And then there is so much more …

… really, hundreds of species outside of the tedious Big5 obsession (because that’s really what it is, and a silly one at that).

Funny thing is, when we ask our guests what their favourite animals were, then more often than not we hear “giraffe” or “zebra”. And we have lots of them here, so that makes for happy guests!

So here a few photos we shot over recent days. I had literally 100 photos to choose from, so I was spoilt for choice.

We spotted a giraffe drinking water – this is not something often captured on film, as they are very nervous and vulnerable during this time. But Aggy snapped some great shots. Great work! It’s always overwhelming to witness the sheer scale of these animals, and it is impossible to get a grasp of their size when looking at photos. They are gigantic! It’s a sight to be seen, and to remember.

We also spotted a Jackal on Cotton Fields first sunning himself and then howling, making himself heard in the early morning hours! A good stretch also got him ready for a happy day of foraging and hunting. Whichever works out best. Cute animal … and their nightly howls add a tinge to the African bush feel like no other aninal, let it be said! It’s a bit like hearing a wolf, but a bit more yappy. You’ll experience it here and you will understand what I mean. It reminds you that you are right in the wild.

Definitely one of the most outstanding and exciting game drives ever

Now that was something … wow. It really was.

We started off with some giraffes and immediately picked up fresh lion tracks. We followed the tracks and found the WHOLE pride together on the “Cotton fields”! What a sighting. It was fantastic. The little ones were playing around and they were in the clearing for almost 40 minutes. We sat with them for the longest time until they disappeared into the bushes. Lions are very protective of their offspring for many weeks/months, until they are old enough to be out of danger. And this lioness has managed and succeeded to raise all three of her cubs. Well done! Lots of happy faces …

We then set out on Nyala road on our way to Muruti and caught a glimpse of a Cheetah. It was a lucky shot!

We followed them and they seemed like they were on the hunt. And we got a FANTASTIC sighting! It was great!!! They took down a Wildebeest right in front of all of us! Our guests were there for ALL of it! We sat with them for around 30 – 40 minutes! AMAZING …. Aggy even took some video. It will be published soon, on our Youtube channel.

I don’t need to mention of course that our guests could not have been any happier. Indeed, what started off as a quiet drive, quickly turned into one of the most exhilirating safaris outings ever. Live kills are very rare! We have seen some, but this one was top notch. Our guests got more than they bargained for … this is the sort of experience that will be with them for the rest of their lives. Lucky, lucky, lucky them!

See the photos Aggi (our tracker) took. Nice job!

Looking for lions … and finding more than that!

Yesterday, we had heard the Lions roaring nearby our staff village so we knew they were somewhere in the south of the reserve, so we decided to stay around this area with our guests.

And then a crash of rhinos appeared around the corner! Lucky! They were very relaxed. You can see in many of the photos how close they moved to the game driver. You will also see that their horns have been cut off, and this is a very effective measure to deter poachers. We do this every year, so that way our rhinos hold no value for rhino horn poachers. It’s sad this has to be done, but this is an effective protection for them, and that’s what counts.

We pressed on in hopes of finding the cats – Aggy picked up fresh tracks just south of MRL and the hunt began! And finally we found them: On the Eastern River “Road” (it’s actually a dirt track) – they were on the move (rather swiftly) and they did not give us too much photo opportunity. But Aggy managed some great shots anyway as well as all our guests. Hendrick seems to think they are looking for their next meal – the next few days will be interesting!

