Monday, March 16, 2009

The Big Two-and-a-Half

Don't even try to pronounce Hluhluwe; you won't get it right (it's roughly "shish louie"). All you need to know is that it was the first national park in South Africa, founded way back in 1894, a few years before the more-famous Kruger. It's a Big 5 park, meaning that Elephants, Lions, Leopards, Rhinos, and Cape Buffalo all call it home, as do a host of other animals. But, of course, there are no guarantees, particularly with the predators.

We toured the park from roughly noon to 6pm on our visit. This is not the greatest timing; it would be better to arrive much earlier, but that didn't work with the ship logistics. But we did manage to see some critters. For starters, we racked up two-and-a-half of the Big 5. We saw several Elephants, including one that met us just outside the park gate. And we saw a herd of Cape Buffalo (distant) and a solo buffalo up close. And we saw several pairs of White Rhinos. That's where the half comes in. It turns out that the White Rhinos are relatively mellow fellows. So picky people believe that only Black Rhinos belong in the Big 5.

As noted in our Etosha report, we aren't really obsessed with the Big 5. We liked seeing the 2 1/2 (and would like to see the other 2 1/2), but we enjoy other critters as well. In fact, the best sighting of the trip (by some folks in other vehicles) was a pack of Wild Dogs bringing down a Nyala.

For us, the other highlights were some funky-looking birds (e.g., the Hamerkop and Pin-Tailed Whydah), our first Vervet Monkey, and our old friends the Warthogs, Zebras, and Giraffes. Oh, and we just missed a pair of lions who were reportedly stalking the lone Cape Buffalo that we saw.

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