Always one to take into consideration exactly what the travelers hope to see during their stay at Kirkman’s Kamp, Gareth had caught wind that hyenas were high on mine and my husband's lists. Our fascination stems from the fact that these amazing creatures aren’t canine nor feline; rather they are a species all unto themselves. We found it equally fascinating that giraffes weren’t related to either antelope (ungulates) nor horses, even though they have hooves and facial shape look relatively similar to both. Africa is a world of anomalies and we couldn’t imagine a continent more eclectic or fascinating.
En route to a hyena den, Gareth told us that there were cubs living in this particular den (yes you heard that right!) Suddenly, our tracker and Gareth exclaimed with excitement and pulled the vehicle aside. Through the trees west the rear end of a rhino trotting through the bush, but not just any rhino. This was a black rhino, one of 2,500 left in the wild. Anytime you see a guide that does this job every single day get filled with this amount of excitement, you know it’s something special. We checked that one off our list of animals to see and hurried along to the hyena den.
We came around a corner to a gathering of rocky outcroppings when we saw two sets of big brown eyes peeking out at us from behind a small boulder. Although they looked like a pair of the cutest puppies you’ve ever seen, these were actually baby sister hyenas who were as curious about us as we were about them. It only took a second for them to warm up to us though and the wrestling ensued shortly thereafter. Chasing each other in and out of bushes, over and under rocks and everything in between, these were literally two of the most adorable creatures you could imagine. Nipping each others tails, baring their teeth while they rolled around and peaking over their shoulders at the safari vehicle just often enough to remind them they had an audience, our list of animals to see was officially complete (well not really, but this at the top of our list). We watched with grins for 15 minutes before departing the den. A few hundred yards up the road, we noticed a hyena laying down in the morning sunshine with what appeared to be a smile on it’s face. This turned out to be the mother of the pair of cubs and what it represented of parenthood and getting a moment of solitude from the little ones made everyone in the vehicle laugh.
Just as soon as we were getting used to Kirkman’s Kamp, it was off to Dulini Lodge, an hour drive through the vast expanse of Greater Kruger National Park. It was hard to say goodbye to Katie, Gareth, Sam and the rest of the Kirkman’s Kamp, but our transport driver was as pleasant and on-time as ever and we were excited for the next chapter of our journey.
With just a single night at Dulini Lodge, our guides wanted to make the most out of it for us. Although we couldn’t complain about the plethora of wildlife we had viewed thus far, we had one other species high on our list: wild dogs. We knew wild dogs were rare but not nearly to the extent of there being less than 5,000 left in the wild. Not long after departing Dulini Lodge for the evening drive, our tracker and guide were quickly on a set of wild dog tracks (how they do it, we don’t know!) and we were off zipping through reserve after them. After catching a glimpse of a merle-colored canine bounding through the bush, we knew we were close. As we came around the corner to a massive termite mound, it was almost on command that one of the dogs climbed to the top of the pile, scanning the horizon. As we stared in awe, four to five other dogs gathered around the base of the mound, each doing their own part in sniffing out the evening's dinner. Just when we thought a morning filled with hyena cubs couldn’t be topped, Dulini delivered this one of a kind experience that we will never forget.