Our lion’s share

We had spent our last night at the Ezulwini River Lodge and awoke to our final morning safari with Tim and Eddie. They’ve been tremendous! They worked so diligently to track the animals but also to tell us all about the animals habits. I think we were so fortunate to have them introduce us to the ways of the South African bush. They are both so obviously a part of this land, demonstrated by the respect they give the land and its inhabitants. 

The ride began rather slowly as far as seeing anything more than birds, though at the start even they weren’t up yet. Perhaps the overcast morning that threatened rain kept them at bay. Finally we caught sight of several of the small Steenbok that look so cute and several of the large kudu lurking in the bushes. 

And then, rather unexpectedly, we heard roaring. Lions were calling to each other! Well! We couldn’t believe that after seeing lions each day that we’d be lucky enough to see them once again. We waited patiently along the path and were rewarded with a male lion passing right by us on his way to meet up with other lions further ahead, which we could not spot. The roaring continued for quite some time and was amazing to hear.

We moved along until we came to a place where there was a wildebeest skull, which Tim pointed out to us. We have yet to see one, but are still hopeful. Then he pulled over to a clearing for us to have our morning coffee and it looked like an elephant bone yard. Apparently two male elephants at one point got in a tussle and one was killed. Some of his bones, which were huge, and some of his skin remained on the ground.

We finished our coffee and climbed back into the range rover and kept the lookout for a female leopard and her two cubs. We passed a tracker on foot – it seems so odd to come across anyone not in a vehicle. He was tracking the elusive leopard and cubs but he was having no better luck than we were. But we did see vervet monkeys up in the trees along with a tawny eagle.  

Just when we were thinking that might be about it, what did we come across? A group of zebras! And they weren’t hiding in the bush this time. Tim stated it was an unusual spot for them, but we were thrilled. They are gorgeous creatures, though they don’t look real. We took quite awhile just stopped there watching raptly.

Then it was time to head back to the lodge to gather things up, as we had to move on today. We saw some guinea fowls and waterbuck along the way as well as our first jackle.  We were met by Glory with the usual warm cloths to freshen up, then met for breakfast. A quick session of packing ensued along with closing our accounts there, goodbye hugs with Glory, who was absolutely the sweetest host we could have asked for – always seemed to be at our beck and call whenever we needed it and more often than not, anticipating out desires. She’s a gem that makes the place so delightful. Our bags were loaded into a trailer behind one of the rovers, with Hector at the wheel to take us to Billy’s Lodge, anther Ezulwini establishment in the same vicinity. It took us about 50 minutes to get here. Just as amazing a place as the river lodge – larger and more resort-like, but still easy to get acclimated. We’re the only guests, so it feels like our own place. We got settled into our rooms, which again are individual, stand alone structures. Lunch was served at 1430 and then we were met by Leonard, our new guide, along with Hector as our tracker, to head out at 1600 for the evening safari. It’s grand that the schedule remains the same as I’ve gotten quite used to it.

Once again the drive started out slow, without us seeing much, but it was good to see places we hadn’t been to before. Think it kept our eyes sharper. Betsy certainly demonstrated that, as we had barely begun to pull away from the building when she said “there’s an elephant right there!”, Pointing up and off to the left. I don’t think Leonard believed her, but he drove in that direction and lo and behold, right there almost next to the lodge were three elephants, including one with a missing tusk. A good start. 

Next we came upon two jackles which looked like a cross between a dog and a fox. Soon afterwards we passed a large herd of impala. Leonard told us that all the females woild be pregnant now, as they always come into season together so they birth the babies at the same time the beginning of Dec. Apparently, they are easy prey, so the large numbers together helps them survive. We then saw an adult and baby giraffe and our first pair of honey badgers, as they scurried away as quickly as possible.

We thought that was a good evening but then wait! More was to come. We came upon our first wildebeest! Now there’s a mixed up animal. Brian said ,” there’s an animal that was put together by committee”.  We were told the bushmen also think that they were made from left over animal parts during creation. They looked like part horse, part buffalo, part zebra. Quite funny in appearance.  The ones we saw we were told are a resident group, which don’t do the massive migration like one sees on nature shows.

And to top off our lion days, we saw four adult males come into view, including the gimpy one, stroll right passed us. Eventually, they went into a clearing and sat down in a diamond shape too spread out to capture on anything but one’s mind eye.

It was getting dark and we were all tired, so we opted to skip the evening field wine break and instead headed back to the lodge. A little shot of something awaited us as did dinner on the veranda. Another delightful day.

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