Saturday, November 3, 2012

A wild night out!

In some ways game viewing can be compared to fishing. It's a known fact that your success at the fishing waters is primarily directly linked to the time your bait is ready to be taken in the water. Wildlife photographers will also assure you that mere talent and good equipment is a very small percentage of what is needed for those once in a lifetime shots. Some people might call it luck to be at the right spot at the right time. It would be luck if it so happen on your first effort, but if you only get that opportunity after years of spending many hours at a time at potential game viewing sites and water holes, it's serious determination and lots of patience. That is what is needed and there are ways to spend more time looking for such opportunities and combining it with other more normal life activities to soften the need for this extreme determination and stubborn persistence.

Eating out in Kruger at one of the restaurants, for instance is one such opportunity. Instead of just fulfilling one's need to be fed, do some multitasking and eat inside Kruger while you enjoy the wildlife simultaneously.
Elephants at the Malelane bridge

To exchange this "eating out" experience at a restaurant in Kruger for a real "bush braai" in the wilderness with armed guards making sure that you do not end up on the menu is the real treat. We have often eaten out this way while everybody enjoys the sometimes humorous attempts of the hyenas to get closer to where that great smell of meat being done on the open fire comes from. The armed rangers have to be ever watchful and the excitement for everybody is so intense that one loose complete track of time. This event is always coupled with a game drive in an open vehicle en route to the spot where a nice fire will be waiting on the guests.
 When we enjoyed such an outing recently we had the opportunity to spend some time on the bridge of the Crocodile river just outside the Malelane gate. While Anzelle, who picked us up at our lodge in Marloth Park organised everything at the gate to be ready for us to board the open vehicle we were strolling from one side to the other enjoying the interaction of the large herd of elephants below. It makes sense to arrive at least 15 minutes early to spend some time on the bridge. Our guide, Rasta, gave us a short briefing on how to handle the spotlights and what to be on the lookout for.
When you leave for the drive the last rays of the sun leaves you with the impression that this is rather a "late afternoon" drive. It does not take long however until you start switching on the spotlights.

 You can look forward to coming across all the animals that you see during the day, but the possibility to spot a few carnivores are much higher at night.
 Hyenas seem to travel alone and their specific energy saving gait enables them to travel up to 50 kilometers at a constant pace and quickly assemble to feast on the remains of a kill or back at the den. A strange site indeed is the huge hippos strolling kilometers away from the river this time of night. The fact that they walk up to 15 kilometers every day should surely put an and to the idea that one can loose weight by exercising!

 It is always regarded as a highlight when you find a leopard and the one we saw spent so much time around our vehicle that it fully satisfied everybody's urge for this.

You will probably notice by the quality of these photos that there was no special techniques, zoom or expensive equipment to enhance anything. The leopard spent about 10 minutes around the vehicle before he disappeared into the bush. Even our guide, Rasta was as exited as a young child at a fun fair! 
 Arriving at the braai, the fire is a welcome sight and one can barely wait to see what is in the pots, placed against the coals. Everybody enjoys their favorite drinks which your lodge or whoever organised your trip informed them to stock the "cash bar" with.

When Louise organise this activity she will always make sure  that each person's specific preference are catered for. There are always a variety of vegetable dishes to choose from and even a vegan will have no problem to load his or her plate with a variety of dishes, hot and cold.

While you stand around chatting to the chef and his assistants you are ever so aware that somewhere beyond the dim light of the candles there is something keeping an eye on you. These guys are so used to cooking on an open fire. They are very handy with constant flicking with the thongs and sometimes simultaneously scratching the coals to distribute even heat. Any two meat dishes like grilled chicken, beef steak, game meat stew, boerewors and a variety of other "potjies" can be chosen when the booking is made. The smell of the grilled meat sure carries far into the bush.

 As soon as the meat is done they set a buffet table and everybody helps themselves to a nice plate of food to enjoy at a beautiful set table. It is indeed a very romantic atmosphere created by dim candlelight and white table settings in such a rugged and almost hostile environment. This is indeed a million star restaurant. Each meal is finished with a nice sweet treat.
When we were there two days ago we had traditional "malva pudding" with custard cooked right there in a black cast iron pot on the fire.

After the scrumptious meal everybody boarded the vehicle again for another game viewing experience on the way back to the gate where Anzelle waited for us with her 14 seater bus.

To get help organising such an activity while you visit Marloth Park, you should contact Louise at

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