As I work in our Marketing Department in Johannesburg, I escape the city for any opportunity that arises to visit the bushveld and of course our lodges. I was to give a presentation on Sabi Sabi to a group of young new hopeful rangers doing their Nkombe Camp ranger selections, however, I was also fortunate enough to have the opportunity to join in on the safaris under the care of Mike and Patrick – our ranger and tracker team.
The bush never ceases to amaze one – no matter how many times I am privileged to visit! The 48 hours I spent at the lodge were no exception and along with Mike’s very able knowledge, Pat’s super tracking skills and the general camaraderie of our guests on the vehicle it was going to be good – how good was still to be evident! To name but a few sightings…the formidable Southern Pride; the Dugga Boys looking as mean as machines; a magnificent male leopard looking decidedly full bellied and then something I had never seen before…Mike explained that due to all the protein ingested, the leopard then finds dung and eats that to obtain the fibre content required for digestion – amazing!! Antelope, general game and there were also magnificent herds of elephants with their calves…one as young as only 2 months and still clamouring to suckle from its mom, a rhino mother and her calf – a very curious calf albeit under the very watchful eye of mom.
On the last morning, Mike had this very mysterious grin on his face and said to us “we are going north this morning”. Now Earth Lodge is in the south of our property so it was a fair distance but we were kept entertained with our various wildlife visitors along the way. Pat was directing Mike through very dense bush and suddenly there they were….the pack of Wild Dog with their pups snoozing away on a lazy morning waiting for the sun to warm them. They had moved in from the Kruger National Park and had denned on our property. That was indeed very special and for some of our guests this was a first sighting of Wild Dog.
Although still winter time, the birdlife was phenomenal but the Pièce de résistance was our next surprise…it was early evening and Mike had stopped our vehicle at a lovely spot surrounded by rocks and water close to Earth Lodge– we then spotted the regal looking Dark Chanting Goshawk with its beautiful “smoky eye” and distinct red beak and feet. Mike was recounting some facts and all of a sudden the Goshawk swooped down – as silently as anything – and in the midst of a short squawk, caught a francolin in mid-flight…it happened so fast we were all stunned – fortunately one of our guests had his camera on standby and captured some images. The Goshawk landed about 40 metres from our open vehicle and subdued the francolin by standing on both wings and then it started plucking the now dead bird – always vigilant to watch what was in the vicinity lest its kill is taken. We waited a while and the Goshawk then decided it had better move to a safer place and flew to a nearby tree. I think – despite the fact that we had seen the most incredible wildlife – this was a sighting that is perhaps “once in a lifetime”.
What a safari!! On return to the lodge we are always met by one of our management and the question is “how was your safari?”….we just grinned from ear to ear.