Thinking about recent events happening here on the reserve – I immediately thought of the film, The Lion King.
Recently all of us at Vuyani were incredibly thrilled to learn that we have been blessed with new life. Two lion cubs were born on the reserve and this is their story so far: Jacques had tracked the lion for quite some time and his skills had paid off – he found them hiding in the thicket on a very warm and sunny afternoon. Immediately Jacques contacted Quinton (as he is always geared up with his camera) Quinton had managed to get some great shots – as the sun was setting over the Drakensberg and the light had turned into majestic amber.
The following day all the staff huddled around Quinton’s computer to see the photos, immediately Henry said that it seemed like one of the females appeared a little “worn out” like she could have possibly been suckling youngsters. Everybody was instantly keyed up at the prospect of youngsters and the chatter around the coffee table was deafening!
So the tale of Jesse and the lion started. Jesse was convinced that he would track the lion, and he spent nearly a week tirelessly doing so – unfortunately without any luck. Every evening after returning from Safari he looked disappointed, but then set out in the morning even more strong-minded. Well in the end his persistence had paid off!
It was late afternoon and Jesse had decided to take an unknown beaten track that led to some open savannah with sufficient shrub cover – as the lioness would be very protective of her little ones and would try to hide them in the cover as best possible. Jesse had been tracking the ever elusive pride of lion for approximately a week or more. He was absolutely determined to find them, and so he did! Three adult lions fast asleep under the shade of a bush and two very curious little youngsters. What an astonishing moment that must have been!! The guests on the safari at the time, Danny and Kelly were overjoyed; it had also been their last evening safari at Vuyani. Jesse had managed to spend more than an hour with the young pride, getting some nice photos and video footage. Danny and Kelly had said that it was the ultimate moment of their safari in South Africa. Jesse eventually left the pride to their business (which is mostly sleeping) and returned to the lodge to share in the news. Of course all of us at the safari lodge couldn’t stop talking about it, and the first-rate news kept us up until the constellation Orion had long laid his giant head down to rest.
This made me think of the film the Lion King as I mentioned earlier. A specific scene to be exact, Mufasa who is young Simba’s father one day said to him:
“A king's time as ruler rises and falls like the sun. One day, Simba, the sun will set on my time here, and will rise with you as the new king”
Will one of these young cubs one day be our very own Simba – the Lion King?
In my years of guiding there has been many a debate whether tracking animals is a stroke of luck or a skill. I have to add that his was mostly based on Kruger Park Trips.
As on a private reserve one actually does have to possess some tracking skills and most of the time that is all you have to rely on.
But in the Kruger National Park we cannot go off the beaten track, so most of our driving is done on the same roads and pathways that all the guests from all over the world use. Thus approaching the point I am trying to make. I think driving in the Kruger Park is roughly about 10% skill and 90% luck. With luck, I mean being at the place at the right time.
Jesse (newest addition to the Vuyani Team) set out on his first Kruger Park trip last week, accompanied by Kris the resident chef. Bright eyed and bushy tailed the vehicle was prepared, breakfast and lunch packed and cameras and binoculars charged and cleaned. The excited chatter was infectious as everyone was preparing for a thrilling day of game viewing. Wishing them luck we waved them off as they left the Lodge.
The whole day went by in a flash as the rest of us staying behind at the lodge went about our daily routine. We hadn’t heard from our Kruger Crew the whole day and we were starting to get a bit antsy as to what was happening or had happened.
Finally the group returned and we rushed to find out what they had seen. As soon as the doors of the vehicle opened everyone looked very sullen and my heart sank right to the bottom of my shoes. I immediately assumed that it had been one of those days were one sees absolutely NOTHING! (And trust me, those days DO occur every once in a blue moon.)
Gordon (one of our Australian guests) said to me in a very serious voice: “What an absolute waste of time, we had seen nothing, I am extremely disappointed in Jesse and Kris” I did not know what to make of this. I immediately shot Kris and Jesse a look. But both of them just stood there stone faced.
The next minute the whole group erupted with flamboyant and cheerful laughter. They had definitely fooled me! They had seen all of the Big 5 before lunch! I was dumbfounded. Then everyone started to excitedly report back on the day’s events.
