Mark and his wife made their way to one of the most beautiful Wildlife destinations our country has to offer and were kind enough to share their experience with us and our readers.
The Wait is Over
We couldn’t believe the day had finally arrived! After months of counting down the days to our fourth trip to Addo, the day was here at last.
We set off with packed bags and camera batteries fully charged and made our way to Wilderness which was to be our first stop. We checked into a Bed and Breakfast which had a view over the lagoon and then went to quench our thirst and could already feel the stress of the city evaporating. Wilderness is one of the gems of the Garden Route and we enjoyed the short stay before continuing our trip to Addo Elephant National Park.
Before even reaching the entrance of the Park on our first day, we were greeted by a Lanner Falcon and as keen birders felt this was a welcome back to nature! We eagerly completed the forms and while making a bet on what the first sighting would be, entered the park in search of the first gravel road. NO, it wasn’t an Elephant! Instead, it was one of my wife’s favourite animals, the Warthog. It wasn’t long before I spotted a Cape Glossy Starling and excitedly grabbed my Canon 400mm lens before firing off a burst of frames.
It wasn’t long before my wife spotted a beautiful Black-backed Jackal quenching his thirst at the waterhole at Marion Baree. Out came the camera to capture this amazing moment.
With it being Valentine’s Day we needed to ensure that we made our reservation at Cattle Baron so we bid farewell to the Black-backed Jackal and headed off towards the Main Camp.
After lunch we made our way down to Hapoor Dam hoping to find Elephants enjoying the water as it was a scorcher of a day. We stopped off at Gwarrie Pan on the way, we were treated to this Elephant heading our way after playing in the water.
We continued to Hapoor Dam and on arrival my wife and I looked at each other in total amazement as we were greeted by Elephants of all ages enjoying the water. We then realised how fortunate we were to share moments of raw beauty like these and how quickly nature heals the stresses of everyday work.
The next day was to be another day in paradise with numerous sightings of Kudu, Red Hartebeest, Zebra, loads of Warthogs and even a Cape Cobra. Being avid birders we were glad to tick the following birds off our list:
- African Hoepoe
- Black-shouldered Kite
- Bar-throated Apallis
- European Roller
- Secretary Bird
- Amur Falcon
- Pale Chanting Goshawk
- Steppe Buzzard
- Jackal Buzzard
At Marion Baree waterhole we were fortunate enough to photograph an African Buffalo as he headed down for a drink – it is easy to see why people claim that the horns can deflect a bullet – this is one ‘mean machine’.
The Gamble Paid Off
As the days unfolded, we were still to be treated to our best sightings EVER!
In search of the lions, early one morning, we started the descent to what appeared to be a deserted Marion Baree, we noticed a Spotted Hyena and two Black-backed Jackals having a stand off. We were the only car witnessing this with the howling contest lasting several minutes before the Hyena retreated in defeat. Due to the thick bush, I could not get a clear photograph so I decided to reposition our car as I remembered a path through the bush that joined with the road. When I got to the desired spot, I pulled to the side of the road and switched the engine off so as not to disturb the Hyena whilst I desperately searched the area. To say I was thrilled is the understatement of the year, as the Hyena was no more than two metres away from our car – the gamble had paid off, big time! I quickly grabbed my Canon 70-200mm lens and shaking with excitement pushed the shutter button down. In this shot you can see the nervous look over the shoulder as the Black-backed Jackals were still howling at him.
Up until then, it was the best photographic opportunity we’ve ever experienced of a Spotted Hyena and we both agreed that it won the title of the best sighting of the week; we were soon to be proven wrong!
On the last day in the Addo Elephant Park we were still searching for a Lion sighting and held our breath as we entered the Park at 5:30am. It was a fairly slow start but little did we know what this beautiful place had in store for us. All of a sudden, I had this tremendous gut instinct that we needed to head towards Gwarrie Pan and thankfully, I quickly plotted a course to the Pan. Just before the turnoff, as we rounded the corner, we were rewarded with a sighting of three Lions in the middle of the road! We could not believe our eyes, speechless at the size of the two male Lions that were eagerly eyeing the solitary Lioness. Being the third car at the sighting, we positioned our car as well as possible and fired off what seemed like thousands of frames. The picture below is of Gibson, he is the male Lion who rules the northern territory of the Park with his brother, Melvin.
Excited for Next Time
We packed up after breakfast and made our way out of the Park with the smiles on our faces whilst recounting the amazing Lion sighting. Another contributing fact that made us smile is knowing that we will return for our fifth visit later in 2016 – who knows what nature has in store for us!