It was a relaxing afternoon game drive as we set off from Kapama’s Buffalo Camp. It was the first time that my guests had ever visited South Africa and it just so happened to be there very first safari. Every part of the African bushveld mesmerized them as we made our way along the Reserve roads. Even the array of numerous small birds and general plains game like giraffe, nyala, wildebeest and zebra that we encountered, made them smile at every turn. They were so excited about everything they saw and what I pointed out to them, soaking up everything the bushveld had to offer. As they were so excited about the surroundings, I decided not to rush to find any of the Big 5, as they had a few days with us.
While we were driving around, the sun slowly started it’s decent, signally the time to enjoy a delicious sundowner and snacks. Before we picked our spot to watch the sunset, I decided to make a quick turn around a waterhole close by. When we arrived, an amazing surprise was waiting for us.
Not one, but two of the Big 5 could be spotted lounging alongside the water. A pride of Lions on one side and 2 huge male Buffalos on the other side of the water. My guest couldn’t believe their eyes. Two of the Big 5 in such close proximity.One being prey and the other predator – for a moment, suspended together in perfect harmony.
Looking a little closer at the situation and understanding the dynamics of the scene before us, made sense why they were not bothering each other. The Lion was panting trying to keep cool as it was a very hot day, and on top of that, we could see from their full and extended bellies they recently feasted on a kill. With full stomachs and the heat of the day taking its toll on them, they were so lazy that they would not put any further effort into going around the water to try hunt down the Buffalo. It would have just been a waste of energy for them.
The kill that the Lions had feasted on was nowhere in sight, so they could just come to the water to have a drink and cool down. As for the Buffalo, they knew that the Lions were lazy and at that moment were not in danger. Feeling safe, they decided to stay close to the dam. With a huge body of water separating them from the Lions they felt more confident to also enjoy the coolness of the water.
The longer we sat on the game drive vehicle, enjoying this remarkable scene, the more bizarre it seemed for these animals to happily share the same waterhole without bothering each other. After the cameras snapped away taking countless pictures, we decided to move on and enjoy the drink we originally planned.
My guests still could not believe it – Two of the Big 5. Especially that it was unplanned and we just stumbled onto them, made the sighting that much more exciting.
Sometimes it takes a bit more than tracking skills and knowledge of the bush. It’s about timing and being at the right moment at the right place. That is when you get to see some of the most unexpected things in the African Bushveld.
Photos and story by: Ranger Ben Scheepers – Buffalo camp.
Opinion post: Written by Louise de Waal, Sunday Tribune & Conservation Action Trust
A worrying trend is emerging in South Africa where cheetahs are bred on demand, taken away from their mothers to be hand-reared for cub petting, to become ambassador species or to be exported for either “zoological” reasons or into the pet trade.
With the number of cheetahs in captivity soaring to more than 600 kept in about 80 different facilities, concerns have been raised that this industry is showing similarities to that of the lion breeding industry, with its links to canned hunting and legal lion bone trade.
Since 1975, half of the world’s wild cheetah population has been lost and the species is now confined to just 9% of its historical distributional range.
The IUCN status for cheetah is vulnerable, although the scientific community is calling for a reclassification to endangered.
South Africa has the third largest wild cheetah population worldwide with an estimated free roaming and managed metapopulation of between 1 200 and 1 700 animals. These animals live either in national parks and other protected areas or on commercial farmland, where most of the human-wildlife conflict occurs.
The captive breeding generally happens under the guise of cheetah conservation. The message conveyed is one of reintroduction into the wild or preservation of genetic material. However, the true value of captive breeding is still very much in dispute. Dr Paul Funston, senior director of Panthera’s Lion and Cheetah Programmes, said: “Captive breeding of cheetahs is not conservation, never has been and never will be.”
The reintroduction of cheetahs to the wild is a long and expensive process with very low success rates. It is suggested that after a number years in captivity, a species may lose its unique biological and behavioural characteristics, making the conservation efforts of captive breeding far less worthy.
Cheetahs in captivity are extremely sensitive to stress and often display abnormal behaviour because their hunting and ranging instincts are denied. The high prevalence of disease in captive populations is now thought to be caused by chronic stress and an unnatural diet that may even cause depression. The wild cheetah population suffers from low genetic diversity, that easily leads to inbreeding in captivity.
