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!
There are really two types of private game reserves in South Africa.
There is on one hand something more akin to a "zoo", where the main focus is on wildlife that most visitors want to tick off on their bucket list, and then move on.
And then there are nature sanctuaries, where the focus lies on nature and not on the tourist as a primal point of focus. And that actually, in my eyes, means a much more sophisticated, richer and many times more real experience for our guests. And our reserve, I am proud to say, is definitely one of those. This is a place for real safari connoisseurs.
The thing is, if you have too many lions on your reserve, then it will negatively impact the numbers of many other rare and beautiful species (such as wild dogs, cheetahs, and many other predators), as lions will push them out. It is all about the right balance!
It is this careful and wise wildlife management (and mostly just letting nature taking its own course) that has led to the sort of wildlife scope and depth that is truly inspiring. It is hard to find a reserve where you have a good chance to see all cats, including the rarest of all, the cheetah, as you do here. And if you want to see Wild Dogs, well, you might look for them for a lifetime and never see one. But here we see them almost every week, and for a true nature conservationist, that's a shockingly high rate of sightings. There are only 2000 specimen left in this world, on the entire African continent, which is larger than North America, Latin America and Europe COMBINED! So you can imagine. I'd prefer to look for the proverbial needle in the haystack instead, to be honest. But here, you get the opportunity to see and witness these super rare animals in their natural habitat, roaming around freely, and living their lives. And after having seen them den and raise pups several times successfully on our reserve over the last years, we are now proud to say that this reserve is one of the key sanctuaries which will, hopefully, lead to the long-term survival of this most interesting and intriguing specie. Wild dogs need perfect nature conditions: space, prey, disease-free environment (no Tb!), and a good bush density and availability to help them hunt. They get it all here, and that means that this reserve has succeeded where all too many reserves fail: true nature conservation.
Our ranger and guests saw the Wild Dogs again yesterday, here some of the best photos taken. It doesn't get any more up-close. Well done, what a sighting!
Dung beetles are extraordinary insects. There are thousands of sub-species, but they all share one feature: they live on dung. And sometimes it is a LOT of dung. Some dung beetles have been observed to bury up to 250 times their own weight worth of dung in one day. Impressive.They play a pivotal role in nature, most definitely.
They are also smart. They are the only known animals to use the Milky Way to orient themselves.
The "rollers" roll dung balls, for either food storage, or as a brooding ball. The eggs are laid into the dung, and buried. I very often see the male rolling a large dung ball, with the female just sitting on top, doing nothing. Charming. Not all males are lazy!
Dung beetles might not be the sort of animals one is interested in, but our guests always love seeing them on our safaris, busy rolling around dung, and cleaning up nature. Everything gets recycled in nature, to the very last amount of energy it might contain, before it goes back to soil and the whole cycle starts all over again. Solar energy is what is fueling the whole system, all the time. It's worth a thought ...
We had a very good safari yesterday, both in the morning and the afternoon. We saw so many different animals.
When we left the lodge we saw some Helmeted Guinea Fowl on the Lodge track. Approaching Nyala road we spotted a White Backed Vulture in one of the Marula trees, before it was joined by a Cape Glossy Starling.
We then headed towards Leadwood in search of some Rhino for the guests (I only publish the "rearside" for security reasons) we tracked and found a White Rhino. On our journey there we spotted some Giraffe just chilling as well as a group of Dwarf Mongoose, we managed to get a nice shot of them. A Dark Chanting Goshawk and a Slender Mongoose! Very cool.
After sundowner we went to the Hyena den and saw the Spotted Hyena. Amazing sighting!
In the morning we tracked the Lions, they didn’t move too far from the Wildebeest Kill from yesterday, they were very lazy as it was overcast and a bit cool that day. So they were sleeping most of the time we were there. We spent about 45 minutes just watching them nap.
The Jackal Den is a great find – it is also near Cotton Fields and the little Jackal pup is venturing further and further away from the den. He seems very content with us and posed for some great photos. We spent a long time just watching him explore, and the guests loved it!
Overall some great 2 safari game drives, with a wide variety of sightings, and of highest quality. Just the way we love it.
I am not sure why, but somehow I feel compelled to show all these photos of the many recent sightings of jackals. I suspect it is pure coincidence. Themba and Uyai have managed some really good shots of them recently (they got a new camera!), and that's probably why. In any case, this blog will NOT turn into a jackals only blog, that much I can promise.
As I wrote in my last blog story, nature is making a massive comeback, and we have now had our first rain. That's great news! The risk of bush fires will now diminish, and that's always a relief.
It is also the time of pups, litters and offsprings, and jackals are no exception.
