16.06.2010 - 18.06.2010
With the Dutch guys only around for a week, and Sam and Luc never having set foot in Africa before, we decided to forego one of our games and instead take a road trip. You can't come to Africa and not see – or at least attempt to see – some animals. Which is what we did. I had originally uhm-ed and ah-ed whether to also go, but they had found a park in the South East with a good reputation for animals (Hluhluwe – iMfolozi) and were then going to go to St. Lucia, one of the few places in South Africa that I hadn't previously been to but really wanted to see. And, I figured, It would probably be some time before I returned, so I may as well go animal hunting as well.
Entering Hluhluwe after a mad dash due to yet more long roadworks, we got ridiculously lucky. 8 seconds into the park, and a family of black rhino crossed the road ahead of us. Barely 30seconds later, a buffalo crossed as well. In less than a minute, 2 of the big 5 had been seen at close quarters. At this rate, we half expected to see a leopard riding an elephant chasing lions, and maybe even a Polar Bear within the hour. But, as is the way with such things, that is as good as it got. We saw a few giraffes and handful of zebra, but not much else on the way to the camp. A night game drive was noticeable for just how confused the guide was that we pretty much saw nothing – this was prime territory, but, it seems all the animals were off watching the Spanish lose their opening World Cup game instead of. The one thing we did see, however, was pretty cool: another group of rhino (6 of them), happily going about their business but got a bit miffed at being watched, leading to one of them to charge the safari truck ahead. That evening, South Africa lost against Uruguay, and their World cup was pretty much over already.
The following day was the sort that happens in game parks. Endlessly promising, but never quite delivering: Sure we added variety to our spottings – several birds, wildebeest, warthogs, monkeys, baboons and finally a number of species of antelope were added, but the things we really wanted to see (Elephants and large cats) remained sadly elusive, despite lots of sign of recent elephant activity (recently destroyed trees, and new piles of shit) and promising looking trees for leopards and resting spots for prides of lions.
Animal spotting is one of those things that can never be predicted, and you can never guarantee sightings, unless you go to a zoo. Or, perhaps, you are in St. Lucia, looking for Hippos.
The St. Lucia wetlands are a world heritage site, and home to a vast array of biodiversity. Within the park are over 200 species of indigenous tree alone. To put that into perspective, the whole of Europe has only 76. A pleasant couple of hours on a boat gave us sightings of a number of crocs, including one in the middle of eating a large flatfish, numerous birds, including fish eagles (also hunting) and a number of pods of hippos. St. Lucia has vast numbers of hippos and crocs in particular, and hippos are so common that on arrival, you are warned what to do if you happen to meet any whilst walking down the main street at night.
There is something about the expression on this hippo's face that I love and can relate to. To most other people, it just looks like a hippo. Below, baby hippos as well
St. Lucia had been one of the few places that I really wanted to visit last year but hadn't managed to get to, and even though we only to got to visit a small portion of it, I was happy to have made it. But we didn't have long to explore. There is more football tomorrow, and Durban awaits.
Dinner time: This croc was struggling badly with his skate brunch, to the point that he appeared to fall asleep halfway through eating it, whilst we watched this fish eagle catch his dinner and then devour it
And I couldn't not finish with another sign from the 'no sh1t' department