For the identification of insects and other fauna and flora of South Africa.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Home away from home - Final

My last morning here! I hate the though of going home again. But I feel very relaxed in the bush and wish I could stay forever. I am going to a small dam where we saw the rhino last night. I know a family of squirrel lives in a large hole in a tree and want to get some photos. I get there and open my door in order to lie flat on my stomach in the car. This way I can get lovely shots without only getting the tops of their heads. They are looking for food and I get some excellent footage. I am taking a side road which will eventually end up at the gate I am going out of so the road is fairly free of cars.

Just then I spot a tail hanging down from a tree. No, it can’t be! Yes, it is! A leopard! He is about twenty yards away and is looking around to see if there is prey in the area. I cannot believe my luck and grab my camera. He is so close and in the open I get some nice shots of him. He yawns and licks his coat. The camera is working overtime. I spend 45 minutes with him before another car arrives. He sits a few minutes more then jumps down and is gone. I cannot wait to get home now and have the slides developed to see how my shots came out. In each day I have at a game reserve, I have a highlight and this has to be the best sighting I will have today. It cannot get better. I move on to my favorite dam and get out the coffee and rusks (my staple diet while in a game park). The area is crowded with game and this early, before the heat, the animals are very active. Two waterbuck are sparing but not seriously. Tick birds sit on the backs of animals feeding. A fish eagle flies low over the water and goes to sit in a dry tree on the bank to look for food. This is the cycle and rhythm of the bush. Finding food (or being preyed upon) and sleeping. Living one day at a time. I sometimes feel us humans can learn a lot from the animals. We are always in too much of a rush, get stressed out at our hectic pace and always living by the clock. Here there is no time. Just feeding of stomachs when it is hungry.
Warthogs are rooting for food nearby and I take some pictures. Both male and female have tusks and these are kept sharp as the bottom ones continually rub against the top ones. They actually develop calluses on the joints of their front knees from foraging on them. I have not seen any wilddogs on this trip although I know there are some in this area and have been looking out for them. They usually hunt during the day, preferring early morning and late afternoon. I watch the running around of young wildebeest. A calf is able to stand within five minutes of being born and can run as fast as the herd within twenty minutes. Nature is wonderful and fascinating and I will never get tired of watching animals. Vervet monkeys are scurrying around searching for food. They are the only type of monkey found in the park. They have cheek pouches in which they store food and unlike most monkeys, cannot use their tails for swinging from branch to branch instead, they are able to jump long distances. They are very social and so the size of the troop can vary according to the area, but usually there are about twenty in a troop. I move on and find a small herd of elephant with a tiny baby amongst them. Baby elephants weigh about one hundred and twenty kilograms when born and are always wonderful to watch. I have seen fetuses of them and they are absolutely the perfect miniature of what they grow up to be. A few male buffalo cross the road and I spot a pair of Steenbok. Because of their coloring, they are often mistaken for young impala, but a closer look will show that they have only a short stump for a tail whereas impala tails are noticeable longer.

It is time to head out and I stop at a camp to have lunch before going home. This has been a fantastic trip, but then again, so are all of my trips here. I loved every minute of my many years working here, bringing visitors to the park and explaining to them the different habits of the animals. Each day was different even though we saw the same animals every day. What a wonderful place and a wonderful life I have lived and would gladly do it all again if I had to live my life over.

I would like to thank everyone for following my story. I tried to make it educational as well as giving everyone a hint of what my life was like or what to expect if visitors come to South Africa and visit Kruger National Park.

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