August is usually the driest month of the year, and indeed, it’s dry out there. The grass is yellow, and all leaves are brown. And yet … we’ve had a bit of rain this month: twice! That’s a first, I don’t remember that ever happening in August. Is it a good omen for a good upcoming rainy season? We certainly wouldn’t mind. We love rain here! Speaking of which, rainy season! We do get a lot of questions about that. When we mean “rainy season”, we are not talking about miserable wet drizzle for weeks on end like a European (or worse, dare I say, a British) winter. Our rainy season falls into the warm summer, and by rain we mean quite regular (2-3 times/month only) of strong but short-lived downpours. We would love to have rain for days on end, but we almost never have that. When we do, we celebrate.
But our guests can be reassured: losing several days of safari due to rain is rare here. It happens, but it really doesn’t happen much. You’d have to be unlucky.
Back to the current dry season: it lasts usually from May to early September. There are variations, of course, but that is broadly speaking the pattern.
If you look at the last days’ pictures, you will see what “dry season” means. A lot of game is showing signs of lack of nutrition, and many simply can’t wait for the end of it all. Our predators are doing well though. The game is slower and more lethargic.
I wasn’t sure whether I should share this with our many fans and future guests … or not. In a way, it is brutal, ugly, gruesome, and yet, in a way, it is honest. This is nature. True nature. Eat and be eaten. Evade a predator, as best as you can, until that one day when you run out of luck.
We as humans like to think that we have nothing to do with this cycle of life, but the truth is, we all run out of luck one day. It just isn’t a cheeatah or lion, usually.
As our guests were absolutely blown away by what they saw, I decided that best is to just share how absolutely spectacular animal sightings can be here on our reserve.
When we started off, almost a decade ago, we were the only lodge on the reserve, with only one game driver. As a result, tracking and finding game was a tough game. It took time, very hard work, and quite a bit of luck. We got there, but there were “quiet” days.
There are now 2 lodges, with a total of 6 game drivers (which is still extremely low density for a 36,000 acre private game reserve), and as all guides share sightings and intell, we now have quasi guaranteed daily sightings, whether it be one of the “Big5″ (I hate that term), or one of the many hundreds of other spectacular animals.
Just a quick example of some of what we saw over two days, between the 7th and 9th of July. Great stuff indeed! This is not all we saw, very far from it, but just the best shots our tracker took. The reality is that you see an animal on average every 5-10 minutes. It’s that spectacular here.
Up-close leopard sighting in the evening
And a well-known, and quirky, yellow bill hornbill
Sometimes, despite “suspicions”, even we get surprised. But see for yourselves, a surprise sighting a few days ago:
Bam! 3 little lion cubs, 2-3 months old! That is what the lioness has been hiding all this time.
Lionesses hide their little ones for the first 3 months or so, as they are in big danger of being preyed upon by predators who see lions as big competitors, and also future predators (for just cause!).
So this is the big news: we have 3 new cubs on our reserve. Very, very exciting!
I often get the question … how close can we get to the animals? I always think to myself: close enough to get your heart pumping and making you all going very quiet … because of the adrenaline rush!
It is one thing to know that an elephant can weigh in excess of 10 tons, standing up to 4m tall … but it is quite another to be facing off one of these monsters. Photos don’t really do justice … but they give you a vague idea. And that is one of the things that makes safaris so exciting! It is a bit of a challenge with your senses. These animals are VERY unusual, and very, VERY big.
So here an elephant encounter last week. Close enough?
We have had some amazing sightings the last couple of days!
Lions were tracked and found on the Bloubergbos cutline. The youngsters had taken down a Kudu and we only saw them chomping on the last bits of the carcass.
The Cheetahs were spotted on Kudu Road and on the move.
We had a spectacular sighting of the elephants at Badger Pan, taking a drink and the full moon. It really was a great sighting (sadly full moon is not good news for APU units ☹ ) Here the video of it all!
The wild dogs were tracked and found by both MRL and Vuyani guides. They had taken down a Grey Duiker at Kudu Pan – they devoured this duiker in seconds, and I don’t think everyone got a taste, it was more like a snack than an appetizer.
We tracked and found the Lions again they were snoozing near Leopards Bend cutline, the Big male and young males came together and tolerated each other for a bit. However, you can see many scars on all of them. So the fighting for dominance has started for sure.
