I remember the first safari Jesse ever led at Vuyani. He managed to spot the very mysterious lion pride that had been evading the rest of the Vuyani crew for quite some time.
On his first Kruger Park trip he successfully located the Big 5 before lunch! Thus he was nicknamed “The Lucky One”. My first ever blog I wrote for Vuyani Safari Lodge consisted of just that, Jesse and his “Luck”. Now if you had read that first blog, you would know how he hates it when I call him “Lucky” he is completely assured that it is all skill. I would have to say that about 80% of it is skill and the other 20% is most definitely LUCK! (Although I like to give him a hard time some days and I know he will be reading this)
Jesse had been literally obsessed with locating Leopard on Moditlo Reserve. He had almost made this his sole mission in life. Day after day all of the staff at the lodge listened as he told the stories of tracking with such enthusiasm that all of us felt we were physically there on the same quest.
He had many ‘close’ encounters, he worked area after area, and one day came across a fresh kill. He walked around the area neurotically to find the smallest sign of Leopard activity. He analyzed every shred of evidence. At one point he started resembling Horatio Cane from CSI: Miami. Ever patient this went on for weeks.
Some evenings I felt cheerless that he had once again been foiled by the ever elusive cat. And many a day I encouraged, listened and understandingly nodded. I know how disheartening it can be to put all your hope and effort into something only to be disappointed day after day.
Many changes have recently taken place at Vuyani Safari Lodge, and with change often it can either go really splendidly or rather scantily. Well, it seems in our circumstances things absolutely turned into one of the most incredible adventures that we could ever have dreamed of.
Jesse had found his leopard! One evening on drive his ear caught a familiar sound, the sound of a herd of Impala sounding warning. Now, when you spend as much time in the bush as the safari guides do, you immediately pick up on this, your whole body tenses. Your sixth sense comes into play and you develop this indescribable excitement! I would say about ninety percent of the time that this happens, you can be assured that something out of the ordinary is about to happen!
Jesse decided that he was going to do just this. He turned off his vehicle, sitting in the dark with the guests, listening to the alarm calls growing louder and more intense. As he shone the spotlight around the vehicle he caught a shiny glimpse, and right there in the riverbed she made her first debut. A strikingly beautiful female Leopard named Bella. The ideal name for this mystifying creature, Bella walked right up to the Safari Vehicle and lay down in the road; she turned on her back and gave Jesse a little knowing look, assuring him that he had deserved this sighting, and that she respected his efforts. This is one of the most rewarding moments in a guide’s life. For those couple of minutes nothing else in the world is of any importance. It is just you and the beast. And I am almost certain Jesse returned the respectful nod.
I did not have a radio on during drive, so when Jesse returned I was oblivious as to the goings-on. But something in Jesse’s eyes gave it away, and I immediately asked what he had seen. With the biggest smile that a human can possibly manage he only said one word: Leopard. I was ecstatic! This was the best news I had gotten in a long time. The guests were thrilled and of course there are no words to describe Jesse’s feelings. I am so extremely proud of Jesse for his efforts, and that he was so very determined. In the end this paid off and Jesse had found his Bella.
That evening myself and the Guides sat on the porch of our house, taking in the night sounds and just winding down after a day. It was pitch black sky, iridescent stars scattered in a million places. Somewhere in the distance a Black Backed Jackal making itself heard. Someone broke the silence and said: “Jess, you are the man!” and thundering laughter broke out accompanied by many slaps on the back... This makes me think of a quote that I read not too long ago about change...
“We are the change we have been waiting for.”
Yesterday morning we were sitting outside just having a cup of coffee and I saw the most remarkable thing.
In our garden we have wild aloes growing which are flowering at the moment. They make the most beautiful red flowers and it is a pleasant splash of red to contrast with the brown colors of winter.
As we were sitting discussing the flowers and what they mean to our ecosystem a small little green bird flew down from the tree and landed on the flowers. I asked what kind of bird it was and what its role is.
It was explained to me that it was a Sunbird and like bees it helps with the pollination of plants. They are tiny little birds only averaging 13.5 cm and they only weigh about 11 g. Even though they are so small they mean a great lot to our eco-system.
They feed mainly on small insect and pollen. They are fast flyers and move so quickly that you really have to pay attention to them to notice all their colorings. They will land on a plant and take up the nectar and fly off and digest it, then come back to the same plant and repeat the process again.
The male has beautiful coloring, of purple, green and red. They actually “shine” when the sun is on them. The female is dull in coloring, she is brown and white, she will have brown streaks on her bell and has a brown head.
They are mostly found in woodland areas and in gardens, where there will be flowers. The males have the bright colors so that they can attract a female with which they will mate with for life. They also build small pear- shaped nests that are often "stolen" by Klaas’s Cuckoos. The Cuckoo will actually lay its eggs in that nest and the Sunbird will raise it as its own.
We have almost 400 different species of birds, some tiny, so amongst the very largest in the world, but they are what actually makes African safaris fascinating for safari connoisseurs as well as photography buffs.