The Ngala reserve is a little different than Londolozi. Ngala is a private reserve, but the majority of the territory they explore on game drives consists of land in the Kruger National Park on which they have exclusive traversing rights. It's rather a large area, so on each drive we started out by driving down the length of the private reserve and out into the park portion. Another difference is that there are fewer roads and tracks, so it becomes harder to track the animals. Kruger maintains the roads but doesn't want them making new ones. The area also has less water than Londolozi. The Timbavati river only runs seasonally through the reserve. There are several dams that have created ponds so the animals have water sources, which also attracts and keeps the animals in the area. However, in general, it seemed drier.
Our first evening we saw buffalo, zebra, and another leopard. Jimmy spotted her by the side of the road in the full dark and we followed her into the bush by spotlight and watched her scent-marking her territory. It was lovely to see zebra as we hadn't seen any yet. And there were lots of buffalo– bachelor herds of older bulls and large herds of cows and calves. Ngala has wonderful birds as well and we saw many including the Bateleur, African Fish-eagle, Double-banded Sandgrouse, Magpie Shrike, African Bee-eater, and the Red-crested Korhaan a bird that does a dramatic display of falling from the sky and pulling out of its “death spiral” at the last minute with a swoop. I guess this behavior is supposed to impress the ladies! We also saw Marula trees, the fruit of which is used to make a liqueur similar to Baily's. We had this in our coffee at our morning tea and snack stop on game drives. Quite yummy!
Bernard, though young, turned out to be a very enthusiastic and knowledgeable ranger. We really enjoyed exchanging stories and conversing over the 4 nights and 8 game drives we spent there. He hails from Pretoria, South Africa and clearly has an immense love and respect for the bush. He is particularly good at birding and so we enjoyed learning about a lot of the birds in the area. Jimmy, our tracker, was also very talented. He has been tracking for eleven years and has a keen eye and a quiet way. He spotted an African Wild Cat in the dark one evening and a Spotted Eagle-owl as well. This cat is the one to whom most house cats are likely the most closely related. It looks a lot like a slightly large house cat and is not often seen. Jimmy and Bernard together went off in the bush once to track down a male lion and were successful. We felt very fortunate to have such a fantastic team guiding us on safari, but more than that, we really enjoyed their company.
Another thing we were fortunate in is that we ended up having a virtually private safari vehicle for most of the time. This was the luck of the draw really. The Germans we met the first night had some unfortunate medical complications which took them away, and the German couple who joined us the following evening were leaving in the morning. We had one other delightful companion on one evening drive, a man named Devern, also from Pretoria. So for 5 out of 8 game drives we had the vehicle to ourselves. In fact, on one morning, I skipped the game drive because I wasn't feeling well, so Michael had a private tour all by himself! This is not the norm and we saw other vehicles with 6 and even 7 people. That isn't too bad, but what a treat it was to have such flexibility and a relaxed atmosphere with just us and our Ranger/Tracker team.
Here are some photos of the wonderful things we saw at Ngala including a pride of lions with cubs, a lovely leopard siting in a tree, a large male rhino, hippos, and beautiful African sunsets. There were so many things we saw that I can't recount them all. I think we saw 5 different leopards while we were there, but there were also lots of impala, zebra, birds, buffalo and so many other things.