Day #2 of waking up at 5:30am. You know I'm great company these days if I'm waking up so early! Actually, today was a great reason for waking up early be a use we went on our first morning game drive at 6. We were out for 3 hours, driving all over the reserve in search of the big five. At one point we thought we saw 2 lionesses, but after we cruised over there we realize they were two cheetah that walked out in front of our jeep and one just laid down in front of us. Very cool. Because it is spring, we saw a lot of animals with their young. Our guide was great, pointing out both the animals and the birds we came across. We saw a bunch of different animals today: impala, warthogs, wildebeest, klipspringer, zebras, jackals and more.
After our morning ride we came back for a wonderful breakfast at the lodge. Once breakfast was over, 12 of us jumped back in the jeep and headed out for a 12-minute helicopter ride over the reserve. The pilot took us over this one ridge, but before he did, it looked like he was about to go into the cliff which really freaked me out. Instead, at the very last minute, he cut to the left and took us thru a small ravine. I almost lost my breakfast! Before I explain the rest f the ride, I need to provide some context regarding where we are. We are staying at the Entabeni Game Reserve, but there is a golf and safari resort next door. The resort has your typical 18 holes, but it also has an additional hole, the 19th hole. The 19th hole tee is situated on the ridge of the mountain and the hole is at the bottom. The only way to get to the tee is by helicopter. If you make a hole in one, you get something like a million dollars. Our pilot flew us over that tee and then dove down over the ridge to give us a view of the 19th hole. OMG!!!! That almost killed me! Aside from the dips and curves, we flew over giraffes, elephants, wildebeest, impalas and more.
Can you see it? It's the green in the shape of Africa!
The lodge set up a wonderful lunch outside for us with a view of the zebras and wildebeest roaming the grounds. After lunch I went back to my room/hut real quick and there was a wildebeest just hanging out behind our veranda! Had to be about 15 feet away, tops! Tried to get a pic but it didn't work out so well.
Before our evening ride, some of us went to a neighboring nature conservancy where they take in injured animals. They had some lions there, including white lions, so it gave us an opportunity to see them up close since we hadn't seen them in the wild yet. They were all sleeping after having eaten just before we got there. On our way we saw some giraffes up close compared to those we saw yesterday a little further away.
Fairly so after we began our afternoon drive, we spotted a herd of elephants in the reeds on the other side of the plain. We watched them for a while, hoping they would come closer but they didn't. Still, I got some good pics with my big lens and had a good view with my binoculars. So glad I brought them!
We finally gave up with the elephants and moved on. We had just been talking with our guide about how many of the big 5 we'd seen and whether the lions we saw at the conservancy could count toward our sightings (the answer was no). As we turned a corner we came up. A gorgeous male lion drinking water out of the watering hole. He must have been drinking for 5 min (we could hear him lap up the water), then he sat up, looked around, and went back to drinking. However when he went back to drinking, he stood up with his back legs as if be were doing downward dog. It was hysterical! After a little while longer, the lion got up, stretched, and then proceeded to walk right by us, only 2 feet away! What a majestic animal!!!! You don't realize what a beautiful animal the lion is until you see it in the wild and 2 feet away. Wow! Here's a pic but I have better ones from my DSLR camera.
After the lion left us, we met up with our other jeep for a sundowner, happy hour in the bush as the sun goes down. We could hear the lion in the distance calling the females. Sounded like a heartbeat. Really cool. We didn't really see anything last night on the way back. We tried to find the lion again but couldn't.
Finally, we had a BBQ outside by a huge fire it was really nice and surprisingly not freezing. The staff came out after dinner and sang some beautiful songs before having us join in on their circle. It was great!
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