Day 357 of 400: Rhulani Safari Lodge, morning game drive (2 of 6) – Madikwe, South Africa
We heard a knock at the door at about 5Am this morning, that was our cue to get out of bed and over to the main lobby. We threw our clothes on including a jacket since it was chilly out and walked over to the main bungalow. They had tea and coffee waiting as well as some small biscuits. We grabbed a cup, sucked it down and got into the jeep for our first morning safari drive.
Driving through the bush on an open-air monster jeep watching the sunrise as we searched for wild animals was really one of the highlights of our 400 day trip. There really is no other option but to add this experience to your “to do” list…get it booked…there is nothing like it. There were six of us on the drive plus the ranger and all of us were staring into the bushes trying to spot an animal. We found buffalo…one of the big 5! They are one of the most difficult to find because they are usually so far into the thorny bushes. Each one weighs up to 1500 pounds and there was a herd right on the edge of the bushes…very close to the road we were on (when I say road…I mean dirt road made by jeeps driving around on them). We were taking pictures of the buffalo sticking their heads out to see what we were doing, and then after waiting patiently…they crossed the road right in front of us. We are hoping to see all of the “big 5” in the few days we are here…one down, 4 to go.
On the 2-way radio…we heard our ranger talking back and forth with another ranger and then suddenly were headed on a very specific route towards something exciting. We pulled up and saw a HUGE male lion sitting in the grass, his back was to us…we saw there were two. The ranger explained, these two lions were brothers and each the head of their own pride. The males were resting, one of them stood up which made us realize just how massive he was…he walked with his back to us deeper into the bush, obviously not wanting to deal with company. If we have to, we will count that as seeing number two of the big 5 but we are really hoping to get a closer view of lions while we are here.
As we drove around, the sun was warming us up and we were seeing a few really cool birds sitting in the trees, stopping to take pictures. We saw many impalas and a group of very loud frogs at one of the main ponds. Our ranger pulled over to the side of the road and we all got out to stretch our legs. He attached that little portable table to the front of the car and then brought out breakfast munchies and hot coffee…just what we wanted! Beside the coffee were little mini bottles of Amarula. We had never seen Amarula before…it had a picture of an elephant on it. The ranger poured it into our coffee and it really hit the spot as we sipped it…it was Bailey’s cousin, a creamy sweet liqueur but was made from the amarula fruit found here in Africa. There is a picture of an elephant on the front because elephants absolutely love the amarula fruit…they will travel very far to find and eat the sweet treat.
We drove back to the lodge where breakfast was being served. We sipped on tea and ate our hot made to order breakfast while we talked about the drive. After we ate, we walked back on the path to our bungalow to relax for a bit before the next drive. As we watched carefully where we were walking…we saw all kinds of life around us, we stopped to see lizards and beetles and other random things. Back in our room, we laid back on the bed…we caught up on computer work and took a nap.
After a few hours of relaxation, it was already time for lunch followed by our afternoon drive! Before we got to the table, we saw a bright yellow bird hanging upside down inside his green nest. We noticed there were a couple of these green weaved nests which had various twigs and leaves weaved together into a dome-like shape with the hole at the bottom. He would fly in and out of it adding a twig and checking the inside. Giff quickly started recording and as we watched, the female came over…she flew inside and then started squawking. He took a piece of twig out of the nest and flew away with it. The ranger explained that these are the only birds that actually weave their nests and they make several…but only lay their eggs in one. They do this in hopes the decoy nests will fool the snakes which are searching for their next meal. He also explained that the male makes the nest and the female checks the nest to make sure it is built to her standards. If she does not like what she sees, she will let him know and sometimes will tear it down so he has to build a new one. Is it really that surprising that the female is the boss…duh! We had a lot of fun watching this whole scene and were excited we got it on video (see below).
While we ate our multi-course meal, we saw a big herd of impalas gather at the watering hole and of course took another video. After lunch, we all climbed back into the jeep anxious to find out what we will see on our next drive!