There are hundreds of game lodges throughout southern Africa. They seem to advertise their quality by the number of Big Five animals you can see on their property. The Big Five animals are: lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, and Cape buffalo. Kapama is a Big Five game reserve that covers 32,000 acres of African wilderness. We were fortunate enough to have spotted all five by our second game drive.
The animals are accustomed to the sight and sound of the land rover so most of them ignored us and allowed us to come relatively close. There are a few animals that do react to the vehicle. Warthogs and wildebeest take off running. The wildebeest herds would run through the bush like a freight train. Elephants and rhinos sometimes became visibly annoyed if we got too close. Paul had to throw the truck in reverse a few times to give them room. Other grazers would tend to freeze and perk up their ears when we approached.
Rhino Xing Ahead
This elephant was not happy we were so close to his water hole.
Ahh! That's better.
hangin' with the herd
The leopard is the most elusive of the Big Five. Paul told us it is not uncommon to go weeks without a leopard sighting. We were extremely fortunate because we saw one during our first drive. It was a female leopard that was feasting on an antelope. One of the things that is quite different from watching a leopard eat on TV is that in real life, we could hear the bones of the antelope being crunched. After the leopard had her fill, she began to cover up the carcass with dead grass. She then stood up and began making a choking sound. Paul explained to us that she was actually calling her cubs. He was right. A few minutes later, a little blue-eyed fur ball hopped out of a hole in a tree and went to its mother's side. We were all snapping photos like crazy. Even Paul was taking pictures. This was my most memorable sighting.
intense leopard stare
crunching an antelope bone
proud mother and her cub
Momma grooming her cub
Shortly after viewing the leopards, Paul heard a broadcast on his radio. We didn't know what was being said because they were speaking in Afrikaans. Paul told us he had a treat for us as he turned off the dirt road and headed into the bushes. We came to a clearing where we saw a male lion with a huge black mane (and a very foul odor). We were able to get within 15 feet of this massive cat that was licking his paws. He then got up, walked a few feet, and then plopped himself down again. This time, he began to roar (click to listen). After all the roaring, he fell over and went to sleep. I never thought I'd be this close to such a powerful cat.
It's great to be king.
Halt! Who goes there?
patrolling his kingdom
calling his females (click to listen)
I'll admit. These big boys made me nervous. Cape buffalo can weigh up to 2000 pounds and can be very aggressive - especially if you are on foot (good thing we were in a land rover). It is said that they are responsible for more deaths in Africa than any other animal. We came across these huge beasts during a morning drive. They were grazing and sparring. It sounded like two bowling balls colliding when the bulls butt heads. Some of the buffaloes were quite close to the truck. As I looked around I began to notice we in the middle of a herd of these giants.
Cape Buffalo - These big boys made me nervous.
Female buffaloes have smaller horns - and that's no bull.
We saw many more animals than just the Big Five. Jeffrey had the best eyes of our group. He could differentiate the animals from the landscape a lot sooner than the rest of us could. He would sometimes spot animals before Thembe or Paul did. We saw giraffes, zebras, impalas, owls, hawks, eagles, vultures, monkeys, a hippo, a variety of antelope, a variety of small birds, and even a puff adder (very venomous snake). Susan brought a safari checklist with her. This made the game drives even more enjoyable. Our driver was more than happy to help us identify the creatures on the list. However, our debate of the day was: Can we count an antelope sighting if the antelope we saw was being eaten by a leopard?
a kudu climbing a hill
We saw many giraffes.
The hippo is watching.
The wildebeest herds ran through the bush like a freight train.