Captive breeding can even pose a potential threat to the survival of the wild population, as wild cheetahs are captured for their purer genes, to prevent inbreeding issues.
There is a real potential for canned hunting of captive bred cheetahs and the already large and growing captive population could easily provide a supply for this internationally condemned practice. The Threatened or Protected Species Regulations do not allow canned hunting of large predators with the exception of lions.
Linda Park, director of the Campaign against Canned Hunting, said: “The situation with cheetahs is extremely concerning as their numbers in captivity have increased steadily. While they do not breed as prolifically as lions, one has to ask: where do all the cubs go to?
“When we examine the legal trading of cheetahs between breeding farms and tourism facilities, we start to understand this growing trend of prolific captive breeding in South Africa.”
South Africa has a significant number of ‘ambassador cheetahs’. The majority are bred in captivity and hand-reared to be groomed as well-behaved ambassadors. Even more disturbing is the emerging trend of cheetah cub petting, where cubs are bred on demand and hand-reared to fulfil the cuteness factor in captive wildlife facilities.
These cubs are used as photo props often for as long as six hours a day. Many captive wildlife facilities claim cubs and adults fulfil an educational role. However, the Endangered Wildlife Trust said such facilities at best offer “edutainment with no real measurable change in behaviour that promotes conservation”.
Once the cubs outgrow the petting facility, they are often returned to the breeding farm to be used for further breeding, become ambassadors, are sold to zoos worldwide or traded to the Middle East as pets.
South Africa is the largest exporter of live cheetahs. However, the excessive captive breeding is not the answer to the plight of cheetahs in the wild.
“In the majority of cases captive breeding of cheetahs and other large carnivores, is purely for financial gain,”said Funston.
Leaving the city lights behind, we slowly snaked our way out of Nairobi heading north towards the wilds of northern Kenya! Our destination – Kitich Camp on the upper slopes of the Mathews Forest.
For sheer mystical enchantment…Kitich Camp has few rivals…a nostalgic safari in the true pristine wilderness of Kenya’s northern frontier.
Driving up into northern Kenya is always a dusty, colourful adventure and this trip was no different! Three hours of steep luggas, corrugated murran, sore bums and warm beers (we forgot the ice for the cool box) we were starting to become despondent with no sign of an oasis forest in sight we were very confused as there is only one road to Kitich
Arriving into Kitich is like stepping into a sea of green of trees, shrubs, wildflowers – you instantly feel cooler and calmer! Watch out for the Forest Elephant neighbours as they like to come and cool off in the shade of camp too.
This classic camp is set overlooking a glade of the Ngeng River. A scene out of A Midsummer Nights Dream – the greeny hues, iridescent light coming the over the hills and through the forest is mesmerizing – bird song echos through the river bed. Your gaze is constantly drawn by the glade.
Days are spent on foot, exploring this ancient forest with dedicated ‘guardians of the forest’ the local Ndorobo and Samburu. Giant Cycads dot the landscape, orchids add vibrant splashes of colour against the Sandalwood trees and other endemic trees species. For any nature lovers, a paradise for all ages…
The calmness of the landscape, the distant trumpeting of forest elephants, the closeness to nature, seems to feed your soul with tranquility, clearing your mind of the ‘baggage’ we carry in the hustle and bustle of everyday life!
Revel in exceptional experiences , bush picnics, swimming in hidden rock pools or witnessing Samburu culture.
At night, the atmosphere is magical, and the glade is lit, look out for elephant, bushbuck and buffalo, as they come a drink by the river. Fall asleep to the sound to trumpeting elephants in the nearby forests.
Story By: Nat
Original Blog Source: New African Territories
Inganda and Inguka are, in many ways, typical two-year olds. Inganda sticks close to his mother, often riding on her back. While Inguka is a bit more independent and loves to climb.
Despite these ordinary behaviors, these siblings are quite extraordinary: Inganda and Inguka are the first twins born to habituated western gorillas in the Dzanga-Sangha Protected Areas complex in the Central African Republic (CAR).
As the twins mark their second birthday, conservationists are celebrating. “I have observed many infant gorillas grow and develop from birth into sub-adults,” says Terence Fuh Neba, a primate conservationist working for WWF-CAR, “But observing the twins is a heartening and an extraordinary experience for me.”
