Last drive out
On the dot of 5am the phone rang. Good morning! It was time to prepare for our last drive out into the park.
As usual, everyone was up and about in plenty of time and the restaurant had the early morning staples there for the taking.
Coffee and home made biscotti made the perfect start - the home made baking here at Kapama South is wonderful and so very tempting!
The vehicles were all prepared and our guides and spotters there waiting with blankets "just in case". It was chillier this morning than it has been during our stay and some were glad of another layer.
Off we went then, in search of rhino, elephants and buffalo according to Jacob. It was going to be a grand finale for four of us, leaving today. Our two fellow car-sharers were staying a little longer, lucky things!
Good Morning hippos! No time to stop today, though.
Good Morning baboons! We watched them chasing around for a short time, climbing the electricity pylon with ease and swinging through the branches of the trees nearby.
As we did, Carlos had spotted a heap of something by the track and was off to investigate.
Was it rhino poo? Elephant?
A little further, there was a mud wallow where someone had been very recently. It had rained heavily last night and so the most recent tracks were clear to see. Carlos pointed out the tracks to Jacob, who turned the corner and followed them.
But nothing to see. Then Jacob himself got out and took a look around. Both were sure there were rhino nearby but they were proving to be very elusive.
We followed the smallest of tracks, sometimes having to go around roadblocks. This was an interesting and rather more remote part of the park, witih more small trees and shrubs, some of which had been broken off as if something had trampled through. Ooooh! Occasionally, Carlos would point out a path which had been trodden through grass, but so far, there was no sight of rhino or anything else for that matter.
Then Jacob slammed on the brakes suddenly. What? He'd spotted a small creature on the track and managed to stop in time.
He picked it up for us to see, explaining that it was a hinged tortoise - not something any of us had come across before, so it was interesting to see it so close.
A little too close for comfort to this spider which came perilously close to us as we rounded a bit of a sharp bend.
Occasonally, it was more of a squeeze to get through these narrow tracks - Jacob was nothing but determined to find these rhinos, but it wasn't looking good. We'd already passed one other vehicle who had reported a zero return on rhino as well.
Just as we were beginning to feel a little despondent, all thoughts of rhinos were forgotten, because right there ahead of us on the track was a herd of elephants.
They were moving through this area together, stopping from time to time to play, to eat and to generally look around. They weren't in a particular hurry and thankfully, neither were we!
Mother and youngster walked right on by the Land Cruiser, within touching distance of us, but both elephants and human beings simply watched one another and didn't bother.
When mother and baby elephant appeared, we might have let out a small "awwwwww!" and I know every camera in the vehicle clicked many times.
The three young boys arrived, rough-and-tumbling their way through. Jacob had told us about these three and it was fun to see them play.
Another two youngsters decided to have a bit of a play fight on the track in front of us. With grandstand seats, we were thrilled to sit back and watch them play.
Who pushes who over first seemed to be the game...one after another, they leaned on each other until finally, one gave up and walked off.
We'd seen the whole family pass through and disappear into the bush. Watching at the last one go, it was easy to see how a rhino or two could be there and remain unseen. We wouldn't stand a chance of spotting one - thank goodness we had Carlos!
Speaking of whom, seeing him put out a hand, we looked in that direction to see a buffalo - one of the other "big five" we were missing.
A huge creature, he was walking alone - maybe as well, for Jacob advised us to be quiet, because he could charge at any time and do a great deal of damage.
Thankfully, he didn't and we both moved off in opposite directions. It looked like we were going to be unlucky with our rhino spotting this morning, because the time was moving on and we needed to be back in time for breakfast. We'd already gone without our coffee stop in favour of maintaining our search... This area of the park has so many different landscapes though, and peering into these last few corners before heading back, we hoped that a last minute rhino would suddenly step out.
Sadly it was not to be. We did have a stroke of luck, however, because there in front of us was the tiniest of giraffes, born just yesterday.
Her mother was not far away, though was clearly more interested in breakfast herself than taking care of her newborn.
The little giraffe stood and stared at us - possibly the first humans she's seen, though as we were sitting in a large vehicle, she wouldn't recognise us as such. By chance she looked down and caught sight of herself in the puddle of water which distracted her for a while, too.
But then, just like most new borns, she suddenly realised that she wanted her Mummy and she was off, scampering into the bush to join her.
It was time for us to scamper off as well. Having returned to the camp for breakfast, we needed to pack our bags and meet Jacob for our transfer to Hoedspruit airport, a half hour's drive away. Waving goodbye to our sweet friends Nedra and Chelsea, the four of us set off for Johannesburg.
What a magical experience these last few days have been!