After Seven nights at Lake Nakuru and Masai Mara in Kenya, Lilani, Pala and I arrived in Johannesburg from Nairobi on the 7th September to continue our African Safari 2011. Our nephew Indu and his wife Sanwada flew from Colombo to join us on 8th morning. We headed in the direction of Kruger National Park on the eastern boundary of South Africa that afternoon, in a rented 15 seater Volkswagen Kombi Van. We reached Nelspruit which is approximately 400 km from Jo’berg, that evening and stayed the night there as planned.
Nelspruit is a mid size city located close to KNP. After purchasing dry rations and other foodstuff at Nelspruit for our 10 day trip to Kruger, we entered the park from the Malelane Gate in the south, on the morning of 9th September. This was my fourth visit to KNP and Lilani had also been there before, but it was the first visit there for the others. Our first stop was at the Berg-En-Dal rest camp in the south of the park where we stayed for 2 nights. The area around this camp is ideal habitat for Rhinos, and as hoped we had very good sightings of Rhinos, both the Black and White species. Apart from Elephants and other typical wild life in the African bush, we saw a Leopard on a tree but it was at a distance.
On the 11th morning, we moved to Skukuza Rest Camp for a night. The Skukuza camp is located 72kms north of Berg-En-Dal, and compared to other rest camps it has more facilities. On the afternoon drive, Indu was able to spot a Leopard resting on a rock. We took some good pictures of it. We also spotted some Lions but not in situations suitable for good photography.
The next morning we drove to Olifant Rest Camp, a distance of 147 km from Skukuza, where we had reservations for 4 nights. My intention was to stay at this camp for only 3 nights but I couldn’t get rooms at Satara for an additional night as it was fully booked, which compelled me to extend the stay at Olifants. This camp is on one of the most scenic locations at KNP, overlooking the Olifant River.
During our stay at the Olifant, we had many sighting of the African Elephant, sometimes in large herds. All African Elephants have tusks compared to the Asian Elephants among which only a few males have tusks. KNP offers night drives, and we were fortunate to sight a Leopard and two male Lions during a two-hour night drive from Olifant. We also had many sightings of birds of prey such as Brown Snake Eagle, Tawny Eagle and African Hawk Eagle.
On the 16th morning, just before our departure from Olifant, we had a close, clear sighting of a female Leopard on a tree which lasted for almost an hour. Thereafter, we proceeded to Satara Rest Camp, south of Olifant, for lunch. It was our last stop for the final 2 nights at Kruger on this trip. After going through the morning sightings that were marked on the map near the camp office at the entrance, I decided to take the route in the afternoon where the most amount of Lions have been spotted.
At 3 pm we were all in the van and proceeded towards the area where there had been Lion sightings in the morning. After driving for about 30 minutes, we came upon a fleet of vehicles parked on either side of the road facing a lake, observing a pride of Lions in the vicinity. The pride was scattered which is a strategy they adopt to hunt. We also noticed a herd of buffalos coming out from some thick foliage to drink water from the lake. I observed an adult female Lion from the pride moving stealthily towards the Buffalos. I had a hunch that she was about to launch an attack on the prey and as I was at the wheel of the van, I followed the Lioness. I lost sight of her momentarily and in that brief moment she had pounced on a Buffalo and we could hear its screams of fright and agony. The rest of the pride separated the ill-fated Buffalo from the herd and started feeding on it quite ferociously. It was quite a feast for this pride that will satiate them for at least 2 days before they need to feed again. What a remarkable spectacle! It is tragic for the prey but this is how nature plays out in the African savannah.
We went to the same spot the following morning. We found the remains of the Buffalo carcass which had little left after the Lions had fed on it. The pride was nearby, apparently guarding the leftover of the prey from the vultures. After a while, a herd of elephants arrived to drink water, and seeing the Lions, chased the pride away. Lions attack baby Elephants for food, and the adults are uneasy when Lions are around. It was interesting to watch the way the Elephants chased the lions. That afternoon we tried hard to spot either a Wild Dog or a Cheetah, but without success!
On the 18th September morning, on our way out of the KNP, we sighted another Lion pride with a kill. That afternoon we took a flight to Cape Town from Nelspruit and returned to Colombo on the 21st September. African Safari 2011 to KNP will be in my memory forever due to the Satara Feast, a very rare sighting.