Night game drive

Trip Start Jan 21, 2007
Trip End Feb 21, 2007

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Flag of South Africa  ,
Saturday, January 27, 2007

We were awake and ready for tea or coffee before the 5:00 deadline. Breakfast would be later, after the first drive, at a camp called Olifants. We then did a second drive and returned to Satara after lunch. Animals spotted included elephants, buffalo, giraffe, impala, warthogs, waterbuck and, in the far distance, rhinos. Although we twice passed by the area when lions had been spotted earlier on in the day, we saw none. We were happy with what we had seen.
At Letaba we visited an environmental center dedicated to the story of the African elephant. An interesting feature is individual tributes to what are called "the great tuskers." The exhibit also explains the biology of elephants, the social structure of the herd, poaching and anti-poaching measures and how a herd is culled.
Later I came to realize that while "Sid" was an excellent vehicle to travel long distances in, it was too much like a fortress for game viewing. True, you are very safe and have an excellent view, but you are so outside the real feel of the bush that the viewing loses that special African feeling. The open vehicle used on Kruger's own game drives provides a much better wilderness feeling.
We had signed up for the night drive with a Kruger ranger. This turned out to be a great adventure. The long open vehicle had spotlights on the side. At first I thought these were stationary, but no. The passengers actually move them about and search the bush for the reflection of the light of the eyes of animals. The first time we spotted something, an impala, the effect was startling - the animal did not move at all.   For some reason most of the game does not run away when the light is shined in their eyes. They stand motionless. I was told that the animals do not recognize light as a danger.
Zebras did move quickly away. This may have been because of the noise, however. I know we tried to be as quiet as possible but the vehicle itself makes a fair bit of noise. The hyena family we watched was totally indifferent to both the light and the noise. The young played in the middle of an open space while the adults yawned a bit further on. They almost seemed to welcome our presence, particularly the young.
We were lucky to have with us a fellow passenger with excellent game spotting ability, who had also been present the day before when a leopard had hung its prey in a tree. Although she had not seen the leopard as the vehicle she was in was too low, she remembered where the leopard's tree was and directed the driver to it. There we witnessed hyenas fighting over the remains of the leopard's kill.  She also spotted the elusive civet and genet which both ran away when the lights were shone on them. Once again we do not know if this was because of the lights or the sound of the truck or the tourists whispering, "What is it?" "Do you see anything?"
There was an excitement about the night drive that was not present during the day. Perhaps it was because we were out after closing hours. We were in an open-vehicle and we were part of the action as we moved the spotlights and actively searching for game. This is a not to be missed experience.
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