Human eyes do not work in darkness. This is because the heads they are stuck in are not meant to be awake when it is dark! I don't remember or understand what time we got up, let's just call it silly o'clock, but we were on the road before 5am. After a 40 minute drive in the dark along a black road totally devoid of lights or cats eyes, we arrived at the Numbi gate entrance to the park.
We spotted deer almost immediately, and an elephant within the first 10 minutes (one of the "big 5" in the bag). The scenery was amazing, and the plant life fantastic. We continued to drive gently through the park, clocking up sightings at regular intervals. We saw a lioness no mored than 10 metres away which then very obligingly passed straight in front of our bus, leading its 2 cubs! When we saw white rhinos, we had 3 of the "big 5" and it wasnt even 8 am yet. We were alerted to a sighting when we came across 6 vehicles parked up aroud a large rock. Sunning itself on top was a large cheetah, which is quite a rare sight as there are less than 300 in the entire park.
We stopped at Skukuza lodge for refreshments then continued on second leg and towards the end of the journey. We stopped at a hide by a lake and saw an amazing variety of birds. I watched a huge african kingfisher dive about a dozen times, but unluckily (for both of us) it didnt make a catch. I also spent some time watching a Jacana as it walked on top of the lily leaves on the lake looking for insects.
With about an hour to go, we saw a group of stopped vehicles, but couldn't spot any game. After 10 minutes we were about to drive on but then as if by magic we saw the leopard. It was too far away to photograph without big lenses, but we saw it very clearly for about 2 minutes before it sloped off around a bend in a dirt track.. Loepards are a rare sight and we were incredibly lucky to see on on such a relatively short time in the park. We now only needed a buffalo to complete the big 5, but as we got closer to the end of the journey this became less and less likely, until with about 10 minutes to go we rounded a corner and saw a herd of around 100 lounging around a water hole!!!! We left the park around 4pm, tired but very very happy.
Our full list of "spots" included, elephant, white rhino, lion, leopard, buffalo, cheetah, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, baboon, vervet monkey, impala, waterbuck, kudu, steenbok, bushbuck. we also saw a huge variety of birds including a huge African fish eagle.
The weather was fantastic all day and it was an amazing and unforgettable experience.
P.S. really really looking forward to being home again, but also wishing we had another couple of weeks here.