Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Safari on Honeymoon - From Termites to Elephants

Yes it is this time of year again wind, fire and dust! We all thought that the winds would have subsided by now, but no it is getting worse and worse. Quite a large section of the north western parts have burnt down and a lot of grazing have been destroyed. Hopefully we will have a very good rainy season and the park will be green again. Most of the black monkey thorns, Acacia burkei, are in flower and have new leaves so the elephants are taking full advantage of that and quite a few have been pushed over to get to the new growth at the top, but hey not all is lost we still have excellent game viewing.

We all thought that with the amount of burnt areas we are not going to see any animals. Well, elephants and black rhino just love’s the char grilled branches!

Now that summer is here we leave at 6:00 in the mornings so wake up calls are made at 5:30am. Not all guests agree with this arrangement, I mean especially when you have solved all the worlds problems over a few bottles of wine the previous night……………need I say more! The last two weeks the sightings have been really good. All of our guests have seen 4 of the big 5 during their stay and some days we got 5 out of 5. Coming on safari it is not always about the big animals and it is difficult to explain it to a guest that sat on a plain for 14 hours to come and see a lion, and now you are waffling on about termites. The small things counts just as much as the big things, everything forms part of the bigger picture. One evening we were watching a Mozambican nightjar as he was changing gears and took off. As I was driving of I heard a rustling in the grass, so I backed up and in the spotlight there he was, a Pangolin! This was my second one in 8 years! I called it in on the radio and the guide in front of me, Neil also a Photo-Africa photographer, was there in 10 seconds! The whole park was up in arms about this rare scene.

The last 5 days I had a honeymoon couple and 2 ladies joining me on my vehicle. They were great fun and they saw the most amazing things. Apart from all the big stuff we saw, we had great sightings of all the antelopes and the smaller things in life like the string of stars( small white flowers) and luckily the termites were very interesting to! The honeymooners arrived by plane. And the first thing they saw was white rhino on our way to the lodge, I knew then that they were going to see the most amazing animals and it was their first safari. On the afternoon safari we saw the old boys the Batia brothers and loads of elephants. The Sereti females were with the Batia’s for a while, but have now been relocated to different reserves and now the Batias are alone, so these old lions are going to find it a bit difficult getting food.

The next morning we went south to avoid the traffic up north. The morning started of very quite just a lot of wind and then we bumped into two white rhino right next to the road, they got quite a fright but luckily they moved in the opposite direction from the cruiser. Half an hour later in an open clearing we saw some black rhino, female and calf.

She was a bit skittish but we could clearly see her and the calf and all the distinct features of the black rhino. After breakfast I took Gary and Suzzy to some lions where they were feasting on a wildebeest.

On every drive something exiting happened. Going out is always different no matter where you go and it is always a challenge looking for game even for the guests. In the afternoon myself, Gavin and Zede were tracking lions on foot, after walking in a few circles we found them. They saw us long before we saw them. Every time you get lions on foot it sounds like a Harley Davidson starting up and gradually picking up revs…….great feeling!

After the revs you see that golden beast mock charge you, then you swear in all the languages you know. The best expression is FOERTSEK, FOERTSEK, FOERTSEK and clapping your hands until they become num and more shouting, 99% of the time it works.( Foertsek means bugger off ) After we found them then what, the chances that they can move off is great so I pulled the short straw to stay with them while Gavin went back to fetch the vehicle. The five minutes I was alone with them was something special, just the fact that they allowed me to share their space and be that close to them was incredible. When we left that sighting we got a call on the radio that there were some more lions, the Tshabas, at Tau dam. Very unusual for them to come this far south. Their territory are in the north western section, but we think they got chased by the three Serety males, a very powerful coalition. We got there with the sun just disappearing on the horizon.

