It’s official – my favourite animal is the elephant. In July we were lucky enough to visit both the Kruger National Park and the Addo Elephant National Park, and I’m hard pushed to decide which was the more thrilling. The Kruger, of course, has its own ambience; whether you’re in the southern part during school holidays, or in the quieter more northern camps, it’s still a magic place to be.
But – it’s crowded. Oh, how crowded, especially in the more densely populated south. The imagined flick of a tail draws a scrum of vehicles and a lot of fairly bad tempered toing and froing as drivers of the biggest vehicles jostle for the best viewing place. A small herd of elephant becoming increasingly irascible the more they were surrounded by cars had us very nervous – in a dry river bed, with cars to all points of the compass in front of and behind us, we became a prime target for a testy teenage jumbo. Not to forget the rest of his family close by. We couldn’t move, they could and did, towards us, threatening ears flapping and trunks up.
That story ended well, with a scramble of cars going whichever way they could, but getting out of the way, fast. A wee bit of trumpet music here and there saw us on our way, and blood pressures dropped until the next sighting. This was of a hyaena that ran right past the bonnet of our car, almost leaping over us. Damn, camera not at the ready; and this time our two cars were the only ones on the road. Ah well, caught him later while he dozed.
The two young Aussie girls with us were entranced with the whole scenario – a sighting of three badgers, which we’d never seen there before, made their day. Lion there were, resting on rocks close to the road, a Bateleur surveying his kingdom atop a tree, and all the other game and birds that make this place so special. I haven’t been to Kgalagadi yet, but the Kruger lives in my heart.
Parting, the bard said, is such sweet sorrow – but as you drive towards the purple Mpumulanga hills receding into the distance, wherever you come from, you know one day you’ll be back.