I also noticed that all photos are now showing a “patina” effect as if they were a few decades old. But that is due to the peak of the dry season, so nature has turned grey and yellow-ish, giving all photos this tinge. It does give them a certain kind of iconic look, and that’s why many photographers like the dry season for their safaris. Personally I prefer it a bit greener, but that’s just a personal matter. This is also very pretty, I do admit it …

Crash of rhinos!
Crash of rhinos!
Rhinos up-close
Rhinos up-close
Lioness!
Lioness!
Lioness and male lion on the move ...
Lioness and male lion on the move …

Lions and giraffes

We have had a large wedding group at the lodge over the last week, and so we have done a lot less game drives. Uyai did take some amazing shots of a lion encounter last week though, especially one that shows a group of giraffes (a group of giraffes is technically called a “journey”) keeping a close eye on lions roaming past and around them. They must be careful … our lions have been known to take down the odd giraffe. It takes a lot of work, and risk, though for lions to attack a giraffe, and in general they prefer smaller game for meals. A lucky kick, and a giraffe can kill a lion on the spot. If you go on Youtube, you will find many videos showing such mishaps (from a lion’s perspective that is). A giraffe kick can be so strong, humans have been severely injured by a giraffe kicking in the door of a car, that’s how powerful their legs are.

Anyway, here the photos, I find them stunning.

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Paul Riley – the full safari report

As of late, I am very pleased to receive more often photos from guests, all photos they took themselves during their stay with us. Paul and his wife (and his kid) stayed with us for 3 nights, coming over from Joburg for a long weekend. They come to the lodge on average once to twice a year, to get some much-needed rest and calm.

I always find it interesting to post these photos, because it shows me how our guests see things, and also what they see. It is unfiltered, and a 100% guaranteed true reflection of what can be seen when out on safari with us.

So, without any further ado, here the shots that were sent it. Beautiful!

Many thanks to Paul for allowing me to share these amazing photos with all our fans and future guests. :-)

White Rhino
White Rhino
Giraffe (of course)
Giraffe (of course)
Warthog
Warthog
Mongoose
Mongoose
Chameleon
Chameleon
Cheetah
Cheetah
Owl
Owl
Yellow Bill Hornbill
Yellow Bill Hornbill

A very interesting plant

We saw a very cool plant today: the Leopard Orchid.

I will just quote from a website that gives a very good description for that plant:

“The African Ansellia is commonly known as the Leopard Orchid. It is not difficult to see the rationale behind the common name when one takes a look at the Ansellia africana orchid, named in honor of John Ansell who discovered the first specimens when he embarked on an expedition on the Niger river. Some orchid enthusiasts claim that there is only one species of Ansellia africana that can be described as a monotypic genus, but the Leopard Orchid is actually a very complex group of species that all share a common growth structure and flower bearing habit. The other names that are associated with the Ansellia africana are as follows: Luipaardorchidee (Dutch), Luiperdorgidee (Afrikaans); Imfeyenkawu (Zulu).

Another odd, but wonderful characteristic of the Ansellia africana orchid also earned it an odd name, Trash Basket Orchid. That characteristic is the Ansellia africana’s ability, due to its epiphytic nature, to create a makeshift container of its aerial roots to not just catch but also to digest falling leaf litter and use it as nutrients.”

So … Trash Basket Orchid … let’s take a look at the photo that Togara took today:

Well ...
Well …
... maybe ...
… maybe …

The Ansellia africana is a huge epiphyte that grows in clumps. In nature you can find them attached to tree branches (see above, true!) by their epiphytic aerial roots that resemble canes, showing off spectacularly when the Ansellia africana is in bloom. These aerial roots can become very thick and resembles rope like structures that will anchor the orchid plant onto the substrate. This orchid uses its ‘other’ aerial roots, pointing upwards, making them appear like a trash basket (to catch organic debris) around its pseudobulbs. Each of these pseudobulbs can carry up to 8 leaves which in turn bears the flowers. The organic debris serves as nutrients for the orchid when it grows in its natural habitat. These aerial roots look different from the ones used to anchor the orchid plant. In its natural habitat the Ansellia africana can live and thrive for a long, long time, become huge plants with spectacular masses of flowers.

