Monday, 11 October 2010

Safari Day 4. Bongani Mountain Lodge

Day 11, Monday, Bongani
Monday was a hot day – it was 42 degrees by 9am.  We were out at 6am as usual, but most of the animals must have known that a really hot day was on the way and the sightings were fewer than normal.  As we were preparing to stop for our morning coffee, we saw the elephants on the hill heading for the dam.  We drove down to the wateringhole to have our morning coffee (with this weather, cool drinks as well).  We rested in a hide and hoped that the elephants would make their way down.  However, they were cautious, and waited for us to leave before coming down to drink.  Luckily, the hide had a back-track  and we parked up on the road and very quietly crept back down to the hide, (Steven with rifle in hand).
As we settled back in, 20 elephants made their way to the wateringhole.  First a massive bull, and shortly thereafter the rest of the herd made their way down to swim, drink and wallow, including a crop of young elephants.  Watching them drink, bathe, have dust baths and play was fantastic.  It is amazing how quiet they can be, and how their low belly rumbles travel through the bush.

One of the funny things was watching the very young calves getting used to having a trunk.  It seemed like they had little idea how to use it, and it just flopped around on the front of them, getting in the way.
One little fella had at least a bit of an idea, and he used his trunk as a snorkel as he swam in the waterhole!  At one point, five youngsters stood next to each other.  One of them leaned on his neighbours, and they all fell over like dominoes.

Whilst all of this bathing, drinking and dusting was going on, the matriarch stood watch.  At one point, when Steve whispered some information about some of the behaviours we were watching.  All of a sudden the elephants charged up the hill, before turning and staring at us.  The bull walked back down to the waterhole, and we could feel him watching us.  Slowly, the others came back down to the water, but the bull never took his eyes off us.  Not a fellow I would like to cross!
After about 45 minutes, the elephants took their leave and strolled up the valley.  Only then could we leave the hide safely, and head back to the truck and make our way back to the lodge for a very late breakfast.  This sighting was a real highlight.
Other animals we saw on the morning drive.
White Rhinos
Tree Squirrels
Leoparg Gecko
Giant Plated Lizard
Common Flat Lizard

Purple Creasted Turaco
White Helmut Shrews
Fork Tail Drongo
Red Bull Oxpeckers
European Beeeater
Black-headed Eastern Oriole
Jameson's Fire Finch
Blue Wax Bulls
Honey Guard
We got back to the lodge, and Peter and his family had to depart back to Johannesburg.  It was a real pleasure being here with them, and we were sure we were going to miss them.  We had another few days here, before we were leaving for Exeter River Lodge, which is in the Sabi Sands region of the Kruger National Park.

It was quiet after Peter and his family left, and we settled back in to the viewing deck.  It was incredibly hot (we were praying that Peter’s air conditioner would work – we later heard that about an hour into their journey, the air conditioner turned itself back on and worked the rest of the way home!).  From the deck we could see the wateringhole – today the Rhino herd were in residence.  They moved in, and simply lay in the waterhole all day.  When other animals approached, the rhino charged them until they were left alone.  They were a bit like us – sitting in the shade, by the pool, waiting for the heat to go out of the day.
Afternoon Drive.
We got ready for the afternoon game drive, and made our way to the main lodge.  There was quite a commotion – the vervet monkeys had broken into the bar and were stealing sachets of sugar.  When they swung into the broken kitchen window (broken by the baboons, who hate frosted glass because they cant see in, so they just break it) they scared the cooks, who ran out screaming! 
They have this statue of a cheetah to help deter the monkeys from getting inside.  Sometimes it works, other times they ignore it!
The boys thought this was hilarious.  Shortly thereafter, a big baboon appeared to assert his territorial rights.  The rangers explained that the baboons and the vervets don’t get on well, and from the deck we saw a group of vervets fight the baboon whilst the rest of the troupe made their escape.  The boys were not so excited any more – it was a bit frightening (he was a very big baboon!)
We loaded up for the game drive and headed out.  We had an excellent drive, and as we returned the skies were heavy and the lightning was ripping across the sky.  There was no rain, but the skies and the lightning at the end of such a hot day suggested a big storm was on the way.  As the ‘rainy season’ was supposed to start, we thought we were going to be in for a big storm that night.
We saw
 This giraffe ran across the road in front of us.  not a great photo, but was an incredible sight!

Lions (in the Boma)

Cameron took this photo, even though it is not right in focus,
I love that the Rhino is just on the edge of the frame

Boam Slang Snake
Scrub Hare
and that Chameleon again, (I am sure Aaron planted it there each night!)
White Faced Owl
Cape Turtle Dove

Red Bull Oxpeckers
We ate our dinner on the terrace, and right at the end of our meal the large raindrops started to fall.  They drove us under cover, but only lasted for a few minutes.  It was an impressive storm, but without any real relief. 

 We would see when we got to Exeter the effect that this storm had elsewhere in the Kruger National Park.

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