Monday, June 18, 2012


MAXMOM here...

*** Read about "DAY 1"  HERE   
***Read about "DAY 2 - (Morning)  HERE

DAY 2 (Evening Drive)

The peace of the bush has finally allowed me to relax. After our early morning drive this morning and a good breakfast, I feel it's time to take a 'holiday' snooze.  I lie down on the soft bed in our room and drift off - dreaming about sunsets and large cats.  The "Boss" decides to sample the outside Jacuzzi and then later gets his nose into a good book whilst soaking up the sun. Me? I'm in dreamland.
When I finally awake, I run myself a long, hot bath.  It's time to soak away the very last of the city stresses...

There are a few courtesy lodge lotions and potions to sample and I pour them into the bath liberally.   I slip into the warm water and lay my head back against the porcelain to take in the beauty of the outside courtyard. 

Large windows allow us a view of the infamous OUTSIDE 'shower'.  Most bush lodges have outside showers and SHIBULA is no exception. 
But showering 'outside' will have to wait for our next visit - it's just far too cold.  Besides, I'm not that adventurous to stand "starkers" surrounded by wild animals.  Instead, I stay in my bath and watch a young squirrel approach the outside shower's outlet to take a drink from the small puddle at its base.  Nothing goes to waste in the bush - every drop of water serves its purpose.

It's nearing 4pm and I hear the game-drive vehicle pull up outside our lodge.  The pebbles which line the entrance area crunch against its tyres. Indeed, pebbles line all the paths - they are quite beautiful if you stop and examine them. It's time to get ready for our evening drive. The 'Boss' and I pile on layers of thick clothing. (to ward off the certain chill) We gather our jackets, scarves and beanies and finally make our way to the vehicle. We have new guests joining us this afternoon and we introduce ourselves.  It's quite amazing - when in the bush, everyone is pleasant. 

"Are there any particular animals that you'd like to see this evening?" Sela asks.  He's our ranger for this drive.
"Yes, we need to find those lions tonight!"  We all agree.
Sela nods his head in understanding.  He picks up the mouthpiece of his radio and takes a moment to consult the other rangers in the field.  We're off...

Riding on the back of a Game-Drive vehicle is something quite special.  It's totally open-aired and you get up REALLY CLOSE to the animals - even the large predators and elephants. 
"Isn't it dangerous?' people ask.
Well, the answer is no, not really.  With an experienced Game ranger and field guide in control, as well a respect for the rules of Game-drives, things are pretty safe. Always listen to your ranger!!!
For some reason, animals only recognise vehicles as a WHOLE - they don't see the individual people inside vehicles. In other words you are PART of the vehicle and animals regard vehicles as non-threatening in these environments.  It's only when people stand up on the vehicle, or allow parts of their body to disturb the silhouette that things become dangerous. It's advisable to stay seated at all times.  In the case of an elephant charging, one also has to resist the natural urge to scream.... the best advice is to stay absolutely still and silent when on a sighting.
 (Above: Mother Rhino and Calf)

We're off on our drive and the sun is setting.  On the open plain various antelope are grazing.  Rhino and Wildebeest look relaxed and comfortable, but it's the herd of elephants that get our attention.  They are feeding, stomping and breaking down trees in the nearby bush.

It's a beautiful herd and a number of vehicles congregate.  The dust rises as rangers position their guests for the perfect sighting.  

We sit quietly as we watch the herd feed. 

What beautiful giants they are - but we are cautioned to remember their strength and unpredictability.  In this herd there are calves and the whole herd is protective. Elephants aren't always 'gentle giants'.

We've watched the herd for about 20 minutes and it's time to move on to look for our 'real' prize...the lion pride.  Sela tells us that they have been spotted - at the EXACT same place where we were standing having our coffee this the dam.  Wow!

The sun is dropping fast as we approach the dam.  There are already two vehicles on the scene and I can't see the lions but people are pointing, so they must be there.  There is excitement in the air.

"There he is - on the wall of the dam!" someone whispers.
 A young lion rises and the sun reflects on his golden fur...Magnificent!

Sela grins widely and points, "Have you seen the others?  There should be seven on this sighting.  We have nine lions in this pride, but the two big males are on walkabout.  We're not sure where they are in the reserve at the moment.  Here we have 'mommy', 'granny', a larger male and the one-year-old 'cubs'."

I scan the thick thatch grass but can't see what he is indicating.  Suddenly, however, a head pops out of the thatch.  What incredible camouflage!  Had I been walking along that path, in that grass, I would never have known that there was a lion there.  We watch as all the pride members are slowly located.  