Western lowland gorillas like Inganda and Inguka are Critically Endangered. They face serious threats from poaching, disease and habitat loss across Central Africa.
To protect these gorillas and their forests, WWF and the government of the CAR launched the Primate Habituation Program in the Dzanga-Sangha Protected Areas in 1997. Together, we work to habituate gorillas for tourism and research.
Habituating great apes to human presence is important for conservation as it not only increases scientific knowledge and understanding of the species, it can also generate funding for conservation activities and revenue for local economies, strengthening the link between conservation and communities.
To date, the program has successfully habituated three western lowland gorilla groups while two additional groups are presently undergoing habituation. The program is also a major source of employment for local people. This includes indigenous Ba’Aka people hired as trackers and Bantu people working as guides. Today, the Primate Habituation Program is considered one of the most successful Western Lowland Gorilla tourism and research programs in Central Africa.
Meanwhile, Iganda and Inguku continue to explore the world around them. Inganda seems to be his mother Malui’s preferred twin—or maybe just the weaker one—and spends most of his time riding on her back. Inguka, on the other hand, has gained his position within the group, staying close to the silverback and interacting with other group members. Inguka is most often on the ground and can climb to nearly 100 feet without assistance. The twins’ older siblings have played a great role in raising Inguka, making the job easier for Malui.
“Every day with the gorillas is special,” says Terence. Though Western gorilla populations are declining, the mountain gorillas’ story offers hope for the species and its forest home.
As I set out from Kapama Buffalo Camp, South Africa, with my guests, it had been a cooler autumn morning than what I expected. My guests were eager to see leopards, but the African Bushveld does not always play along with your plans. Often it seems Mother Nature has her own unique sense of humour. I decided to venture to the most northwestern section of the reserve, a place not frequented very often, other than by a few secretive leopards, so my hopes were high. A large hyena clan that are predominantly nocturnal, have also been spotted on the rare occasion.
We had been tracking two leopards, but their elusive nature resulted in no success. I decided to have one last drive past the nearby dam, Rooi Dam. As I came around the last bend, we heard an interesting commotion!
We could hear loud squeals that only hyenas know how to produce. My guests were so excited to see this clan of somewhat hysterical hyenas. Two of the hyenas looked like sub-adults but one can never be 100% sure when it comes to sexing them. The female’s genitals are enlarged so this can be tricky. Social behaviour and size are more commonly used.
The two were running around after a third and larger hyena who was fishing something out of the edge of the dam. As we approached it looked like it was pulling the remains of a young giraffe out of the water. Apparently tired of the two smaller hyena’s behaviour, she headed straight back towards the water. One hyena gave up and slunk away to another on the other side of the dam. To listen to the sounds of hyenas interacting is like no other experience I have ever had. It is loud and at an almost penetrating level, followed by hair-raising giggles.
We watched on as the large hyena finally won her right to feed and walked off to a shady spot on the southern side of the dam, leaving the smaller hyena to run off to find his friend. The third female now under a large Jackalberry tree (Diospyros mespiliformis), was joined by two other hyenas, most likely similar or higher ranking since they all fed together on the carcass.
We were now surrounded by hyenas each busy with their own activities. It was a unique sighting since it was during the day and we had been the only vehicle. This had definitely played a role in the hyena clan being as comfortable with our presence as what they seemed to be and to continue with their daily interactions in their complicated societies.
Even though we did not get to see the leopard, this was still a wonderful and interesting observation of nature, that you can only get in the open bushveld.
Story and photos by: Ranger Monika Malewski – Buffalo camp
SOSSUS UNDER CANVAS, AN EXCITING NEW VENUE IN THE GREATER SOSSUSVLEI-NAMIB LANDSCAPE, IS NOW OPEN!
We couldn’t wait for the official pictures, which are to follow in due course, as we wanted to give our first impressions of the camp immediately. These are slightly rushed photographs taken by our operations tribe, but they still give an accurate account of how things now stand.
