For our last morning in Africa we went for one last session of birding. The temperature was the coldest we've experienced yet (-4°C) and there was a heavy frost, turning all the surrounding fields crisp white. We didn't see many birds, they weren't as silly as us, but we did get much closer views of a pair of Grey Crowned-Crane.
We stopped off for a quick look at the river, hoping to spot a kingfisher, and while we had no luck with the birds we did manage to add a final mammal species to our list; Cape Clawless Otter. Two of them bobbed about in the chilly water below us. Seeing my first wild otters was an awesome and unexpected treat for the end of this trip.
Back to the guest house for our final African breakfast, followed by a three-hour drive to Durban to catch our flights home.
Safari! An epic tick off the bucket list.
For me, a big part of this trip was adding animal species to my life lists. So I guess the question is; how did I go? Well, I ended up with 365 birds for South Africa (including Cape Town). 345 of those were new for my world life list. My Australian life list is 355, so it turns out that I have now seen more African birds than Aussie ones! My world life list is now at 791, so my next goal is tracking down 9 more Aussie lifers to crack the 800 mark.
As for reptiles, I added 10 to my life list, ranging from the tiny, elusive Setaro's Dwarf Chameleon to Africa's largest freshwater predator, the Nile Crocodile, bringing the list to a grand total of 32.
Africa of course, is renowned for its mammal watching and I added 50 new species to my life list in just 3 weeks, taking it from 59 to 109. Incredible!
Being able to tick species such as African Lion and Blue Wildebeest is so much more than a mark on a piece of paper, it means that I have seen that animal in the wild. I have had to travel to do it, go into unfamiliar environments, put in a real effort to find them. It means I have experienced these amazing creatures in their natural habitat, behaving just like they are supposed to, I will certainly never look at captive rhinos the same way again. For a little while I have been lucky enough to share their world with them.
There were no guarantees (as we found out with Leopard), and the 'thrill of the hunt' so to speak is an incomparable feeling, one I am addicted to, and one that continues to push me in the pursuit of thrilling encounters in awe-inspiring places.