While watching them two big dagga boys came to drink ( old buffalo bulls that have been kicked out of the herd ) The six lions didn’t pay to much attention to them because their tummies were full to the brim. On our way back we saw some elephant but just ignored them, because they get quite edgy at night with the spotlight. Driving along looking for that elusive spotted one I saw some big eyes reflecting back on the runway, thought it was our lucky night then two more sets popped out, then I knew it was spotted hyena making a move on some wildebeest but they lost interest very quickly and strolled of into the darkness. Another great day in Madikwe. So we went home for dinner and a few drinks and reminiscing about the great sightings we had so far………

After the 5:45 coffee we went in pursuit of the leopard again with great determination. Driving along Diperoro road ( meaning waterfall in Tswana ) I found some fresh leopard tracks and feces, they were heading towards our neighboring lodge. I called Lucas and he said a young male was there at the water early in the morning, and he went towards the valley, not good for us. But, not losing faith, we carried on to the elephant boma where the Serety female is held. Lots of big male lion tracks around the boma………….got a call the wild dogs are busy killing a kudu, so we turned around and went there straight away. I told my guests to hold on and of we went, a real Ferrari safari for the next 15 minutes but it was worth it. They killed a kudu but when we got there it was finished, they were busy picking clean the bones, wild dogs make sure there is nothing left for any of the scavengers. We stayed with them for about 20 minutes before the first vehicles came in to the area, that’s one thing about the south if you get a good sighting you can spend some time with the animals before the next vehicles moves in, reason is there is not a lot of guides operating in the south.

The afternoon we went to Thlou dam to see the Etali youngsters, two young lion brother and sister. We just enjoyed the scenery with the lions on the wall and the ellies drinking water. After the elephants left it became quite when all of a sudden a big herd of buffalo approached us from the east +- 100 of them. There motives were clearly visible and that was to drink.

The lions didn’t even move a muscle with all the commotion going on. That was a great sighting at the dam. Thlou dam is known for its good sightings in the dry season. We moved on for sundowners. Being so relaxed knowing we saw some amazing things thinking it can not get any better we got a leopard in a Leadwood tree, unfortunately quite far from the road in a burnt area ( can not off road in burnt areas ) But hey we saw a leopard that’s good enough !

The next morning after drive, oh we saw 4/5 again…..just thought I’d mention that. I took Gary and Suzzy on a bush walk after breakfast and told them with the briefing that chances of seeing anything are slim, so we are going to concentrate on the smaller things, but you never know what is lurking out there. I was busy making them a toothbrush from the kwarrie bush and we discussed elephant dung and then all hell almost broke out.

A herd of elephants came thrashing thru the bush about 80 m from us. We immediately backed of and got on the right side of the wind. One bull came towards us, I stood my ground and stood him off with the guests safely behind me. What an afternoon! We skipped the afternoon drive, instead we went to a bird hide for the afternoon and saw some animals we never saw on drive like the Caracal that came down for a very reluctant drink. We also saw elephant, jackal and spotted hyena. The 1st of October was our last morning drive and we just thought we were going to take it easy. Started of slowly but ended with a big bang. Driving along Wonderboom road I saw something in the distance lying in the road, it was a leopard as we got closer he looked at us once and kept on cleaning himself and got up and strolled of into the thick bush never to be seen again for the day in typical leopard fashion. That made up for the other night when we only saw the silhouette in the tree, Gary and Suzzy could really see now that was a leopard, spots and all.

Coming on safari for your honeymoon is a great treat, just do it on the first leg of your honeymoon, because it is hard work……………… all the early mornings I mean.

I ‘ve got a saying, when you come on safari always expect the unexpected and you won’t be disappointed.

Hope you enjoyed the recap of our 5 day honeymoon safari at Tuningi.

Till next time



David Meisel said...

Very cool blog. Keep the posts coming.

Vist my blog on African Safari Stories. and

Anonymous said...

Hi Grant
Well we managed to find a computer on the island and decided to check out your blog - as you say it is nice to read your recap of our safari because it already seems so long ago! Hopefully when we send you our photos there may be a few in there for a follow up!
Thanks again for a fantastic time and we'll e-mail you when we get home.
Gary & Suzi