In line with our commitment to help preserve wild places through impact investments that have a positive effect on the environment and its custodians, we are delighted to introduce our newest venture, SOSSUS UNDER CANVAS in the Greater Sossusvlei-Namib Landscape. Located on the private 24,000 hectare Neuhof Nature Reserve which is nestled between the Nubib and Zaris Mountains, this camp is a mere thirty minutes’ drive from the gateway to Sossusvlei and the Great Namib Sand Sea which has recently been declared a World Heritage Site.
CONSERVATION & THE NEUHOF RESERVE
The Neuhof Nature Reserve was founded by Landscape Conservationist and Philanthropist Swen Bachran in 2010, and it serves as a natural buffer from the harshest desert conditions and a refuge that is vital to wildlife through the dry season. Eight years of intensive work to reverse sixty years of inappropriate farming practices, including the removal of 89 km of internal fencing, the installation of wildlife watering points, the improvement of road networks, the rehabilitation of land and the reintroduction of wildlife that historically occurred here, has resulted in one of the most picturesque and ecologically sound tracts of land in the area. Neuhof has gravel plains, mountainous areas with dry river valleys as well as a large raised plateau which towers above the desert below, and it is now home to some of largest concentrations of wildlife in the area, including Oryx, Springbok, Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra, Burchell’s Zebra, Kudu, Hartebeest, Giraffe, Steenbok, Klipspringer, Bat-eared Fox, and Aardwolf, as well as predators such as Leopard, Cheetah and Spotted Hyena. Plans for the future which include the reintroduction of critically endangered black rhino and the acquisition of adjoining land to extend the Reserve are already well underway!
Around 20% of all revenues earned at Sossus Under Canvas will be directly re-invested into the conservation of the area, thus staying true to our philosophy of re-investing into the environment. This is possible because of our model that the investment into our camps should be moderate from both a financial and environmental perspective, ensuring sustainability on all levels without the pressure of having to recoup large financial outlays.
COMFORT & REDEFINING LUXURY
Sossus Under Canvas embellishes every aspect of our declared intention to help redefine Namibian luxury. Our own definition of this encompasses privacy, exclusivity, experiential focus and total flexibility, all whilst being perfectly comfortable. We can provide all of this at an affordable cost as we have moved away from the opulence and consequent need for high pricing that is generally associated with a luxury safari.
Our guests are looked after by some extraordinary people whose only desire is to ensure that each moment spent with us is as perfect as possible. Guests are pampered in camp, have their days filled with thrilling encounters, and enjoy nights in exclusivity that is beyond most people’s wildest dreams. They are cared for by a tribe of magicians who aim to leave lasting impressions, and every stay is arranged on an exclusive basis regardless of the number of guests involved so that we can provide the true ‘Journeys Under Canvas’ experience.
PRIVATE & ULTIMATE EXCLUSIVITY
This camp can only be booked on an exclusive basis (tiered pricing for varying pax numbers) for each group that gets to stay there, and it can only be used as part of one of our privately guided or fly-in safaris.
The camp offers eight tents, two of which are family units (where adjoining ‘kiddies’ tents with camp beds etc can be set up as required), offering a fantastic alternative to any traditional lodge in the Sossusvlei area. It also offers exclusivity which is beyond compare.
Bookings at the camp must be for at least a two nights as this is the minimum required to get a true feel of what is on offer, although we sincerely believe that three nights would be even better in order to do real justice to the area.
ACTIVITIES & EXPERIENCES
Activities include excursions to the Sossusvlei dunes and Deadvlei with your private guide and general exploration of the private Neuhof Nature Reserve. The latter includes nature walks and drives, magic moments in desert pools (yes, isn’t that intriguing), star gazing, our pioneering STELLAR ESCAPE (our very own form of sleep out), as well as a TRAILS CAMP offering a multi-day walking safari. There is also the opportunity to visit the Neuhof Plateau which offers some of the best views out over the Namib Desert but, sadly, this option is only available for those staying for three nights or more.
In addition to all this, Sossus Under Canvas provides a convenient base from which to go on hot air balloon flights as well as helicopter and fixed wing aircraft scenic flights over the local area. It is also a great venue for photographers, offering fantastic landscapes, iconic quiver trees, and the opportunity for night time photography which is often very difficult to arrange elsewhere.
Access to the camp is either by road from Windhoek or Swakopmund, or from any other nearby destination, or by light aircraft coming in to a nearby airstrip.
