We have had huge rainfalls over recent days. This is rare, as we are already late in the rainy season, but there we go. We had over 100mm of rain in one night alone this week, which is a massive amount, given that we get about 700mm on average per year.
As a result the perennial rivers have swollen massively, and some parts in the area are flooded. This has also reduced massively the amount of the reserve we can show guests, as some rivers and muddy grounds make safaris there impossible and unsafe.
That said, we saw a lot of birds today, which is always great to see, as well as giraffes zebras and wildebeest, so a very decent day for a wet day. Cats also don't like rain, so they hide away and wait until it's all over. No different to humans, really.
The weather has now improved, and if it holds, usual safaris on the entire reserve will soon resume. Fingers crossed!
See below a picture of the wild river as Justine photographed it this morning. Spectacular! It is just at the bottom of the lodge's ground, our guests can walk over and watch the river.
Jesse, Uyai and Jay-Dee were all out to find some interesting game (they often do that before game drives) yesterday and luck would have it that they found our cheetahs again. It is the same two young males (they are brothers) that we see quite regularly. They are very used to the presence of game drivers, and they don't mind. It appears that the mother has passed on the knowledge that game drivers present no danger (which is true!), and as a result the cheetah sightings we have here are very much up-close and spectacular. There are not many reserves in South Africa where one can observe cheetahs in this manner, in their wild habitat. Especially as only a few thousand specimen are estimated to still live in the wild, so it is a huge privilege to observe them doing so well here.
The two were in a dry riverbed, one of their favorite spots, grooming each other and resting. They seemed very well fed, so they are still very successful hunters. They even took down an impala right in front of one of our chalets a few months back (see earlier story here: http://www.vuyanilodge.com/safariblog/sometimes-the-unthinkable-happens/ ), so they know what they are doing.
Cheetahs born and raised in captivity often do not acquire hunting skills, and are hence hard to re-introduce to the wild, but these two were born and raised by their mother in the wild on our reserve, without any human interference at all, so they are very skilled hunters, and know their way around.
Our guests truly enjoyed this beautiful sighting, and I am happy to share some photos of this animal that many consider as one of the most elegant and beautiful in the world. And as one of the rarest and most endangered, sadly enough.
After several days of observing our lions failing at various kill attempts, they were lucky finally. They took down a wildebeest overnight, and when we found them this morning, they were busy feeding on the carcass. Their bellies were huge, so they had been busy for a little while. We saw the lions being acutely hungry over the last couple of days, and they were constantly looking for hunting opportunities. Well, they struck it rich last night, this will do for a day or two!
Our guests loved seeing the lions close-up, enjoying their morning breakfast, and relaxing after a successful night.
Many thanks to Uyai for the nice photos. What a sighting, well done!
And then this morning, finally ....
Gerdine just sent through the many photos that Uyai took yesterday. They saw a leopard in the evening drive, at about half past 7. He was sitting right in the middle of an area we call the "Cotton Fields" and he was really relaxed, sitting there for several minutes observing the guests and showing himself in his full beauty and glory. I bet our guests took the most amazing shots, Uyai's photo gives a good idea of the beautiful sighting. In recent weeks we have seen leopards more regularly, and I think this is down to several factors. One is that there seem to be just more of them around, and the other is that we have with two game drivers out there much better (and more) intelligence. The side effect of that is also that more and more of them are getting used to the presence of game drivers, and so as a result they show themselves. We see this with the cheetahs as well, who are now completely relaxed around game drivers. Over the years they will pass on this behavior to their offspring, so we will see further improvement from an excellent base already.
Dozens of other species were seen on both game drives, such as giraffes with their cute offspring ...
... curious little mongoose ...
... lots of wildebeest (also called "gnus") with calves (they are in light brown color) ...
... beautiful herd of zebras ...
... the famous marabou stork (also called the undertaker bird, for obvious reasons) ...
.... and again a jackal close-up ...
... as well as nyala. This one has its back and mane hair staying up, to make himself look bigger. This is a means to impress an invading male competitor, and see him off. If he doesn't leave, then fighting ensues. Like almost all antelopes, nyala herds usually consist of females and one dominant male who has to defend his herd by any means.
They also saw a very cute-looking monkey, they never fail to cause laughs with their curiosity and funny behaviors. I even caught one once sitting on one of our upper deck sofas, having a nap and looking very happy. Well, these are comfortable sofas! Hilarious.
The photos that Uyai took yesterday, as far as I can remember, might well constitute a record. I do not recall so many different animals being seen in one single day! I know that the quality and volume of sightings has been increasing steadily over recent months and years, but it is nonetheless shocking to see how much, and how consistent the quality and quantity is of sightings. Of course every reserve has its speciality: on some leopards are very prevelant, on others it is elephants and on others it is lions. We see lions now 3-4 times per week, so if you are staying 5 nights then it is quasi impossible to not having seen them at least once or twice, unless you are extremely unlucky. I don't remember anyone this year staying 5 nights and not having seen lions for instance. We find cheetahs very often, and that's a rarity: there are only a few hundred of them out there in the wild in South Africa (a country twice as large as France, so that puts it into perspective). But as the photos below show, some days are just spectacular, and as my recent blog posts indicate: there is something exciting seen literally every day. Here at the Vuyani Safari Lodge, no day is like the next, and every day is special in its own right. Yesterday we saw lions, elephants, a chameleon, warthogs, giraffes, zebras, hippos, monkeys, tsetsebies, and that's just some of what was seen.
Many thanks to Uyai for the beautiful photos!