We had a VERY cool sighting at the APU camp – the Cheetah had taken down a Bushbuck right in the middle of camp! As in RIGHT THERE! Hahaha. The APU unit called the sighting in. Thereafter they lay right next to the office to have a little snooze. Truly spectacular sightings for our guests, and they were understandably beyond excited. This is simply amazing.
Yes, one minute you are finding a lion very cute …
… and the next minute you are finding out what’s really up. This is nature, beautiful, raw, real, and cruel at times. Because this was obviously a very bad day for a kudu. Wrong place, wrong time.
But then again … that’s what our guests travel thousands of miles for. Seeing the world’s rarest and most impressive animals upfront. And that they get here! Oh yes, and lots of it! Lions, cheetahs, hippos, elephants, rhinos, giraffes, everything …
Yes, it is a tough world for those lower down the food chain … so it’s best to watch out, and be careful! Very cute actually …
Many of our guests come to Africa to see the “Big 5″. Not sure why, but somehow travel agents have an urge to reduce any travel experience to a silly “tick the box” event. So many are surprised that in many cases it is not the Big 5 that leaves them with the most amazing experiences. There are animals that leave a much more lasting impression on you, be it a huge eagle or an enormous giraffe, or just an uber-cute monkey mother with her little one. There are many hundreds of fascinating, beautiful (and huge) animals to see here outside of the very narrow range of the so-called Big 5.
So what have we been seeing these last days? Well, a lot. The whole range actually. Here some examples.
It is great to be able to go and explore the riverbeds, because that’s where a LOT of the action takes place.
We also tracked and found the Lions on a couple of occasions along with the MRL guides. They were all over the reserve, so it takes proper tracking skills and good communication to locate them. It is amazing how much ground they can cover in one single evening. The young males are sprouting rather impressive looking manes by now. They have to look out for daddy … he doesn’t like it much!
We saw Monkeys and Hippo and an AMAZING sighting of a Verreaux Eagle Owl! He was just chilling in a tree, looking right at our guests, a few yards away. Amazing!
Here a close-up photo of a Kudu. An animal much larger than the photo suggests, actually. These are big animals, and very good runners. They are targets for the lions, of course, so a big one like this one, that was a very lucky (or clever) one.
And then there is always the unexpectedly cute one! An African squirrel.
We also have several hundred zebras on our 36,000 acre reserve, roaming around freely in large herds, often joining ranks in a symbiotic fashion with wildebeest. Probably one of the most elegant animals in the bush, in my opinion …
We have tracked and found the elephants quasi every day this month, they have now stayed in the south of the reserve for a while. They were drinking water, frolicking in the riverbed and had a bit of a standoff with Lions! Krest managed to capture this on film (visit our Youtube channel!!). All of this occurred in an area we call “Cotton Fields”. The Lions walked off rather briskly after the incident. Don’t mess with a lion! Our guests were privileged to a scene that one usually only sees one National Geographic.
Wild dogs were tracked and found near the Seven Star Junction – they were playing with each other in the cooler weather and there is some cool video footage as well.
See below all the photo footage we snapped on our day out.
It is very difficult to imagine what meeting up-close with the world’s largest, tallest and heaviest animals is like … and no photo does it justice. A 4.5m tall elephant, weighing over 10 tons (that’s truck weight!) is so shockingly awe-inspiring that it leaves quasi all our guests’ jaws dropping when we get close to these gentle giants.
And it is one thing to see them grazing and drinking from far, at a lake …
… but seeing them caring for a little baby is quite another …
And then there is this! Very up-close encounters with these truy enormeous animals. You can hear their voices, their breathing, the flapping of their ears … it doesn’t get any more intense than this.
Elephants lead, next to primates, immensely complex and socially rich life structures. It takes an elephant many years to learn the thousands of complex mechanics of social cohesion, survival tricks, and even down to moral values. That is why elephants only raise a relatively small amount of babies over a lifetime. It is a lot of work! And this is something they share with us humans, by the way.
And that’s why elephant mothers are also fiercely protective of their little ones. They are very precious to them. They invest a lot of time, energy and love in raising their little ones, so they try to protect them at almost any cost.
So, when we run into a mother with a baby with her. EXTRA caution! Once they feel threatened … good luck to you!