A rewarding final game drive in Kruger National Park…Tomorrow, we’ll share the most romantic bush braai ever…Photos and more photos…

Yesterday, while waiting outside the African Reunion House for our ride to the Crocodile Bridge Gate for the upcoming game drive and bush braai, we spotted this Golden Orb Spider and her web which is gold in the sunlight. The colors in the background are the designs painted on the outside of the house.  Moments after taking this photo, Tom accidentally walked into the web, taking over half of it down. I was sorry for the spider but couldn’t help but laugh as he was flailing his arms to get the web off of him. Today, she’s still hanging onto her web, although, it’s considerably smaller. 

Error correction from yesterday’s post:  With the assistance of local friends, the photo I referred to as a Duiker was actually a Bushbuck. In addition, we’ve added the names of all the bird photos in the post, three of which we didn’t know. Thanks to Lynne and Mick once again!  Please check yesterday’s post which has since been amended, by scrolling down on today’s post if you’re curious about the bird names.

Spotting wildlife, such as this wildebeest in Kruger National Park is different from the Masai Mara where we could literally drive across the bush to get up close and personal. Kruger is a combination of paved and dirt roads. Off-road driving is forbidden often preventing closeup photos unless the animals are close to or on the road. Many visitors to Kruger are able to see the Big Five close to the road at times. We did the best we could from afar. But, we were having so much fun, we weren’t disappointed. 

We’ve decided that “safari luck” presents itself in many ways. It no longer revolves around seeing the Big Five on a game drive. For us, it extends to many areas of our lives:  a good time, safe travels, avoiding snakes and other poisonous creatures, meeting new people negotiating a good price on a future vacation home, or simply having a fulfilling day.

These two hippos popped up their heads as we drove across the bridge.

It may sound as if I’m rationalizing the fact that we didn’t see any lions on last night’s game drive. Perhaps I am. But, we had a great time beginning with the moment the driver picked us up at 3:30 pm for the drive to Crocodile Gate, the entrance to Kruger National Park, when we rode along with a delightful couple from Australia, Tiffany, and John, with whom we spent most of the evening.

This baby impala was no more than a few weeks old. It was alone, lost from its mother. We watched for quite a while, hoping the mom would return, only to be saddened when she didn’t. Hopefully, another mom would adopt her which often occurs.
This baby impala, only a few weeks old, starting approaching our vehicle and Excellent shooed her off, to avoid her learning that the road was safe.

Returning home close to midnight, we were shocked at how late it was after never asking Tom the time, indicating a fabulous experience was in process. As they say, “time flies when you’re having fun.” And fun, we had. That was “safari luck.”

From a considerable distance, we spotted this Goliath Heron.

A total of eight guests loaded into the game vehicle once we arrived in the park, all the rest of whom were residents of Marloth Park who definitely know how to have a good time. 

This muddy cape buffalo watched us approach.

Annoyed by our presence, he and a few other Retired Generals moseyed on down the road, taking their time.

Endless comments and laughter ensued in the vehicle during the three and a half hours of the drive. Our guide and driver, Excellent (yep, that’s his name) was not only informative but very entertaining. At times, we were all singing “oldies.

This giraffe’s cheeks were filled with vegetation she’d gathered from the treetops. What appears to be horns at the top of a giraffe’s head is called ossicones which are hairy at the ends in the female and bald at the ends in the male. The males use the ossicones in fighting during the mating season, which wears off the hairs.

Nope, we didn’t see lions or leopards, two of the Big Five. But, we did see three of the Big 5: rhinos (at too far of a distance for photos), elephants, and cape buffaloes, as shown in the photos here today. We were content with that. 

 Often birds sit atop high bare branches on the lookout for food.
Later, we’ll post the names of these birds after doing some research. 
 Although we enjoy taking photos of birds, we seldom know what they are which is frustrating. Our guide Excellent, pointed out many varieties. We’ve found it difficult to remember the names of each of the birds to match with our photos. Many bird enthusiasts keep paper and pen handy.

At around 7:30, we drove into the bush braai area for the one-day-late-due-to-rain romantic Valentine’s Day Bush Braai, hosted by Louise and Danie, an event we’ll always remember. 

As the sun began to set, we spotted these elephants and a baby.
In many areas in Kruger National Park, many of the trees have been taken down by the elephants. However, they leave the Marula tree intact since it bears fruit that they eat. In South Africa, a popular after-dinner liqueur is Amarula (the letter a is added to the beginning of the word to connote the liqueur, not the fruit) which was served last after the romantic bush braai. Laden with sugar, once again, I had to pass on this drink. Tom thoroughly enjoyed both of ours.

Tomorrow, we’ll post photos of what we’d imagine being the most extraordinary bush braai ever held in South Africa; the food, the décor, the guests, and the experience of being surrounded by lions, hippos, elephants and more, while “‘Lucky,” a military guard with a rifle and spotlight, continually scanned the perimeter to ensure our safety.

The vultures, checking for dinner at the end of the day.

A safe evening in the dark with wild animals all around us in itself is “safari luck” which surely we experienced on this special day!

This was only the beginning as the sun began to set giving all of us the opportunity to take photos of the most amazing sunset that we’ve seen in our almost three months in South Africa, all of which we’ll share tomorrow along with photos of the romantic bush braai. Amazing!

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