While most safari guests say they are most interested in the Big 5, the fact though is that most are not 100% sure who the 5 Big 5 animals actually are. I always test this by asking the question, and I almost never get a 100% correct answer.
Fact also is that one of the most memorable moments for most of our guests is an up-close cheetah sighting, and of those we have MANY! Mind that the cheetah is just extremely rare, and literally right on the brink of extinction in the wild. Only about 3000 specimen are estimated to be left in the wild, and only 300 of them in South Africa. So this IS the cherry on top-kind of sighting, to be sure.
We have several cheetahs on our reserve, and in particular 2 brothers (they were born on the reserve). They are very relaxed, and, due to having seen game drivers very early onwards in their lives, they don't mind being seen from very close. We can show you these rarest and most beautiful of all cats from literally a few yards away, right in the wild. We sometimes even walk close to them, which is one of the most spectacular experiences our guests mention to me when they get back from the drive. And rightfully so ... to be out in Africa, right in the bush, and have the privilege to spot and observe one of the rarest animals on earth ... that's all worth the flight and travel from far afield!
Here a cheetah sighting, very fresh, happened yesterday.
We tracked and found the Cheetah Brothers in an area we call "Anaboom Camp". We spent quite a while with them – around 45 minutes to an hour maybe. They were VERY relaxed and posed beautifully for the cameras. Very photogenic Cheetah indeed. See for yourselves!
I know, I know .... I shouldn't write two blog stories about the same animal in a row.
But I really love lions, and quite frankly, who doesn't? And those who don't, well, that's usually because they haven't see any yet (time to change that and come and visit here for the safari of a lifetime).
This morning Mike was determined to find the Lions for some of our guests. Uyai was not in as he is completing his First Aid course – so Mike was tracking and driving, after spending the whole morning determinedly tracking he found them!! The whole pride, they were just relaxing under some shrubbery. The male's eye is MUCH better (he got stung by bees very recently)
We spent around 40 minutes with the Lions and took some great photos! I love the shot of the lion's paw. That's how close you get to them here (well, not quite, a zoom was used of course).
The thing about lions is that it is quasi impossible to guess on photos how immense they really are. But they are huge! A male lion can weigh in excess of 250kg, so about 3 times the weight of a fully grown man. Just imagine ... and if you find that hard to believe, book your safari here, and come and see one of these cats up-close. You'll never forget it, and that's guaranteed.
Yesterday afternoon we had a rather quiet safari drive at first, and we saw mainly plains game like Giraffe, Kudu and wildebeest. On our way back to the lodge however, we heard the male lion roaring so we investigated and found him chilling very near the lodge. We spent around 20 minutes just watching him. And he gave us a very nice performance! Our guests loved observing this most African of all animals, and the King of them all, the lion!
This one is one of the largest I have ever seen, and he is just beautiful, And he seems to know it. Judge for yourselves
Quasi all days out on safari on our reserve are really fun and interesting, and one sees all sorts of game all the time, and we spot 1-2 of the Big5 every day as well. But some days just somehow stand out, and yesterday was one of those days.
First our ranger found a magnificent bull elephant, roaming the reserve on his own, happily munching away at the (now) lush vegetation, he was visibly enjoying it. Our guests really enjoyed getting such an amazing up-close sighting of one of the very largest mammals (in fact the largest on land) on earth. Great photos, great memories.
Such an outstanding sighting alone is worth a day's safari, of course, but the evening safari had a sweet dessert prepared for our guests: an amazing up-close leopard sighting, and this was a VERY relaxed leopard. Uyai also managed some very nice footage.
Enough said, here the shots. Fantastic!
And here the video! Well done.
One of the things I do every morning is check our Tripadvisor account, to see if any comments have been left. We have had a good run as of late, with 36 5-star reviews in a row. This obviously reflects the many improvements over recent months, and our incredibly good sightings, we well as excellent food and of course one of the most stunning nature surroundings in the world. This morning I saw that we got our 200th review! That's a huge milestone. Of all lodges in the Hoedspruit area (83 that is!), we are the lodge with the most reviews, and that is something we are very proud of. Many thanks to all the guests who took the time and effort to rate us and share their experience with the many future guests of ours. We really appreciate and value that!
Next month is December, and that will be the 5th anniversary of the Vuyani Safari Lodge. We opened our doors in December 2009, and noone imagined it taking off the way it has. But we have now become one of the top 10 rated safari lodges in South Africa, and we intend to keep it that way. Please keep on reviewing us!
Here some photos of our lodge.
