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And then, suddenly, a dark shape emerges from the hazy early morning light.

I am in the Kruger Park, freshly returned from a gorgeous stay at Hoyo Hoyo Safari Lodge and Hamiltons Tented Camp in the 10,000 hectare private Mluwati concession. Hoyo Hoyo was a first for me, and boy was it good! But, more about that later.

Back at Skukza restcamp, I am booked in one of the riverview rondavels and, after staying overnight and having a lovely peaceful evening all by my lonesome self – along with a take away pizza from Kruger Station (which by the way, are one of the best pizzas in the entire country) and a crackling fire – I have just driven out of the main gate. It is shortly after 6 in the morning and, surprised not to see any other vehicles on the road, I drive along to turn left at the 4-way stop towards the river road.

It is late autumn, and the light is still low; the Kruger bushveld is shrouded by that greyish colour that preceeds the very first rays of the upcoming sun. Twighlight.

I am not really looking for any animal in particular; just enjoying the drive. I have pretty much seen everything at Hoyo Hoyo and Hamiltons already; elephants, lions, buffalo, plenty of plains game and the most spectacular leopard sightings. But, as I mentioned, more about that later.

Hyena and cheetah. Those are the only predators I have not yet come across and, since this is my last day in the park before heading back home to Cape Town, I am not holding out much hope.

Gently motoring along, the T-junction is looking up ahead of me. Still no other cars around.

And then, suddenly, a dark shape emerges from the hazy early morning light.

Hyena! On the road! I slam on the brakes and take the lens cap off my camera, fumbling with the settings. I know I am too far and, with low light, any shots I will be taking won’t be very good, but it will still be nice to have a picture.

The hyena is walking along towards the river and then disappears into the bush. Ah, that was nice, I muse, as I lower my camera back onto my lap.

At that exact moment, emerging like ghosts from the bush on my left and exactly parallel from where I have stopped, another two hyenas apppear. I can’t believe it! They are steadily making their way to the road and are now too close for me to be able to photograph with the long lens. Still no other cars around.

They are behind my car now. I turn to look right through the driver’s window, expecting them to reappear as they are walking past. Except, they don’t. I catch a glimpse of one of the hyenas in my left rear-view mirror; he or she seems to be taking an interest in my car. I now snatch my phone; it is the only way I will be able to take any photos since both hyenas are so close.

One of the hyeans is inspecting the left side of my little rented VW Polo and calmly walks along to the front, where the inspection continues. The second hyena has surfaced and is coming up to my left. With the engine stil running, I flip the switch to close both windows up until there is just a smallish gap. And good timing too. Both hyenas are now standing close to my window. My heart begins to beat faster and I am getting a bit nervous. Closer they come, and closer still.

One of them is taking an unusual interest in my rear-view mirror; with trembling hands I snap away, hoping the pictures won’t be too blurred.

While the other hyena is looking on, I am at eye level with the first as he or she opens wide and begins to chew on my rear-view mirror. Enough is enough.

“Hey!’ I shout, realising what those powerful jaws can do. It has, however, no effect. Without thinking to hoot, I roll the car ever so slightly forward, which makes both animals jump a little. Still no other cars around.

And then, as if by silent command, both hyenas abruptly turn and lope away to the right into the bush. Gone.

I drive on, excited, elated, and with some disbelief. At the T-junction I see the first car of that morning driving toward me; I almost want to wave them down and say, “you never guess what just happened ..” But I don’t. The only evidence, apart from the few photos, are the chew marks on the rock-solid rear-view mirror.