Noi6 means "the 6 of us" in Romanian.

We are five, you are the sixth one.

We thank you for joining us in our trip around the world...

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Big, Small, Little and the Dascalus

Getting to Africa is a big step in our journey, it is the 9th month and a whole new continent. We are on our way to Madagascar but because we arrived Sunday and the only plane tickets to the island were on Saturday, leaving us with 6 nights and 5 days, we decided to go to Kruger national park. A brilliant choice.


In Kruger, having only three days to see all we can, we look around
for the evasive cats, we start at the north where there are fewer animals and fewer tourists. Fewer animals means it is harder to see what you want, but when there are less tourists that means that if you do find the animal then you actually get to see it (this will be explained later in the blog post). The main attraction here is the big 5, Lions, Leopards, Elephants, African buffalo, and last but not least the Rhino. There are two types of rhinos, the more common white rhino, which is slightly bigger and likes more open places, and the black rhino, the one that is actually rare due to overhunting for the horn - people believed it has magical properties.
Now there are little 5 i.e. Ant lion, leopard tortoise. The small 5,which are the baby big five. I think the leopard baby is the cutest. I have only seen them in post cards sadly. Then the Dascalu 5, Mihai, Ileana Ruxandra, Maria, Ileana lily, Ioan.
Now this park is 70-90% luck, you have to be in the right place and right time when the animal decides to cross the road or walk next to it. All the camps have boards about where people saw the big 5 (except Rhinos so they won't be hunted) today, and yesterday. But that might be four hours old and the animal might have left in the direction of no road meets.
We look and look for anything, the first thing you should see in Kruger are Impala, a book we took says 135,000 impala in Kruger, other resources say over 200,000. We get to the northernmost camp "Punda Maria" I don't remember what we saw on which day but as I remember we didn't see much except a yellow billed hornbill, it looked exotic then but it was quite common in Kruger. At the camp we buy adapters for the plug of South Africa, really different from anything else we encountered. We sit around for the remainder of that day, we will wake up early to go to some ruins in a guided tour.
We didn't see much on the tour; some old African buffalo, expelled from the group, they just want to stay next to water, no more moving with the herd for them. They also do not like the voice of humans. We saw a couple more animals. A thing I have noticed with tours made for animals is that if you don't find many animals, they will start explaining about the trees and the plants.
Guides around the world for almost all subjects love this line "this is an eucalyptus" not all of them, but usually if we walk or drive past they will say this line, though I still have to find out why it is so great the eucalyptus.
We arrived at the ruins. This being our first full day here all animals are very new, the guides take their guns and scout ahead for any dangerous animals which might be lurking around. There are none, we don't know if that is bad or good. If we see one we are all happy, but we don't want them to be shot if worst comes to worst. I would be very happy to see one Lion/leopard/Cheetah instead of the ruins.

All there is around the area is some leopard scat. So we advance up the trail, they tell us all about the culture, answer questions etc. we are near some baobab trees, I wanted to climb one. Unlike the other blog posts, what really happened is I asked permission to climb it, I spotted a hole in the center and said so, only once I got down did they tell me leopards like to hide their young inside trees. It made me wish I didn't just glance inside it. All was well, on the way back we spotted some elephants I did the best to get some good pictures.

We drove around for the next 2 days. Eyes getting sore looking at a bush, wait that bush is a leopard!!!! Whoops no sorry that was a rock, glad I didn't say anything. A Lion!!!!!!! Wait just a tree trunk. Now you might think its us going crazy, but actually that bush leopard had a rock behind it giving it the appearance of spots, and that lion trunk looked just like a lion sitting down, full of dust, giving it a more yellowish color. But when you see the real thing it's much different, it stands out nothing like a bush or a trunk (though the similarities were quite amazing).
Just on our last day, seeing no carnivore, we looked and looked, not too far from the exit. Only a couple more kilometers, what's that?! Breaks come into action (we can only go 50 km/h), a small spotted genet crosses our path! Everyone gets excited, pictures are taken. We feel more accomplished, we talk about seeing this carnivore they don't have tours to see, but of course they have tours to see the lion and leopard. 

Now even fewer kilometers to go a leopard crosses our path. The camera clicks the camera is passed on. The leopard turns, looks at dad then walks on the side of us and disappears into the grass. The whole family is crazy about seeing a leopard :D I felt as if my family was much happier than I was, at that time I felt as I was missing out on the good part of seeing a leopard, but now I think it was just because I was tired and a bit mad. (Most likely from the fact that when a song that I really liked came on my sisters would want to skip it and my mom in control of the music would listen to them as she also wanted to skip the song. But when a song came on that I wanted to skip NOOOOOOO!!!!!!! Comes the deafening scream from my sisters. And they would of course sing to the whole song.)

