Game drives bring wild times un­der the African sky

Katie Burgess

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - Escape - - YOUR HOLIDAY -

I FOUND my­self stand­ing un­der the African sky on the edge of South Africa’s Kruger Na­tional Park. The air was crisp as I emerged from the lodge, half asleep but full of an­tic­i­pa­tion.

I wrapped my jacket around me and, with cam­era in hand, climbed aboard the four-wheel-drive sa­fari ve­hi­cle for my first game drive. We scoured the sa­van­nah, hop­ing to spot one of the Big Five.

Luck­ily our wait was short. The ve­hi­cle stopped. Ahead of us stood a big cat. It stared at us, cu­ri­ous about this group of ob­servers, watch­ing us watch­ing her. I was in awe of this beau­ti­ful, soli­tary crea­ture. The sound of cam­era shut­ters rang out as the leop­ard en­joyed its ex­clu­sive photo shoot. We moved on, ready for our next sight­ing.

As the African sun rose above us, a pun­gent scent filled the air. I’d never smelt any­thing quite like this be­fore. It re­pulsed and in­trigued me. The sight of a huge an­i­mal ly­ing still in the long grass took my breath away. An adult white rhi­noc­eros had been brought to the ground and lay eerily still with a large wound gouged in its side.

We edged closer in the 4WD and into view came a pride of lions en­cir­cling their break­fast. We watched as the adults ed­u­cated a cub in the art of dis­sect­ing their prey. This was big cats in their nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment, the raw, un­cut ver­sion.

When we re­turned to our lodge, we had plenty to dis­cuss over break­fast. Al­ready buzzing with ex­cite­ment, we could hardly be­lieve our luck when we were treated to an un­ex­pected visit by a herd of ele­phants at a nearby wa­ter­ing hole. Could this hol­i­day get any bet­ter?

Af­ter a much-needed re­turn to bed and some heav­enly re­lax­ation time soak­ing up my lux­u­ri­ous African sur­round­ings, it was time to head back out for our af­ter­noon game drive.

We set off in search of live rhi­nos this time, and played a cat-and-mouse game in the thorny bush­land as our tracker tried hard to lead us to a group of black rhi­nos who were hid­ing in the dense bushes. It was not to be this time, so we kept mov­ing.

As we crossed a dusty air­field, our track­ers sig­nalled us to look to our right, where a mother chee­tah and her cubs were play­ing in the grass. They con­tin­ued play­ing, per­form­ing for us, as we watched them avidly.

Our day ended with sun­down­ers, a sa­fari tradition. As the sun set, I sipped cham­pagne and ab­sorbed the amaz­ing land­scape and the in­cred­i­ble lifechang­ing past 24 hours.

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