Jon-Jon departed on the afternoon Safari as normal. Some of our guests were not back yet, they had left after breakfast to do the Panorama Route. Jon-Jon's drive was progressing nicely, exploring the game reserve to see what animals could be found. Justine was on standby to do a link-out to Jon-Jon once the guests returned from their Panorama Route trip.
Jon-Jon had not been out for long before our guests returned and Justine left to link them out to Jon-Jon. They had just come across some giraffe looking very intently into the bush. Now giraffes can be a very useful ally in bush, they often give away the position of predators. So Jon-Jon was quite right to assume that there was something out there. It unfortunately doesn't always work out that we get to see what the giraffe sees.
At this point Justine was close and Jon-Jon decided to go and collect the guests at the pre-arranged meeting point
Once everyone was on board, off they went again in search of whatever the giraffe was looking at. They had only gone about a 100 metres from where the giraffe was when one of our guests spotted a leopard (youngish female), lying in the top of a leadwood tree. Needless to say everyone was ecstatic, spotting a leopard is fabulous and very special. However spotting one up a tree is even more amazing, even though the archetypal picture is of a leopard up a tree they spend most of their time on the ground. So seeing her up a tree was a real treat. After being able to spend a good 45 minutes with the leopard Jon-Jon and the guests left the spot with huge smiles on their faces, off to go and enjoy another one of Africa's marvellous sunsets.
It's not only about the big, well known animals in Africa, there are
some lesser known ones that are worthy of a fair share of attention.
Impala and warthogs are a guide's go to animals if the drive is quiet.
They are the kinds of animals you can rely on, the animals you see
every day, everywhere. When nobody else is out and about you can spend
some time with these two. They are the source of myths and the butt of
jokes. They can be the kind of animals that are overlooked but if
everyone else is hiding you can count on them to show up and they
deliver when it comes to entertainment and interest. Everyone has,
pretty much, seen impala and warthog within 30 minutes of starting
their safari holidays at the Vuyani Safari Lodge. But people never
seem to tire of them.
The warthogs inevitably provide more entertainment value while the
Impala provide the interest. At the moment the warthog sows are young
of about 3 months so a warthog sighting usually gets the following
reaction "Ah, they are so cute!” Which to be honest they really are,
Anything small gets that kind of reaction but the hoglets are
particularly cute with their bally's attitudes and their blonde manes.
But as soon as everyone reaches for their cameras and tries to capture
that cuteness, the affectionately named "bush rockets" dash away into
the long grass, in single file with mom up front and tails raised.
This raised tail is a source of one of the cons guides like to con
their guests and entertain themselves with. People always notice the
warthog’s tails up because when they run away their tails are always
up and not just slightly raised but completely up, at a right angle
to the backs. So why are the tails up in this manner? Well, warthogs
have extremely tight skin and when they run through the grass they
need to close their eyes so that the grass seeds don't bother them.
Due to the extremely tight skin, when they close their eyes the skin
pulls tighter and thus their tails pop up. Luckily, a side effect of
this is that it allows the little ones to keep track of mom as she
races through the grass.
But these guys and girls are not considered cute by everyone and have
the honour of being included as one of the five ugliest animals in the
African bush. They also have a pretty bad-ass reputation of being very
brave and extremely tough. Looking down a warthog burrow has been
likened to looking down the barrel of a loaded gun. The pace at which
they come bulleting out of the burrow can inflict some serious damage.
This is part of their appeal and adds an element of danger to each
Warthogs always prove popular with young and old, first time guests or
people who have lived in the bush their whole lives. A firm favourite
with everyone which is good because they are everywhere, everyday.
The moments I love the most are the peaceful, the calm and the quiet moments when the animals don't know or don't mind that you are there. This can be tricky to achieve with a loud vehicle filled with excited guests on a safari holiday but I have been lucky enough to do a fair amount of tracking lately.
Recently when we were on the morning safari drive we noticed a lot of white rhino activity; territorial scrapings, fresh dung added to middens and a lot of fresh tracks along the road. We followed the tracks in the road for some time until we came to a river crossing, we could see where they had crossed so we headed across the river and picked up their tracks on the opposite bank. Soon after crossing the river, the tracks led off into the bush, we quickly grabbed radios and off we went following the tracks on foot.
