Is there hope?

It is not a mistery that wildlife, worldwide, is under immense pressure due to many factors such as climate change, loss of habitat, pollution and many others. Every day it is estimated that 5 species are extinct, many of which were not even discovered in the first place. Cheetahs, on the other hand, count among the world’s most famous and recognised animals, but this seems to not help very much. Many biologists agree that in the long run cheetahs are doomed. Their lifestyle, their need for large nature areas, as well as their value as pets mean that they have become extremely rare. Only 3000-4000 are thought to still live in the wild, with about 400 in South Africa, tops! So when one sees the natural population of cheetahs grow the way it has on our reserve, then it gives me hope that all these experts are wrong, and that there is a long-term future for these cheetahs after all. About 5 years go, there were maybe one or two cheetahs on the reserve, and we had no sightings at all, ever. Now we see cheetahs 3 times a week, on average, and then we spotted this yesterday. Yes … there is hope! And lots and lots of smiles … ! :-D

Mother cheetah with 5 cubs!!
Mother cheetah with 5 cubs!!
... trotting off ...
… trotting off …
Now that's a sighting to behold
Now that’s a sighting to behold
Why so serious?
Why so serious?
A last glance back to us ... everyone was melting
A last glance back to us … everyone was melting

A king’s day

Yesterday was all about lions. We tracked them to a wildebeest kill, unfortunately we had missed it, but as you can see on the photos, only by minutes. When we found them, they had just started eating. And boy, were they feasting!! We sat with them for a long while, while our guests observed this unbelievably unique sighting. The joy to observe these animals in a free environment, doing what they are supposed to do … it’s a true privilige.

Not far from the kill, the usual suspects were waiting for their turn: jackals and vultures. Nothing goes to waste in nature, and everyone gets a bite (or two). Until you become the day’s bite yourself, if you’re not careful for a moment, or just plain unlucky.

Here some really nice photos that Uyai took of the sighting. It doesn’t even begin to reflect the beauty of the actual thing, but it gives you an idea.

myam myam!
myam myam!
How nice .. sharing with the ladies
How nice .. sharing with the ladies
Usual suspect ... a hyena waiting ...
Usual suspect … a hyena waiting …
... and a vulture ... time is in his side!
… and a vulture … time is in his side!

Sunday’s sightings

There is no such thing as “weekends” for nature, the struggle for survival and life is a 24/7 job and activity.

Sunday was therefore for our guests yet another excellent day out on safari (first sunny day after 4 more grey days), with some real quality sightings, and plenty of general game sightings. But be a judge for yourselves …. it gives one a really good idea of the sort of sightings range and quality one can expect here on our reserve when out there with our rangers. You’ll see all of Africa’a rarest and most beautiful … lions, cheetahs, elephants, rhinos, giraffes, zebras, and many, many more …

Nyala
Nyala
Hippos
Hippos
Rhino
Rhino
Stunning view onto the Drakensberg mountain range
Stunning view onto the Drakensberg mountain range
Male Impala
Male Impala
Goshawk
Goshawk

Robert Knight – the full safari report

Robert and Jacqueline had visited the lodge already twice before, so I was very pleased to welcome them for the third time at the lodge. They are very good personal friends of mine, and so I was happy  to hear that they had a wonderful time at the lodge this time again. They let me know that the sightings were even more plentiful and regular than 2 years ago when they stayed the second time, and they think the team now is the best it’s ever been, and to be honest, I know this to be true. The food quality has been improved again, and the guiding & tracking, due to several factors, is making for lots of smiles.

Robert has already sent through his best shots, and here’s a short “best of” selection. All great photos, and this reflects really well what one can see here while on safari. Excellent photo quality also. I love that shot of the monkeys fooling around in the riverbed, just brilliant! Many thanks to Robert for allowing me to share his photos with our many fans and future (& past) guests. If you have your own photos, after staying with us, please do email them in, I am more than happy to publish them on this blog, with full credits.

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Cheetahs at their super rarest

Cheetahs are, due to their natural (and this is sad) rarity, already considered the top of the cream when it comes to safari sightings. Cheetahs are, amongst cats, pretty much at the bottom of the pyramid, so they tend to get pushed out if there are too many large and competing cats, especially lions, sharing their habitat. The balance seems to be right on our reserve, because here they seem to be doing extremely well, and that is cause for celebration. In particular, there are are two brother cheetahs that we see 2-3 times/week, on average, and they are extremely relaxed near humans as they have been exposed to our presence so much over the years.