One of the young lionesses seems to have had a bit of a tiff with the older lioness, but she has a small (but healing) wound on her shoulder. Well, they are fine now again, family spats happen, also within lion prides.
It is rare enough to see a giraffe lying down, but then also next to a zebra. Fantastic sighting!
We do see the lions very often on our reserve. They are not shy or bothered when we find them, they know they rule here.
It is rare though to see them in such a pristine spot, so relaxed and unfussed, after a successful night of hunting and eating. Uyai really captured the lions' spirits, and a shared moment of togetherness of the entire pride. Our guests really enjoyed this sighting, which is as iconic as it gets. This is first price when one goes on an African safari!
Enjoy the photos!
Uyai took over the duty of taking photo footage of all our game drives a few days ago. Uyai is our tracker, and so as such this was a very new world for him. Well, I can say that for a "novice" in the field of photography, he seems to have some seriously natural talent. Some of the shots I see capture the animals in more typical ways than I could have imagined. But then again he has been tracker for close to two decades, so he is in sync with nature like not many in this field in South Africa. He knew this reserve inside out long before the Vuyani Safari Lodge was even built.
See below some of the best shots he has sent through. Some of them were taken on the morning safari, some on the evening safari, such as the ones with the chameleon and also the one with the owl. Great sighting by the way! Many of our guests assume that it is all about Big5, but soon discover that while they know what an owl looks like, they have never actually seen one in the wild. Well, here you stand a very good chance to do so.
The elephants were seen on the morning game drive. They crossed the dirt road right in front of our guests (the second vehicle is seen in the back ground), and rested for a while in front of us, giving us plenty of excellent photo opportunities. Yesterday was a great safari day indeed! Many thanks to Uyai for capturing so much of it, and making it possible to share it with our many fans.
Yesterday's morning game drive was very busy, to say the least!
Uyani and Jay-Dee found the lions, east of the "Big Dam", in the Maruti wilderness area of the reserve. They were busy hunting, but not successfully. Hungry day ahead of them.
The cheetahs, however, had been much more successful! They had made a kill near the Zandspruit riverbed, and they were napping away while digesting the big meal. The photos Uyai has taken are some of the best cheetah photos I have ever seen! Well done! You can see how full their bellies are. Cheetahs can be very greedy indeed, and they better be. Sometimes they go days without food.
I have said it before, and the regular cheetah sightings on our reserve confirm it: if you want to stand a good chance to witness some of the best close-up sightings of cheetahs in the wild, then there is no better place than here. It takes a bit of luck, but we find them very regularly now, and it is a privilege every single time. In my opinion, with the leopard, they are the prettiest cats in the world. Judge for yourselves!
Uyai and Jay-Dee also managed to find baboons playing in the riverbed. It is always funny to observe their very human-like behavior.
A leopard tortoise was also seen. When they are out, it means that rain will come soon. I always thought this was a myth, but I checked it myseld: it is true! They quasi never miss forecasting the rain accurately. When we see them around, we start taking all sun umbrellas in, because it's coming in. You can count on that!
... all of them seen within 24 hours. It doesn't get much better than that.
I finally got the photos through of these sightings a few days ago. The lionesses were found eating away on a very recent wildebeest kill. Of course this is quite the gory spectacle, but it led to lots of excitement with our guests. To witness lions in such a manner is a privilege, and very special indeed.
Jay-Dee also found the rhinos in a dry riverbed, which is a little unusual, so that made for some pretty photo opportunities for everyone. Nice to see them so relaxed around us that one even stays down in the riverbed. What beautiful animals, and what a treat to see them do so well on their home reserve.
The highlight of that day was the sighting of two spotted hyenas. They have become rare, but there are quite a few now on our reserve. This is the first sighting in a long while, so hopefully we will be able to work out their routines in order to spot them more often. They may not be the prettiest of animals, but from an ecologist's and conservationist's point of view this is more than very exciting. They play a crucial role in the ecosystem and they are very social animals, so they are interesting to observe and study.
I also just got in today's sightings photos: very nice! I am looking forward to publishing them tomorrow here on our very own safari blog. With so many excellent sightings on a daily basis I can barely keep up with the blog, to be honest.
I have been absent from the safari blog for a few days. But not because we haven't seen much, quite the opposite actually. We have had very regular and stunning close-up sightings from all of Africa's famous, and less famous, game.
I have been very busy the last few days on many bookings for our lodge, which is the result of so many excellent reviews we are lucky to be receiving as of late. Well, actually we have always received mostly excellent reviews for the last 5 years, but it seems that the word is getting around that when it comes to affordable, yet top quality African safaris, noone beats us in South Africa. And we are proud of that! We want to enable as many people as only possible to come and visit this fantastic country, with some of the world's most stunning animals. And so some amazing animals one can see on our huge 36,000 acre private game reserve!
Uyai, our tracker, took these photos yesterday of a curious Jackal, seen on the cut-line to an area called "Leopard's Bent", which is located more or less in the middle of the reserve. He was very relaxed, and posed for some beautiful shots up-close, while he was observing us observing him.
As we continued, the lions were found, having taken a liking at this area for the time being too. They were relaxing and napping at one of the many ponds that are now completely full already, as we have had some regular rainfall as of late. The lions were very relaxed and they were more than happy to let us take some amazing shots. Two of the young lionesses, they are sisters, were fooling around, as they are very close to each other. Happy lion family, what a joy!
We had some stunning hyena sightings about three days ago, and I am still chasing the photo footage. As soon as I receive them, I will post them here. It was spotted hyenas, which are very rare, so the joy amongst the rangers and tracker was immense!