After a short night in Pretoria, we flew from Johannesburg to Hoedspruit to begin the last leg of our trip in the Greater Kruger National Park, specifically in the Timbavati Private Nature Preserve. We stayed in Kambaku Safari Lodge.
Our game drives in the Timbavati Nature Preserve were led by two outstanding guides. Herman, the tracker, sat on a special seat in front of the truck.
We saw more crocodile and hippo.
And of course, many elephants.
Gideon and Herman joined with two other guides to track a lioness and her cub.
In a feat that was nothing short of astounding to us, they found the lions:
Here the lions are walking along the top of a dam the forms a watering hole. This kind of construction illustrates the interesting balance that has been struck in the Timbavati. While it feels like a park, it's actually a network of privately owned pieces of land. The owners submitted themselves to a compact that governs what can be done with the land, including that there are no fences within Timbavati or between it and neighboring Kurger National Park, allowing the animals to roam freely. While the rules in Timbavati lean heavily toward conservation and leaving the wilderness as it is, there is some hunting (though not of cats) and some modification of the environment (dams, roads, wells, buildings).
It's important to always be on the lookout!
Steenbok, the smallest type of antelope that we saw.
We saw many more Cape Buffalo. This one is sporting a couple of red-billed oxpeckers, birds that eat ticks.
Grey Go-Away Bird.
Lilac-breasted Roller, a stunningly colored bird.
Yellow-billed Horn Bill.
One morning game drive, our guides Herman and Gideon tracked down a male lion.
After about 45 minutes of walking and driving around, they found the lion, lounging near a young buffalo that it had killed and was in the process of eating.
Like most of the animals in this area, the lions have gotten used to the frequent sight and sound of Land Rovers full of camera-toting tourists. They don't pay us much attention.
The remainder of the buffalo is hidden in the bush to the left of the lion.
This rusting elephant joined our morning coffee break.
We saw our first rhino. They are threatened by poachers, all because of some nonsense beliefs about medicinal value in their horns. These are white rhinos, their misnomer apparently due to mis-translation of an Afrikaans word meaning "wide."
These warthogs played by the watering hole at our lodge. It is hoped that they, and the other animals, will be stopped from entering the lodge grounds by the electric fence encircling the property.
We never got tired of watching elephants.
We stayed for a while and watched this cackle of hyenas lounging and playing in a termite mound turned den. Hyenas don't dig very well, so they only take over termite mounds after another animal, such as a mongoose, has done the work of widening the entries and chambers within.
This young hyena was particularly engaging as it rolled around playing with the brush.
When they're lying down, hyenas are reminiscent of dogs. But once they're up and walking around, you can see that they're a very different animal.
Note the dark-colored very young one poking its head up on the right:
Our guide Gideon heard an impala alarm call and led us to this leopard.
From the size of her belly, it would seem that this happy leopard had just finished eating something.
There were hyenas circling the base of the tree, hoping to get some of whatever the leopard had killed, but she didn't care.