Entering the Kruger Park for the first time can be an overwhelming experience. Even more so if you’ve grown up in the city. Sometimes you might notice certain animal behaviours, but only after a few sightings do you manage to make sense of their actions.
On the second day in the park I started noticing vultures in the tree tops. I was still in awe at the magnificence of Kruger that it took a while for me to comprehend what a vulture’s purpose is and what their behaviour looks like. Often they just sit in a tree and look as if nothing is happening around them. At one occasion, across a dry riverbed, I saw vultures frantically flying up and down from a tree. It was pretty obvious to me that a kill had taken place and they were feeding.
During the rainy days I never saw too many vultures. However, the afternoon after the rains ended, the vultures seemed to be perched in tree tops around every corner. At the time I didn’t understand why I was seeing so many vultures. Would luck have it that there were that many kills around?
After a while what I did notice is that all the vultures sat with their wings spread out, doing absolutely nothing else. This was very puzzling to me. Then eventually it clicked that they must have been drying out their wings after the rain.
The last morning I headed out on an early morning drive. The weather had cleared up all together and a sense of excitement was in the air. Over the last couple of days spent in Kruger, I learned that anything could happen at any given moment. A little patience is needed and seemingly from no bush activity, the most extraordinary scene can unfold right next to your car. You may even be lucky enough to be the only car around.
I drove along the H3 road just outside of Skukuza and what did I come across? Three more vultures sitting in a tree. Having studied vultures over the past few days I immediately scanned the surrounding bush. The bush was about 15 metres away from the road, but rather dense and impenetrable. I decided to pull over close to the vultures and wait and see what might happen.
A minute later one of the vultures darted down from the tree. I knew this meant some sort of action. I still couldn’t see what was happening at ground level. I kept patient. Soon after that I saw something scurry from out of the bush. At first I couldn’t identify what had emerged from the bush. It was a sight I had not expected. The figure revealed itself and it was a large Spotted Hyena. It came zig zagging rather nervously out of the thicket.
To make the above scene even more dramatic, it came out with a massive bone in its mouth! I could hardly contain myself. I tracked the movement of the Spotted Hyena and calculated that there was a good chance it would stop right next to the car. That’s exactly what it did.
It stopped right next to the car and started eating the bone. The Spotted Hyena continuously scanned the immediate environment, being weary of other predators lurking around. It was a gripping sight. What astounded me the most was the ease with which the Spotted Hyena bit through the bone. It seemed as if the bone was made of Marshmallows. Within a few seconds half of the bone had been devoured.
A game vehicle came and parked next to me, but their activity must have startled the Spotted Hyena so it dropped half of the bone and scampered into the bush.
This was without a doubt one of the highlights of my trip. This whole scene, together with all the others in Kruger, shows how quickly and unpredictably things happen in the bush. Whoever would pass by this spot after I left would have no idea of the scene that had just played out. This makes any sighting in Kruger something worth cherishing.