Our camp on the third night was supposed to offer us with plenty of cheetah sightings but somehow we missed out on that and the nearby leopard. Pulling into our fourth and final camp we were simply exhausted of sitting in the car and were quite pleased to find out that this camp not only had a resident lion pride but also offered bike tours through the bush…so we signed up.
The bike ride was easy enough, just making our way through the bush and through fields. We took in a bit of education, learning that the buffalo would eat the grass in front of us even though it tasted bad because they were so big they had to eat anything they could find and no one else ate that grass. We learned that the bike ranger with us had used his gun once, Dec ’06, to give a bull elephant a few warning shots. We also talked a lot of lions and how they are opportunistic hunters who will basically take what can get. (this is foreshadowing)
In the end, other than rhino tracks we only found live hippo to look at but it was quite nice sitting on the riverbank watching them as they woke up (nocturnal) and began setting out to begin their night of foraging for food. Apparently they can travel as far as 15k in a single night, before returning where they started from, in search of food. As a result, they make nice easy trails for bikes to follow and we followed one of those back to the truck…hoping (well, I and the rest were hoping, Jill wasn’t) to get up close and personal with an elephant but we didn’t. Back at camp nothing was stirring but a couple of hyena looking to collect food scraps.
The next day as we were leaving camp we very nearly ran into hyena as they were running around doing something, probably with a carcass but we couldn’t see. Another car there told us that if we turned around and went the other way we’d find a pride of lions, and we did….a bunch of them including not just lioness but also a big lion who couldn’t seem to decide if he wanted to sleep, or mate.
Continuing on with the day we saw more elephant, zebra, giraffe, ostrich, and buffalo as well…all before we stopped for our first break…probably our best morning yet. Driving out of the park though we were being very careful to stop at the stream beds that were rumored to house leopard and the fields rumored to house cheetah but still no no avail. Then suddenly Jill screamed “stop, lion.” Yes, we know the video is awful, but we thought you might get a kick out of it!
After having seen our fill of lion earlier in the day, this wouldn’t have been quite so exciting except that this lioness was hunting, completely frozen and staring down a couple of warthog a mere 10 meters away. Usually the cats don’t bother hunting in the day so this was quite a sighting and we were, well, excited at the chance of seeing an actual kill. (The bike ranger the night before had only seen 2 kills in the 4 years he’d been working at the park.) In the end, the warthog got away (the lioness missed the pounce and probably didn’t want to chase it down in middle of the day when it was hot out…warthog isn’t so big anyhow) but you can see from the video, we were clearly excited…and missed most of the action but oh well. It seems that lioness was part of a group of about 5 that had been likely sitting minding their own business when the warthog strolled nearby and this lioness couldn’t resist the opporuntity, despite the sun, since they were so close. In that little group there, not far from where we saw (likely) this very pride hunting two nights prior, we saw several lioness, another lion, and even a cub. Not a bad way to end 4 days in Kruger, not bad at all.