With the early morning brisk winter breeze blowing and the temperatures dropping, game viewing is usually fairly difficult at this time of the year. The long grass has become tawny as mid-winter approaches, and our feline friends are blending so well with our environment that it makes for very exciting game viewing. We set off at 6:30am, with hot water bottles, cosy blankets and the promise of steaming coffee or hot chocolate making it enjoyable for guests to view the stunning sunrise. The predators were on the move and the odd nightjar was still basking on the warm sandy road as the first sunbeams of the day rose lazily over the hilltops, introducing a new day in the bush.
Our dominant lions have been very busy lately, marking their territories and searching for females. One can hear them calling in the dead of night, with the all-familiar typical lion language claiming their right as the kings of Africa. Their vocalisation repeats the same refrain over and over again: “whooo’s land is this………. It’s mine, It’s mine, It’s mine”.
For the first time, these beautiful big boys are showing signs of trying to form a coalition with their younger sons. They have attempted twice in the last month to take down buffalo from our breeding herd, but have been unsuccessful. The younger boys now have learnt what buffalos are really capable of.
A beautiful male cheetah has been regularly spotted in the south of the reserve, patrolling his own territory. Although these big cats are not one of the Big 5, they are just as majestic as their cousins and a true delight to see. This particular male is so people-friendly that he would find no harm in rubbing right up against the game viewer for an up-close-and-personal Kodak moment. This gives us as Field Guides a fantastic opportunity to share our knowledge of this beautiful creature with our guests. It gives us an opportunity to remind them how it very nearly became extinct, which would have been a tragedy for Africa and its wildlife. With this boy coming so close to the vehicles, we are able to see clearly the small head, large powerful chest and shoulders and his long rudder-like tail. We are able to not only explain to our guests why the cheetah has such a big chest and powerful front legs, but actually get close enough for them to see for themselves. This brings them a unique understanding of the fact that without these attributes, they would not survive in the harsh regions of Africa.
An elephant made a spectacular appearance outside the lodge last week, and our guests were overwhelmed by his friendly greeting. This was followed by many questions about his majestic appearance.
He is approximately 53 years old, and most of the time you can find him meandering around the reserve, occasionally meeting up with the breeding herd for a short visit or taking the odd swim alone. This particular bull is recognised by his broken right tusk. The breakage occurred during a confrontation with another elephant. His natural persona makes every encounter a memorable occasion and it is a real treat for guests to see this gentle giant.
Our ranger Kyle came across the beautiful sight of a hippo with a newborn calf at one of the dams on the reserve. A female hippo can give birth every 2-3 years to a single calf weighing up to 30 kilograms at birth. The gestation period for a hippo is 225-227 days and females will give birth in dense reed beds. The calf will be introduced to the pod after two weeks. Females with young are very aggressive, but will allow other female hippos to babysit. The lifespan of a hippo is about 35 years in the wild.
There have been many special sightings this month, but one definitely stood out from the rest. Our ranger, Raymond, was heading back to the lodge in total darkness with a Cruiser full of joyful and hungry guests, when a beautiful female leopard graced them with her presence. She was walking gracefully near the vehicle, allowing guests to view her clearly under the red filtered light. This alone was special, as leopards are naturally shy animals and having her so close was a treat.
This was the first time these particular guests had seen a leopard on safari, and the encounter made for fantastic fireside conversation in the Boma that night. These memories will last our guests a lifetime.
Did you know?
Leopards have a gestation period of approximately 3 months, and give birth to 2-3 cubs, typically in a den. At birth, they are blind and almost hairless.
See you on a game drive soon!