CROCODILE BRIDGE, KRUGER NATIONAL PARK, SOUTH AFRICA
We entered the high veld after darkness. As we approached the gate at Crocodile Bridge, guards conferred on their walkie talkies to allow us to enter Kruger National Park after visiting hours. It was amazing to drive into the wild imagining beautiful wildlife and amazing scenic landscapes I would encounter in the light. After I settled into camp I heard a loud cracking noise from the bush just beyond the fence. My flashlight met the gaze of a massive Cape Buffalo foraging just six feet away. I snapped a few shots of the Cape Buffalo and faced my lens towards the African night sky and photographed a crescent moon shining through an Acacia tree and clusters of stars which reflected the faces of African ancestors.
Our first wildlife encounter from the porch in the morning was some Rheuses Monkeys playing in the trees. As we headed Northeast to the heart of Kruger National Park we were pleased to come across giraffes browsing, saw an African Elephant in the distance and eventually came to a family herd of zebras to Latai’s delight. A baby zebra clung to its mothers side as it grazed in the savannah. At a river overlook we saw crocodiles basking in the sun near a river bed and a floating Wildebeest carcass. Our next encounter was an amazing scene that was the highlight of our day. A big family herd of fifty zebras grazed in the foreground. Just amongst them was another herd of twelve giraffe with their babies and beyond the giraffe higher up on the hill a herd of elephants were foraging including the Bull Elephant with impressive tusks. It was a beautiful expression of African ecology which you can only experience at such a magnificent place as Kruger. The giraffes seemed to display a delicate intimacy as their necks wrapped around each other creating one large form as six of the giraffes blending together. As they stood in the group their heads faced in each direction on the alert for any possible danger. We were mesmerized by the beauty and grace of that moment and will deeply cherish that experience forever. After totally being blown away by this idealistic experience we proceeded to encounter Gazelle, Baboon, Wildebeest, more Zebra, more Giraffe, more Elephant, a Leopard walking towards a watering hole, two Cheetah sunbathing in the middle of a plain, three White Rhino grazing in the grass, a big herd of Kudu, drove past a Jackyl weaving through the road, two Hyena, Hippos in a river, Tortoise, Rabbits, and a variety of beautiful brilliant colored birds including the famous Horn Bill.
We approached a massive herd of Cape Buffalo obstructing the road. Clearly this was their territory and they had no motivation to yield to clear passage. Brian carefully approached the herd inching our way through while the dominant males snorted and eyed us with mild annoyance. The Cape Buffalo is the largest of ungulates, hoofed mammals. Its powerful build and massive wide which horns which wrap around their heads and curl up the ends like a fancy wig could seriously damage a vehicle if the bull felt obligated to protect his herd. They are in the top 10 list of human fatalities from wild animals in Africa. Brian warned me not to glance in the eye of the Cape Buffalo bull as he may interpret it as a challenge to his authority. We meandered through the herd as I got the most amazing footage of a day in the life of a wild herd of Cape Buffalos.
It was incredible to have encountered a place in its natural state untouched by man since the beginning of time, only marked by the human footprint of the winding roads leading us through this wild. It is a place devoid of any signifigant human development and is one of the largest and greatest natural places in Africa and in the world. It is an ecosystem that remains thriving with a minimum of human intervention, whose future will be determined by managing the threat of mans intervention. The delicate ecology offers many lessons of the balance of life, both predator and prey, life and death.
LETABA, KRUGER NATIONAL PARK, SOUTH AFRICA
Waking up at Boulders is like no other morning you’ve ever had. Immediately from your bed are views of life in the bush. With a waterhole centering the great viewing area, we have seen two Gazelle herds, a pack of seven Wild African Dogs and beautiful birds grazing the colorful trees in the area. It is a gathering place for a range of animals all right out the balcony of your private loft. One of the groundskeepers said that it’s a regular viewing spot for Lions, Giraffe, Elephant, and a diversity of migrating herds. Nestled by a rocky hill strewn with giant boulders it is one of the most remote spots to spend the night in the park. Our first wildlife encounter leaving our luxury camp were another three African Wild Dogs obstruct the road. It was a remarkable opportunity to photograph these often elusive animals from only a few feet away. As we headed North through more forested terrain, it was more challenging for wildlife viewing. We were greeted by Giraffe browsing for breakfast and a family herd of Zebra on their morning stroll. Further along we came across a watering hold where Zebras were drinking and a massive African Bull Elephant with enormous tusks was taking large gulps of water with his trunk.
We have experienced the warmest of hospitality. There is an inner light and pride that emanates in the eyes and smiles of the locals we encounter from their reverence of this majestic natural wonderland. This is a timeless ageless place in competition with the demands of our modern world. A reminder of a natural order long forgotten in th many urban centers in Africa and the world. Facing the challenges of poaching and human development the preservation of this natural world heritage site is essential for future generations.