Thursday, January 3, 2008

Vacation Part 1, Kruger Park

After an enthusiastic, but tearful, good-bye in Tweeling, Andy and Kate took themselves on a three-week vacation to Kruger Park, Mozambique, and Swaziland before heading back to the U.S.

Part one of the vacation brought us to Kruger Park in far Northeastern South Africa, a park that is much bigger than most U.S. states and some small countries. The park is unbelievable, stretching through Northern South Africa, Zimbabwe, Western Mozambique, into Zambia and Tanzania. The park itself is gorgeous, including desert, savannah, jungle, and forest landscapes that provide home to countless animals that would eat or stomp you if you got out of your car.

Knowing that Kruger was likely their last game-viewing opportunity for a long time, Andy and Kate drove around the park for an average of 10 hours per day, collecting game-spotting points. Andy came up with a point system that assigned a value to each animal spotted and determined the points total for each day. The points were as follows:

Lions: 20 points each
Total spotted (in 4 days): 5

Hippos: 2 points each
Total spotted: 83 (and they were making a racket!)
More people are killed by hippos in Africa than by any other animal.

Giraffes: 2 points each
Total spotted: 118 (including a giraffe that was scratching himself on a tree)

Nice birds (such as this Yellow Hornbill): 1 point each
Other birds that we could identify: Ground Hornbills, Fish Eagles, Lilac-Breasted Rollers, and Bee Eaters 14

Elephants: 3 points each
Total spotted: 121!

We saw a group of over 20 elephants two different times, including several baby elephants (too cute for words)

African Wild Dogs (highly endangered): 4 points each
Total spotted: 2

Herds of African Buffalo: 6 points per herd
Total herds spotted: 11

Antelope herd: 1 point per herd
Total spotted: 25
Impalas are everywhere, so they didn’t count for points, but Kate thought that they should be included if they were doing funny things, like these two.

Troops of baboons: 2 points per troop
Total spotted: 11
No extra points for the baby, but it’s pretty cute.

Crocodiles: 2 points each
Total spotted: 7

Rhinos - White Rhino: 3 points each
Black Rhino: 10 points each
Total spotted: 20 (all White Rhinos)

Hyenas: 3 points each
Total spotted: 8 (strangely, every hyena that we saw was with babies, the so-ugly-that-they’re-cute kind)

Zebra herds: 1 point per herd
Total spotted: 26
Zebras and Wildebeest like to hang out together.

Wildebeest herds: 1 point per herd
Total spotted: 8 herds and 18 individuals.
When the leader of the wildebeest herd gets old, the herd throws him out and he has to go live with the zebras or the impalas. It’s sad and funny.

Another funny-and-sad spotting was the dung beetle, who makes big balls of rhino poo and then pushes it along the road.

No points, but lots of giggles.

All in all, we had a great time at the park, which is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Park administrators are working on opening the borders between the countries that share the park so that wildlife may move over 1000 miles without fences. It’s an incredible conservation effort, and one that brings an impressive amount of well-needed tourist money into the countries that host the park.