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Kruger National Park 2013

South African National Parks

The logo of a proud and excellent park system.

I do not want this to be a long post, but at the moment I am struggling to find a way to keep it brief. You see, The Kruger, as a South African calls it, is huge. How huge is it? It is bigger than the state of Israel.  It is the  second largest NP after only Yellowstone. It is not a National Park like an American thinks of a Natural Park because it is actually a privately run organization with no government funding. This is true of all the ‘National Parks” in South Africa. They manage just fine. In fact, they are really excellent in many ways. The roads, facilities, camp sites and hotels are really first rate, and clean. Kruger leads the pack in visitor count, therefore income, but the other parks we visited were just as comfortable. The USA could never do this or the parks would be named “Bank of America Yellowstone” or “Microsoft Yosemite”. But I again, digress… Each park has their own rangers and vets. They do a great job making sure that the animals come first, the tourists second. OK, I lost my internal battle to stay brief. This will be a long post, but there will be a lot of photos. So kick back, and enjoy. The reason most people go on a “safari” (the word comes from an Arabic word which means “a long journey”) is to see animals in their natural environment. There is a big emphasis on seeing “the big five”. They are, in no particular order; The Lion.

This is a mama and papa pair. This photo was actually taken in the Kapama Game Preserve which is right outside the Kruger.

This is a mama and papa pair. This photo was actually taken in the Kapama Game Reserve which is right outside the Kruger. Kapama is a wonderful place with great service, a beautiful lodge, and lots of critters.

mating lions

if you watch a mating pair of lions for a little while, they will mate. A lion can do it 50 times a day.

lion cub

This is actually one of their off spring, about 18 months old. There were three of them and they played like any kittens will, only a bit rougher.

Second is the Leopard. This was my third safari and the first where I did not see a leopard. So, I have no pricture to share with you, sorry. The third is the Elephant. DSCN0824 - Copy - CopyElephants in most parks in Africa are quite common. I learned something from our guide Patrick of Southern Eagle Travel and tours, that I did not know before. There are “left handed and right handed” elephants. They use either the left tusk or the right tusk more than the other, and it wears down more. So next time you see an elephant, look to see if he is a righty or a lefty! Next is the now endangered Rhino.

Rhino is Kruger park

Rhinos face extinction because people in China pay big money for powdered rhino horn. They use it as an aphrodisiac. There are groups that fight poaching of these animals. They hire armed guards who will shoot to kill poachers. They lack the money to adequately defend the rhinos and could use your help. One such organization is called Unite Against Poaching. If you click on the name you can visit their website and see what you can do to help save these great creatures. Or maybe someone should ship a few billion viagra pills to China?

The last of the classic big five is the buffalo.

Buffalo in Kruger Park

Very noble looking critters.
In Kruger, this species is suffereing from TB, which gets passed on to lions who eat them. The game wardens are doing what they can to stop this.

Now this is an irreverent travel blog. So, I invented a list called the “Boring Five”.  They are not boring animals in their own right, it is just that there so damn many of them that after the first few hours you wish your would just ignore them. The most boring is the Impala.

Impalas in Kruger

They are the most successful breeders in the park. They are referred to as the McDonald’s of the bush, because everything eats them. They also have a perfect set of golden arches on their arses. There are so many of them it is incredible.

Zebra

My next candidate is the Zebra. These half white half black half horse half donkeys are also all over not only Kruger, but everywhere else. Yeah, they are cute. Did you know that a zebra’s stripes are us unique as your finger prints? Baby zebras can spot mama zebra that way.

Next on my list is the Vervet Monkey. They share this spot with the baboon. Both are everywhere you go. No need for a photo. You know what baboons look like, congressmen. The next is the hippopotamus.

hippopotomus

This is the most dangerous animal in Africa. It kills more human beings than anything like a tiger. The reason why is because it is very territorial.  They have a place in the river that is THEIR place. They spend all day in the water because their skin is very sensitive to the sun. At night they go away to forage. If you happen to be in THEIR spot in the river in the morning, you WILL be killed. It makes the boring five because there are so many and because they spend most of the time underwater, so it is difficult to get a good picture.

Last on my list of the boring five is the ubiquitous giraffe.  They are everywhere you go, it seems. They sort of just lumber along and eat the tree tops. Big cute eyelashes and all, but boring.

Girrafe

Again, there are so many giraffes you expect to see one around every bend.

Giraffe

I mean around EVERY bend. This shot was taken from our prototypical safari vehicle, a converted land rover. The fellow sitting on the bumper chair in front is the spotter. While you wait for the giraffe to have his lunch, you wish he would throw a rock at it so you can move on and look for the elusive Leopard.

Tough life I have isn’t it. Being able to call these critters boring I mean. Like I said, on their own they are fine. But once you see them on a safari, tell your warden to just motor on  and find a damn leopard. I want my big five! That only covers ten of the wild critters we saw in the Kruger. Here is a list of some others, some with photos. Baboon. Blue Wildebeest. They were not really blue. Bushbuck. Cheetah. Mary Ann got this photo.

Cheetah

Mary Ann took a few pictures of this cheetah chowing down on an impala for breakfast.

Crocodile. Duiker. Eland. We actually saw one of these out near the Cape. Kudu. Perhaps the handsomest animal of all.

Kudu

I am sure these horns are on walls all over Africa. In fact, if you look at the logo I opened this post with, they are the symbol of the South African park system. There are plenty of them, even though they taste so good.

Mongoose. We saw plenty of these. Nyala Sable Antelope. Spotted Hyena. We saw a mother and her baby on a night time game drive. They mostly come out at night, and they live underground.

 Spotted Hyena

They  find leftovers from other predators. They act as garbage disposals. They eat every part of an animal including the skull and bones. They have very strong jaws and when the devour a critter it makes a scary crunch.

hyena family

This being a full service blog I decided to include this terrible shot of the mama and baby we saw.

game drive at night

Yeah, but YOU try and take pictures on a game drive at night. If you ever go, just leave your camera home and enjoy the African night sky. The stars and the Southern Cross

Steenbok. Tree squirrel. Yeah really. In Kruger, squirrels. Who would have thought… Warthog. Some people put these on an ugly five list. I think they are cute.

Warthog

Too cute!

Waterbuck. African Wild Dog.

African wild dog

I do not think anyone would take this dog home from a kennel.

I have photos of all of these. I took 2400 pictures on this trip. Thank goodness for digital technology. A safari in the Kruger, and private game preserves, is not just about seeing and counting animals. The country side is enchantingly beautiful. The lodges and meals are very good. We saw many people enjoying themselves camping and cooking on open fires. The  night skies will make you stand in awe. The South African park system is ready for anyone who comes to respect nature. This trip I had an excellent birder as a guide, and I started enjoying seeing birds as much as the animals. So my next post will be for the birds!                               +

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