A little patience pays off

Entering the Kruger Park for the first time can be an overwhelming experience. Even more so if you’ve grown up in the city. Sometimes you might notice certain animal behaviours, but only after a few sightings do you manage to make sense of their actions.

On the second day in the park I started noticing vultures in the tree tops. I was still in awe at the magnificence of Kruger that it took a while for me to comprehend what a vulture’s purpose is and what their behaviour looks like. Often they just sit in a tree and look as if nothing is happening around them. At one occasion, across a dry riverbed, I saw vultures frantically flying up and down from a tree. It was pretty obvious to me that a kill had taken place and they were feeding.

During the rainy days I never saw too many vultures. However, the afternoon after the rains ended, the vultures seemed to be perched in tree tops around every corner. At the time I didn’t understand why I was seeing so many vultures. Would luck have it that there were that many kills around?

After a while what I did notice is that all the vultures sat with their wings spread out, doing absolutely nothing else. This was very puzzling to me. Then eventually it clicked that they must have been drying out their wings after the rain.

Vulture Spread Wings

The last morning I headed out on an early morning drive. The weather had cleared up all together and a sense of excitement was in the air. Over the last couple of days spent in Kruger, I learned that anything could happen at any given moment. A little patience is needed and seemingly from no bush activity, the most extraordinary scene can unfold right next to your car. You may even be lucky enough to be the only car around.

I drove along the H3 road just outside of Skukuza and what did I come across? Three more vultures sitting in a tree. Having studied vultures over the past few days I immediately scanned the surrounding bush. The bush was about 15 metres away from the road, but rather dense and impenetrable. I decided to pull over close to the vultures and wait and see what might happen.

A minute later one of the vultures darted down from the tree. I knew this meant some sort of action. I still couldn’t see what was happening at ground level. I kept patient. Soon after that I saw something scurry from out of the bush. At first I couldn’t identify what had emerged from the bush. It was a sight I had not expected. The figure revealed itself and it was a large Spotted Hyena. It came zig zagging rather nervously out of the thicket.

Hyena emerging

To make the above scene even more dramatic, it came out with a massive bone in its mouth! I could hardly contain myself. I tracked the movement of the Spotted Hyena and calculated that there was a good chance it would stop right next to the car. That’s exactly what it did.

Bone in mouth 1

 

It stopped right next to the car and started eating the bone. The Spotted Hyena continuously scanned the immediate environment, being weary of other predators lurking around. It was a gripping sight. What astounded me the most was the ease with which the Spotted Hyena bit through the bone. It seemed as if the bone was made of Marshmallows. Within a few seconds half of the bone had been devoured.

Bone on ground

A game vehicle came and parked next to me, but their activity must have startled the Spotted Hyena so it dropped half of the bone and scampered into the bush.

This was without a doubt one of the highlights of my trip. This whole scene, together with all the others in Kruger, shows how quickly and unpredictably things happen in the bush. Whoever would pass by this spot after I left would have no idea of the scene that had just played out. This makes any sighting in Kruger something worth cherishing.

Too close for comfort

There is no holiday quite like a bush holiday. Spending a holiday in South Africa’s iconic Kruger National Park, is a privilege and a dream come true.

Kruger has the ability to present you with natures finest, wild moments. Some of these moments will be delightful, entertaining, nerve-wracking, adorable or simply awe-inspiring. There will be other moments where you might just be caught completely off guard.

My very first trip to Kruger was with my friend, Anthony, in September 2015. We had spent 4 nights in the park and stayed at Skukuza rest camp. On our last day in Kruger we made our way down from Skukuza to exit at the Malalane Gate.  We still had some time to spare before exiting, so we decided to make a little detour to Berg-En-Dal rest camp.

Arriving at Berg-En-Dal rest camp, Anthony went into the curio shop and I walked on towards the restaurant area. Approaching the staircase next to the restaurant, I saw a group of ladies looking curiously at something. I walked closer, but couldn’t figure out what they were looking at. I looked at the ground, but couldn’t see anything. I thought maybe it would be behind the ledge of the staircase. I was hoping it would be an interesting bird or small mammal that I hadn’t seen yet. I approached the staircase ledge and leaned over to see what they were looking at.

There was nothing to view at the bottom of the ledge. Not wanting to miss out on any action, I asked one of the ladies “What are you ladies looking at?” One of the ladies replied, “A snake!” I was totally surprised and excitement levels shot through the roof. I then said “ah cool, where?” The lady quickly responded with “right next to you!”

At that moment a sense of both excitement and fear rushed through my body. I had still not seen the snake yet. I cautiously looked down at the ledge on my left and finally saw a bright green snake lying on top of the ledge right next to me. My first thought was that it was a Boomslang!

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I couldn’t believe it! Without even thinking I took a few awkward steps backwards. I remember hearing the group of ladies laughing. I’m assuming it must have been at my response to finally realising that there was a snake right next to me.

Anthony finally came down towards the restaurant area and I had to explain why the ladies were laughing at me. We watched as the snake very quickly hoisted itself up and started to slither up some low hanging branches of a tree next to the staircase. I only then realised how quickly a snake can move.

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 I only got confirmation after returning home that the snake is a Spotted Bush Snake and not a Boomslang as I originally had thought.

A Ball of Bones

Waking up to the sounds of nature has always been a pleasure for me. Heading off to the bird hide at Intaka Island in Century City, Cape Town makes this early morning experience even more enjoyable.

This morning I had the most bizarre experience. After spending around two hours at the hide taking in the playful sights of the resident pair of Malachite Kingfishers, Grey Heron and some Red Knobbed Coots, I witnessed something that I had never seen before. To be honest I never thought that this was even possible.

Two Pied Kingfishers flew in and took their positions on a nearby perch. I was delighted to see two Pied Kingfishers simultaneously. After watching them for a few minutes, I noticed that the Pied Kingfisher at the top of the perch changed its behaviour. It almost stiffened up and then proceeded to open its beak quite wide. Then, to my surprise, it coughed up a little white ball and dropped it into the water. Not ever having witnessed this from birds before, I wasn’t sure what was happening. I asked the photographer next to me and he informed me that it was actually the bones and remnants of fish that the birds can’t digest. I found this absolutely fascinating and did not expect to see this happening on a quiet Saturday morning.

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