|Capt. Brad Philipps|
To my right, the first shafts of daylight spread across the bush as the sun climbed above the Lebombo Mountains. A slope-shouldered hyena shuffled toward his lair after an active night. It was February in South Africa, and the summer heat enveloped the Lowveld’s vast tabletop flatness, which stretches all the way from those mountains to the Mozambican Indian Ocean.
|Make sure you take the extra time to go on safari while in South Africa; you never know what you will run into... (Phillip Kuypers)|
Unexpectedly, a most impressive sight greeted me as I rounded a sharp corner, on the road northward toward Punda Maria camp, in Kruger National Park. A massive bull elephant strode purposely in my direction. Veteran bushrangers will advise you, under normal circumstances, to pull over and switch off the ignition. They assure you that 90 percent of the time, the animal will pass without incident.
However, the dark-brown gooey secretion emanating from the temporal glands of this lone bull triggered alarm bells in my head. These glands are particularly active in stressed or aggressive animals — bulls in the rut, for example — and should be avoided at all cost!
Therefore, I chose Plan B: I snapped a few photos and did a hasty U-turn. I maintained a constant distance with Jumbo in my rearview mirror and was feeling comfortable until I read the fine print: “Caution. Objects in mirror are closer than they appear!” Our tight caravan continued for approximately two miles as he maintained his pace down the middle of the road.
A sense of relief finally came over me as I spotted him sauntering off into the dense mopani scrub. I executed another U-turn, and as my heartbeat dropped back down to normal, my thoughts drifted toward big-game fishing in South Africa and its similarities to big-game viewing. Both begin very early in the day, and both can end with a rush of adrenaline and fond memories.