The pretty and the rare – Birds!

While there is much focus on the large mammals that roam our reserve, and understandably so, it is easy to forget that the Moditlo Reserve is also home to many bird species … 400 actually! That makes it the highest bird wildlife density in the world, in all likelihood. So, for you birders out there: this is a destination for you!

So we have the full range: eagles (actually the largest eagle on earth), owls, and hawks, vultures, storks as well as hundreds of other species, some of them the prettiest you can imagine, some of them super rare, and some of them just downright bizarre.

Here one of my favourites. Can you spot it?

Here it is, zoomed in!

It is a lilac-breasted roller, which is in my eyes one of the prettiest birds on earth. 7 colors!! It is spectacular. Birders in general actually don’t like it, because it is very territory dominant, it does not tolerate other birds in its territory. So, pretty it may be, but pretty aggreessive too!

Here another photo!

Of course we also have kingfishers! Simply stunning.

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During evening game drives you are quite likely to spot a few of these. Always funny, and interesting.

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And then there is the super rare also: the Southern Ground Hornbill. If you stay a week here, you are quite likely to spot them. We have two breeding couples, which is amazing.

They get very old, up to 80 years old, and they only lay eggs every now and then, once every 4-5 years. They need perfect habitat conditions. It takes them years to raise one chick, and the previous chick helps them too. It’s complex, and that’s probably why this bird is severely endangered. I absolutely rejoyce seeing them. It’s a blessing.

 

The biggest, the tallest, the cutest, the rarest …

… here at Vuyani, you really see the entire range of what African wildlife has to offer. I always tell people: If the biggest, the tallest, the heaviest and the prettiest animals don’t impress you, then NOTHING ever will. It is truly incredible to see animals before you that weigh as much as lorries, and animals that tower, literally, over you and make you feel like the tiniest creature on earth. It’s probably a but like Jurassic Park, that sort of emotion. It’s a thrilling one too, and this one is REAL!

July of course is the first proper month of the “dry season” and as a result, lakes are starting to hold somewhat less water, and the bush is a lot less lush. Visibility increases and so this makes for amazing photos. But bear in mind: the mornings and evenings are usually quite cool, so pack for warm weather with strong sun during daytime, and chilly temperatures if the sun isn’t out.

Here a few photos we took over the last few days: Gives you an excellent idea!

Cheetahs - super rare and the world's fastest animal
Cheetahs – super rare and the world’s fastest animal
Elephant - the world's biggest animal on earth
Elephant – the world’s biggest animal on earth
Lions - the king of them all
Lions – the king of them all
Mongoose - ok, come on, they are super cute
Mongoose – ok, come on, they are super cute
Southern Ground Hornbill - one of the worl rarest birds, and super intelligent
Southern Ground Hornbill – one of the world’s rarest birds, and super intelligent
Southern Ground Hornbill - one of the worl rarest birds, and super intelligent
Southern Ground Hornbill – one of the worl rarest birds, and super intelligent
Starling - just pretty!
Starling – just pretty!

Hippos - Africa's deadliest animal!
Hippos – Africa’s deadliest animal!

Best of – Diane Heinrich

I am always particularly pleased to receive photos from guests that stayed with us. It shows me the immense treasures of experiences that we leave with our guests, and the incredible spectrum of wildlife that one sees here.

One of the things that one has to know about this place … because we have kept the amount of lions relatively low density, we have a truly spectacular amount of night wildlife: leopards, wild dogs, wild cats, cheetahs, civets, honey badgers, hyenas … all these animals would be “pushed out” by lions if over-abundant. It is all about the right balance, and I think we got it just right, thanks to wise reserve management. Nature comes first here, and the conservation successes are beyond our wildest dreams. We have so many super rare species here … I mean … where do you experience fights between lions and honey badgers?? As a guest … unique!

Diane Heinrich sent in a lot of amazing shots, please see a short “best of” list. Many thanks for allowing us to share them! They all prove my point …

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The rarest of the rarest – and what luck!

Some animals are so rare, it’s not funny … it’s actually tragic. And one of those animals is the cheetah.

Thank God our reserve has become a haven for these super endangered animals. Only about 300-400 cheetahs still live in the free (like on our reserve) in South Africa. And South Africa is twice the size of France! If that does not make it clear how rare these animals are, then nothing will.

So seeing cheetahs in the wild is in itself a chance and luck that really goes way, way beyond the usual.

But some guests are just lucky beyond lucky.

See the pictures that a guest of ours emailed in a few days ago. No comment. Just wow.

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Lazing about

Cats, as they are known in more northern spheres, are quite busy most of the times, especially at night of course.

But this is not really true for most African cats. Most of those are really, really lazy. Or sleepy, whichever way you look at it.

Cheetahs are not active at night for instance, but at daytime, as they need perfect vision for their untra-high speed chases. But after a 5-10 second chase and kill, they eat … and then chill for up to a day. Speak of efficiency!

