The winds were still blowing like mad when we pulled into Port Elizabeth, but at least the fires weren’t there. There was a lot of wind damage evident around town with trees down, and the promised pool at our location was full of tree debris. Wilson wanted to go in the pool, so he grabbed the skimmer and went to work while I went out to find a new camera battery. You know you take a lot of pictures when you break a camera battery.
We decided to go “home” for dinner, and we grabbed a couple of pizzas and watched a movie in our room. Sometimes scaling it back is the best way to go.
We woke up the next morning and headed out to Addo Elephant Park, which is, as you can suspect, great for elephants. And it didn’t disappoint.
The topography and vegetation was very different to what we experienced in the Serengeti, as it was lush and green, but it still was great to see the animals in their somewhat natural environment.
When we first arrived in the park, we climbed through some dense thatch forest that probably had a plethora of animals hiding in them, but once we got to an open area, we quickly spotted two male lions lounging around in the long green grass.
This again was a big difference from the Serengeti, as you would never see lions (a) in the open, and (b) lounging around in the mid day in full view of everything that they wanted to eat later on.
Regardless, they were still majestic to see no matter where they were. Our guide for the day, Carl from Schotia Private Reserve, led us through the day was soft spoken and very knowledgeable about the park and the vegetation, animals, and birds.
It is amazing how these guides can quickly spot animals and birds from the corner of their eye, or off in the distance. They must be really good at Where’s Waldo sorts of games.
Throughout the park, we saw a crazy number of elephants, and even got to witness some attempts by the dominant male to “pick up” a female around one of the watering holes. He was in musk, while there was another less dominant male hanging around that was lusting after her as well.
There was a bit of posturing, sniffing, and “Hey, How you doin’? Check out my tusks” kind of behaviour going on, which was funny to watch.
Carl thought that they might actually get “busy” while we were sitting there as the male got quite the hard on while we were watching. This thing was about the size of my two legs put together and tall as Wilson. When we asked more about it, the average penis is 1.5m long and weighs in at a whopping 50kg. So, it was Wilson. We had a good chuckle about that.
In the end, the lesser male was chased off and the dominant male and the female walked off towards the thatch, along with her one kid. Maybe they didn’t feel comfortable having sex while the kid was watching. Good idea, and awfully considerate of the two of them.
The tour was great and we all learned a lot more about the elephants in the park and in general. Did you know that the gestation of a baby elephant is 22 months and when they are born they are 110kg (220lbs)?!
On average, an elephant needs to drink 160L per day, with each trunkful being 7-10L of water?
Baby elephants, when they are afraid and stressed, aren’t that unlike kids in that they suck their thumbs … er… their trunks. It has over 400 muscles and is used for everything from drinking to breathing to communicating. Lulu loves elephants, so she was in heaven at Addo this morning.
We got to see some buffalo up close which was nice. They are one of the big 5 animals in Africa, which are the 5 most dangerous and most hunted animals in Africa. They are the buffalo, rhino, elephant, leopard, and lion.
Again, it is hard to put into words the beauty you see at these game parks. The way they creep around without making much, if any noise. I still cannot get over how little sound a massive heard of elephants makes for the size of them.
After we were done at Addo, we headed over to Schotia Private Game Reserve for lunch and then jumped in an open vehicle with another family from England and their South African hosts. It was the first time that the English people were on a game drive, so they didn’t quite get the etiquette of a game drive…like being quiet and not drawing attention to yourself when a group of lions are within reach.
I mean, sure….you can get eaten, but not us! So draw all the attention to yourself that you want!
There was a fundamental difference between a game drive in a park like the Serengeti, or even Addo for that matter, and a private reserve this this was. They knew what animals they had, how many of each of the animals they had, which ones were pregnant, their names, and their recent behaviours … which kind of made it “zoo-ish”.
Don’t get me wrong…we aren’t in the Toronto Zoo or anything, but it is just different than driving around, not knowing what or where you will see animals, and what kind of mood they are in when you find them.
There isn’t the “Holy crap, it is a pride of lions! Slam on your brakes and reverse up to a safe spot” kind of driving around. It was more like “Well, the lion is going to walk around here for a while, so lets go see what the rhinos are doing over the hill” kind of game driving.
The game reserve was owned by the one and only Mr. Bean, who reportedly was there while we were there…and we saw earlier on in the day, but I don’t remember seeing him. So, cool fact and the kids were pumped to maybe see him later in the day at dinner.
We travelled around and all of us, including our guide, were surprised to see a Nile crocodile at the edge of a watering hole. The guide knew that they had them, but it was supposed to be at the other watering hole. This scared Lulu a bit, but it didn’t look like it was moving anywhere fast. In fact, not at all. Cool croc fact is that they sometimes only eat once or twice a year, and they can hold their breath for up to 10 minutes at a time.
