The Addo Elephant National Park is dry: not just brown and dry – in places it looks desiccated dry.
Some Schotia brachypetala, plumbago, verbena and pelargoniums make a brave show of their blooms in the swirling dust.
From a distance too some of the grassland areas look potentially attractive for grazers until one sees the bare patches from close up.
The only vestiges of green show where there has been some water run-off from the road. Even some of the waterholes, such as Rooidam, are virtually dry.
A small herd of zebras were the first animals we encountered. Photogenic creatures that they are, they formed the subject of several photographs before we moved on. Little did we realise then that we would see hundreds more before the day was over!
Zebras are so beautiful to look at and they turned out in full splendour, giving us the opportunity to observe – from close quarters – the variations in the patterns of their stripes. Some are broad and bold, while others are paler and thinner. Some stripes are well defined all over the zebras’ bodies, while on other animals the stripes peter out to almost nothing.
It seemed to be ‘necking’ season for all over we came across zebras resting their heads on each other as if in a show of affection.
A number of foals were evident too. Their furry appearance a stark contrast to the sleekness of their elders. Zebras won the day for their dominance in the veld.
Warthogs came a close second. Family groups could be seen from far away, close to the road, in the sun, or resting from the 28°C heat in the shade.
Although we were told of a large herd of elephants at Hapoor waterhole, we saw only single ones. One elephant walked resolutely towards our car, almost brushing past it within touching distance.
Another interrupted a buffalo enjoying a mudbath. The latter got to its feet and moved away very smartly then stood and watched from a discreet distance as if to say, “What did you do that for?”
A few kudu were visible in the bush. The bulls appeared to be skittish, however, and moved into cover upon the arrival of any passing traffic.
It was a treat being able to watch a black-backed jackal drink her fill from a waterhole, taking her time before trotting off purposefully as if she had a mission to fulfil.Other animals we saw were a suricate, eland and hartebeest.
Ghwarrie dam is always a favourite place to visit and, although there were no animals other than warthogs this time, there were terrapins galore as well as South African Shelducks and Blacksmith Plovers.
Both Grey- and Blackheaded Herons showed their willingness to be photographed by standing close to the road, their eyes intent on a possible meal.
A gusty wind sprang up in the afternoon, showering us with dust and fine grit. Clouds were starting to gather and it was, sadly, time to leave. The last animals to be spotted at Domkrag? Zebras, of course!
The arid conditions together with the wind and dust are not ideal for birding. I nonetheless saw the following:
Cape Turtle Dove
Greater Doublecollared Sunbird
Pale Chanting Goshawk
South African Shelduck