400 days to travel the world…only stopping to eat, drink, and everything in-between.

South Africa

Day 362 of 400: Impodimo Safari Lodge, morning game drive (6 of 6) and flight out – Madikwe, South Africa

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Today is our very last safari drive in South Africa! It has been such an amazing experience and quite frankly one you really need to do for yourself.

After seeing an elephant, and both a spotted and brown hyena this morning…we wanted to get our lion fix for the day so drove deep into the bush where the mother and two cubs had been feasting. Sure enough, they were still there and this time, the young male lion was eating from the carcass and the young female lion we had seen at the lake was also there. The cubs were adorable as always and the two lionesses were relaxing while the male ripped the flesh from the dead kudu.

There were other jeeps that had people wanting to see the lions so we left and continued driving…we saw a couple rhino’s. One of them was particularly happy today…We had never seen a rhino’s penis before…ummmmm, it was very large!! After taking some pictures since we know you want to see the happy rhino too, we drove to a new area which also had a nice lake and mountainous background…there were two more rhino’s munching away at the grass.

We continued to drive over to a very flat open field area and saw various herds of grazing animals all over the place…wildebeast, impalas, Springbok and zebra. We slowed down for a bit enjoying the scene and then continued our drive under the warm sun. We saw another Giraffe and he had birds on him, the ranger explained how it is a mutually beneficial relationship. The birds eat the parasites off the giraffe’s skin/hair which is obviously good for the giraffe to not have so many parasites weakening him. Interesting huh?

We stopped for a coffee, realizing it was our last coffee break on a safari in Africa. It has been such a treat to be out in the bush watching the wild animals roam around their territories. After our coffee break, we watched a couple of male impalas fighting, heads down and horns locked. The ranger explained the males fight for dominance in the herd, the males that establish the dominance…control the territory. They push out the bachelor males and do everything they can to keep the females from leaving.

On the drive back to the lodge, we saw two turtles, a bunch of grasshoppers and more impalas. We arrived back at our place where we ate breakfast and got our things packed. Our flight wasn’t until early evening so we were able to relax at the lodge during the day before the jeep brought us to the landing strip. When we arrived, the small private plane we have flown in on was waiting for us on that dirt road in the middle of the bush. We thanked our ranger, got our bags loaded and sat in the very front seat of the plane…right behind the pilots. There was no curtain or door dividing the pilots from us…we could see all their buttons and levers. The plane took off as we stared down at the bush we had just explored over the last five days.

We flew only a few minutes to the other side of the reserve to pick up the rest of the passengers and then we were off to the airport watching the Madikwe Reserve stay behind as we moved forward. The plane ride was bumpy as it was on the way here, and a totally different experience to ride on a little propeller plane compared to the big commercial planes. It was like we were really floating on the air, which I guess is what we were doing!

We arrived back at the airport and waited around for our flight out of South Africa…tonight we will fly to Amsterdam for a 24 hour layover before arriving in Argentina!! South Africa was one of our favorite countries to visit so far…they have the beautiful wine country, the gorgeous Cape Town area and of course the safari experience. After spending time at two different lodges in the Madikwe Reserve, we decided Rhulani Lodge was the best one…the food was better, there were no kids at the lodge and we liked the ranger…it was more of an intimate experience as oppose to the Impodimo Lodge. Although we had fun at their lodge too and the experience of having the elephants come right up to the pool was so cool. We did a lot of safari drives to make sure we saw everything, but we think 3-4 days is a good amount of time.

The days were long and the mornings were early over the past 5 days so we should sleep well on the red-eye tonight!

Day 361 of 400: Impodimo Safari Lodge, afternoon game drive (5 of 6) – Madikwe, South Africa

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As we walked down the pathway from our bungalow towards the pool we heard loud growling and movement.  We stopped in our tracks and listened…it had to either be a lion or elephant and it was really close…we started slowly backing up which is what the ranger told us to do if in the presence of a lion.  The growling and grunting continued and we could also hear water, then we saw the little clip-spring deer standing in the middle of the walkway staring in the same direction in which the noise was coming from.

Then we thought…if it were a lion, these little miniature deer would be running not staring in the direction of the noise, so we started walking towards the pool again slowly.  We walked up to the pool and sure enough there was an elephant drinking water straight out of the pool!!  How cool is that??  We of course started video taping immediately.  There was a line of about 5 of them…they were taking turns getting a drink of water.  There were a couple of baby elephants learning how to stick their trunks over the pool wall for a refreshing drink.  We of course got pictures and were so amazed these elephants were just walking through the woods up the hill and over to our pool to quench their thirst. We asked about the chlorine in the water and were told their stomachs are so strong…it is no problem for them.  Who knew…you could just lay out at the pool and share the water with elephants, now this you really don’t see everyday!

