A common, but never dull sighting in Kruger National Park were the numerous turtles that used hippopotami as their basking platforms. With the hippos tired out from eating all night long they mostly rested in the water during the day, which gave the opportunistic turtles a perfect platform to grab some rays. Surprisingly, the notoriously cranky hippos didn’t seem to mind the reptilian free-loaders!
The extreme example of this was this dynamic duo. Not wanting to go back into the murky water, the turtle was determined to hang on while the hippo went for a stroll along the shore. I figured at some point it would either get scared and crawl off, or it would fall. However, I underestimated the determination of the turtle, who hung on and continued basking on the hippo’s back while being paraded around the watering hole! Always something new and interesting to see when watching wildlife.
After stopping at a camp to stock up on supplies we had a look at the wildlife sighting map. Each camp has a map of the surrounding area that people can mark down the various high profile wildlife sightings (elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard, cheetah and wild dog) for that day and the day before. We were both hoping to see wild dog, but we would really have to be lucky to spot them as they are very rare in the park. Someone had posted on the board that they had seen wild dog in the area and so we headed off to try our luck. While we didn’t see any wild dog we did come across a lot of other wildlife including a large herd of elephants playing in a waterhole (photos to come), zebra and of course impala. However, with most wildlife drives I usually see something unique and unexpected, which is what these three photos illustrate.
We came down a steep section of the gravel road and had to drive across a section of road that had been flooded by a small pond adjacent to the road. As we approached the flooded road I spotted a turtle, then another and another. They appeared to have spotted us and had no fear of our car. As our tires touched the water they started walking more quickly towards the car. Soon over 10 were ‘running’ towards the car. To get these photos I put my wide angle lens on, opened the door, held my camera just above the water and tried to center a turtle in the middle of the frame so that the camera would automatically focus on it. Thankfully it worked and I managed to get several photos from their perspective. It wasn’t until I got home that I figured out that these are Serrated Hinged Terrapin (Pelusios sinuatus), a relatively common terrapin found from East Africa down to South Africa. Apparently they are naturally quiet bold as a found several photos of them perched on top of hippos! I suspect these ones associate cars with free handouts as they were way too friendly.
This terrapin seemed to pose for me but I suspect he was just annoyed that I was not giving him any food! Most of the other terrapin had moved back into the deeper water at this point but any time we moved the car forward they would all come racing back up.
By this point we had managed to cross the water to the other side of the pond but not without being followed by one of the terrapins. The females in this species are generally larger than the males and so I think this was a curious female terrapin. She walked right up to my lens before deciding to return to the safety of the pond and we quickly left before anymore decided to come up for another visit.