Sourced from third-party site: Endangered Wildlife Trust
With only around 6,600 wild dogs left in Africa, this incredible animal is one of the continent’s most at-risk carnivores, and is listed by the IUCN as Endangered. Urgent action is required to save them, and a key conservation strategy is the reintroduction of packs into viable habitats where they once occurred. The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), champion of conservation in Africa, and Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique are thrilled to announce one of the most exciting wild dog reintroductions yet, as part of their efforts to save this highly threatened species. Wild dogs will soon roam free in Gorongosa for the first time in decades. This historic transboundary event will take place on 16 April 2018.
In a move to reverse the trends of wild dog populations in southern Africa, a partnership has been established between the EWT and Gorongosa National Park in order to secure the reintroduction of the park’s first pack of wild dogs. This is a landmark occasion, as wild dogs have never been reintroduced to any park, protected area, game reserve or other space in Mozambique.
Wild dogs have disappeared from much of their former range in Mozambique, and Gorongosa lost all of their wild dogs as a result of the 1977–1992 civil war. However, Gorongosa is today Mozambique’s flagship natural area and lies at the heart of the work being undertaken by the government of Mozambique and the Carr Foundation to bring back to life a vast and diverse natural ecosystem over a 25-year period. Wildlife is now thriving in the park, with numbers of species and animals having made a strong comeback. With the abundance of herbivores, the natural next step is the return of large carnivores.
Wild dogs from South Africa’s EWT-managed metapopulation will form the founder pack for this recovery project. The metapopulation, comprising the various individual populations of wild dogs within a selection of managed national parks and reserves, currently numbers 250 individuals in 28 packs. This population has increased over the last 20 years and has ensured the increase in wild dog range in South Africa by 25% and numbers by 100%, thus allowing the translocation of a founder pack into neighbouring Mozambique.
Male wild dogs from uMkhuze Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) that naturally dispersed from their pack in late 2016, and free-roaming female wild dogs from the region are earmarked for this reintroduction. The EWT, along with local partners Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (EKZNW), the KZN state veterinary department, WildlifeACT, Maremani Game Reserve, LEDET, and the Bateleurs, have caught the two unrelated groups of wild dogs and brought them together to bond in a boma at Phongola Nature Reserve in KZN in South Africa. Once the wild dogs have been sedated prior to departure, the pack will be fitted with GPS collars and VHF collars to allow for close monitoring once released. All individuals will also be vaccinated against canine distemper and rabies before leaving for Mozambique, as infectious diseases are a big threat to wild dogs. This new pack will be flown from the Phongola boma to Gorongosa by the Bateleurs, to ensure a quick and stress-free journey. The EWT and Bateleurs have previously transported 29 wild dogs with 100% success and safety rate.
The bonded pack will be held in the newly constructed boma in Gorongosa for six to eight weeks before being released. This is to allow the males and females to become accustomed to one another and become habituated to the area, all the while being monitored by the Gorongosa project’s carnivore conservation team. The EWT will work closely with the Gorongosa team to train a new generation of Mozambican vets and ecologists in wild dog recovery and management.
Gorongosa National Park has been described as one of the most diverse parks on Earth, covering a vast expanse of 400,000 hectares. In recent years, the Gorongosa Project, with the support of Mozambique’s National Administration of Conservation Areas (ANAC), has ensured the protection of a recovering population of lions in this system, successfully reduced key threats, and seen the park become recognised as one of National Geographic’s ‘Last Wild Places.’ It is fitting that, by returning wild dogs to Gorongosa, one of the most threatened mammals in southern Africa is about to take a bold step towards restoring their native range in the region.
This work is made possible by EWT funders, Richard Bosman and Land Rover Centurion, and Gorongosa Project funders, Gorongosa National Park, the Oak Foundation, and ZooBoise.
Can we yet again offer our sincere and auspicious congratulations to African Safari destination, Bush Camp, for their satirical and spectacular Spot last week. However in the interests of austerity may we cordially point out that this occasion was at least twenty minutes from camp leaving a not inconsiderable fuel bill to say nothing of their catastrophic carbon imprint on the precious pastures of Olare Conservancy.
May we humbly offer a pair of leopards – Nelangu and her daughter, both spotted by one of the youngest guests in camp, which were two hundred metres from a Mara Camp East Wing tent. They had a proper grown up impala meal not a tiny mongoose. Despite losing the spoils to hyena they were there the next day just as the false dawn blushed the horizon.
