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