The tracks were very fresh so we made haste as we were trying to step quietly and keep not only our eyes open but all of our sense alert. In parts the tracking was relatively easy, we could clearly see where the bushes and dew had been disturbed but in parts it was more difficult with this area being very popular with rhinos and there been a lot of tracks of varying ages.
Walking through the bush gives you such a different perspective and the opportunity to get really close to the smaller things you wouldn't necessarily notice from the car. While we were on the rhino trail we were also lucky enough to come across some impala and a little further on some water buck. That really got my heart rate going as at first I did not see them but could only hear something crashing through the bushes. After a couple of deep breathes and a few steps further we spotted the rhinos we were looking for. They were a mother and calf, feeding merrily, it was awesome to watch them relaxed and calm. Although we couldn't see them clearly, they were not far and the feeling from seeing animals on foot is so much more exciting than from the vehicle. You can see the finer details and you can even smell them and totally appreciate the real, enormous size of the animals. We watched them and tried to co-ordinate for the vehicle to get a visual but sadly the animals spooked and dashed in the thicker bush further from the road. We decided to leave it at that, deciding to try again on the later drive and as luck would have it that afternoon they came across four rhinos lying in the road.
Although the sighting from the vehicle was amazing, from a ranger's perspective, I wouldn't trade the reward of finding and viewing these incredible animals on foot.
Junior Ranger at the Vuyani Safari Lodge
This morning we had the oppurtunity to see a fairly uncommon Eurasian Hobby Falcon on our Morning safari drive . Very Cool.
The Hobby is a Paleartic Migrant which only visits South Africa from October through to April. They unfortunately do not breed in South Africa.
They feed mostly on flying insects, small birds as well as the faster flying birds such as Swifts and Swallows. Bats also make a up a part of their diet.
As with most Raptors ( birds of prey ) the female is larger than the male. They reach a length of around 32cm and only weigh in at around 215g.
A first time sighting for myself!
Quinton Chick - Lodge Manager and Guide
Been here just under a month and have settled in nicely. I have started taking guests on safari game drives and every day brings something new and exciting. One recent experience definitely stands out. We headed out on the evening drive and made our way south from camp, thinking we would pick up on elephants as they prefer the thick vegetation in the south of the game reserve.
Not long into the drive we picked up fresh signs that the elephant had been around (fresh broken branches, tracks, dung etc.). We circled a block we thought they were in but it seemed they were not going to come out. Quinton decided to head in on foot to see if he could get a visual while I carried on circling the block. Not long after Quinton radioed in that he had spotted them and the ellies were moving east towards a main road. I circled the block one more time in a definite quicker lap time but still no sighting.
I collected Quinton and decided to circle one last time. We noticed that they had already crossed the two track so we backed up and headed towards a main road. They were definitely making us work for a sighting. As we travelled down the road fresh signs were clearly visible on the road and I had the feeling an encounter was around the corner. Low and behold a couple of corners later a big bull in must (heightened testosterone levels) was waiting for us in the road. By the high decibels behind me I know the guests were just as excited as me. I stopped the vehicle to see what he was going to do.
The bull approached to about 5 meters straight ahead with ears out trying to intimidate this foreign thing in front of him. He slowly moved off the road so I made my way forward only for him to come back into the road and do the same thing. Once again he moved off the road so I made my way past with some speed, but he was having none of it so he gave chase with a huge trumpet. Stopped the vehicle and he circled around us and stood atop a termite mound breaking bushes and digging his tusks into the ground, so I turned the vehicle to face him and revved the engine. All of this took place 5 to 10 meters away so my heart and the guests hearts were beating a “little” quicker than usual. He finally realized we were not going to be intimidated so he moved off into an open area and we could finally leave the sighting. I have to be honest that I checked the side mirrors more than once to make sure he was not following us back to camp. This was by far the best elephant sighting I’ve ever had and the first up close and personal experience I’ve had so far. All guests really enjoyed it and the experience would be a talking point for the next couple of days with loads of question asked. Encounters such as these are worth the entire safari holiday trip.
So for now that’s been a real highlight that sticks out and I am looking forward to many more!