Part 1…Extraordinary Kruger National Park experience…Safari luck prevails…

What a glorious sighting! If this were all we sighted, we’d have been happy. But, as you’ll see in days to come, there was much more!!!

Yesterday morning, when we went to apply for the renewal of the annual Wild Card providing us with access to any of the country’s national parks, we were thrilled that we were in and out of the office at the Crocodile Bridge entrance in less than 15 minutes, new Wild Card in hand. The total cost was ZAR 3245, US $313.87 for one year for both of us.

With an extra battery for the camera, on a cloudy day, we didn’t expect to see much. When most of the wildlife anticipate rain, they take cover. There were a few raindrops here and there, but never enough to keep them from foraging in the depths of the bush and, at times, much to our liking, on or close to the main tarred road in the park.

After entering the gate with Wild Card documents in hand, we began our usual route toward Lower Sabie with a plan to stop at the Mugg & Bean Restaurant for breakfast. It’s a fun stop and rest area with a pleasant restaurant, clean restrooms, and a delightful gift and souvenir shop where I’ve been known to make a few purchases now and then.

What a gorgeous animal!

Since I rarely, if ever, shop in a store other than a grocery or pharmacy, while in Africa (or any country for that matter), I enjoy spending a few minutes in the gift shop while Tom waits at a picnic table outdoors. It was busy yesterday, mainly with South Africans and some foreigners.

As mentioned above, we didn’t expect to see much and prepared ourselves for this eventuality; I suggested to Tom to stop for the most common wildlife, much of which we already see in our garden in Marloth Park, to ensure we wouldn’t leave the park without any photos to share here.

That proved unnecessary. We were gifted with some of the finest sightings we’ve seen on one day in Kruger National Park. Since we had various experiences, we’ve decided to break them up into posts over several days. We will be including some new information about the specific species we’re representing that day.

I was holding my breath while taking these distant photos. I asked Tom to turn off the car and not move to keep the vehicle totally still.

Of course, we couldn’t resist starting with the magnificent leopard, our first sighting on the long drive to Lower Sabie. One of the most elusive of the Big Five (except for rhinos who are becoming extinct due to poaching), we couldn’t have been more excited to take the photos we’re posting today of the wonderous sighting, a leopard in a tree. Please excuse how much alike each image is. We waited a long time for her/him to move but no luck.

Here are some facts about leopards from this site:

Latin Name: Panthera pardus
Afrikaans: Luiperd
Distribution in South Africa:
Found throughout South Africa with concentrations in most National Parks, provincial reserves, and protected and inaccessible areas. Also found in some private nature and game reserves. Common outside conservation areas and generally the only large predator often found close to human habitation. Leopards occur from high mountains to coastal regions – semi desert to water-rich riverine areas.
Mountainous areas, thick bush, along streams and rivers in riverine bush. Leopards are very adaptable and they even occur in dry and semi-desert areas like the Kalahari.
Leopards are shy, secretive and cunning animals. They are solitary except when mating or females with cubs. They are mainly nocturnal and probably the most adaptable predator. Their food varies from small rodents to large antelope like Kudu and Waterbuck. In areas with predators they will hoist their prey into a tree to feed on it, while hiding it from other predators. Leopards are perfectly camouflaged and hunt by stalking, ambushing and then pouncing on their prey. In areas where there are many other large predators, Leopards usually take their prey up into trees to prevent it from being stolen by the other predators. They are very agile in trees and can also swim well. Leopards are known to be very powerful and when cornered or harassed can be extremely dangerous to humans.
Difference between Male and female:
Males are much larger and stockier.
Male – In certain areas male leopards can weigh up to 100 kilograms.
Female – In certain areas female leopards can weigh up to 65 kilograms
About 18 years
Gestation period about 3 months. Usually 2 to 3 are cubs born throughout the year.
Food and Water:
Leopards are very opportunistic hunters and will feed on a wide variety of prey. Apart from insects, small rodents and large antelope, they will also hunt birds. Baboons, Warthog and Impala are their favourites. Depending on the area and availability of food, Leopards will also prey on dogs and domestic livestock. They are not water dependent in the sense that they do not have to drink water daily, but will drink daily when water is available.
Humans, Lion, Spotted Hyena, Wild dog, Nile Crocodile”
An exquisite animal.
Tomorrow, we’ll be back with more exciting photos and some videos we’ll be uploading to our YouTube page today. Please check back for more.
Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, July 22, 2021:

A gorgeous rhododendron on the tour of the Princeville, Hawaii Botanical Garden in 2015. For more, please click here.