One of the fascinating aspects of African wildlife is the wide variety encountered. Big, small, tall, short, fat, flamboyant, plain, quick, slow, nocturnal, predator and prey, all words that can be used to describe the wide diversity of wildlife that constitutes the biodiversity of the African bush and makes a trip to national parks like Kruger such a wonderful experience.
The heaviest beasts are clearly Elephant, Rhinoceros and Hippopotamus. Lions, Cheetah’s, Leopards and the smaller cats are the most sleek and muscular, whilst obscure species like Antbears and Porcupines some of the more bizarre.
Buffalo are hard to categorize. On one hand they are almost like cows but on the other hand exhibiting an attitude of horned defiance and a general wariness even when resting.
This Kruger trip we saw Buffalo quite often but most of the photos do not seem to be as interesting as those taken in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi in December. Maybe it’s the bush. The Buffalo viewed in Kruger were all in fairly open bush while the Buffalo photographed in Hluhluwe were all in dense thorn bush where they were more wary and suspicious.
Nevertheless we had some interesting sightings. The biggest herd we have seen for a long time was viewed early one morning in an open Vlei near Lower Sabi. The herd was at least a hundred strong and was in the process of heading off from the open grass into denser surrounding bush. The herd was so big I could not just could not capture the whole scene, but you can get an idea of its size from the following photograph.
The only time we have seen a bigger herd was on the shores of Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe. On that occasion the herd numbered about a thousand and was spread out over kilometers. That herd was so huge it supported three prides of Lion, each feeding on a different part of the herd which leads us to wonder how many Lion were watching and feeding off this Kruger herd.
Compared to Buffalo Zebra are much more striking animals and make good photographic subjects irrespective of the time of day.
On the main road to the west of Lower Sabi we saw a herd of at least a hundred Zebra come down to drink on the far bank of the Sabi River. The photo below was taken at long distance and is not so clear, but it gives a perspective of the jostling and shoving that was going on amongst the individual animals who were drinking and those arriving and departing.
In contrast with Zebra, Wildebeest have to be the dumbest of all the big grazers. How they stay alive I don’t know, as they always give the appearance of being in a stupor. Often they will travel in a single file one immediately behind the other heads down. No wonder they are easy prey for Lions and Hyenas.
To close this piece I’m inserting some photos of what is for sure the ugliest of all animals, the Warthog. Not only are they short and fat and hairy they are usually full of ticks and fleas, kept only in check by liberally applied mud obtained from rolling and wallowing in slimy waterhole shallows. This big tusked guy was photographed in very dry rocky bush near Satara. He warily watched us the whole time. We were surprised to see him as there did not appear to be any water anywhere nearby, but obviously there must have been.
Like Warthog, their equally ugly cousins the Bushpig, make fascinating photographic subjects and it’s quite difficult to actually take a bad photo of them.