Six hours at Carol's Rest water hole in Addo Elephant National Park, South Africa
Always wanted to really spend some serious time at a waterhole in one of the National Game Reserves in Southern Africa, but always in a hurry so I never seemed to get my act together. But at last that changed on Wednesday in the Addo Elephant National Park in the Eastern Cape. Left our tent site at 6h00 when the gates at the main camp opened and then travelled in the semi-darkness the 9km to the chosen waterhole. What I like about this particular waterhole is that you can park your car about 20m from the water providing a really great photo-hide. It also seems to be the only water source in this part of the park and so most, if not all of the animals in this area have to come here sooner or later.
On our arrival we heard the call of a Black-backed Jackal and enjoyed watching two of these animals meeting in the plain just past the waterhole and then make their way into the bush towards the west. Then the Zebras started arriving and soon a couple of herds were drinking from the small waterhole. It was interesting to note how sentries were positioned to watch out for predators as the rest of the herd drank. Now the sun rose in the East and we took some photos with a Pied Crow providing an interesting silhouette as it perched on a dry tree branch.
Then the first herd of Buffalo arrived and soon took possession of the water as if they owned it. Late arriving Zebras were chased away as they carefully (if not fearfully) approached to drink some of the precious life giving liquid. The Warthogs seemed less concerned about the Buffalo threats and one even head-butted the much bigger animal who had tried to chase him away. As Warthogs arrived on a regular basis the Buffalo gave up on them but continued to chase the now more and more frustrated Zebra away. Some Zebra left without drinking, perhaps planning to return later when the Buffalo had left.
A herd of majestic Kudu were grazing on the plain behind the waterhole and seemed to be coming close, perhaps in view of taking a turn when the Buffalo left. We were hoping that the Cheetah that live in this area would make an appearance. A couple of months ago out daughter Heidi had watched two coming to drink here. Unfortunately that was not to be and so after 4hours we reluctantly left to travel back to camp for the breakfast of eggs and tomato on toast that beckoned.
On the way we were delighted to firstly see and photograph a rare Denham’s Bustard and a group of Ostrich. A stop at the well-known and popular Domkrag Dam (one of the places you may get out of your car) provided us with a great view of two big Elephants coming down to drink. The quiet waters of the dam made for an interesting reflection of the enormous beasts in the water. A large selection of water birds entertained us as they preened and fed at and in the water. This included Spurwing and Egyptian Geese, Moorhen, Little Grebe, Red-billed Teal, Yellow-billed and Shell Duck.
We enjoyed the morning visit so much that we decided to repeat the action in the afternoon after a cooling swim in the beautiful swimming pool in the camp. On our way we were thrilled to add two Southern-black Korhaan and a Pale-chanting Goshawk to our bird list that now stood at over 50 for the trip. While the Cheetah still did not make an appearance the change in light provided a variation on the morning photos.
After 2 hours in the late afternoon we returned to the camp vowing to do another day at Carol’s Rest in the future. It proved to be an excellent time to return because as we approached the camp in the late afternoon we came across one of the highlights of a trip to Addo - two huge male Lions were lying right next to the road. Apparently recently some Lions had been imported from the Kalahari in North-West South Africa. The large black manes on these Lion seem to indicate that they may be a pair of these imported Kalahari beasts. The light at this stage was gloomy to say the least. Audrey however managed to get a few good shots with her great “point and shoot” Sony that does an excellent job even in low light conditions.
That evening, as our camp fire burnt bright and we cooked our steaks and toasted our bread over the coals, we knew that we had enjoyed another great day in a South African Game Reserve.
The Addo Elephant Park has become a popular destination for local and overseas visitors because of its location on the edge of the famous Garden Route that extends from nearby Port Elizabeth to Cape Town. It is a Malaria free area and the only National Park that enjoys 5 of the 7 vegetation biomes, more than in any other African conservation area. (National Parks and Nature Reserves- Stuart, pg 150). While Leopard only occur in the North-Western Darlington Dam area and are not often seen, Addo provides birders and animal lovers with some great opportunities to see and photograph many of Africa’s wild life!