Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Berg en Dal Day 3

It was our third and final day at Berg en Dal, we have seen so much in this beautiful area of the park that we decided to spend the day lazing around camp.

We slept in cooked a lovely breackfast and relaxed. By now the first people were starting to return home after their morning drive. Our neighbour came strolling towards us with a big smile on his face... "Did you guys see the wild dogs this morning?" WHAT! No! We slept in! All of a sudden all hell broke loose. We hurriedly packed away our stuff and locked the tent. We jumped in the car and raced (at a sedate 40km/h) to the dog sighting. We were starting to loose hope, thinking that they had probably moved off by now, but we rounded the next corner and there it was... the mother of all traffic jams! Aaaah, we are never going to be able to see anything I sulked.  We approached slowly. I see one!
I quickly snapped a picture! Proof that we saw them. :) Wild dogs are extremely difficult to find in the Kruger National Park, not just because there are only about 250-350 in the whole park, but also because they are often on the move when they are seen. This means that only a few vehicles generally see a pack before it disappears into the bush.

The people at this sighting was amazing! The people in front took their pictures and then moved off, some fell back in line to try a shot from the other side. This meant that we got to the front relatively quickly. :) I wish every sighting could be like this.
Every time one of the cars moved we could see another group of dogs hidden in the grass. Eventually we had a prime spot. We snapped away.
We took so many pictures in such a short time that I was worried that my battery was going to fail at any moment. 
Lycaon pictus is a large canid found only in Africa, especially in savannas and lightly wooded areas. It is variously called the African wild dog, African hunting dog, Cape hunting dog, painted dog, painted wolf, painted hunting dog, spotted dog, or ornate wolf.
The African wild dog has a bite force quotient (BFQ, the strength of bite relative to the animal's mass) measured at 142, the highest of any extant mammal of the order Carnivora, although exceeded by the Tasmanian devil, a marsupial carnivore.
We got our pictures and moved off, we decided to drive past the traffic, turn around and fall in at the back of the line once again. This time we packed away our cameras and enjoyed this special moment with Africa's Painted Dogs.
After the very special dog sighting we were super exited. Our relaxing day in camp was written of as a moment of madness and continued our slow drive in the South of The Kruger.

Once again we had many special sightings.
This warthog family rated very high on the cuteness scale.

We also got to see our first member of Africa's Small 5. The leopard tortoise.
The other members of the small 5 are... Ant Lion, Rhino Beetle, Elephant shrew and the Red Billed Buffalo Weaver.

Squirrel, Cape Water Buffalo and a wallowing Rhino was next on our sightings list.

What would a drive through the park be without spotting an elephant or ten. :)
I love Giraffes. They are fascinating creatures and as it turns out most of them are very photogenic.

Giraffes use their height to good advantage and browse on leaves and buds in treetops that few other animals can reach (acacias are a favourite). Even the giraffe's tongue is long! The 53-centimeter tongue helps them pluck tasty morsels from branches. Giraffes eat most of the time and, like cows, regurgitate food and chew it as cud. A giraffe eats hundreds of pounds of leaves each week and must travel miles to find enough food.

From the very pretty to the extremely ugly. The Marabu Stork is part of the Ugly 5.
Other members of the Ugly 5 include wildebeest, spotted hyena, warthog, and the vulture.

Another highlight of our drive was a majestic Martial Eagle. A first for me! This is the largest eagle in Africa. The Martial Eagle is one of the world's most powerful avian predators and, among African raptors, only the Crowned Eagle is comparable in predatory dominance. The diet of the Martial Eagle varies greatly with prey availability and can be dictated largely by opportunity. One study found that 45% of their diet was made up of birds, particularly game birds and Egyptian Geese. Reptiles, especially lizards and snakes (Cape cobras, young African rock pythons, boomslangs, puff adders, both species of green mamba, and even small black mambas) made up 38% and the rest (17%) was made up of mammals such as mongooses, baboons, young warthog and impala lambs.
We returned to camp with a song in our hearts. Africa is truly in my blood. I cannot imagine a life without her.

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