Addo Elephant Park

The park has  a policy of only indigenous species, so there are no giraffes nor springbok. They both belong in a different area. But they have re-introduced lions, leopards and spotted hyenas, and jackals, mongoose and bat-eared foxes make up some of the bigger predators. Snakes abound, and some very venomous ones, but funnily, the only one we see is in the beak of a heron, slowly becoming lunch. At one point the snake has wrapped itself entirely around the bird’s beak, and reminds me of that cartoon frog with its front feet wrapped around the neck of a bird saying ‘never, ever, give up’. But alas, the heron is a good hunter and a couple of good thumps on the ground releases the wrap, and it’s only a short time before the whole yellow length has disappeared down its neck.20151122-IMG_0698-48

Not much further down the track, we find another successful hunt – another heron has a fairly big furry creature with tail and four legs scrabbling hopelessly in its maw. We watch mesmerised as the heron alternatively bangs it on the ground to stun it, or tries to get it down it’s neck. We don’t believe it will, but somehow the elegant thin neck expands and the hapless creature finally disappears tail-last into the predator’s stomach. We watch in gruesome awe – that bird won’t have to eat for a week!

We continue to have the most amazing experiences in the Park during our five days.

After two nights at Motylwaheni cottages, we move over to the Main Rest Camp, in the centre of the park. There are good facilities, including a restaurant called Cattle Baron, which serves fantastic meals at ridiculously low prices. After exhausting our self catering supplies, we resolve to eat at the restaurant.

There are also two hides – one for birds and one for animals next to a waterhole. We check them out, but aside from one warthog and a rather large tortoise, no-one else seems to be thirsty, so we check out the bird hide. It’s set up next to a little reed-filled water-pan, and there are thousands of weaver birds industriously constructing or repairing their woven nests. They nibble off ribbons of reed, and then literally weave them into a round ball where they lay their eggs, in order to avoid snakes. Nests and reeds sway in the wind, and these little birds quite happily sway along. There are lemon yellow, some with black faces, some without, and sprinkled among them are  fire-engine-red bishops with black markings. The little red ones are subject to study and are rare, the yellow ones seem more ubiquitous.

I snap away madly, trying to catch the little buggers, but I am a bit too far away for my lens, and 3/4 of my shots are blurry. But it’s fun trying. C and I spend a companionable time saying very little with only the clicks of our shutters to punctuate the silence.20151123-IMG_1133-36

As we are driving one day, we see a queue of cars stopped in both directions beside a small tree….

Drive-by-Lion!!! There he is, lying flat out on the tarmac in the shade of the shrubs. Totally uninterested in the cars stopped beside him, the camera clicks or indeed the likely smell of the humans in the cars with their windows wound down to take unobstructed photos. I was fearful of having a window down after hearing of that woman who got herself killed a little while back by  a lioness who reached in and scooped her out like a sardine out of a can. But we’ve been assured that as long as we keep inside the car, the lions are not interested – maybe it’s not until they see a head or arm distinguishable from the car, that they recognise food. Anyway, this one didn’t so much as raise his head until one car decided to continue on and missed his paw by less than a meter…. Sigh – idiots in a hurry everywhere. To our relief, lion just laid his head back down and continued to snooze on.

Woo hoo!

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