Good news about Simi

At around 4:30AM, we called Mitch and got good news on Simi. Her blood transfusion had gone well. Her ultrasound and x-rays showed no signs of anything. She was going home. My heart is beating a bit slower now as we are breathing sighs of relief.

In our absense, a decision was made to have Taryn stay at our house with Simi. Excellent! Of course, Simi is not completely out of the woods and would have to be monitored closely. Over the past year, she has slowed down, gone completely deaf and has become very lethargic; signs of old age.

Morning Ride: I had signed up for a morning ride that started at around 5AM. Unfortunately, it was the same guide-driver as last night. I asked him about the leopard kill. He claimed that he had no knowledge of it. I told him about what I had heard yesterday and knew the location. I offered to tell him where it was. With a dismissive and rude tone he said “NO!” Okay then…

As we drove and started seeing the usual animals, he would stop and make the same speech as I heard him make last night. Everyone in the vehicle was bored and very cold. Everyone wanted to see some action. They were barely paying attention as he spoke in a monotone, “a giraffe has seven vertebrae in its neck just like humans and hippos do” or “male kudus hang out in bachelor herds” or “a male impala with a broken horn will not mate as he will be unable to fight” and on and on and on. We did see a hyena walking along the road, a first for me!

The most exciting moment came when I spotted a Saddle-billed Stork in the distance. I asked the driver to stop and back up. He did but had to get up and adjust the side-mirror. It took him forever to do so and by the time we reached back to the spot where I saw the stork, he had jumped behind a rock. All we could see was his neck and his bill. Beautiful! While the bird is wide-spread in countries north of South Africa, there are only 16 pairs in Kruger. It was a treat to see him even for a few seconds.

Drive from Satara to Jock Safari Camp: Our next two nights will be spent at Jock Safari Camp. With the good news on Simi, we will enjoy the stay at Jock.

Only a few kilometers after we started driving south from Satara towards Jock, we saw two fully-grown male lions slowly ambling across the savannah and then resting in the shade. They looked ferocious and were breathing heavily. You could hear their breath. They manes gave them a large and rough appearance. Their upper bodies were strong and muscular. Their gait was lazy yet powerful. Their golden color was exactly the same as the grass they were walking through. Even at close range, if you take your eyes off them, it would take you a second to find them again. They were perfect!

A few kilometers on, a few animals later, we had our first cheetah sighting. Cheetahs are the fastest land animals in the world, yet they are small and fragile. A pair of them were resting under a tree by the side of the road. It was getting too hot for them to hunt, and they were probably going to rest for the day. We could only see them when they propped their head up. A few photographs later, we moved on.

A few more kilometers on, we saw a baboon family crossing the road. There were baboons everywhere around us as they did their monkey-business. Driving forward,about 50 meters from the baboon family, we saw a cheetah; and another. All of a sudden, they started running away from us as we noticed a very large baboon chasing them away from his family. Cheetahs can easily outrun a baboon and wanted nothing to do with the baboon family. As the chase stopped, we heard one of the cheetah calling. I concluded that there must be a third cheetah around.

We reached Jock and were greeted with open arms. We barely had time to check in and were ready for the evening safari.

Evening Ride: Our guide’s name was Patrick. He had been a ranger for 14 years and knew the bush as well as anyone else. We drove into the riverbed looking for game and came upon one of the most amazing sights in the jungle.

As the sun was setting in the western sky, we saw a leopard climb down from a tree followed by another leopard. We were still in the riverbed gazing into the sun as the leopard couple walked here and there. The male was clearly making advances at the female who finally accepted him and they mated. A few minutes later, they mated again, and again, and again, and again. Each time, the leopards would utter this deep, primitive, guttural sound. Even with poor light, it was a privilege to watch this. New life will begin soon.

As we drove on, we saw white rhino in the daytime for the first time. They are large, stout animals with an easy personality. Unless they have a baby, they let you approach them at close range as they go about chomping on grass. Unfortunately, because of myths in Asia about medicinal and other properties of their horn, they are hunted and poached. Along with the Black Rhinos, these gorgeous animals may have limited time left on earth. Sad!

As evening turned to night, Patrick turned on the spotlights and spotted cheetahs; 3 of them. My suspicion is that these are the same ones we saw earlier today on our drive up to Jock. The ones chased by baboons were sighted barely two kilometers from Jock! The three eventually came on the road and walked in front of us before jumping into the bush and disappearing.

We also saw a Serval in the night, but it was gone in no time.

I’m just happy that Simi is doing okay. While I am having the time of my life, I cannot wait to see her!

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