Alicia’s Travel Diary

Tuesday, 17 Aug 2010

Location: Kwa Mbili Game Lodge, South Africa

MapWhen 6am rolled around we were already awake when we got our wake up call. The sun was just starting to rise over the savannah. We grabbed some coffee and then we were on our way. It gets down to about 40 degrees at night, so it was still pretty chilly in the morning. During the day it warms up to somewhere in the 70's. We hadn't gone far out of our lodge when we saw a group of impalas on the side of the road. A few minutes later our guide got a call on the radio informing him of a male cheetah that was spotted by another guide. We kicked up the speed and took off toward the cheetah sighting. We rode in a 4 wheel drive open topped Land Rover so the wind was pretty chilly as we sped along. Finally we reached the cheetah and pulled behind the jeep that spotted him. We got close, I mean, really close. The cheetah didn't seem to mind we were there at all. He kept walking along, peeing on trees and just doing his thing. We followed him for a ways even going off the road and driving into the bush. That's the great thing about private reserves versus the public ones. At the public reserves they have to stay on the road, but at the private ones they will drive to wherever the game is. We watched as the cheetah meandered around, ate a bug and then laid down in the sun to clean himself. What an amazing experience! When it looked like he was going to nap we headed off in search of other animals. We spied several more impalas and other small antelope and eventually we stumbled upon a wildebeest. He got all crazy when we approached and ran off a bit, but we still got a good look at him. We saw Zazu from the Lion King too, he doesn't look as purple as he does in the movie, and he didn't sing about coconuts. We saw a few vultures and some more baboons and monkeys before heading back to the camp for some breakfast.

We had the rest of the morning to do our own thing. I read a bit and napped while Mike went to the blind to watch for animals that might come to the watering hole. He got a few nice shots of some warthogs, a group of impala and nice close up shot of Zazu (a yellowbilled hornbill). After lunch we met up with a group on the southern side of the reserve for another game drive.

Oh. My. God. The afternoon safari was AMAZING!! We saw giraffes only a few minutes into the drive right off the side of the road. We watched as the giraffe's long black tongue snagged the leaves off the tree. We saw some warthogs off the side of road, they are usually pretty skittish, but one stopped and looked right at us. A little later there was a bit of commotion from the guides, they said there were 3 female lions nearby. We drove off the road around a little hill and there they were! We saw two at first resting in the bushes then the third walked right in front of our jeep, stretched, and then walked to lay down by the other two females. We drove around some more circling the local water holes in search of elephants. Suddenly two black rhinos crossed the road in front of us. The guides got really excited as black rhinos are really rare, the more common ones that people usually see are white rhinos. The second rhino stopped in the road and looked at us menacingly. We kept our distance until after they passed, but were still close enough to get a few good pictures. We reached another water hole and found a group of hippos in the water. We drove off the road again and drove right up to the water's edge. Two hippos approached us, but then backed off. There was a little baby hippo that was standing on its mother's back. We sat and watched as a large male hippo suddenly charged the mother hippo with the baby on its back. The mother got defensive and there was a scuffle in the water. Things settled down for a second and then they scuffled a bit again. We left the hippos in search of the elusive group of elephants. We saw lots of impala, some small antelope and a Kudu (looks like a cross between a deer and a camel). Finally we find the elephants! We could hear trees being snapped and crunched and drove off road towards the herd of elephants. We saw some through the trees and as we continued deeper into the brush there was a mother and baby hippo right by the clearing we were driving through. We pulled up next to them and watched as they ripped apart the tree and stripped the bark off. We sat and watched them for a bit before moving on. A few minutes later we noticed another group of elephants right off the road. We slowly approached them and one walked right behind our vehicle as we drove past. We pulled next to a larger elephant that was stomping on the remnants of a broken off tree. Seeing the power that the elephants had to rip apart trees was amazing, they could just break off a whole tree with their trunk. We saw some more wildebeest before we stopped to watch the sunset and have some sundowners. As the stars came out I noticed that they looked totally unfamiliar. We drove back to the lodge after sunset with one of the guides using a spotlight to watch for animals. We spied an owl in a treetop on our way back.

Dinner was a candlelit affair in the blind that overlooked the waterhole. There was a spotlight so we could see any animals that approached for a drink. As we ate we first saw a Duiker (a small omnivorous antelope). The next thing we saw was fat and slow and we didn't know what it was at first, finally I realized it was a porcupine, a really huge porcupine. Near the end of dinner we saw what we thought to be a half raccoon half mongoose that was the size of a medium sized dog. We found out later it was a Civet.