And speaking of cheetahs … they are one of the most endangered of animals that are “known” to humans. By “known” I mean their existence in public conscience. Every day 5-7 species go extinct (which is a shocking statistic!), but most of them tend to be obscure species that noone has ever heard about. But cheetahs, literally everyone knows what they are. It is the world’s fastest animal.

So the fact that only a few hundred are left in the wild in South Africa shows how extremely rare they have become.

I am glad to report that we have several cheetahs roaming freely on the reserve and that we have witnessed mother cheetahs successfully raising cheetah cubs on the reserve, several times. This is truly amazing! So if you want to see this super rare cat in the wild, up-close, then there is probably no better place than our reserve to do so. Here photos of yesterday to prove the point.

A great late wet season and spectacular sightings

What a relief! We have had three good rain events over the last 3 weeks, just today we had another one, so we are immensely grateful for any rain we are getting so late into the rainy season. If we get another one or two before the end of the rainy season (which officially ends in May), then we should be set for the dry season. The dry season lasts a long 4 months, from June – early October. These 4 months sound short, but they are tough on the game. Vegetation turns from a lush green to a dry brown/grey (for the most part), and so it is important that all water points are full up (which they are now). Nature is about survival of the fittest, and the dry season is the time of year when the animals’ yearly fitness test comes. The old & feeble won’t make it, and that is nature’s ways.

April, May and June are my personal favourite months, because the weather is usually just divine. Not  too hot, lovely evenings, beautiful sunsets, and a beautiful look to the bush. For all our guests checking in over the coming weeks: Enjoy! It’s a truly lovely time of year.

Full up lake
Full up lake
Cheetah brothers!
Cheetah brothers!
Lioness spotted at night
Lioness spotted at night
Spectacular arrival of some needed rain
Spectacular arrival of some needed rain

Much bigger in reality!!
Much bigger in reality!!

A good end to an otherwise dry rainy season

South Africa’s “rainy season” lasts typically from early November through early April. After that, rains become rare, and the long dry season begins. Rain is absolutely quintessential to see nature and the wildlife get through these very tough months. A lot of our guests get worried when they hear “rainy season”, but the fact is that it only rains 2-3 days on average per month in the rainy season. And we wish it was more! It usually rains also mostly in the night. Bear in mind also that nature is at its best during the wet season. That’s when there is a lot of action.

We were lucky this year. The rainy season had been dry for  the most part, and that had us worry. But last week saw enormeous amounts of rain, and all the dams have filled up very nicely. We are good for the dry season! In the nick of time. As a result, nature has turned very green now also, which gives the game a lot of opportunity to eat and build reserves before things get tough.

See some lovely shots we took over the recent few days. Stunning.

The New Vuyani Tented Camp

We are getting a lot of enquiries and questions about the new Vuyani Tented Camp that is under construction at the moment. This new camp is about 5km north of the current Vuyani Safari Lodge, so noone knows anything about it. At least no specifics.

Well, I am pleased to report that progress has been very steady, despite a few strong rainfall interruptions. Currently the roofs are going on, and the bar / lounge building, swimming pool area, walkways, Boma and kitchen units are all at roof level. This is going to be a very radical, elegant, and fresh take on the “glamping” concept. Keeping it to what matters, with a high level of quality service and great ambience. Vuyani, basically.

We aim to launch in Q4 this year, towards December, more or less. It will be launched as a 5-tent camp, and over the years it will grow to 15 tents, no more. We will keep it intimate and exclusive, as always.

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An award winning photo

Alison Freebody returned from their safari at our lodge a few days ago. They had a fantastic time here, so we are very hopeful to welcome them back here in the future.

Alison is an artist with the camera, and she has shared one of the best shots taken of our elephants that I have ever seen, as far as I remember.

Let me know what you think! I think it’s adorable. I also think it demonstrates how high the quality of sightings is here. Astounding.

This is actually 2 lions !!!!

It is not all about the game

It is unsurprising that our guests come to South Africa to see and experience the hundreds of breathtaking animal species that roam freely on our huge reserve. Some of them are the largest on earth, like the elephants, some are the tallest, like the giraffes, some are the fastest, like the cheetahs, and some are just so bizarre that there are no words for them. And you certainly get to see them all here.

But there is a bonus to it all!

What makes South Africa so breathtaking is not just its wildlife, but also its people, and its landscapes. There are moments of the day over here that are so magic that it still makes my jaws drop. Beauty so pure, so divine, that it instantly gives you a sort of inner peace and clarity of thought, sharp like a knife. The sort of moments where you just feel instantly grateful for the immense luck of being alive and the privilege of witnessing such sheer beauty. And a privilege it is!

Scenes like these, for instance.

Or this!

And this is a shot I took on my way in from Johannesburg, at the crack of dawn. No comment.

So if you want to see all these landscapes, why not go in our 1948 Chevrolet Fleetmaster, and experience South Africa like in the good old times? It’s all yours! Embrace it, enjoy it, and never forget it.

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