Yesterday evening was the first drive I have taken out in around two weeks as Jon Jon and Justine have been doing all of the safari drives lately. Not having a lot of information about where and when last the animals had been seen, I set out for a bumble to see what was around on our large game reserve.
As Murphy would have it the drive started out really quiet with me discussing some of the pretty birds we have in the area and giving our two new arrivals, Richard and Tiffany a better feel of their new surroundings. As time went by we saw a nice group of giraffes, loads of warthogs, zebra, wildebeest and a huge Kudu Bull. We also bumped into Impala, Waterbuck and a few Nyala.
So by my standards a pretty average drive, we needed something great we needed something cool, we needed one of the Big 5.
I decided to head off in the direction I thought we might bump into a few Rhinos. After checking one or two of the bigger dams in hope that after the scorching hot day there might just be one of the horned goliaths taking a leisurely wallow. With no luck and light becoming worse it was time to look for a place where we could watch the sunset and hop out the car for a leg stretch, of course then everything happened. En route to our decided Sundowner spot we slowed down to view a heard of Gnu racing across the road in front of us, when just to our right stood a massive White Rhino cow and her eighteen month old male calf concealed behind a few Gwarri bushes. Not a great sighting of them as we couldn’t really get descent photos but one of the big 5 none the less. The sighting was fairly short lived, so off we went again on track towards our sundowner.
Coming out onto one of the main roads it came to my attention that the lions had been there the morning before and had headed in the direction of where I had planned to stop for drinks. A brief explanation and indicating to the guests that we were on the right track, we proceeded down the cutline. The lion tracks disappeared from the road into the bush, blowing my enthusiasm down the drain once again.
Pulling up on one of the dam walls we spotted three Hippos enjoying the last bit of sunlight. A brief look around before getting out the car I spotted a lion lying under a bush staring at us. Wow, this safari drive was turning into something decent after all. We spent a short time viewing the lion then decided to leave them and go for a quick break.
Getting back into the car I switched on the spot light and shone it around a bit to find we had been joined by a Spotted Eagle Owl which we had not seen come in and land in a tall tree close by.
Heading back toward the dam wall where we had left the lions we found that there were actually five of them, all scattered around in the bushes not far from where we had left them. We spent a bit of time with them moving the car into different position making it possible for Richard and Tiffany to get descent shots of the five Lions.
A storm was brewing so we decided to make our way back to camp a little earlier, leaving the lions we headed in the direction of home. A short time later in the road a pair of eyes was lit up by the spotlight. I was not sure what it was so inched forward to see if we could get a closer look at the animal standing in front of us. Upon closer inspection I informed the clients that I thought it was a Hyena and moved closer for a better look and some pictures. The animal then turned revealing to me that it was in fact a Brown Hyena and not a Spotted Hyena. Spotted Hyenas are more dominant than Brown Hyenas so usually they are not found in the same area. I had never seen one before and although the sighting of it was not fantastic, it was easy to identify and make this the highlight of the game drive (and also a personal one!)
Quinton Chick - Lodge Manager and Guide
On Moditlo we are lucky enough to play host to the increasingly endangered wild dogs and last week was an awesome week for sightings with these amazing animals. The first encounter was at one of the bigger dams on the property. As we drove up to the dam, we saw something dashing up the dam wall, at first we were all unsure but as we got a bit closer we realised it was one of the dogs. Lately we have been seeing two males and one female together so we pulled in closer to see if we could get a glimpse of all of them. When the dam was clearly in sight we could see two of the dogs, and even better they seemed to be chasing a female kudu. The kudu was looking very bewildered and was running out of options as the dogs were behind her, there was lots of shrubbery in front of her and the dam was closing her escape route to the side.
I couldn't believe this incredible sight and thought we were going to see something very, very few people get to see, a wild dog kill. The guests were obviously thinking along the same lines as one of them started repeating "Run kudu go!". The kudu moved a few steps forward and seemed to be planning her escape but then the dogs stopped, they seemed to loose all interest in the kudu and stood looking at the water seemingly interested in something else. The kudu was frozen with fear and kept her eyes focused forward as the dogs slowly backed off and ran back up the dam wall, I was still hoping to see some action and secretly wished the dogs were retreating to try again from a different angle. Although wild dogs are the most successful predators in Africa, a large female kudu poses a challenge to the small framed animals when they are unable to rely on the rest of the pack to help them.
By this time the third dog had also made an appearance but he had previously been injured and wasn't able to keep up and actively hunt with the other two. The movement of the other two dogs up the dam wall sent both a big, beautiful nyala bull and a small agile duiker running in opposite directions across the wall. The kudu, still frozen in fear, looked on as the dogs trotted across the rest of the wall and came over to the open patch next to the water where we were parked. First the injured male arrived and lay down, he was soon joined by the other two. All three of the dogs could not have been more than 20 meters away, lying down peacefully. This was not the extreme sighting I had expected when we first realised we had spotted the dogs chasing a kudu, but it was still amazing as we got to see their interaction with and the effect of their presence on other animals. It was also an awesome opportunity for us to all see the pack nature of the dogs and the care they give to all members of their pack. Even though one of the dogs was injured the other two do not leave it behind and if they had been successful with a kill he would have been provided for.
The last thing I had expected was for the dogs to come closer and lie down right in front of us. The scene was beautiful with the sun setting over the mountains, the tell tale shape of hippo faces just breaking the surface of the water, slighting obscuring the reflection of the clouds and three sleeping wild dogs. This was a safari outing that our guests won't be forgetting any time soon!
Justine Brown - Guide
Wow, the week has a been a fantastic one on the Rhino front, with us and our clients seeing Rhinos on every drive for nine drives running. We were able to see eleven different individuals ranging from a thirteen month old calf to a giant Bull weighing in at approximately two and half tons.
Within the different sightings there were a few interesting safari experiences including a very up close and personal mock charge as well as seeing two sub adult bulls being confronted by the big guy. Usually Male Rhinos would not tolerate any other males in their territories but because the two younger chaps were showing submissive behaviour, he let them off with a half-hearted snort.
Other sightings included jackals, kudus, a porcupine, giraffes, eagles, owls amongst others ...