As I always tell our guests … don’t expect a safari here to just be about a few animals and that’s it. We have hundreds of species of birds here, some of them so pretty that it takes your breath away (European roller, anyone?), some so huge that some are rumoured to outsize an Peruvian Condor even (so I’m talking huge). Some say: “Oh, I am not very interested in birds”. Well, let’s see if you still say that when you see an eagle with a 4 meter wing span fly past you). We also have over a hundred species of trees, and lots and lots of bush and flower types. And all of these elements make for a beautiful and interesting safari in the African bush, and very often it is these little things that provide the most lasting memories.

Here a nice photo of a journey of giraffes that we also came across on our day out in the bush today. Always curious those …

We will get you there … for that amazing lion sighting!

Gilles just composed a hilarious video, showing the lengths to which we go to get you to a sighting … this is quite rare, but when it makes sense, then that’s what we will go for!

And when it pays off, this is the sort of sightings you will get … all worth it!

Female lion!
Female lion!
... very close-up!
… very close-up!
And here's the man!
And here’s the man!

Lions are much, much bigger than photos make them look. They weigh up to 500 pounds, so you can imagine!
Lions are much, much bigger than photos make them look. They weigh up to 500 pounds, so you can imagine!

 

Possibly the most amazing sighting (and news) of the year!

This morning we were looking for Cheetahs – and did we find Cheetahs!! Hendrick and Aggy stopped the Landcruiser and set off on foot to track them, as they suspected them to be nearby. The guests told me that they were gone for quite a while… the next minute they both came storming out of the thicket, jumped in the car and told the guests to “hold on” and then there it was:

The female with 5 cubs had joined up with the two brothers (probably her previous offspring also). All 5 cubs are still alive and well. So we had a sighting of 8 Cheetahs!! This is outstanding on so many levels …

First of all, we have never seen so many cheetahs together on our reserve. It is in general very rare to see so many together, as they are solitary animals (unlike lions who hunt in coalitions most of the time). It is unusual for a female to join up with other cheetahs, even for a short while. To be honest, this is a mystery to me. Maybe because she recognised the two males as her own offspring?

What is also amazing is the fact that this cheetah mother has succeeded in rearing 5 cubs, and as far as we know now, all 5 have survived. Given that the usual survival rates of cheetah cubs range from 25-50% at the most, this is testimony to how perfect this reserve is for wildlife conservation, and also what an amazing cheetah mother this is. I am in awe, and I could not be any happier. What a beautiful moment, and what an incredible thing to be happening here.

Bear in mind, there are only about 400-500 cheetahs in the wild still in South Africa, so our guests just saw … 2% of all wild cheetahs in South Africa, in one go. It shows you how immense the positive impact is of private game reserves such as ours on the conservation of these species, many of which are literally on the very edge of survival.

And we certainly are proud of it!

Approach ...
Approach …

... there they are!
… there they are!
... the little cubs ...
… the little cubs …
... and moving off ...
… and moving off …

 

A fleeting hyena and then quite the iconic cheetah sighting

I mentioned in a recent story … every day out there on safari is different … and it is like a box of chocolate: you never know what you’ll get. Well, you have an idea, but then nature throws in these luck sightings that one really didn’t expect.

So yesterday we sighted a spotted hyena on a portion of the reserve we call “Leopard’s Bent”. Unfortunately he was rather quick and we only managed two quick photos. It was pure luck and the guests loved it … a very interesting, and quintessential animal to the ecosytem. Beautiful.

Spotted hyena!
Spotted hyena!

We then picked up fresh Cheetah tracks and found the two boys in the Zandspruit river bed. They were moving around and then flopped down and repeated this process a couple of times before settling down in some grassy shrub. It was a great sighting as they are so very relaxed and don’t seem to have a care in the world.

At the risk of repeating myself: If you are after some of the best sightings of this super rare, and iconic, animal, from up-close in wild nature, then we are one of the very top places to go to. It doesn’t get much better than this, quite frankly.

Let these photos speak for themselves!

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