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The Big Five

Written on: Saturday December 2nd, 2006

A journal entry from: The Winter of 2006/2007

We took many side roads on the way to Satara seeing animals and birds along the way, we didn?t see any new animals but it?s always interesting to watch their behaviour, we stopped to watch a huge herd of zebras near a waterhole, there were several babies with them, also a couple of ostriches with their young ones and one or two elephants in various spots along the way.  Stopping at a picnic area for a coffee, we watched a small snake swallow a tiny lizard.  The lizard was still moving right up until its head disappeared. 


Once at Satara we registered for our lodgings for the next two nights, Mike had pre-paid for the accommodation and had been told that we would have three bedrooms and two bathrooms ? heaven!!  We were told the cottage was called Stanley Guest House so followed the signs and soon pulled up in front of a house, we all thought that we?d got the wrong place.  Once inside we stopped in amazement, it was huge.  The kitchen had a serving hatch into the dining room which had seating for ten, beside the dining area was a large sitting room and there were three bedrooms, each with their own bathroom.  The floors well polished wood  and  the furnishings looked expensive, the bedroom doors were wood carvings of animals found in Kruger.  Outside there was a deck with seating for ten; the deck backed onto the camp fence behind which strategically placed was a waterhole ? we later found out that the waterhole was floodlit on a night.  A plaque on the cottage wall advised that the cottage had been donated by a family in memory of their father and had been extensively upgraded.  Last night our accommodation had been in a two bedded chalet with no electricity and a walk to the toilet, tonight we were in a 1500 square foot house with all the amenities   We quickly scrapped our plans for going on another drive and bought some wine and beer and settled ourselves down to watch the waterhole.  An elephant a couple of buffalos and impalas were the only ones that came in the afternoon but in the evening Stanley the hyena strolled by.  We?d been reading the guest book and I guess the hyena was a regular visitor ? probably got fed by some residents- and had been given the name Stanley.  He walked by on several occasions and sometimes stopped to have a look at us.


The next morning we were up again early ? another 5 am morning as we were going looking for those elusive lions and leopards.  Arlene, who knows the park quite well, directed us along several dirt roads, the scenery changed quite frequently from dry savannah grass to very tropical areas.  We stopped for morning coffee at Oliphants Rest Camp which overlooks the Oliphant River.  Before we?d finished our coffee a couple of children spotted four lions across the river so we tracked them with our binoculars for about two hours.  During that time the lions moved about two kms along the river, they were hungry and looking for something to eat.  They went after some impalas but they didn?t plan their attack very well and the impalas got away, so they moved on and saw more impalas grazing.  This time they decided to plan more carefully, laying on some rocks to decide a course of action; whilst they laid out their plans a giraffe lumbered down to the river for a drink in the same area as the impalas, before drinking he had a look around but he didn?t appear to see the lions.  One of the lions started to move in a circling movement, we thought that he was going to chase the impalas back towards the other lions but either the giraffe saw him or something else spooked him because he started to run and so did the impalas, the lions were left hungry.


We drove to LaTaba Rest Camp, had a look at the museum, which houses the tusks of the magnificent seven; these are seven male elephants that were well known in Kruger for their magnificent tusks, most of them died in the mid 1980?s.   Some of the tusks were eight feet long.  On the way back to Satara the driver of a car stopped to tell that they?d seen a lioness at a waterhole but by the time we got there she?d disappeared, a bit further on we crossed a  bridge and managed to see hippos, out of the water for a change, quite surprising as it was hot and sticky,  Because of the heat it was becoming very uncomfortable in the car so we decided to head back to the cottage, sit in the shade and watch the waterhole.


We were glad we did.  Soon after we?d settled down, an elephant came for a drink, then another, then another until there must have been thirty elephants of all shapes and sizes.  They were all thirsty and hot and they drank and sprayed water over themselves.  Then a cape buffalo decided he wanted some of the action so there was a bit of an altercation between the elephants and the buffalo because the elephants just didn?t want him there ? he backed off.  Once the elephants cleared out of the way, two buffalos came for a drink.  A bit later a couple of warthogs paid a visit and once it was dark, Stanley was there again.  Arlene?s bedroom was at the back of the house she set up her bed so she could see the waterhole, then woke up every half hour to see if there was anything going on.  She didn?t see anything but was nicely exhausted for her plane flight back to Las Vegas, she was leaving the next morning. 


Our last morning in Kruger, Roger came to get me out of bed at 7 am because there were three giraffes behind the cottage.  What a super finale to our stay in the cottage but the excitement wasn?t over yet.  We had quite a drive to get out of the park and on our way out the driver of a truck travelling in the opposite direction flagged us down to tell us he?d seen a leopard just a short distance away, he was kind enough to back up and take us to it.  It was in a pull out area so we could have passed it by easily but there she was, lazing along the branches of a big tree ? a beautiful sight.  We watched her for about half an hour, she moved positions several times, well aware that we were there.  She was a beautiful specimen and I think very aware of her good looks. Another couple of vehicles pulled in behind us and shortly after the second car came in the leopard decided that she?d had enough of people, got down from the tree, strolled amongst the cars and disappeared into the bush.  It was at this point my camera quit ? I now had pictures of the big 5 - lion, leopard, cape buffalo, elephant and rhino - all photos from now will be courtesy of Mike.   We still had one more thrill though, just before leaving Kruger we saw a huge herd of buffalo that stretched as far as the eye could see and at one point the herd crossed the road so we had to stop.  At a nearby waterhole the buffalo would stop to roll in the mud before continuing their walk.  After 15 minutes we decided that Arlene would miss her plane if we didn?t force our way through.   Half an hour later we drove through the gates of Kruger taking with us some lovely memories.