After the elephants, we saw about 50 or so baboons, some with babies on their backs running through the lodge property over by the “observation deck”.  They would stop and look at us, walking down to the little pond and then run away…it was cute how they all stuck together in one group.

After our pool time, we got cleaned up…ate some snacks at the “tea time” buffet and then jumped in the jeep for our afternoon drive.  This is our last evening safari drive!  We have one more in the morning and then will be on our way to Argentina…first stopping in Amsterdam.

As we climbed into the car…we realized it was extremely hot this evening.  We first drove over to where the pride of 8 young lions were, last time we saw them they were under the moonlight waiting to be fed.  This time, they were all still in the same area sleeping and playing around with each other, but still waiting for their moms to get back with a meal.

Before driving over to the big lake to see if any animals were there…we saw another kudu which had such beautiful horns and a black rhino.  When we pulled up to the lake area, we saw that same lioness that was just there the other day…this time, she was very close to the jeep.  We turned the car off and just watched her.  The Ranger explained that she was probably hanging around and spraying her scent to let a dominant male lion know she was ready to reproduce.  She was staring right at us but was completely relaxed, the area she picked to find her lover was a perfect one.  The mountains…the lake…the bush…the sun-setting…she was setting up her romantic evening, now she only needed the male!

The sunset was absolutely gorgeous with orange and pink hues in the sky.  We pulled over to have our evening drink and take in the scenery.  We saw the cute spotted hyena again laying in the grass and then took the jeep off the road and into the bush to see if the other lioness with her two cubs were still near the kudu they had killed a couple of days ago.  We pulled up and sure enough, the lioness, her two cubs and the young male were all near the kudu although they had moved it a bit out-of-the-way in between a couple of trees.  The hyena’s had probably challenged her to the meal and she moved it.   The cubs were so cute playing around with each other between picking on the carcass.

We got some more pictures of our favorite lions and then drove back to the lodge.   We stopped in the dark and saw a spotted eagle and then managed to get a picture of an owl perched on a  tree branch…probably hunting for food.  We enjoyed our last dinner in South Africa and then went back to our room to get a good night’s sleep.

Day 361 of 400: Impodimo Safari Lodge, morning game drive (4 of 6) – Madikwe, South Africa

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The first animal we saw today was a huge elephant…they are so amazing and huge, we could stare at them all day! We also saw a spotted hyena laying around in the grass and a quick glimpse of a brown one. The animals were out and about this morning…we saw a couple rhinos from a distance and then a few buffalo which only allowed us to have a quick look at them before moving the herd deeper into the trees.

As we were sitting in the jeep on the dirt road, we saw an elephant across the field on the edge of the bushes…we stopped to watch. As we looked closely, we saw there were actually four, a baby, a teen and two adults. The baby was so adorable…he playfully ran across the field straight towards us showing how brave he was… The mother was not amused and started to yell at him, pushing forward. They all started to run and it looked for a minute like they were going to charge the jeep as they got closer but they continued past us to the bushes. The little elephant with his trunk swaying back and forth was just too cute, although I think he may have been grounded for moving to close to us.

As we drove through the reserve we saw another wildebeest, impalas and a very poisonous snake on the side of the road. We drove over to the area which had a big pond and was surrounded by mountains to see if any animals were drinking the water. When we arrived, we saw a lioness sitting by herself. It wasn’t the one with the two cubs but we think it was her sister, the ranger said she has been spraying the area to mark her territory. We couldn’t get too close to her…she was on the other side of the lake but it was interesting that she was sitting there by herself.

We got back to our lodge for breakfast and as we were walking on the trail by the viewing deck…a family of “clip-spring” (kind of miniature deer) were walking right past us. The lodge staff had given us a heads up about them…the family of three lives on or very nearby the property and are not as shy as a normal deer would be. They let us walk up pretty close to them taking pictures before they walked away. They had beautiful big black eyes and were about half the size of a deer.

We stood on the viewing deck for a while looking through the bushes to see if we could see any movement. Giff played around with the camera trying to get some close-up pictures of a wasp, moth and grasshopper before we went back to our room to get into our bathing suits. We decided today was a good day to lay around at the pool.

Day 360 of 400: Impodimo Safari Lodge, afternoon game drive (3 of 6) – Madikwe, South Africa

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After brunch, we spent most of the day in our bungalow and on our patio catching up on computer work and relaxing…these early mornings are definitely catching up to us! After our lazy afternoon, it was time for our drive. There was one other couple who were from South Africa in our jeep and they told the rangers they really wanted to see the wild African dogs.