In the same pool, there was a nice hippo couple that were bobbing up and down in the murky water that they live in. Living in their filth, couldn’t imagine it. But don’t underestimate these beasts as they are the most dangerous animals in Africa. Yup, these big guys kill more people in Africa each year compared to the other animals that you would think that would be dangerous Male hippos fiercely protect their section of the river, and will often attack those that unwittingly encroach upon their territory.
Females are also quick to attack anyone that comes in between them and their calves. Hippos may look slow, but they can achieve speeds of around 30 kph on land. Both males and females have powerful jaws with enlarged canines and incisors, sometimes called tusks. The male hippo’s canines can reach up to 50cm long. They have been even known to kill crocs. Other amazing hippo adaptations include their ability to hold their breath for over five minutes, and their skin, which produces its own natural sunscreen – a useful defence against the relentless African sun.
There were a number of elephants in the reserve as well, and they were pretty used to the vehicles. Except on decided to be a bit more friendly and almost came into the truck to sit down beside Lulu.
She loves elephants, but as we learned from that encounter, she loves them at a distance.
As the sun went down, it got quite cold, and thank goodness we had a stop at an old farmhouse that had hot drinks and a fire on. When we got back to the truck, we had fleece ponchos and blankets waiting for us.
We came across the two rhinos in the reserve, and they were in a feisty mood when we found them.
The two of them were fighting which was cool to watch, but that quickly stopped and then the one rhino decided to walk straight for us.
“Do they ever attack the vehicles?”, we asked the driver….”Oh yes! A rhino lifted up the front end of the truck recently with its horn!”. Great. Wilson was pumped as it sounded like Jurassic Park.
We took a moment to enjoy our last African sunset of the trip, which is always amazing to watch. The heat, the haze, and the skyline always makes the sunsets super amazing. I could watch a million of these sunsets and never get bored.
We headed back towards the dining hall where we had a nice dinner and bonfire before we started a short game drive on the way back to our car. We saw some Elan which was nice as that is a close relative to the cow and one of the animals that Deb really likes.
We also saw an elephant kicking up dirt and scooping up grass with its trunk and putting it in its mouth. If you didn’t know, the elephant has one stomach, and doesn’t ruminate on its food. This means that stuff goes through it quickly rather than fermenting and getting as much nutrition out of it as possible. So, they have to eat a lot as you would imagine a massive animal like that would.
That also means that they make a lot of poop. The one saving grace about the amount of food they eat is that the droppings act as local pods of fertilizer, or quick grow material that you would use in your garden to get veggies going before planting them outside. Dung beetles also use this, but they wait until all of the other animals have picked through the elephant poop to pick it over for seconds. Yummy. Elephant leftovers.
The downside to this fast GI system is that they eat a lot, which means they destroy a lot. Trees, bushes, grass…you name it. They will literally tear a tree apart limb from limb until there is no tree left and everything has been stripped of its bark. You can’t make food fast enough for this animal.
Going back to the dung beetle, Addo is a “safe haven” for dung beetles, and they work hard not to run over them…to the point that they have signs on the road asking people to watch out for them. The park also built the road up so that it is higher in the middle than on the sides. This is so that the beetles can come out onto the road to sift through the animal poop, since the animals prefer to use the road for movement at night time here, and then the dung beetle goes onto the road and collects their ball of poop. Previously, the road was lower, but they found that the beetle couldn’t roll the ball out of the roadway. So this way it has an easy way to get the ball off the road. Second interesting fact about these beetles is that they will always roll a ball in a straight line, and if something gets in its way, they will continue on in the same path. And that path is governed by the stars and the milky way. Go figure!
Anyways, regardless of the different experience that we had, we had a great time cruising around looking at the animals up close. And being our last day in Africa (even though we were going to Johannesburg for an overnight stay…we weren’t really going to be doing much there), we were soaking up every little bit of Africanisms that we could.
We got up the next day and headed to the airport, and dropped off our trusty Toyota that took us around South Africa. If you remember the shenanigans that happened at Budget when we arrived, we were worried that they were going to double charge us for the car. But, they were good to their word and they refunded us the second charge. Phew!
We jumped on our flight on Mango (Lulu was happy as this is one of her favorite fruits!), which is a barebones airline, and headed to Joburg.
While we were in Joburg, we decided to venture out to a local mall, no more than 5 minutes away by car, for dinner and maybe a movie. When we asked what the best way to tavel there was, we were advised that Uber was the best and safest method to go…so we headed there by Uber. We were excited as we thought that the Banff Film Festival was playing at that theatre (well the kids weren’t as they wanted to see either Goosebumps 2 or Hotel Transelvanyia 3), but nobody could agree, so we just didn’t go see a movie.
But the cool thing was that the mall had a full sized hockey rink inside it! In Africa! Strange but true. Plus, they were ready for Christmas, and it seems they kept to the “It Must Be Past Halloween Before You Decorate For Christmas” rule.
Back to the hotel for a sleep before we head off for a long flight to Singapore and then to Hanoi, Vietnam for the start of our Asian adventure.