wine, with silver goblets, fruit juices, hard liquor and water and some delicious bilbong-dried beef strips, dried apples and other delicacies.  In the trees surrounding the water are foam tree frog nests. To protect the young from predators they mate in the trees and cover it with a white foamy substance that they secrete, and the babies hatch and drop straight into the water.  We also see Verver Monkies, with their distinctive bright blue balls, some Night Jars and a large Owl.

   It's getting dark but we come across some White Rhinos, less than 10 yards away, who are wallowing in a very shallow water hole for a roll in a mud bath.  They aren't actually white, but came from the Africaans word wyd, or wide but are distinct from Black Rhino. The White Rhino have flat jaws and we watched them eat the grasses, while the Black Rhinos have rounded jaws and eat leaves from the trees. The Whites have a big hump behind the head and two horns, the front one being larger.  According to Mike, they shape them to their own specifications against hard wood trees.

   We move on the trails and see Red and Yellow Horn Bills and Bush Babies. We finish up back at the main lodge for a sumptuous dinner. We start with bilbong and vegetable soup, then ostrich stew and fillet steaks with butternut, new potatoes and  local vegetables.  Dessert consists of local fruit salad and a warm apricot bread pudding and hot custard. Its dark by this time and we can gather round the wood fire. We are less than an hour south of the Tropic of Capricorn and it is dawn before 5 a.m. and dusk at 6.00pm.  At this time of the year the bush is very green, being the summer, rainy season. Game are more elusive since they don't need to try their luck and gather at the water holes where danger awaits. In the winter there is no rain and so animals are forced to to the few water holes and are easier to spot.

 THIS IS AFRICA, come and enjoy it!!

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