In any case, we now walk with the cheetahs, which is a supremely unique experience, and I am not aware of any other reserve offering this, for wild cheetahs that is. This is the sort of stuff that you won’t even see on TV. So if you love beautiful cats, then this is the place visit.

Here some shots, taken 2 days ago, of them being observed by our guests, in one of the many dry riverbeds. They love hanging out there, resting from their hunting. Cheetahs are, and this is well-known, the fastest hunters on earth, running top speeds of over 100km/h, pushing the thinkable, and imaginabe, to the very limits. Their muscles are all about explosive power (think fast-twitch muscles only), and so that comes at the expense of stamina, and they also need lots of recovery time.

Sunset over our reserve
Sunset over our reserve
Cheetah brothers up-close ...
Cheetah brothers up-close …
... chilling in the riverbed
… chilling in the riverbed

And yet another exciting (and cute) addition

Earlier this year I reported on a lovely baby elephant addition to our elephant herd, making for a happy elephant mother. This elephant baby has been growing steadily and is doing very well. But just yesterday we spotted yet another new addition, this one probably only a few days old. Our guests saw it all right in front of them … to lots of “Aaaawwss” … and how could one not be moved by such a sighting?

Over the recent years our herd has grown from 9 elephants to almost 20, and it looks like it will now continue growing fast, which is exciting. Elephants are being poached by the thousands again in Africa, for its ivory, and they are on the brink in several African states, curtesy of Chinese and Vietnamese buyers (There are downsides to seeing a developing middle class in both coutries). So it’s great to see that our reserve is such a safe haven for our elephants, and to see that we are doing our bit when it comes to preserving these majestic animals. And that our guests can enjoy some of the best and up-close observations of these animals that are to be had in South Africa in a very exclusive setting.

Roadblock!
Roadblock!
Impressive, just impressive
Impressive, just impressive
Road crossing ...
Road crossing …
... and there is the newest addition! :-)
… and there is the newest addition! :-)

A very near miss … but still a great safari

Sometimes one gets so close to something that you can smell the blood … literally.

Today was one of those days.

We stumbled upon a leopard kill that was, literally, seconds old. So close! The leopard, one of the more skittish ones, had decided to make off into the bush, probably to come back soon after us leaving. That said, our guests were in awe of the sheer (but real) brutality of nature. One second an impala is happily grazing away, the next moment it is someone else’s breakfast.

End of the road for this impala
End of the road for this impala

Otherwise today’s safari was a great day out in many other ways. We saw Kudu, a jackal, Wildebeest, Nyala, Impala, lots of giraffes and some cute monkeys fooling around in the riverbed. Near the end of our safari spotted a very lazy Rhino, grazing way, and enjoying a safe reserve for himself. Good for him! And a beautiful day out on safari had come to an end. The weather is glorious these days, the summer is nearing to the end, and the dry season is upon us. April – June is probably the best months in terms of weather here. We are already excited about that. Only thing is … we didn’t have much rain this year, so that’s a bit worrying for the upcoming dry season. It won’t be an issue, as we have had several years of amazing rain, so the water reservoir is still quite full, but I hope next year brings more rain again. But who knows Maybe we get lots of rain late in the season? It’s happened before.

Giraffes seen today
Giraffes seen today
Jackal pondering the day
Jackal pondering the day
Bunch of young monkeys fooling around
Bunch of young monkeys fooling around
Huge Rhino ... amazing sighting
Huge Rhino … amazing sighting

It’s about the entire eco-system

I have just caught myself mainly talking about the “famous” African animals in all my recent blog posts. The truth is, though, that I take less interest in certain particular animals, but much more in the entire eco-system, and also the truly rare animals that we are lucky to host on our reserve.

We have, for instance, about 400 species of birds on our reserve alone, which is a truly staggering birdlife variety and diversity. Some of the birds that call our reserve their home are truly rare, snd some are in high danger of extinction. Many others are quite “common”, but all the prettier. So I urge all our future guests to arrive here with an open mind, and to enjoy the diversity here, and to be surprised by the many animals, small and large, beautiful and also “ugly”, most of which you probably never heard about. And that is what traveling is all about: learning new things, and not just having confirmed what one knew already before going. And for that this is a perfect place.