Nelangu is keen to get rid of her daughter, who is staying around like a drunken philanderer after sling out time. However we will forgive these two dappled divas everything when they save on both diesel and carbon.
The lions and cubs were none too shabby either. I think Jimmy, Francis and David may have had to get into second gear for them ….. just saying.
Another amazing safari spot before heading back to a tented camping experience like non you’ve had before!
A bush walk through Kapama Private Game Reserve is a truly memorable and authentic encounter. Every day exploring Kapama will offer something interesting and different for those who are adventurous enough to take the time to explore it on foot.Apart from the morning and afternoon game drive that guest can enjoy as part of their Kapama stay, bush walks are also available for those guests who want to experience nature on foot. Bush walks can only be done by a ranger specifically qualified to do so, reassuring you of being in the best possible hands, while you set out with up to 7 other guests to explore the African wilderness.
The bush walks are included in the tariff and offer guests a deeper insight into the best-kept secrets of the African bushveld. A bush walk is about exploring certain parts of the reserve to observe, learn and interact with a variety of elements typically found in the bush. It is not a hike, trek or expedition! It is about you and nature and getting to appreciate its wonder and beauty, creating unforgettable bucket list memories while under the African sky. Anyone older than 16 years, with an appetite for adventure, can participate, no matter their fitness level, as long as they are happy to be walking through the bush for just over an hour.
Welcome to Kapama’s B U S H W A L K S A F A R I!
Here is what you can expect:
1. B – Bushcraft. This is demonstrated to guests by the rangers – learn to track animals the traditional way, using footprints and scat to identify the different species. Expert trackers can even tell the gender of the many animals just from their footprints.
2. U – Unique. This experience offers a unique and intimate encounter with nature – from the animals who live there, to the medicinal plants which grow abundantly in the area, ready to help us once we unlock their healing properties.
3. S – Secrets of the bush are revealed as you discover fascinating facts about insects, flowers and small mammals such as genet. With over 350 bird species on Kapama, a walking safari will allow you to discover a multitude of fascinating bird life never imagined as you stroll through the wilderness being one with nature. Don’t forget the tiny creepy-crawlies of all shapes and sizes like lizards, spiders, dung beetles and even the “shongololo” waiting to surprise you.
4. H – Highlight of your stay. It is different being in the bush on foot, to what you will experience if you are on a game drive vehicle. You get to see and feel the bush around you with every single step, awakening all your senses. It certainly gets the heart beating faster.
5. W – Walk on the wild side. A Bush Walk during your stay at Kapama Private Game Reserve is a truly memorable and authentic encounter offering different photographic opportunities for your family album. Open spaces and fresh air revive the body, mind and soul.
6. A – Adventure is just one close encounter away. Your tracker and your expertly trained ranger will guide you literally just a few metres away from zebra, nyala or impala without them even knowing you are there! Thrilling isn’t it!
7. L – Large and dangerous animals are avoided on walks, but you might get up close to the Big 5 tracks. Looking around at your environment enables you to see many other other species great and small, all viewed at ground level. Certainly giving you a larger than life feeling and experience!
8. K – Knowledge is power – your understanding of the wilderness around you will improve as you learn more about your surrounding area, fauna and flora.
Ranger Collen gives us a brief example:
“We took my guests out in the morning after their scrumptious breakfast, heading south for a bush walk. One of the guests spotted the bones of a giraffe, and one broken horn of a male kudu. We stopped to discuss what we found. It was interesting because the bones found were the front leg of a giraffe. Guests could feel the weight of the bones, even after a hyena had crushed a part of the bone – which is common in the wild as they need the calcium found in the bone.” You are never too old to learn something new!
A bush walk through Kapama Private Game Reserve is a truly memorable and authentic encounter. Every day exploring Kapama will offer something interesting and different for those who are adventurous enough to take the time to explore it on foot.
Written by: Nicole Walker
Written, and photographs, by Moosa Varachia
Nature is unpredictable, which is precisely what makes it so addictive. Every safari that I have ventured on has taught me that the excitement present in a game viewing vehicle is heavily influenced by the thrill of uncertainty as to what you might see.