My sisters (when no animal is present) look on the window shortly before losing interest, they would look, then start reading, or writing. What interests them. Ileana likes listening to music and looking out the window, but if you start thinking about other stuff you start to zone out. Things pass you by and you don't realize, I know as this happened once or twice to me.
Even if she was looking for the animals and concentrating I wouldn't trust her, except with a predator. Real quotes "oh, I saw that bird but I didn't want us to stop" and later in another park Mom: "Look a rhino!" Ileana: "You didn't see it?" Mom and Dad: "well why didn't you say anything?" Ileana: "my mouth was full!" (we were eating apples) after we left the rhino I said okay my mouth is full, I took a Big bite from my apple and said "HMMM, MMMM! IT'S A RHINO!" dad stopped the car just in case I was serious, but I wasn't - we all had a good laugh.

But now we leave Kruger, we all decide we want to come back. So a month later we came for 8 days with astounding better luck.

We see all sorts of animals, but as I am not sure what happened on which day. On one day we cross a bridge, we are taking pictures at some kingfishers and then a car comes up, rolls down the window and says "there are some lions up the road." It was almost nonchalant. We started the engine, got to where the lions were. We couldn't see anything, we looked, but no lions. Cars were all around so they had to be there, but we couldn't see anything. We waited our turn and some people left and then we had the best spot. We then saw the lionesses by straining to see through the bushes. We waited, saw them playing with the flys, then one lioness would get up, and sit down. Then the second one got up and started to leave, and the first one after a while also got up and followed the second one, our patience was rewarded. We got to see the lionesses walk away, rather than just the tail.

Later that day we saw some rhinos (white) and on the other side of the car some of the smallest birds I have seen. Not much farther up there was a far away water hole even farther, looking hard through binoculars, we saw four more lionesses, hiding in the shade. Some impalas were walking very slowly to drink then would run a bit away. One very thirsty impala wouldn't run away completely. It would go, come back, go, comeback, go and finally a new team of impalas came and some would watch and the rest would drink. It was a nice show but it was getting late. And my sisters were impatient so we went to our camp.

Next day, we took a longer road to our next camp, after half the way there, we got blocked by a huge herd of African buffaloes. It didn't look like they were in any hurry. A big line of them told us we were going to be here for a while. After about 10 minutes we turned back up the road, we were going to be late at this rate. We then stopped for two giraffes who had their necks wrapped around each other. They were two males, one looked like the bull male, and the other looked like a young adult. It could grow another foot I think. It was a nice show but we had to get to the camp and they were blocking the way! We got closer but instead of going away the bull took a more defensive position.

Now you would think giraffes are pretty helpless creatures in battle. Not so. We had watched a free video at one of the camps, about some young lions. Some 4-5 lions attacked a giraffe bull, even though they attacked its blind side the bull gave some really hard kicks. Because of his awkward galloping and kicks the lions could not get on his back and give the finishing blow. The bull won the fight but lost the war. It was going to die from thirst. Because of the wounds, it would not be able to bend it's body to get to the water!

So we backed up, but we couldn't stay there till midnight, so after a few more pictures we honked and got through. Not long after a leopard was walking along the side of the road! We followed it in reverse for 10 minutes when it then crossed the road and hid in the bushes. We were all very happy we turned around but we had to get going!

On the last day we saw a cheetah! It was hiding in the grass, my mom who had the front seat looked ahead and saw it first. It got up and walked to a different spot, convenient for us. Within 30 minutes we had a big crowd all around us. But we found it and had the best spot. We considered taking people's cameras and taking good pictures for them as we all took the same picture 10-20 times, for a price of course. It yawned a bit before it repositioned its self and hid so well that it was really really hard to see. I would have wanted to stay there in till I needed the bathroom and was very hungry, or in till the cheetah left. We weren't going to sleep any more days in Kruger and I really liked being there.
Now I said I would explain about why having less tourists is a good thing, it's true that when you see five cars parked at the edge of the road you know an animal is there and therefore you drive past it. But those five cars prevent you to see the animal and allow you to get pictures that Nat Geo would want to use.

Here are some pictures of my favorite animals:

The lilac breasted roller.


  1. Ioan, What a wonderful travelogue, and a great depiction of your experiences! I love the pictures!! Thank you for sharing it.

    Mary Elleln

    1. oops! Mary Ellen (not sure where the extra "l" came from LOL!)


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