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 ...
We see our pride of lions very regularly, at least 3 times a week, and sometimes every day for days on end. And seeing them is most definitely a highlight for our guests! The guys are sending through photos of our lions very regularly, but then sometimes some sightings are just that bit more iconic. I am not sure what it is, but I suppose it is the demeanor of the pride, the position, the lighting, and then of course the context. Chad and his guests managed some amazing shots of one of those outstanding African nature moments.
The pride of Lion were spotted at Diep Dam. We tracked them from Leopards Bend cutline, and found them lying on the lake wall edge. They were mostly sleeping and we sat with them for about 20 minutes. Our guests managed some really exciting photos of them. But see below, and judge for yourselves!
Rosemarie stayed with us a couple of weeks ago, and they absolutely loved it here. They were also super fortunate to see one of the very rarest animals on the planet: a Black Rhino! Our conservation efforts here on this reserve are paying off, and that makes us very proud.
Here Rosemarie's impression of her stay here with us:
"Our holiday with you was everything I wanted it to be and exceeded any expectations I may have had. I will go to tripadvisor and post a comment. I see Gary and Ali already have. I would like to re-iterate everything they said too. I have been away here and there since we got back. Things have started to get a little settled now, thank goodness.
Anyway, I have attached the picture of the charging Black Rhino I took on the last morning drive we had. It was a pretty spectacular last morning I must say - a traffic jam of an elephant herd in the first 5 minutes; walking towards the Cheetahs, coming across the Lion on his own sitting in the path; and last of the stand off with the Black Rhino. He took one look at Themba, and decided perhaps not!!! It was spectacular. Poor Ali had her camera on video, but upside down, so missed the lot....... She also ended up in Themba's lap convinced that he was going to get her. He was pretty thrilled to see it as I understand he hasn't been spotted for a while. Hopefully you will be able to copy and paste to use it for your website if you wish."
Many thanks to Rosemarie for sending in this amazing shot, and giving us the opportunity to share this gem of a picture!
By the end of September one can start feeling that spring time is upon us ... and both trees and plants, in hopes of the rains coming soon, start showing first green shots here and there. By October all of nature greens up, and the entire ecosystem gets ready to go into over-drive: Mating, eating, hunting, rearing offspring, the busy season is upon us!
Justine took some nice shots of some giraffes near the lodge, as well as a very happy-looking elephant in the Southern portion of the reserve. We had been tracking him for quite some time, and finally when we found him, he was sitting happily in the thick bush, munching away at some green leaves.
Elephants eat 22 hours out of 24 hours, and some eat up to 500kg of food per day! Elephants have to eat this insane quantity as they have an inefficient digestive system, and, given their several tons of body weight, they are forced to spend their entire lives eating. Lucky them! But then again, it is just leaves and tree barks. And they get quasi no sleep! That's no so nice, if you think about it.