what a safari

My tracker Mishack and I picked up our newest guests, a Brazilian couple from Salvador; fantastic, enthusiastic people, with little clue of what we were going to show them!

On their first safari, during a nice quiet evening, we spent some time analysing the night sky on an open area close to the airstrip. The African Scops Owls and Fiery Necked Nightjars were calling, indicating their presence - only to be interrupted by a 'passionate' grunt! Mishack turned the spotlight in the direction of the sound, exposing the gravity-defying act of a male and female White Rhino pair making Rhino-love!

All of us where taken aback by the male's assets but we quickly put our egos aside and moved into the sighting! Mish pointed the light onto the ground in front of the pair, making sure that the light was far from their sensitive eyes, and also making sure that we wouldn't disturb them. Our policy is not to shine lights directly at these animals at night. We watched them for a short time, and all agreed it looked to be the most uncomfortable love making experience in the animal kingdom (after porcupines and hedgehogs obviously!), but what a start to a safari experience for these people!

The next day we spent time with fantastic elephant breeding herds, grumpy Dagga Boys (old buffalo males) and less hormonal rhinos! General game and birdlife were also out in full force! My guests were fascinated by the diversity of wildlife here! They had always thought that the number and variety of animals in their own country was unparalleled anywhere else in the world. Yet our reserve here in the African bush had blown their theories out of the water! If they'd only known what was awaiting them the following day!

On the final morning drive, having decided to head down to the Southern part of Sabi Sabi, we set off for the Sabi River. On the way there, over the radio came an excited announcement that wild dog had been found, but in the North!! Oblivious to the message behind the coded radio chatter, my guests were still enthused to see the river, while I sat in a calm panic wondering how long the dogs were going to be on the reserve - because they can be in and out in such a short time! Nevertheless I decided to go!


On the return journey from the river I listened intently to the whereabouts of the wild dogs, to see if there was still a chance to see them. I was relieved to hear that they were very close to Bush Lodge on the same open area where we had observed the rhino two days previously! As soon as we were close by, I asked the Land Rover which was watching them, for permission to join the sighting.

On the way past Bush Lodge we bumped into 3 dogs, and decided to follow them, leaving the other Land Rover with the rest of the pack. Not 2 minutes after we joined, the action really started! The dogs began by harassing a male wildebeest, who was having none of it and promptly chased the dogs off! They then started chasing white storks, leaping into the air after them as they flew off in alarm! Failing in their attempts the dogs started to move back down toward the Musuthlu riverbed; and this is when it became really crazy!!

The dogs started to leap around in the long grass, excitedly chirping in unison. Then suddenly we heard a loud growl! Mishack whipped around with a grin on his face saying, "There's a Leopard in there!"

"Ja Ja, whatever" I thought to myself, but we decided to investigate none-the-less. We quickly relocated the dogs, but they were pulling apart an impala even though we'd seen no chase! It all seemed a little too easy to me, and I was disappointed that Mish had got us excited about a potential leopards sighting too!

We were watching the dogs devouring their feast when Mishak broke through the sound of chirping pups and crunching bones, and pointed upwards; and there he was - a beautiful young male leopard, crouched in the most uncomfortable tree possible. The poor leopard had to sit watching what was obviously his hard earned kill being eaten by these pesky dogs! At that point the other Land Rover joined us and the guests quiet laughter really highlighted how awkward the leopard's position was! The dogs made short work of their stolen bounty. Once finished they harassed the treed leopard with noisy leaps, but quickly lost interest and trotted off with full stomachs to find some shade to digest in peace!

So once again the wild dogs kept us entertained (at the leopard's expense!). Not everybody loves them, but I think they're fantastic!!

by: darren york-roberts - bush lodge ranger

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