WOODLANDS WATERHOLE

The Woodlands Waterhole is very close to the Main Camp in the Addo Elephant National Park. While it is not very big, it is always worth slowing down when approaching it for more often than not there is something interesting to see. We watched an encounter between a buffalo that had been wallowing in the muddy pool and an elephant arriving for a drink.

A warthog took advantage of a quiet moment to slake its thirst.

An elephant family took over the waterhole for a while.

Once they had ambled off, a herd of zebra that had been waiting patiently in the wings arrived for their share of the water.

This and other waterholes are artificial watering points within the park – all greatly sought after during this long drought.

THE DISTINCTIVE ZEBRA

There is no doubt that zebra are photogenic – I have a great number of photographs of them – for they are strikingly beautiful animals. I am particularly fascinated by the patterns on their faces as one can tell from these that, even though they might ‘all look the same’, there are indeed unique features about them. Zebra are often described as having patterns similar to our fingerprints; that no two zebra are exactly alike. I commented on a blog the other day that apparently the stripes on either side of a zebra are different. This is an observation I have read about but, as we usually only see one side of a zebra at a time, it is difficult to verify. Hunting through my collection, I came across a photograph of this zebra drinking at the Domkrag waterhole in the Addo Elephant National Park – an opportunity to see one from above.

The more I look at these two photographs, the more I appreciate how similar the stripe pattern is on both sides – until you actually follow the pattern closely. We seldom get the opportunity to do just that when we see zebra in the wild.

Zebras are distinctive. Their stripe patterns are an indication of just how distinctive they are – each one slightly different from the other.

TIRED ZEBRA

There were hundreds of elephants congregated around the Hapoor waterhole in the Addo Elephant National Park – and I mean hundreds! Some were standing around in groups while others splashed and cavorted in the (by now) muddy water. Other groups of elephants were either arriving or departing, yet halted to greet others in the way that elephants do. Whatever their activities, elephants are wonderfully interesting creatures to watch and the parking area along the waterhole was crammed with vehicles – there was hardly space for a late comer to park.  On the opposite side of the road – attracting little if any attention – was a tired young zebra.

The sun was baking down as it looked around from its prone position. The noise of the elephants, the vehicles and the people might perhaps have become a little too much to bear.

It allowed the heat, the buzzing background noises and the comfort of the sand to get to him – and flopped down for a rest!

HEIMWEE FOR THE ADDO ELEPHANT NATIONAL PARK

We have been in lock-down for ninety-five days already – despite having moved to Level Three (‘advanced’ Level Three nogal!) that allows more businesses to open, we still cannot visit family and friends nor can we cross provincial borders without a permit – and you require a very good reason to get one of those. National Parks are now open for day visitors, yet the above-mentioned restrictions make visiting the Kruger National Park out of the question. In the spirit of the photograph below, I will look back to share some of the delights of the Addo Elephant National Park which we hope to visit again before much longer.

Naturally, one goes to the Addo Elephant National Park to see elephants – they seldom disappoint. We have seen herds of over a hundred individuals congregating around the Hapoor waterhole; been surprised by single elephants right next to the road; and have enjoyed watching small groups – such as the one these two are part of – at the Domkrag waterhole. Here we are able to get out of our vehicle and look down at these magnificent animals as they go about their daily life.

You might be fortunate enough to come across a Secretary Bird striding through the grasslands.  They occur singly and in pairs – it is always worth scanning the veld to see if you can spot another one.

Zebras grace the landscape in Addo – they might occur in small groups or in much larger ones that stretch across the side of a grassy slope. They are always a delight to observe.

I am always pleased to come across the large Mountain tortoises that lumber through the grass or patiently cross rocky areas. This one was taking advantage of a puddle in the road after rain.

Then there are the beautiful Cape Glossy Starlings that brighten the landscape.

By keeping an eye open for more than just animals, you get to enjoy some of the many butterflies too.

ZEBRAS – ICONIC ANIMALS

I never tire of seeing zebras for their distinctive black-and-white striped patterns place them among the iconic animals in large parts of Africa. The stripe pattern of individual zebra is unique and is not even the same on both sides of the same animal.

Zebras need to drink water often. These ones are approaching a waterhole in the Addo Elephant National Park. Note the wires overhead designed to keep elephants away from this particular water point to give other animals better opportunities to drink.

Because they are mainly grazers, we tend to see zebra in herds on the grassy plains – often in the company of wildebeest. Their teeth are able to both grind and crop grasses, which means they can eat coarser grass than the wildebeest do, for example. While they are social animals and give the impression of being peaceful animals, they do nip each other from time to time.

This dusty looking zebra stood in the road next to us in the Pilanesberg National Park – during my last visit to such a place before the arrival COVID-19 confined us all to barracks! Its nose might have become discoloured from having been rubbed against a damp termite mound, of which there were some nearby. The vehicle I was in is reflected in its eye.

They are often seen in the company of wildebeest – both animals eat different types of grasses and share protection against possible predators: zebra have good eyesight, while the wildebeest have a well-developed sense of smell as well as hearing. Zebra are photogenic animals, this pair being a fine example of how different they can be.