So, as I boarded my safari vehicle on a beautiful day in October, 2017, the air was ripe with the breath of adventure. And I, an amateur photographer, was ready for the unexpected.
While driving along one of the roads we came across a sighting I am certain that I will treasure forever. A white rhino and her calf stood, waiting to cross the road. The scene initially appeared to show no out-of-the-ordinary occurrence as our cameras snapped away at the beautiful animals. The rhino, displaying a very protective instinct over her calf, decided to wait until she was certain that our vehicle posed no threat to them.
Deciding that it was safe, she strolled to the other side, but had reached there without her little one. Her calf, it seemed, had given in to its curiosity and playfully proceeded to investigate a leopard tortoise that was nearby. The tortoise, clearly not liking how close the calf was getting, made a fierce attempt to get away and eventually retreated into the safety of its shell. The rhino mother just looked on patiently.
From a bystander’s perspective, it seemed as though the rhino calf wanted to play with the tortoise, who would have none of it. Soon after, the calf returned to its mother and they continued on with their journey.
Who would have thought that in my travels I would experience the joy of watching a baby rhino attempt to befriend a leopard tortoise, and that I’d have the opportunity to capture the moment and look back at it time and time again. Watching the calf attempt to play with the tortoise had brought laughter and joy to our company as we watched on.
I believe this was a unique and rare sighting, considering the plight that rhinos currently face. In truth, I wish that I could promise this mother rhino the life to raise her calf in the way that nature would have it. And I wish that all rhino calves would have a full life, where they may continue to play, discover and heed to their curiosities on African soil that is just as much theirs, as it is ours.
Where I would rather observe a charming calf innocently playing with a tortoise, others would see it be orphaned in order to feed their human greed. In conclusion, I would like to say that yes, nature is unpredictable, but what I do know for sure, however, is that I would rather live in a world where our rhinos have the freedom to play rather than be human prey.
Original story posted on African Geographic
It was a dark and cloudy morning when I set off from Kapama River Lodge with guests to begin our early morning game drive. One thing I love about game drives is that you never know what big or small thing can bring unexpected joy, no matter the circumstances.
We had been driving for a short while when it started to drizzle a little and made things slightly uncomfortable for everyone on the vehicle. But nature is nature and you have to take the good with the bad, appreciating all its hidden blessings.
High up on my guest’s bucket list of animals was of course lions. We had been searching for male lions as this was their dream sighting, but they were yet to reveal themselves. As it was my guests last morning, the pressure was on to try to make their African dream materialize. Oh, boy were we in for a surprise!
With the constant drizzle showing no sign of ending, we decided to brave the weather and stop at a local watering hole for a lovely cup of hot coffee to try and heat up our bodies. This gave us an opportunity to identify which animals were also walking about to and from the water in the unpleasant weather. No game surfaced so we packed up and headed off again as the rain was not letting up.
I heard reports of a lion sighting not too far from where we were. I wanted to make my way there but my guests wanted to go back to the lodge. I explained to them, that this is all part of the entire African and bushveld experience and it may well be worth it. I could see the conflict on their faces as the constant drizzle was by no means enjoyable. I was so pleased when they all agreed to continue with the game drive. As I turned to move in the direction of the sighting, the atmosphere behind me changed completely. I could sense their increased energy and excitement around this new found “Lion Adventure”. Would they get to tick a male lion off their wish list after all?
I neared the area where the lions had been spotted. Wow! What a surprise. I rounded the corner and there in front of us was a female lion chasing a big male giraffe down the road. In my experience, I could assess that there was no intention of her actually making a kill. It was still an interesting sighting and rather comical seeing her halfhearted attempt.
Not only did the female lion put on a show for our guests, but there were young lion cubs as well. They climbed an old dead stump next to the vehicle and played around with each other like only little cubs can.
This just brightened up the guest’s spirits and hearts, helping them forget all about their awful state of being cold and miserable. That just made the whole day and game drive in the rain worth it. With smiles and clicking cameras, we left the scene to head back to the lodge when out of the bushes, a male lion graced us with his presence. The jubilation on the back of the vehicle was contagious. Finally, my guests could tick it off their bucket list.
A perfect Rainy Lion African Adventure!
Story and photos by: Ranger Corne – River Lodge