The stand-off

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? ;-)

June is kicking off in truly outstanding fashion

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.

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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.

From cute to beastly

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 …

 

The whole range

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!

Verreaux Eagle Owl
Verreaux Eagle Owl

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 …

Zebra herd
Zebra herd

 

Elephants on a daily basis – and so much more!

Elephants everywhere these days !!!

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.

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Giants up-close … very up-close …

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 …

Elephant herd at lake
Elephant herd at lake

… but seeing them caring for a little baby is quite another …

Elephant baby
Elephant baby

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.

Now that's up-close!
Now that’s up-close!

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!

 

Spectacular days!

These recent days have been truly astonishing again – the spectrum of wildlife you can see on our reserve is truly spectacular. It goes from the rarest to the most famous onto the bizarre & funny.

We tracked and found the Wild dogs. They were on the move so we didn’t manage to get many photos.

Always a great treat to see them. The second rarest carnivores in Africa! It’s  a privilege.

We saw Jackal, Kudu and the funniest little Baboon sitting next to the road, just chilling and taking life day by day. Hilarious!

What's it all about? ;-)
What’s it all about? ;-)
Jackals
Jackals

Togara and Uyai tracked the elephants and found the herd East of Nyala Road near Rooikat dam – the bull was being a bit of a grump (that’s his style) and proceeded to give us a spectacular dust bath show.

We saw Grey Loerie, Giraffe and Impala napping together in the tall grass, giraffe, Monkeys and a Kudu.

We tracked and found the Lions just west of False Thorn plains – the “younger” pride all together and sleeping (as usual). We snapped some cool photos of one of the young males. They are growing into proper adult males now.

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We saw and could snap a quick shot of a BUSH PIG! Yay! They are VERY rarely spotted and even harder to capture on camera – but we got him! Super excited.

Bush pig !!
Bush pig !!

We ALSO saw a LEOPARD! AND managed a quick photo – between maneuvering the vehicle and keeping the spotlight steady it is quite the task to capture these spotted cats on a photo. But all went well. He was there for a bit and then vanished ever so quickly into the dark of the night. Our guests loved it!!

Leopard out at night!
Leopard out at night!

March indeed is an amazing month for safaris, at least to judge by this year.

I wish I had more time to go out myself and see the many animals our guests get to see. Lucky them! :-)

 

Lots of rain!!

It’s been raining – A LOT – Feels like a European winter. ;-) The sun is coming back out now again, though. The major depression that passed over us brought a lot of rain, and that is actually great.

The Blyde River Dam is at 110% and all the slues gates are open. Water EVERYWHERE! After last year’s drought, this is amazing news!! What a relief.

However, game drives are much more challenging in such circumstances, and it is harder to take photos.

We tracked and found the young male lions on Leopard’s Bend twice – they are wet and miserable. But what beautiful sightings.

We also saw the cheetahs in the riverbed, the riverbeds on Moditlo are still dry – but the guys say on Bloubank there is water. It has been softly raining for three days straight, so we expect the water to start coming down the Mbezi any day now.

Reserve management is busy assessing the roads to make sure it is safe to go out there. But it is looking good!

Male cheetahs in the riverbed
Male cheetahs in the riverbed
Giraffe
Giraffe
Zebras up-close!
Zebras up-close!
Young male lions
Young male lions

The beautiful, the rare, and …. the amusing

February is just a continuation of an amazing January, and our guests are blessed with a vast range of daily sightings. But just see below some of our best shots!

For example, an amazing elephant sighting – took us about a week as they have been in Madrid. But along with MRL we tracked and found them on Marula Loop in Wilderness. Aggy took some great photos of a young one (too big to
suckle) but went on his knees and tried anyway …hahaha … that’s positively amusing!

We also saw Giraffe, Impala and Wildebeest.

We also tracked and found the Lions at Ratelpan – the “teen” group were all together and taking a nap. Now that’s iconically beautiful! No comments needed …

Also great shots of a Ground hornbill and Yellow billed hornbill. The Ground Hornbill is a very rare bird, so it is a real privilege to see this animal. They are on the brink in many areas, so to see them breed successfully here – that’s what gives me personally the biggest smile. This is exciting.

Update – January’s prettiest sightings (so far!)

We had some fantastic drives the past couple of days! We tracked and found the elephants in the South of Moditlo at Marula Pan – they then moved into the river bed and we got some truly great photos. See below!

We also spotted Nyala, Kudu and then tracked and found two White Rhinos as well as some Egyptian Geese. I personally have a thing for them. I find them to be very pretty birds.

We saw Wildebeest and Krest captured a Kudu bull beautifully.

We tracked and found the Cheetah at Seven star junction – they were very lazy, we spent around 15 minutes here, then they got up and moved into the thicket. It’s not often that you get to take photos that up-close of cheetahs in the wild … but you can on our reserve. It’s one of our speciality here!

The lions were tracked and found near Knob thorn wallow – the big male and female were on the move and it seems like they are looking for potential kill – snapped some amazing photos. Here’s one of them! Stunning.