I admit it, I take huge interest in bird wildlife, and I regret very often that I don't write more about the truly incredible spectrum of bird species that call our reserve their home. Over 400 species! Amazing.
Uyai took a spectacular photo of a particularly pretty little bird this week: the Little Bee Eater.
While this is a uniquely beautiful bird, it is not rare. It is very common in the sub-Saharan region actually. There have been estimates of between 60-80 million little Bee Eaters in the wild in Africa. They breed usually in bush nature, usually near water. Bee-eaters predominantly eat insects, especially bees (hence the name), wasps and hornets, which are caught in the air by sorties from an open perch. They often hunt from low perches, maybe only a metre high, or even less. Before eating its meal, a bee-eater removes the sting by repeatedly hitting the insect on a hard surface. Clever!
I must take my hat off for this amazing photo. Amazing! Best is to click on the photo below, and a high res copy will open up. Enjoy!
We spotted our pride of lions yesterday, right after a successful kill. Well, a happy day for lions is just a crummy day for someone else, and that day it was a wildebeest's. It's just that way sometimes. Sometimes the bear eats you. Just that that day it was a lion, which doesn't make any difference to the wildebeest at all. Game over, literally.
The two female lions were busy dragging the kill under some bushes to hide it away from the Vultures. We spent quite some time with the Lions and the kill, around 45 minutes. We came back later that day, and the lions were still busy working their way through the carcass. Happy days!
It's a gruesome sight, fair enough, but nonetheless, it's still a sight to be seen. In fact, most of our guests love seeing nature at its purest (and crudest) form, and that's what an African safari is also about. If you are keen to see and witness the true cycle of life, then there is no better way to do so than here.
I usually don't like posting about our rhino sightings, because rhinos are so endangered, and so threatened (not ours in particular, but all rhinos in general).
Our anti-poaching protection units are very vigilant though, and as you can see, they have been de-horned (which we do very regularly), so this makes them totally worthless to poachers. This is a sad fact these days, but given that (Chinese) buyers have pushed rhino horn prices so high that rhino horn is now, on a per gram basis, worth more than gold, and gold isn't particularly cheap these days, there isn't any other choice.
So here a couple of beautiful pictures that Uyai took during this sighting, just amazing, just a couple of days ago.
See below also a video, showing a male ... well, let's call it defecating for lack of a better word, and spreading the dump around. This is a territory-marking behavior, and rhino males are VERY territorial indeed. They are known to fight for territories to the death, and young rhino bulls with their mums are in great danger, so mother rhinos keep their male little ones away from them, to keep them from harm's way. Nature is not for the weak, that's for sure. Both sightings happened the same day, so this was an amazing rhino day.
On the photos they seem to be of "cow-like" size, but trust me, these animals are absolutely massive. They weigh as much as a pickup truck! So you can imagine their size. A rhino in the wild is a sight to be seen! It has everyone's jaws dropping.
Christiane and Gilbert, who are sadly leaving the lodge today after a week's stay, have had a grand time at the lodge. It has been a long list of daily sightings for them, one more spectacular than the next. They come to the lodge every 2 years, and as they are happy to share their many photos with me (the full safari report is to follow shortly by the way), it really shows me how far we have come over recent years. The fact that there are 4 game drivers out there on the reserve has had a massively positive impact on sightings quality and quantity, and with 4 game drivers, we still have a very quiet reserve. On a reserve of this size (36,000 acres!), one could easily operate over 20 game drivers, so with 4, we are as exclusive as it gets. But the added intelligence in the bush that we gain by having all 4 rangers communicate to each other, ensures a steady stream of wildlife sightings that is second to none, and that's also because we have so much of the rarest African animals on our reserve. We are truly blessed.
Here a couple of shots of the two cheetah brothers, drinking at a waterhole. The photos were taken 2 days ago, by Gilbert, whose camera skills are clearly showing. A moment of African wildlife beauty to behold!
There are certain shots of wildlife on our reserve, which require no comment at all. They are so typically African that they seem iconic at once.
Uyai managed to pull this off yesterday, when we found the elephant herd. What a majestic sight!
The little baby elephant has also grown a little bit and has settled well into his elephant life. Still very cute and super inquisitive. And all the females have obvious fun and joy looking after him. Raising little monster elephants is quite a social thing for elephants, and everyone is involved. Elephants are one of the rare species where aunts and friends help and support a mother in labor, and it is very moving to see the close family relationships within an elephant herd.
So here Uyai's 3 shots. Well done! It's the sort of close-up sighting that is well worth traveling around half the world for.
If you click on the photo, you can see the high quality version of it!