I have never seen lions this close and this chilled.  They are a tight family unit and it's all touch, grunting, playful stalking and mock charging. The females deep vocalisation -  'huh..huh...huh!' - from deep in her belly is nowhere near the ferocity of a full roar, but it's powerful never-the-less.  We watch as the adolescents play - most of their time on their backs with their feet in the air.  Just like kittens, I think.

All the GD vehicles are switched off by this stage.  Despite the fact that the lions are only a few meters away, guests are whispering in hushed tones and the rangers are explaining various things about this pride. Occasionally someone sneezes or coughs and the lions look straight at the vehicle.  Its quite disconcerting to have a lion staring straight at you, but the rangers assure us that we are safe.

Suddenly one of the cubs pounces on his sibling.  They play for a while, then he gets up and moves across the space to the dam wall.  He's carrying a piece of wire in his mouth.  At first we think the wire is stuck around his paw, but its not and we breath a sigh of relief.  It's a loose piece of wire - left negligently in the field - and he's playing with it like a kitten.

The big male lion also gets up and moves closer to our vehicle.  He looks at us fleetingly and then drops to the ground to rest.  

These lions are well fed and Sela says that they killed a wildebeest last night.  In fact the male with the limp was probably kicked by the wildebeest during the kill.  Often we forget that when lions kill they put their own lives in danger too - many lions suffer a fatal kick from their 'prey' during the chase.  This lion, in front of us, although slightly injured, will survive.  He's a magnificent animal and I am silently thankful that his injury is not serious.

We stay on the sighting for a long, long time.  When we leave, we are bursting with elation.  It's been an incredibly sighting - one of the best you'll ever see - and we thank Sela, sincerely.

Later, back at the lodge, a warm fire is waiting.  It's time to have a drink of Sherry or hot-chocolate and wait for our dinner.  The lions have invigorated our conversations. Everyone is in good spirits. We can't wait to see the pride again.

Join me tomorrow to hear if we do, indeed, see them again...

(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!)


♥Mimi♥ said...

The elephants - the elephants - the elephants, I loved each and every wrinkle. I had to chuckle at the photo of it's 'rear end' walking away - made me wonder if that's how I look from behind ☺☺☺. Of course, I don't think I'll be giving anyone the opportunity to check it out and to report back to me, hehehe!

I just checked your weather. You mention getting all bundled up before you take off with the Ranger. Gosh, mid 60s - up here when the weather is that WARM we don't even wear jackets - maybe a sweater, but not much more. If the sun is out, forget the jacket, we just enjoy the sun warming us as we work outside in our gardens or head out to do some shopping☺.

My Dog Sam - Ruptured Disk said...

Hi Maxmom, wow - we think this is all so spectacular. Thanks.

NAK and The Residents of The Khottage Now With KhattleDog! said...

Khyra says THOSE are some pawesome khytties!!!

Thanks for sharing your fun with us!

Of course, she couldn't help but notice the elephant's bum was still smaller than Lacie Bobeastie ;-)

Millie and Walter said...

Thanks again for another great installment. I agree with Mimi, I loved the wrinkly elephant butt. I am in awe of how close you were able to get to the lions. Waiting patiently for the next part of the story.


Molly the Airedale said...

We are so thrilled that you got to see the lions! What gorgeous pictures! And we love the elephant's wrinkles too!

Love ya lots,
Mitch and Molly

Val said...

This is a wonderful adventure. I could hardly wait to get home to catch up with the days activities. I feel as though I am sitting right next to you as we venture through the reserve...thank you!!

Two French Bulldogs said...

Oh my goodness so GORGEOUS to see those animals and staying in such a cool lodge
Benny & Lily

WFT Nobby said...

The action photos of the lion are fantastic. And the 'inaction' description of the bath sounds wonderful too!

rottrover said...

Oh Maxmom!! Wonderful photos today! Those lions - so, so beautiful, and of course the wrinkley elephant butt -- too close to home!!

Claire Y said...

You make me laugh: the image of being 'starkers' and having a baboon check you out has me in stitches!!!
Okay, I also loved the pachyderm posterior which apeals to us all, but the photo I could feel and smell most vividly was the dusty road through the sun rays!(After deeply inhaling, I actually felt the tickle of a cough in my throat!)
What a fantastically authentic South African experience! Let me get on to Day three.
Giggles and jiggles

The Thuglets said...

Wow, wow and wow!
Absolutely beautiful.
Thank you for sharing your truly amazing experience.


Big Nose Pokes
The Thugletsx