They were seen on False Thorn plains – they were very relaxed and our guests managed to get some perfect photos. The little one was hiding out in the burrow. They usually make use of old Aardvark and Warthog burrows to hide their young. Eventually the pup ventured out of the burrow to take a peak at the beautiful world he will live in. Adorable. But judge for yourselves! Maybe that's why I couldn't resist.
I usually only publish stories about our wildlife sightings, but that's actually a mistake. Our reserve is one of the most stunning there is in the whole of South Africa. Not only because of nature, and the many lakes it has, but also because it is right next to the imposing Drakensberg mountain range. When you visit here, you get the best of both worlds: the famous Drakensberg, and one of the best safari experiences. Not bad.
The dry season lasts from June to September, and, if one looks at rain statistics, one will see that rain is supremely rare in those months indeed. I have personally never witnessed rain at that time of year. Maybe a few drops, but not proper rain.
This is a hard time for wildlife. The landscape's vegetation thins out, turns brown, then everything takes on a grey-ish and yellow-ish tone. This is great for wildlife sightings, as visibility is much better (less foliage means less sight hindrance), and photos are much sharper due to the low air humidity levels, but for animals, this is a time of survival.
As October kicks off, nature gets ready for the upcoming "wet" season. Green shoots are to be seen everywhere, and lots of game has their offspring: Impala, Kudu, Nyala, Wildebeest ... this is a fascinating time for our guests (and us)!
Here a photo of a baby Nyala we saw 2 days ago:
Of course this is also a time of danger for the mothers-to-be, and for the newborn. 3 weeks ago, we witnessed lions feasting on a baby giraffe that we saw the day before with her mother, just hours old. A very, very short life, sadly!
We also spotted the lions yesterday munching away on a pregnant wildebeest. These are tough sightings, but this is nature, and it takes its course, no matter what. Here on our reserve, you get to see wildlife unfold in front of your eyes, and that's what a real safari is all about!
... Jackals are known to be ruthlessly opportunistic, and sneakily steal what isn't theirs.
Well, that is true to a large extent.
At around 14:00 yesterday afternoon, a Cheetah made an impala kill near the main bridge on the way to the main Gate. Paul was driving back to the lodge with guests when they spotted it. When Craig got to the scene, the jackals and vultures had chased the cheetah away, and were enjoying, literally, a free lunch. Nice.
The cheetah nearby was clearly disgusted, but hey, it could be worse. Think of the impala! A very bad day indeed for that one ...
I know, this sounds a bit like a British pub, but that's what our guests saw yesterday, amongst many other animals and nature curiosities of course.
Somehow (I curse a cheap marketer 4 decades ago), a lot of guests seem obsessed about "Big 5", but only rarely can anyone actually name all constituents of the "Big 5". Fact is, Big 5 is a term invented by hunters, so for today's conservation-based safaris, it has no meaning whatsoever, yet many tourist marketers keep on pushing the term, as if it was the all that counts. But it counts for quite little actually.
Point in case is a fact that the giraffe is NOT part of the Big 5", but it is much bigger (and certainly taller) than most within that Big 5 group. And it is also one of the favorite animals our guests see, and they never cease to amaze. It is their sheer size, ancestral shape, and ultimately elegant way of moving that makes these animals both as African and as unique as it gets. There is most certainly no animal like a giraffe to be found anywhere else in the world.
It is one thing to see them on TV, but when a 4-5m towering giraffe is standing next to the game driver, it is an utmostly impressive animal.
We have several hundreds of them on our reserve, so our guests see them quasi every day. Sometimes you see them as loners, and sometimes in a ... journey (that's what a group of giraffes is called). Socially they form lose bands, changing groups all the time, and going from solitary to social and back again all the time, with quasi no social bonds to be observed.
Yesterday closed with one of the most stunning sunsets imaginable, the kind that you only seen here in South Africa. It makes on ponder life ...
It doesn't have to be a lion kill, or a leopard kill. Chad and his guests witnessed a live kill of a jackal on a Guinea fowl right in front of them yesterday. The jackal was slowly approaching the bird, and leapt onto it, and it was his within seconds. Animal kills are usually very fast events, in fact it only takes fractions of a moment most of the times.
Many think that jackals are pure scavengers. Far from it! They are very good hunters, and a lot of small prey is on their menu.
Enjoy the photos (for those with weak stomachs, please stop here and return to the main blog menu!)
It is quite rare, and sadly so, that we truly connect with animals in a way that we see that we really are ourselves just animals. We may be smart animals, extremely smart actually (but not quite smart enough to stop destroying most of the world around us, the world we live in ourselves, go figure), but there are animals that are much closer to us, so close that it is absolutely impossible to not see the link between us and nature, and to remind us of our origins, even if they are millions of year ago. And that is always moving, and also humbling.
A baboon mother caring for her little one is one of these kind of sightings. If you don't see the human in that ...