Today we decided to do a game driving day into Hwange Nationalpark. We set out early as it was a half hour drive to the main gates. Bundled up against the chill we ride in an open top jeep armed with binoculars and good camera lenses.
Driving into Hwange we at first did not see that many animals at all. Not until further into the park, when we approached our first rest area. There were very few cars driving in Hwange and every time we passed one, the two drivers exchanged information on the game they had seen. After one of such encounter, we were told to be on the lookout for lions. We nearly missed them.
A mating pair was lying down in the tall grass under a bush.
Had the male lion not twitched an ear, we would have not seen them. The even got up and slowly walked parallel to the road in about 50 meters distance to us. Majestic animals those lions.
At our first water hole, we were treated to a wonderful variety of animals. Herds of grazing Zebra, mares with foals, a hippo sunning itself on an island, and in the distance a big herd of elephants was approaching from the forest. We sat for 20 minutes just enjoying the scenery unfold in front of us.
Heading out to the next water hole, Kennedy 2, we were told that this is one that the elephants love in particular as it offered not only water but also ‘spa’ treatments for the elephants. We drove up to a platform and had lunch on top, looking out over a wonderful water hole where Elephants drank, mod bathed and threw sand on each other clearly enjoying every minute of it.
We watched tiny little elephant babies play in the mud, not knowing what to do with their tiny trunks, big bulls mock threatening each other for better water access and protective moms shielding their young from the rough young males.
We could have sat here for a much longer time. We have never seen so many elephants in one place. It must have been 80 to 100 of them.
On we went to Ngweshla our last stop where supposedly rare antelopes gather. And indeed, we saw Waterbuck, Red Roan Antelope, Kudu, and even Elan, which is very shy and rare to see. We felt elated and happy that we saw so many different kinds on one day only not knowing that our highlight was still to come. Having spent most of our day driving south in a leisurely fashion, we had to make tracks getting back to the gate by 6 PM before the park closes. Slowed down by some giraffes munching on acacia trees in the setting sun, we simply had to stop and watch those graceful animals.
Realizing how late it was and that the sun was setting fast, we started to drive back rather fast … and had to stop cold in our tracks. Two black dots came marching towards us at a leisurely pace on the sand road. We had to wait. As the dots came closer, we realized that those were the mating lion pair we had seen earlier and that they were heading straight for us. And we were in an open top Jeep. Chris and Esther sitting in the first row.
Our adrenalin level shot right up. We were told to keep still, not move and just watch. As the two lions came closer, they became bigger and we could see their powerful muscles moving under their fur. They walked right by our car, barely 50 cm away from us. Chris could have reached out and petted one of them, but of course did not dare to. One jump and the lions would have gotten easily into the car. We breathed a sigh of relief when they passed ignoring us. For a split second, the piercing eyes of the male lion seem to think about stopping but decided otherwise. What an adventure! And definitively the highlight of the day.
After the way was clear, we had to race to the gate now and arrived with barely a minute to spare before closure.
That evening we had a Brai, a traditional South African BBQ. Grilled meat over a wood fire that tasted delicious and showed everyone the pictures of the day.