The big 5…minus 1!

Today was a great day. I don’t say this lightly either, it really was great! We started the day by heading out to a crocodile sanctuary that also had a huge variety of snake species. It was riveting learning about the species here in Africa and we also were given a snake demonstration where we actually saw up close these species and even got to hold one! (Don’t worry a non venomous one of course). The photos will be up soon!

After meeting some snakes it was time to meet the crocodiles. We were helping to feed them and there was a lovely sturdy fence in between us. Raw chicken was on the menu, a whole wheelbarrow of it! We started with the baby crocs which were adorable with very sharp little teeth, then onto the 2 year olds, and continuing all the way up until we met the big boys! They are just like giant dinosaurs…and they eat whole chickens at a time like it’s nothing. It was great to see such interesting animals up close as well as learning a lot about their habits and their place in the African wilderness.

Once finished at the croc sanctuary it was back to camp and onto invasive plant species removal. It was hot, hot, hot but we got so much done I was very impressed! Once the heat of that midday sun kicked in it was time to head back to camp, have some lunch and relax until the afternoons activities. This was the surprise I told you about yesterday. We were heading on a game drive around a big 5 game reserve called Hluhluwe-Imfolozi game park. The big 5 are the elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard.

So into the safari trucks we went and entered into the park, our eyes alert and scanning. Within a few minutes of being in the park we came upon a huge herd of buffalo… BIG 5 #1. However right in the middle of the herd were two rhinos just hanging out! BIG 5 #2. They wandered right in front of one of the safari vehicles! It was an amazing sight! The two vehicles split ways and one of the cars stumbled upon 3 male elephants just wandering down a hillside. BIG 5 #3. Once they reached the road and were only a few hundred metres away two of them started fighting. You could hear the impact and see the dust fly up as they ran at each other and pushed one another, using their tusks. A pretty incredible sight and not one that happens often.

Further down the road we saw all kinds of wildlife you thought only existed in the Lion King movies. Baboons, zebras, giraffes, dung beetles, impala, inyala, kudus, monkeys, tortoises, turtles, eagles, vultures, rock monitors and warthogs to just name a few. But a real treat was just around the corner!

In a tree a mere hundred or so metres away from the road sat 3 lions. BIG 5 #4! They were draped over the branches in the shade of the tree escaping the heat of the day. As small as they looked from the car it was still incredible to see wild lions as most of us have only seen them in zoos. Through binoculars we saw it was one male and two females. Typical cats, they didn’t budge, and just slept haha. It was tough to move on but we continued forward! A bathroom break was had and just walking to the toilet block we saw a herd of elephants grazing on some grass. It’s just so different from anything at home here, and sometimes it’s hard to wrap your head around the fact that we’re in Africa and seeing these animals in the wild!

Continuing on down the road a mother rhino with her calf was seen…the calf only being a month or so old. It wasn’t as small as you’d think but it was adorable with just the hint of a tiny horn poking through.
One of the cars also had a herd of elephants walk in front of their car…It was a breeding herd meaning there was mostly females and young elephants. One baby elephant was so small it would only have come up to your knees, and it was only a few weeks old.

In the 5 or so hours we spent in the game park, having seen 4 of the 5 big 5 animals and so many others, we were definitely lucky! We didn’t see a leopard but people spend many years searching and never see one. We came back to camp feeling happy and content, devouring another delicious dinner and playing some competitive card games. There’s no TV or internet here, so everyone must talk to each other haha it’s great!

Until tomorrow’s adventures
~ Jess

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