X-rated Kruger (Part 2)

Trip Start Jan 10, 2008
Trip End Oct 03, 2008

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Part 2

While watching the lions indulge in adult activities and feed on a dead zebra was an undoubted highlight, probably the most memorable experience of our time in Kruger occurred during our stay at Olifants rest camp.

We'd been out for most of the day watching a pride of lions laze about near Satara and had finally taken the long drive north to Olifants... the afternoon was setting in and at a junction a short distance before our destination, we were gob-smacked to find two very young hyena cubs just sitting on the side of the road next to a concrete road sign.

As we discovered, they had been left there by their mother to take cover and protection in a drainage pipe than ran under the side road that led away from the junction.

Due to the extreme heat of the day, they'd obviously ventured out of their stuffy confines and because I had fortunately spotted them from a distance and had slowed right down, we were able to drive up right alongside them as one of the cubs walked around.

Unfortunately, one too many other vehicles weren't so cautious and they eventually scurried back into the drainage pipe but we were still able to enjoy a fabulous 10-15 minutes with them.

And if that wasn't good enough, it got even better later that evening.... it was extremely late and we were on our way back to Olifants after a relatively uneventful period of game driving.

We had our fingers crossed that we might run into the same hyena cubs that we had seen earlier that day but about a kilometre before the junction where we saw them, we ran across an even more astonishing scene.

Not only did we come across two new younger cubs that were taking cover in another of the drainage pipes running under the road but alongside them was their mother, a striking large hyena but the biggest thrill of all was to see that running around amongst them all was an adorable infant hyena cub that must have been barely a month old if that.

He was all black, having not grown enough to malt and change to the normal spotty yellow hyena appearance and this little guy (or girl) was honestly one of the cutest little animals we'd ever seen.

When we arrived, mum was obviously trying to settle the little cub down for a feed but the arrival of our car (we were first on the scene) and a few others caused them to be a little unsettled and they crossed the road before she fed him while the other two older cubs peered out inquisitively from their den beside the road.

While the older cubs seemed extremely wary of all the cars, the little cub didn't seem to have a worry in the world as he wandered around to suckle on his mum and then after that, he ventured incredibly close to the cars to see what all the snapping camera sounds were about.

I wish you could see the big smile on my face as I write and think about our experience that evening... it was truly magical to watch this family of hyenas go about their business as a glorious warm sunset not only cast a beautiful light over the whole scene but also enabled us to wind down our windows and enjoy the blissfully comfortable evening conditions (infinitely more comfortable than the baking heat we encountered during the day).

I wish you could have been there to experience it with us... it was so special and will certainly live with us as one of the most incredible wildlife encounters we've ever had.

And then after eventually leaving the hyena family, we ran into the two cubs at the same junction where we had seen them earlier that day, along with their mother... that made it 8 hyenas within a kilometre. The cubs were just lazing about right in the middle of the road... maybe enjoying relaxing on the warm tar road. They were extremely inquisitive of the cars that stopped to photograph them... sometimes wandering up to sniff the cars and one even scrambled right under the boot of one vehicle to sip at some dripping water.

But I'd better not rabbit on... we saw so much during our time in Kruger that I could go on for days writing about it all. And I have even mentioned how awesome it was to be camping out in our state-of-the-art 4x4 camper.

We had hired this monster of a 4x4.... a beefy diesel Toyota Hilux double cab with a roof top pop-up tent. Tucked away in the back was an ample fridge, a 60 litre water container and a bunch of storage boxes with everything from utensils and plates and cups to breakdown equipment and first aid kits.

I must give special mention to the company that hired the car to us, Bushlore, and to its co-owner Rob... a truly great guy that helped us out to no end when we arrived very late in the day to Johannesburg and then set us off on our way to Kruger the following morning.

Anyway, I'll leave it here and let the rest of my pictures tell the rest of the story. It's a stunning national park and given half a chance, Kirilee and I would jump at the opportunity of coming back to experience more extreme wildlife in Kruger in the future.
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