Elephants on Parade

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Elephants on Parade
Family of elephants walking right alongside us
Our first self-drive safari could not have gone better. Though Addo lacks the huge herds and wide open savanna of some other parks we will visit we still had amazing encounters with the wildlife. We saw the big ones from a 100 strong Buffalo herd, to a family of elephants passing by our vehicle a trunk’s length away to 2 male lions demonstrating how lazy men can be; the little ones including jackal, monkeys and playful meerkats; and the ones in between including multitudes of zebra, warthog, kudu, eland and hartebeest. And best of all, the kids didn’t scream even when the elephants were casually close – they did get a little restless at points on the long game drives but nowhere as bad as it could have been.

Lazy Lion
A Male lion demonstrates what men do best – nothing
In the first few minutes of our first drive a lone bull elephant emerged from the bush to walk alongside us and cross right behind our vehicle – and that wasn’t the closest we would get to them. We came upon a herd of elephants including children on the gravel road; we stopped the car and patiently waited and watched as they casually walked on the right side of the road (since we drive on the wrong side here) one by one past us not more than a few feet from our open windows. That was probably the most exhilarating siting – the lions were amazing but since they were practicing the age-old male activity of doing nothing were not the same.

Jackal and Kudu
Back-backed jackal and kudu among the many animals we saw
Mountain Zebra Park brought more of the same good luck. Within 10 minutes of entering the gate on the way to the campsite we saw the park’s namesake, the cape mountain zebra (whose population here before the park was created had dwindled to just 4) as well as several new to the trip antelope species (springbok, gemsbok and black wildebeest). The park is very different from Addo, instead of somewhat dense bush you have grassland and open plains making it easy to see herds of antelope and zebra. On our afternoon game drive we took a 4×4 trail up a hill to a wide open plateau where we saw those herds everywhere. We added bontebok, steenbok, klipsringer and common duiker to our checklists. We had a beautiful sunset from up on the plateau leaving ourselves just enough time to rush back to camp before the gate closed.

Monkey on Car
They may look cute – right up until they snatch your bag of cereal from your hands
Even the first nights in the tent went smoothly, the kids went to bed with no troubles and slept through the night without fear of the dark, sounds of the wild or being ~10 feet off the ground hanging over the side of a car. We still can get smoother at setting up and, particularly, taking down our camp but so far so good. The volume and depth of snoring among elderly South Africans is remarkable; this I learnt being in an open camp site scattered with them in campers, caravans and tents. Travelling midweek outside of school holidays, Addo was still full but with retirees (Mom and Dad – same retirement plan as you). When we hit Kruger and Namibia during winter holidays the family crowds may be of more interest to the kids. Still, we met some nice couples and they were all friendly, helpful and interested in our little adventure.

Tomorrow, it’s off to the mountains of Lesotho.

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