So let me introduce 3 species of birds we saw yesterday, to illustrate my point:

The Southern Ground HornBill

This is a highly endangered species! It only breeds every few years, and only one egg (or chick) makes it. Couples stay together for life, and a chick has to stay with them until a next chick has been reared after them, so that it can learn how to raise a chick itself later. This is a bird that has a VERY complex life, and this explains why it struggles in a world of habitat that’s getting ever rarer. Well, the good news is, on our reserve their rearing is successful, and their numbers are on the up. But still, a sighting is cause for massive celebration. This is also a fairly large bird, and it is very unusually looking. See for yourselves! Many thanks to Uyai for this quick shot. Well done.

Super rare Southern Ground HornBill
Super rare Southern Ground HornBill

 

European Roller

This is a migrant bird, traveling from Northern Africa and Europe all the way down to Southern Africa for the winter, and then returning for the summer season in the Nortern hemisphere. It is not threatened yet, but the numbers have declined in Europe quite significantly, and in some European countries, such as rogue Russia, they have almost disappeared, due to hunting and habitat destruction.

I find it one of the most strikingly beautiful birds on our reserve. The colors of its feathers are just impossible to mistake.

European Roller
European Roller

Marabou Stork

This is one of the “Ugly 7″, it is also called the “Untertaker Bird”. Well, look at it, and it is obvious why. But here is the real kicker: it is a massive bird! It is widely accepted to be the bird with the widest wingspan in the world, it can reach over 4m! it is believed to have a wider wingspan than the Andean Condor. So this is a bird worth seeing, be it for this record alone. It is not a threatened bird, and quite common across Africa. It does particularly well on this estate, due to the many foraging spots in the plains, where it fiests on frogs and toads. Nice.

Marabou Stork
Marabou Stork

So these are 3 bird species that we saw yesterday, But for fanatic birders there are another 397 species here, so book your stay here, and come and see as many as possible.

Lions at day … and night

Our lion pride is surprisingly relaxed, despite the fact that they have 3 cubs (that’s extremely exciting news!!), and they allow us to get as close as one can imagine it. We don’t want to “annoy” them, of course! We are, after all, guests in their environment, but nonetheless, you will be able to take really up-close photos of them, and you can observe them going about their lives in freedom and in their natural habitat.

Lions tend to sleep up to 22 hours within 24 hours, so one could call them “lazy”. But at night they can be very active, and indeed, as many of their preys find out, very deadly. But don’t think lions are only active at night! We have seen our pride of lions make a kill right in the middle of the day.

With the way we go out on safari game drives, in the mornings and late afternoons into the night, you can see these animals both at daytime, and also nighttime. And that’s really exciting. Yesterday we saw them twice in one day, once at night and once in the day. Very cool photos! Many thanks to Uyai for the continued good work on the photo material, he’s turning out quite the photographer. :-)

Male lion out on the prowl at night
Male lion out on the prowl at night\
Two of our lionesses
Two of our lionesses
Lazy lioness at daytime
Lazy lioness at daytime

Spoilt guests

I must say …. I am jealous. Our guests are enjoying the kind of sightings as of late that I would really love to experience myself, but I am just too busy. Joking aside: I am more than very pleased with what we are showing to our guests these days. It’s spectacular stuff, and some of it is VERY unique. Don’t get me wrong, you can see elephants on quite a few reserves. But to enjoy them so up-close, and in such a private setting, that’s very, very unusually exclusive. Special moments indeed … and then our cheetahs … that’s so unique, and rare, it isn’t even funny.

Yesterday, we tracked and found a White Rhino on Muruti as we were actually looking for the Cheetah.

Uyai picked up fresh tracks and pursued on foot – we found them not long after. They were on Caracal Road and had only walked a couple of meters when they decided it was time for a nap. Smack bang in the middle of the road they flopped down. We got some great photos. Lazy cats, and oh so beautiful. Just an amazing sort of sighting.

Cheetah
Cheetah

This morning we were on the hunt for elephants, and together with MRL guides we tracked and found them on the Eastern River Road. We sat with the herd for about 15 to 20 minutes just watching them browse. It was a great sighting for all of us. You can see on one photo how close-up you can be to these massive animals … and also how big they really are.

I particularly like the European Roller we saw. We have hundreds of beautiful species of birds on our reserve. Often overlooked, and yet totally fascinating. True African safari connoisseurs will be astonished about the sort of bird wildlife diversity we have here.

European Roller
European Roller