The minute they had entered the control gate of the Park (before even paying the Conservation Fee) they had spotted a Leopard (as you might well know, this is one of the most elusive animals in Africa) Mr. Leopard was very calmly strolling down the road as if he had no care in the world. The vehicle had managed to stay with him for about 45 minutes, where he had put on quite a show. Lying down right next to the road (as if actually posing for photographs)
After the Leopard encounter it could not have gone better, Elephant, Rhino, Buffalo and TWO prides of Lion. Now, seeing one pride of Lion is already amazing, even spotting a solitary male is sometimes considered a bonus. But two prides! That is just magnificent. All in all I would call that a successful day.
Returning to what I had earlier said about either having luck or possessing skill. In this case I might call it beginners luck, but I know Jesse would disagree. As he had said to me “it has nothing to do with luck it is all skill” Well, luck or skill – it made for a very exciting and action-packed day in the Kruger Park which has been captured in the memories of each and every individual who had been fortunate enough to be a part of it. And these are the kinds of memories we want our guests to take with and cherish. Every day is a superb one – as long as you are in Africa.
By Justine Ferreira
Two days ago Jacques and Jesse headed out on afternoon safari to see if they could locate the Lions. It was Jesse's first drive here with us and as it was, luck was definitely on his side.
Not too long after leaving the lodge and seeing a great variety of plains game species like Giraffe, Zebra, Wildebeest and Impala Jesse spotted in front of him lion spoors in the road. Great stuff was to be seen!
Shirley, one of our clients, after having a few good looks as not to create false hope excitedly informed everyone that she wasable to see the lions lying not to far from the road behind a short Acacia thicket. Well done Shirley!! Well spotted!
Jacques moved the car into a position where it was suitable for everyone to see the lazy cats. After everyone had gotten a few nice shots of them, Jacques then left the sighting to pursue the elusive Elephants further.
I then moved into the area to see if it would be possible for me to relocate them and get some cool photos to share with all of you. Upon arrival at the location with Yolande and Justine we found that the Lions were not there anymore. My mood immediately changed from excitement to unhappy, but not for long as we heard Wildebeest alarm calls coming from the area to the South of us. It must be the Lions I thought that are disturbing them.
Getting the car back onto the road we steadily made our way around to the Southern side of the block hoping to get at least just a glimpse of them.
The photos that follow will help to put you all in my shoes and enjoy the brilliant visual we were able to have with these majestic felines. Great African safari outing!
Quinton Chick - Vuyani Safari Lodge Manager and Head Ranger
Sorry I have been so quiet for a while. Please don't think we have forgotten about you! I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who follow our Blog posts and for any of the feedback we get.
The last 7 weeks have been pretty hectic. The Vuyani Safari Lodge had been quite busy with loads of Safaris and Excursions heading out from our doors.
We have been having a great time in the bush around camp rediscovering many of the places we have not had access to after the major flooding we had. Almost all of the conservancy is now open again. Sometimes we just have to make a huge detour to get to a desired Sun Downer spot or in the process of tracking Game. But that has made it sometimes al lthe more fun!
I am glad to inform you all that we have not lost any of our lakes due to broken dam walls or continuous over flow. Some of the lakes look very different now, "much bigger".
There is also still a lot of surface water lying around and new watering holes and mud wallows have popped up all over the place, making some wildlife sightings very unexpected. Sometimes we come around a corner to find a sounder of Warthogs taking a leisurely bath in a puddle right in the middle of the road. Always hilarious and unexpected entertainment for an African safari.
On the whole game viewing has been good with us having a couple of great Leopard sightings recently, the Elephant have spent quite a bit of time around the camp enjoying the lush vegetation in the river bed below. The African Wild Dog pack has also brought many a smile to guides and guests faces alike. The puppies are quite big now, almost the size of the adults. Sightings of all the general game as well as pretty interesting nocturnal species has been good. The other night Jacques came a cross a group of 3 White Tailed Mongoose. Fantastic as they are usually only seen alone!
I am looking forward to updating you all soon again!
Quinton Chick - Vuyani Safari Lodge Manager and Head Ranger