Daybreak in Kruger (KNP Part IV)

We keep daily schedules in Kruger rather stereotype. However other’s have their way of dealing with the wide scope of activities in this delightful nature reserve and wilderness area, which has never been domesticated, but is still in its pristine form – thanks to the conservation ideas of our forefathers – Paul Kruger at the forefront.  It’s in Kruger that I often wish I could go on for 24 hours a day and that for 7 days per week. Each time has its own special allure and its hard to decide which of these precious moments you want to miss, because you need to retire and catch up on sleep – even if you might miss the giant eagle owl hooting away after midnight or the jackal poking fun at your sleepiness at sundown or the hyena twittering nastily in the early hours of the morning. There’s only so much road that you can cover in so many hours of daylight – and which turn to take is always quite a gamble. Where are the cats prowling? Where are the hunting packs and their kills close to the road? At what angle is the sun falling into the picture? No wonder some people go there for weeks (even months!) on end. Probably after staying there an entire winter you might just feel, you’ve seen it all, but I really doubt that too. We got to meet people in Berg-en-Dal, who were planning to stay there for most of the coming winter – so as not to feel too much of the chill up on the high-veld. I remember those tourists on a walking-safari, who shared that they were going to stay for at least 6 weeks going from one safari to the next. Makes me think, that we should try to stretch our visits some more.

We prefer to stay inside the park and as close as possible to where the action is. From outside you can enter at 6h00 at the earliest, whereas in summer you can be out hunting for the next sighting from as early as 4h30 if you go on those morning drives/walks. We’ve had some fascinating views on those. The best were always the leopards – even if some might challenge that with wild dogs and cheetahs – or brown headed parrots, martial eagles and some Kori buzzard. It’s cold and dark so early – especially on the back of those big, green safari vehicles with which the officials accompany you out into the bush. They are expert guides. They know a lot about the veld, animals, plants, geology, ecology and even astronomy. Every time I’ve learnt so much from their insightful introductions into the wilderness. Would love to enroll with them for some length of time – and get to know places like the Kalahari or even the Okavango. The last view visits, we’ve not gone on these early outings. We thought a day is enough as it is, but the time will surely come, when we’ll stretch the long days even some more.

Early mornings are great times to be out in the bush, when everything wakes from the long night – or gets ready to come to rest after a nightlong hunt. The birds are exited to be alive. The dew is heavy on the grass and colours the grey and dusty sides of the elephants that they look like some ghostly creatures – grey backs and dark black legs, sides/bottoms. The cats are eager to vanish from the scenes of action – and just the big boys from the lion clan go on with marking their domain in that ever watchful and hungry jogg of theirs – roaring every now and then to make sure that you’re aware of their vicious power with which they guard their supreme rule of the animal kingdom – and ready to break into a full-sprint, whenever challenged by some lagging hyena.  This autumn the morning mist was captivating all senses even as it softens all edges and blurs all vision. Moving shadows like that pack of hungry hyenas, that had been cackling all night and were still circling the watchful group of giraffe. The leader of the pack was a real monster of a fighting apparatus with a crunching machine that crushes all and even threatens lion king himself. Still I can’t tell, whether they actually got a bite or two in. After several anxious moments that hunting vanished into the mist, leaving me with the eery feeling to have nearly seen something pop up from the underworld trying to tear apart the pretty world of peaceful browsers – if they could.  Those hyenas were cautious as they circled the long-legged vegetarians – fearing a kick with those muscled and swinging weapons. When I returned a few hours later, the giraffe were peaceful browsing as if nothing had ever disturbed their peace. Now my coffee was done – and the rusks too. On the long stretch of dirt road coming across watchful wildebeest, rhinos (really jumpy!), various frankolins (Natal, Crested and Swainson), sand grouse, plenty different trees and the rising sun before the patrolling lion caught my attention like nothing. Well, just look at those lions – and in reality they’re just that little bit more intimidating, I can assure you. They don’t even need to roar, believe me. Now on the way back there was enough time to finish it off and look for a re-fill back at base camp – and looking forward to see more of the wild landscape after breakfast.

About Wilhelm Weber jr

Rector of the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Tshwane
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