12/12/ – 13/12/15
Finally, this weekend is the excursion highlight to the Krugerpark. Ellanie’s husband Francois offers volunteers a two-day trip to the national park. Absolutely recommendable! The park is the largest national park in South Africa, stretching over an area comparable to the Netherlands and fascinates with an impressive animal world! The local fauna contains almost 150 mammal species, 34 amphibian species, 49 species of fish, 114 reptile species and more than 500 bird species. At least, according Wikipedia, however, it feels like the ten-fold is inside the park. That is the case if you are on the road with the right guide. And that is my new friend! Besides the “mainstream” routes, especially the less obvious ways reveal an incredible insight into Africa’s animal world. Thanks, Francois!
In the last few weeks it has hardly rained, so unfortunately, the park does not appear in its lush green which is usual for this time of the year. However, the circumstance of the persistent dryness brings a great advantage with it. The impressive animal world mainly focuses on the few remaining water holes. And if you know where to find these, you also see plenty of life…
Death inevitably belongs to life as I once again frighteningly but somehow fascinatingly find out. We will witness a crocodile attack at two different water holes. Both times an impala is the victim. Impalas are the most common antelope species in the Kruger. In contrast to many other antelopes, Impalas have not really specialised in a food source. They graze, but also eat different bushes. Furthermore, impalas are highly willing to mate which is reflected in their large number. Real survival specialists. Almost! Impalas have not yet been able to develop immunity against crocodiles. Consequently, these two animals are torn into pieces in the water. A crocodile does not chew, a crocodile rips bite-sized pieces from its prey. The bite of its mighty jaws firstly leads to a sort of perforated part in the antelope. And when the croc twists and winds in the water, the water resistance helps to tear the animal into pieces.
The fact that it is not always recommendable to swallow large bites shows me another animal impressively. We find a snake that has caught a lizard that is almost as long and considerably thicker than the snake itself. In my opinion, it must have been the last meal for the snake because it no longer moves. Francois, on the other hand, clarifies that it did not necessarily swallow itself to death. In a few hours, when its stomach acid has done a good job, it might be able to move around a little. The prerequisite is, of course, that during this time no larger (or even smaller) snake creeps past and looks forward to this double meal.
We see four types of the “Big Five”. The closest we can get to is lions, buffaloes and elephants. Two young, male lions relax about 15 metres from our vehicle in the shade and do not let themselves be disturbed by anyone. Two buffaloes cross the bumpy road directly in front of us and elephants reach us up to 5 metres. Elephants have become a kind of plague in the Kruger. Unfortunately, there are too many to be good for the ecological balance and as a result, you see huge areas with pushed trees in some places. Elephant migrations also cause a lot of damage. A heated debate is about whether humans should possibly intervene and deliberately shoot elephants. I do not allow myself any judgement at this point. We can see rhinoceroses from a distance after all. However, I do not see the shyest of the “Big Five”, the leopard. To be honest, I have the assumption that the leopard is a kind of non-existent decoy in order to infinitely often return to the Kruger Park and to never see it. I was in the same national park two years ago. At that time, I have been on a hopeful “leopard hunting trip” for four days and I could not see it at that time. Francois’ detailed reports on his regular sightings of this wildcat in the park do not let me deviate from my conspiracy theory! Well, right? Maybe I should come back soon and try again…
What Francois does in an impressive way is to arouse my interest in birds. The bird world is even more colourful than that of the mammals which is almost unbelievable: majestic eagle and giant vulture species, small colourful creatures like the bee-eater, the famous yellow-billed hornbill Zazu from “The Lion King”, beautiful kingfishers, marvellously ugly marabous, ostriches, cuckoos, diverse owls and so much more… One of the rarest birds in the park is the “Verreaux’s Eagle Owl” and I have even seen this one with its characteristic pink “painted” eyelids which comforts me a little over the leopard conspiracy. And again, a great new world that opens up to Ivan. Gorgeous!
Some hopefully interesting information of the first day: getting up at 03:15 am, temperature at twenty past seven is already at 33°C, temperature around ten to nine is 40°C, temperature around 3 pm is 46°C, estimated amount of water drunk: 30 litres, amount of water sweated out is also estimated at 30 litres.
Some hopefully interesting information of the second day: “sleep in” until 04:15 am, cool down at a temperature that does not exceed 30°C due to a thick cloud cover which lasts throughout the day. Only large amounts of water fall from the sky in the form of heavy rain showers and frightening lightnings.
And we see a last highlight on the way back to the exit gate: a bunch of rainbow clouds! Neither Francois nor I have seen something like this before and the both of us cannot explain the phenomenon. A pile of clouds above the sun shines in all possible colours. However, no system of arrangement is recognisable. The phenomenon appears for about 20 minutes and slowly weakens towards the end. In our photos, the luminosity is unfortunately only recognisable to some extent than we have seen in reality. “South Africa, the rainbow country” gets an alternative meaning for me today.