Kruger's Carnivores - how many can you see on safari? | Sense Africa


Kruger’s Carnivores16th October '18

Kruger hyena

I had decided to treat myself to 3 nights of luxury stay in Kruger National Park.  I had been to Camp Shawu before, a wonderful five tented camp in the Shishangeni concession area near Crocodile Bridge.  All the tents overlook this incredible view of a wide expanse of water where hippo gently honk all day and night, elephants often come down to drink along with lion and rhino well.  It is a veritable paradise and you can simply watch it all from the decking of your huge tent which has sofas and a clawfoot bath inside along with a double bed that is so large you could probably sleep four people in it and not even know that they were there!

I had organised it a few weeks before and I was so excited about this treat.  However, what I had not envisaged was the weather, it got extremely cold, and the incredible carnivore sightings that I was going to see. It was a bit of a roller coaster ride.

Whilst the UK was experiencing a massive hot spell I was experiencing an immense cold snap, I wore my down jacket for three days without taking it off.  Guests are often surprised about this as most people’s impressions are that Africa is really hot all the time.  Not true, I can vouch for this as one of my days at Shawu I spent most of the time either soaking in my bath or sitting wrapped up in a very thick blanket next to a fire.  Admittedly I was sitting just inside my tent for protection from the perishing cold wind whilst I watched a herd of 40 elephant walk by.  It wasn’t all bad! In fact it was quite snuggly.

I had arrived in beautiful blue sunshine and as I was driven into the camp there were elephants down by the waterhole.  What a welcome!  After a very delicious lunch on decking with a magnificent view into the African bush I went on my first of many safaris at Camp Shawu.  And this was the beginning of a carnivore extravaganza of which I’ve never experienced before.

That evening safari we saw two of nine male lions that have formed a brotherly group in the vicinity. We found them with very fat bellies resting in the shade under some meagre bushes, they looked extremely content and rather smug with themselves as well.  It looked like that food was going to last them for a while!

The great thing about being on safaris is the anticipation, it was exhausting being in a state of high alert all the time and it is also extremely rewarding.  Even if I don’t see anything I simply love being in the bush; the smell of the baked earth or in my case the rain that had been on it recently, views as far as the eye can see, the sounds of the bush, it is all part of an overloaded sensory experience.

Our guide Samson knew where the was a recent rhino carcass, it had died in the territorial fight and had been feeding a host of different carnivals.  As we pitched up there was one other vehicle there with everyone looking to the same size, cameras poised on something.  We all perked up. This is always an indication that there is something there that is worth seeing!  And we were not disappointed.  There are three hyena, a mother and two cubs, feeding on the carcass, their heads bloodied from being shoved into the open belly.

There was also a large gathering of vultures, of all different species, fighting over titbits and lolloping from one part of the carcass to another.  The hyenas had managed to distribute the carcass in different areas and even a couple of cheeky jackals were trying to get their share.

Jackals are very cunning, they work in pairs where one catches the attention of the hyena that is near the morsel that it wants and whilst this hyena is busy chasing off the suspect, his crafty mates has ducked from behind and robbed the morsel from right under the hyena’s nose.  A great demonstration of teamwork and highly amusing to watch!

That night I went to sleep to the roaring of lions.  The other brothers had pitched up and they did keep me awake for a while.  I stepped out onto my veranda in the middle of the night and shone my torch around the edge of the water, I think I saw a couple of faint outlines there, I wasn’t too sure.  But they must have been pretty near, it felt as if they were in my outside shower. Lions can be heard over a distance of 5 miles, but it felt as if they were 5m away.

That morning I got up at 5.30 for the morning game drive and the first thing we did was to go check on these lions that have been making such a noise throughout the night.  We found five more of the brothers some of which were very bloated like the ones we had seen previous day, and they certainly were thirsty as they lapped up copious amounts of water.

We went around to the other side of the dam to find the other two brothers that we had seen the day before, they were standing welcoming their fellow brothers in.  They plodded together off into the bush, maybe to find somewhere warm, the temperature had dropped over night.

As we were driving away we noticed an Impala that had a broken back leg, we can only guess what had happened, but it did have a couple of large scratch marks down its back which Samson thought was the result of a leopard attempt to kill.  The plucky Impala managed to get away but with a broken back leg.  We stayed with it for a while but we all knew the writing was on the wall for this chap.

On the afternoon game drive we got a call from another vehicle and we sped through the bush back to where we had seen this impala.  We arrived just in time to see a cheetah finish suffocating the Impala by grabbing it around the neck.  By this time, the Impala was obviously far too exhausted and wouldn’t have been able to escape and the Cheetah eventually dispatched its kill and started to feast.

Cheetah often have their kills taken by other predators, often lion.  So, cheetah will try to gorge as quickly and efficiently as they possibly can to get as much nutrition in the shortest space of time before their kill is stolen from them.  This female was no exception, she went straight in from the back end of the Impala, which is the easiest place to access the insides, and started eating.  Light was fading and we left her feeding, I hoped that she would manage to get enough food in the next few hours.

I saw so many incredible wildlife sightings during my three day stay.  I saw a leopard literally dripping out of the tree, although it was a long distance away but it was very exciting to watch it through the binoculars, I saw two honey badgers chasing each other into the bush, saw several slender mongooses, and those were just the carnivores. Our female cheetah had managed to eat masses and we watched her over the days finish her kill and not get harassed by any lions – they had had their fill too.

My advice is that if you do go to Kruger, make sure you go to a concession area or somewhere that is privately owned because you get away from the crowds, you will probably only see one other vehicle on your game drive and you will have a genuine safari experience.

Just don’t expect the sun to shine all the time!

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