Our second day in the Entabeni reserve looked to be a very full one with two drives although the weather didn’t look very promising. Plus a visit to the White Lion Conservation Centre and the Pedi Village which were on the lower escarpment.
An early 5.00 start was followed by a hair raising drive down the steep track from the top escarpment. This ensured everyone was awake by the time we had descended the 600 m (2000 ft) to the lower escapement to begin the first drive.
Kudu with their amazing horns lurked in the bush and suddenly would run across the track as we held on tight as the track got steeper. In the waterholes stationary Crocodiles and Hippo were noisily waking up, whilst an African Fish Eagle sat and watched from a nearby tree. Waterbuck, with their toilet seat patterned rear looked up startled as we drove past. There had been reports of a pride of Lions in the area with a kill. After an hour of tracking where we came across a lone Jackal and a very stubborn Rhino blocking the track it seems the pride may have moved on.
Breakfast at the extreme 19th
Breakfast was at the Legend Golf and Safari Resort, a world famous golf course, where the extreme 19th tee is on the top of the escarpment, reached by a helicopter. The hole is on the lower escarpment. It is the longest par 3 in the world, 400m (1312 ft) high and 395 yards long. There is a prize of $1,000,000 for a hole in one. No one so far has achieved it, in fact only two people have achieve par.
The golf course is in a fabulous setting in the African bush, with no fences so wildlife including the big five can roam freely through the resort. The club house has numerous photographs of famous golf celebrities and a row of their golf bags. The food was excellent and the good news was we were returning for lunch.
Timbavati White Lions
We were greeted at the White Lion Conservancy Centre by our guide who told us all about the history of the Timbavati White Lions and how they had first been spotted in Timbavati in the Kruger. Also the fact that White lions are not albinos, but a genetic rarity. Some of the tawny lions in Timbavati area carry the mutant gene and recently there have been reports of white cubs being born again in the Kruger Park. Also that there is no evidence that their white colouring impedes their survival in the bush.
They are an endangered species and prized by hunters and poachers. The centre rescues and studies the white lions, but at present does not release them into the wild. Although the lions were contained on large islands, they had a natural bushveld habitat, that allowed for contact with other wildlife. They did not seem to display the stereotypical pacing behaviour of caged animals. The white lions play an important part in the Sepedi and Tsonga communities culture of the area. These tribes consider a white lion to be “the most sacred animal on the African continent”.
The Pedi village was a reconstruction of a tribal village. Our guide explained the layout of the village with the chief and his wives living in one area and the children and the villagers living in another part of the village. He told us about the life of the villagers and the food that they ate. We sampled various dishes including mopane worms, which were a bit chewy, and looked inside the huts. After this we returned to the golf club for lunch.
Afternoon game drive
The afternoon game drive took us across the lower escarpment. We encountered lots of Rhino, mothers and young, including a one month old youngster. Lilac breasted rollers, Grey Loeri (the go away bird) and Yellow Hornbills were numerous in the bushes. Three Hadada Ibis were feeding in an open area and White Backed Vultures were silhouetted against the sky from their tree top perch.
As we drove along the iridescent blue of the Greater Blue Eared Starling would flash in front of us. Hartebest, Blesbok and Nyala grazed near the track. In the distance a male and female Ostriche could be seen stretching their necks.
Suddenly the vehicle sped up, a pride of Lions had been sighted in the area we had searched earlier. A pride of lion, a large male, females, cubs and an immature male where pacing through the long grass by the side of the track. They were quite difficult to see at first, just glimpses of ears and tails and movement of the grasses. Then the large male came out on to the track, followed by the females and cubs. Every time the young male approached the females he was warned off by the male lion. Eventually they reached a waterhole. The male lion approached first and drank, followed by the lionesses and the cubs, pushing each other to get a drink. The immature male had to stand to one side and wait. It was an excellent opportunity to observe animal behaviour and take photographs.
We had our sundowners at the base of the escarpment where a stream cascaded down through the rocks. The return journey to the upper escarpment was as scary as the journey down, especially as the light was going. As we drove along Nightjars flew into the air in front of us. The sunset over the Entabeni mountain was beautiful. We were back in time for evening meal after a long, but very good day.