on July 19, 2006
Riding in the darkness through Kruger National park is one of our best memories of South Africa. Wearing several layers of shirts under our jackets to guard against the chilly winter air, we boarded an open-air safari truck with about 15 passengers just before sundown. The ranger/guide/driver explained that he couldn't make any guarantees about what animals we would see and that every night is different. But he was sure we would see something interesting.Our first encounter was a group of three white rhino on a side road, slowing wandering towards us. As we watched them for a few minutes, our guide did a great job of explaining a fair amount about the habits of rhino and their territoriality, which explained a lot of the rhino droppings we had been seeing along roads earlier.The rest of the trip was equally interesting. We were lucky enough to view four of the "big five", with the highlight of following a leopard down the road (sighting leopards can be pretty rare). We were a little frustrated in not being able to see any lions that night because the driver of another truck out that night had spotted two and they had been in a spot where our driver had seen them other nights. Our driver gave it a good effort, going by the area where the lions were reported two or three times, but it was not to be for us.On the night drive from Pretoriuskop, we also saw elephants, buffalo, giraffes, zebras, a chameleon, and two African Eagle Owls (one in the road and one in a tree).At one point, we stopped the truck and turned out the lights (to entice the leopard back from the underbrush), and it was really a thrill just to be out in the middle of the wilderness in the dark. I sat imagining what it must have been like for early African explorers in the bush without roads or electricity. An experience not to be missed!We took another evening game drive from Satara Rest Camp, where we also stayed one night. Since the two camps are in very different terrains, the experience and variety of animals seen was quite different.On the Satara drive, while it was still light, our guide pointed out Marshall Eagles and Tawny Eagles. After dark, Satara wildlife included African wild cats, a serval, and small-spotted genets.The area around Satara is supposed to be more well-known for its lions, but, alas, none for us again.You can reserve ahead at their website sanparks.com. This is recommended during busier seasons. We just booked the Satara drive the same morning as the drive. It was a little chilly, but not as bad as some guides make out. We were there in late June, and were fine with several layers of shirts, and a nice fall jacket. They also provided blankets on the Satara truck. Having survived many Midwest winters, we mostly laughed at others wearing full parkas.
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