Whoa whoa whoa 4:30am… Where did you come from?? When we say early morning this morning, we’re not joking. We were determined to get up in time to be at the park early enough to see the lions. Now, it’s always a gamble on whether or not they’ll show themselves, but there was no way we were letting that opportunity slip through our fingers. We packed our bags, walked down for breakfast and said a sad goodbye to our favorite guide. Omps, you’ve been such a wonderful asset to our team this week, and we are going to miss you so much. He is such an inspiration. We are all incredibly happy to have met him and shared so many laughs together. He really made our time amazing at Somkhanda.
On our freezing cold, blanket cuddling trip, we slept the entire way. Despite being tired though, we all perked up right away when we saw the signs to Hluhluwe Big 5 Game Reserve. Then, we were finally through the gates by 7:30. At first, nothing popped out at us driving around. None of us got discouraged though because we still saw rhinos, zebras, monkeys and giraffes along the road.
We ended up separating from the other group somehow, and that’s when all the crazy events took place. The other car stopped for a couple elephants to cross the road, but ended up getting stopped for an entire hour because it was a massive herd of about 50 elephants. Because elephants usually travel in a herd of females, it was all the big female African elephants and all their various sized calves. There was also one bull elephant bringing up the back for protection. They were stuck in the car watching the group pass by for an hour before they could cross. How sad, they couldn’t go because the elephants and babies were walking in front of them right?? The car that I was in saw the herd of elephants, but they weren’t directly in front of us. We only saw them from a distance. It was still extremely cool to see them all traveling together and watch how they knocked down trees and followed the alpha female through the bush. We love elephants!!!
After that, we continued searching for a couple hours, when we came upon a herd of about 15 buffalo. They were grazing on the side of the road, minding their own business without a care in the world. We were watching them intently but something caught our guide’s eye. The quote of the day is, “Oh, oh I got the Lions!” Someone responded, “Really?!?!” Richard (the funniest south African alive) goes, “No, no I’m just kidding. Haha that was my aim to find lions and I got the lions!” He does this a lot. Naturally, none of us believed him until we looked for ourselves and found them lounging on the hill above the buffalo.
The next turn of events was outrageous. We sat and observed the lions for a long time, and we were completely satisfied with seeing them just sitting there staring at us. The buffalo, however, had a different idea. The wind must’ve changed because the buffalo went berserk and ran up the hill towards the lions. It looked as though they were making a plan of attack or something because they stopped momentarily near where the lions were laying. Then, the lions both got up quickly as the herd of buffalo gathered together and charged them!! They chased them right down the hill! Richard said he’s been doing this job for nine years and has never seen that before in his life. We thought for sure the lions would attack the buffalo, but the tables definitely took an unexpected turn. We were awestruck. Not only had we seen lions, but we saw one of the most rare occurrences ever!!
After that, we were completely satisfied with what we had seen. It was lunchtime at that point, so we headed towards the picnic area. On our way there, we saw a lone lion lying in the riverbed. That was three lions already!! Sadly, this one had been injured by attacking his prey and looked really sickly and hungry. We had to understand that it’s all part of nature and life, but it was still really sad to see. Next, we swallowed down lunch and had some time to unwind and relax for a bit.
The lunch coma was intense because we all were struggling with dozing off this afternoon. We didn’t really expect to see much more, and we were very content with taking things easy as we drove. We stopped at a picnic area to take pictures of the landscape, but off in the distance we found even more lions!! We saw one sleeping and then realized there were three little cubs by her side. We also looked down the way a bit more and saw two males sleeping too! In total, we saw ten lions today. That’s nuts, right?!! I’ve said this everyday, but it is crazy how everyday gets better than the last. I don’t know how much more excitement this group can take before we explode. Our smiles are going to take over our faces pretty soon.
There is even more to come this week, and St. Lucia gave us a warm welcome this evening. I really mean warm too because we all got warm showers, fresh sheets and a beautiful hotel to stay at for the next week here. Tonight we have a celebration for Jourdan’s birthday as well as a celebration for all of us being together! Ahmed also made is safely into St. Lucia and will be joining in on the fun soon enough. We all understand the travel tiredness, so we’ll bombard him with our excitement tomorrow!!
Thanks again for reading and for commenting so much! Our daily breakfast comments are the highlight of everyone’s morning!
All the best,
Awestruck, Ampt-up Tara