GREETINGS FROM SOUTH AFRICA!
PLEASE BE ADVISED THAT THE PICTURES ON THIS BLOG ARE
***Read about "DAY 2 - (Evening)" HERE
***Read about "DAY 3 - (Morning)" HERE
***Read about "DAY 3 - (Evening)" HERE
'Ranger Sean' is in attendance again. He hands each of us a hot water bottle. This is a really welcome 'gift' - considering that it's an 'evening' game drive and the temperatures are likely to get really chilly as the night progresses.
We have a new couple on the drive with us this evening and we all introduce ourselves. Smiles all around. The "LIONS" are on our shopping list again and Sean nods in understanding. He starts the vehicle and we're off...
A little way down the road, our ranger brings the vehicle to a sudden stop.
"What's wrong?" we all enquire.
"I think I've ridden over a snake."
Sean's expression is an expression of sombreness - he's a conservationist, after all. He hops out of the vehicle and bends down to look underneath. "Yes, it's sitting in the middle of the island, but thankfully it's alive and well." He breaths a sigh of relief.
"What now?" we ask
"Well, we either sit here and wait, or I fish it out somehow." He grins at us.
"Be careful," we urge. "We don't want our ranger bitten."
Sean looks around and picks up a long stick. Finally he manages to fish the snake out from under the vehicle. We watch as it slithers frantically to escape the end of the stick and our scrutiny. Apparently it was a 'red-lipped -something-or-other'. I simply can't remember all these scientific names, but this little thing can leave one with a mega headache if it bites you. Eventually Sean allows it to slink into the nearby grass.
We're off again...
It's quite a distance to where the lions were last seen and there's a subtle urgency to get to the sighting before the light fades. Apparently the lions killed a warthog recently.
On the way we stop to hear an explanation about the waterbuck's revoltingly dirty skin. The creature looks at us innocently. It's mate darts off into the bushes. Doe-eyes and pretty profile belie its rumoured offensive odour.
Our ranger is very interesting to listen to. Most obligingly he imparts his wealth of knowledge. It's refreshing to see a young person living their dream. We're off again. It's quite a long drive.
The vehicle eventually pulls into a wide, open plain. Suddenly we see them. The collective noun that immediately pops into my mind is "a 'PILE' of lions". I stifle a giggle. The whole 'pile' is lying together. Some are on their backs with their paws flailing in the air, others yawn widely. A few have the soft, white fur on their underbellies exposed.
Sean edges the vehicle closer and we all grab our cameras. They are so close but seemingly undisturbed by our vehicle. He switches the engine off and we listen silently to their hollow calls and watch the one-year-old adolescents playing together.
They stalk, pounce, rub shoulders, strike out at one another and roll over in an age-old display of unity. It's hard to believe that these huge creatures are really just giant kittens. But it's good to remember that they are lethal too.
(I would hate an encounter with those teeth....)
Suddenly the atmosphere changes. The young ones stand up and stare in the direction of the long grass. "Granny" looks on unphazed, but the 'cubs' are ready for action. We notice a big male, a short distance away, strolling towards them. He was hidden in the long grass up until now. His front chest and paws are covered in blood.
There's a mad scramble as the 'cubs' race towards the discarded remnants of the kill. The big male has had his fill and now it's their turn. There's no time to waste. Forceful grunts erupt as they fight for a portion of the spoils.
I can't help but marvel at these cats. They are all in magnificent condition - healthy and vital and deeply bonded.
The light is fading and we pull away to a find a place to enjoy our sundowners. The rule is that there has to be 'at least 100m distance between a sundowner and any of the big 5'. Our vehicle is parked about a kilometre downwind. Is this a far enough distance, I wonder?
We drink our 'hot-chocolate' next to a small dam. A Cape wagtail dances across the water lilies. An elephant 'spa' lies waiting - deep mud and water, next to the dam. It's a tranquil scene. There is evidence that the 'spa' has been well used and I can picture the elephants rolling happily in the mud.
(Above: From SHIBULA's brochure - "Sundowners")
Once again, we are on our way. We wrap up tighter. More layers, more scarves, more blankets. In the thick clothing conversations quieten down. We make our way back to the pride. Since the temperature is cooler, the cats are more active. They continue their antics in the darkening evening. We watch for a while longer then call it a day.
Back at the lodge we are welcomed with sherry. A warm log-fire invites us closer. The lights have been turned down and intimate tables await the various couples to enjoy one of SHIBULA's wonderful dinners. This time it's vegetable soup as a starter, beef fillet with rice as a main course and a pear-cake, with hot custard, for desert. Poetry on a plate!
(Above: The reception area - picture from SHIBULA's brochure)
In our room a letter is waiting. It's our last night at the lodge and the management hope that we have enjoyed our stay. Yes, we certainly have! While we have been out on the game-drive, the staff have acted like silent elves. Our sheets have been pulled back invitingly, white slippers laid out neatly next to our beds and there are chocolates on our pillows. What hospitality!
Tomorrow we'll be up at 6am again - for our last game drive before returning home. We've had a blast of a holiday and I'm sure we'll be back again. But now it's time to rest...there's a lot more game to see in the morning. Cheers to a wonderful day!
Will you join me tomorrow as I share our last leg of the journey? It's GUARANTEED to be a BUMPER POST! Don't miss out!
(Dear friends, be sure to follow the blog posts during this next week as I share our FULL adventure. Many thanks to the management and staff at the beautiful SHIBULA LODGE for your incredible hospitality!)