My final day in Kruger National Park and I was still on the lookout for the elusive chequered cats. Neighbours told me again where and when they spotted a leopard or a cheetah. The frustrating part is, that I was in the area, just not the right time. The cat scan continued. From Melalane private camp I set out early morning.
The day started well, spotting a rhino and a rhino and calf in two different location. The sun came up as spectacular as always. I scanned all possible trees leopards could rest in, but without success.
I drove along the Crocodile River facing the sun. Along the way, I noticed a lot of grazers quite happily posing for the camera. I wasn’t going to pass that opportunity on. It appeared all meat eaters moved on and the grazers felt safe.
First on were a couple of giraffes, happily grazing along the track.
They weren’t fazed by us.
There were plenty of impalas scattered around. With spring in the air, the bucks get excited about the mating season; grunting like pigs and farting like crazy. I would say they are marking their territory from other bucks or it possibly attracts the females. That doesn’t stop them springing and chasing each other crossroads, testing your brakes for sure.
I stopped at the hippo pools again, it was time for a coffee. There were fresh croc footprints on the track, but none were to be seen. The sun rays warmed me up and heated the action in the river.
I sat on top of Zimba and watched to hippo calves testing their strength, under the watchful eye of mom. So cute to watch in peace and quiet.
I was busting for a wee when I got busted. A bakkie car drove in and when I came out from behind the car, he showed some sort of license and demanded me to get back in the car. Alright, alright I said, I was just going for a pee. Getting out of the car in Kruger National Park is not permitted! What if a predator came up and attacked you, he asked? I would be shittin myself as well then, I replied. He just didn’t appreciate that comment but didn’t know what to reply either. I know I was in the wrong, but I checked the area before too. Off I drove again and passed the dried river bed, which the elephant died yesterday. There were even more vultures fighting for eating dominance, but no jackal or hyenas to be seen. It was a bit far of to see exactly what was going on.
Some were still waiting in line. Meanwhile, the grazing animal community wasn’t shy to show what they’ve got. It was a posing day, they seem to be on a catwalk.
A waterbuck showed his colourful behind.
Some impala impressed with synchronised catwalking across the track
And a wildebeast was shaking its booty to the beat of the pestering flies. Arriving at the Crocodile River camp area, my hopes were high to spot a cheetah. They faded rather quick, driving up and down the tracks. There are three mother cheetahs with cubs in this area I been told, seemed like they weren’t keen on the catwalk. At least I tried I thought and focused on grazing wildlife.
Elephants, always shining to pose, crossed the catwalk next. One lady elephant was even wearing eyebrow extensions, oh la la Madame. Looking elephantastic.
After all this showbiz, intermission was called. Time for a coffee.
I turned off to a larger grazing area, and some peace and quiet.
A herd of zebras joined in slowly and couldn’t believe to see this oversized zebra.
In disbelief, they came closer to check Zimba out.
They were even laughing at him it appeared. What a spectacle to watch. Coffee and a show gotta be happy with that.
The Hyde at the waterhole was tranquil, apart from the wood knocking Cardinal Woodpecker, identified by fellow bird watching experts.
A larger Kudu herd enjoyed a family outing along side the road.
They were rather curious on what the fuzz was all about. Two Inala bucks weren’t far but got scared off by cars. Shame, they have pretty colours and stripes, a little similar to a Kudu. A few more impala showing off their mating ritual. Kinda amusing really.
An eagle wasn’t impressed by the spectacle.
The cavalry arrived shortly after.
They seemed rather in a hurry, some more than others.
There’s always time for a scratch though.
Before hitching a ride with mom.
I should have recognized the signs, something is going on. A car pulled over and said a leopard was spotted on the road. I had given up on the whole cat idea and was quite happy taking photos of posing grazers. But this was it. Like all cars around me, the chase began. The leopard disappeared in the bushes. Whilst the other cars were looking, I drove further down.
I saw him for a brief moment in the thick grass chasing a waterbuck, then there was nothing. I sat around for a while, with no glimpse of this graceful cat. But at least I had been given another chance to get a glimpse of a leopard.
It was already late afternoon when I left Kruger National Park, much later then I intended. I was literally exhausted, my legs were shaky. I’ve driven a good 1000 km’s, spent hours in the car watching or waiting on wildlife. It has been an exciting, dramatic, even hectic at times, adventure. But it sure was packed with lots of memorable moments to treasure. And photos.