We were just down the dirt road, not too far from the lodge when we stopped to look at all the baboons sitting in a tree. Two of them were mating and yes…we did get it on video (see below)! AFter having a good laugh at mother nature reproducing before our eyes…we continued our drive to the territory of the dogs which is over near the “landing strip” or dirt road we flew in on a few days ago.

On the way, we saw a bunch of impala grazing on the tall grass with the mountains and low fog behind them and then a family of wart hogs. As we got closer to the wild dogs…we started to see their tracks in the dirt. When we arrived, all 8 of them were laying around with full bellies in the same area we had seen them before. There were also a few grazing animals like zebra out on the dirt road or “landing strip”. Those types of animals like big open spaces so they can easily see a lion…it is a strategic move. We pulled up fairly close to a zebra which looked straight at us and nodded his head up and down while breathing heavily out of his nose/mouth. The ranger explained the zebra does that to let us know he sees us…so don’t even think about attacking because he will out-run us. He also does this with the lion…a lion will only catch these types of animals if it is a sneak attack.

Tonight’s drive was a little less exciting…the dogs are so far out that it kind of pulled us away from the main action. We were the first jeep back to the lodge so waited a bit for the rest of the guests and then sat down to dinner. The ranger did talk to us about some of his stories and he told us one of the guests of the lodge was killed because she walked by herself back to her bungalow. She just needed to walk a short distance to get her sweater and didn’t come back. When her husband noticed she was taking longer than she should have, he found her being eaten by a group of lions, the ranger had to kill all of them…they cannot allow lions to have the taste of human blood. The lesson here is…NEVER walk to your room at night alone no matter how close it is…

After dinner, we had the ranger walk us back to our room…it was getting late and we only have a couple more drives before we leave Africa!

Day 360 of 400: Impodimo Safari Lodge, morning game drive (2 of 6) – Madikwe, South Africa

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We were out the door at 5:36AM, had a quick cup of tea and jumped in the jeep for our morning drive…today we have a private drive, no one else joined us! We were driving around for a bit before we were radioed from the other jeep ranger (who also worked at the Impodimo Lodge) who said he spotted a lion going deep into the bush.

We drove over and met them, went off the road and into the trees but the lion they had seen walked too far into the bush…it was too thick to get the jeeps in and they weren’t even sure exactly where the lion went, so the rangers left us in our jeep and the other group in their jeep and they all jumped out on foot with their guns, disappearing behind the trees/bushes. We were sitting out in the reserve by ourselves…ummmm what if something were to try and eat us out there? Somewhere close by we heard growling…we think it was an elephant (yes they growl).

About 15 minutes later, the rangers came back and said they knew where the lions were…they started the jeeps back up and slowly moved into the thick bushes warning us to be careful as the thorns scraped the side of the car. As we got closer…we heard bones crackling…it was a different pride and had some baby lions feeding on a baby kudu which was just about gone as we arrived.

After watching them devour what was left of the bones, we drove back out and immediately saw a giraffe…even though we’ve now seen a few of them, it is still exciting to see them roaming around by themselves munching on trees. We also saw a female wildebeest, and by the way…the wildebeest is in the top three fastest animals in the world!

As we continued to drive…our ranger heard on the radio from another jeep that they spotted a leopard! We of course drove straight over to where they were, and when we pulled up saw two jeeps from other lodges sitting on the side of the road staring into the bush. They saw her go in but no longer had a visual… Our ranger drove right past the other two and continued into the thick bushes…trying to be quiet but looking for any signs of her. Then we saw it…again she was so beautiful with her spotted coat walking as her strong muscles moves gracefully with her. She was hunting something in the tall grass. We got some great video and a perfect picture of her as she turned her head to look at us.

So far this drive has been action packed and we were so excited to have gotten to see a leopard for a second time. After watching her for a bit, we drove out of that area in order to let other people get a glimpse. As we drove around looking for our next sighting, we saw another giraffe with the background of the tall mountain behind him…it was picture-perfect. We also got to see 4 more black rhino including a baby chewing on grass…in fact, when any of the other rhinos got too close to the baby, they let them know with their huffing and puffing!

We stopped for our morning coffee in the middle of the reserve with our two rangers and noshed on some muffins. After our coffee break, we ended our morning drive with another pride of lions feasting on their meal. We recognized the pride…it was the lioness with her two baby cubs and the young male lion who is surely hiding from the alpha male so as not to get kicked out of the group quite yet. We got great video and pictures especially of the male lion as he sat resting. The baby cubs eating by their mother’s side with blood all over their mouthes was crazy to be watching so close! It was kind of cool how we are starting to recognize the different lion prides in the area.

After the lions, we drove back to the lodge and enjoyed our brunch pool-side.