Hands down, the best part of our safari was to see the leopard and black rhino. Leopards are very shy and not big fans of being around humans. Usually you’ll only see them in the distance hanging out in a tree. We lucked out and saw an adolescent male (3 years old) separated from his mother, on our first day.
Because he was still young, he enjoyed all the human attention. He was very curious about us and got inches away from another group’s vehicle.
He was having fun romping around, but we moved on after a while to see other animals. On our way back, he was still hanging out by the side of the road, prancing for the crowd. He was adorable, but I could tell he was starting to miss his mom and he eventually started to look bored. He would raise his head, look around and then do the leopard equivalent of a sigh and lie back down.
As lucky as we were with the leopard the first day, I never imagined the second would be just as amazing, but it was! Rhinos have been hunted to near extinction–in the 1970’s there were over 65,000 and now there are around 5,000. Black rhinos are even more rare than the white rhino (of which there are about 20,000 left). Poachers are after their horns–traditional medicine/witchcraft uses them as ingredients so they fetch a hefty price.
We saw this guy heading toward the watering hole, but he never made it all the way down. The guide wasn’t sure why, but he may have smelled a female in heat and went to go find her, or he might have sensed an elephant family on their way to the watering hole–the big five don’t share water, so if one is already there, the others will turn back and try again another time.
Although I was annoyed with the elephant family for disrupting our rhino, I didn’t hold the grudge long. This was our second day seeing this family and they had a 3 month old baby that was just too cute for words.
Flopping around, attempting to drink with his trunk, splashing around in the water, and hurriedly rushing back to mom’s side when he realized he’d wandered too far away for comfort.
I love how elephant families work. Led by the eldest female, the group consists entirely of adult females and their young. Once boys grow up into young bulls, they get pushed out and go off on their own to learn how to become a man. They wander around until they find an older bull to mentor them, and they never see their families again.
Years later, they find another family to return to for mating, but don’t stick around too long because the moms don’t want their aggressive behavior to hurt their babies.
Aside from my obsession with elephants, some notable sights we saw were oryx in action.
Males fighting with each other, attempting to mate with a female who wasn’t having any of it (this was his 3rd attempt).
Two pregnant oryx who were on their own, staying far away from their normal herds because the males can’t be trusted to not hurt the babes. I was shocked to learn that they can run just as fast as a non-pregnant oryx, right up until they go into labour.
The fourth “big five” we saw were lions. We saw females drinking water on the first day, but these two brothers were the best. Snuggling each other and hanging out, being lazy.
And of course we can’t forget the giraffes and zebras!
I’ll end this with the legendary springbok. The national animal of South Africa, these guys are everywhere and beat every other animal in the park, at least numbers-wise. They’re also super yummy 😉