The most elusive cat in the world!

 

As with all game drives,  you never know what to expect. It was like every other day meet the guests get to know each other at high tea and discuss the afternoon’s activities.

After the guests had enjoyed Chef Lauren’s delicious high tea, we set of for our drive these guests were so excited and all they were talking about is seeing the big 5, this off course is a guide’s worst nightmare, the pressure!  The drive started of very quite with just some impala and nyala peacefully grazing, then we heard on the radio that there was a possible sighting at the river near Kevin’s crossing,  my mood suddenly changed and I was so confident that today would  be our day to see the elusive leopard.

So we set of to go find this elusive cat. I knew we had a long way to go so I  hoped we could get there in time with not too many other distractions along the way,  but to my surprise the bush just came to life with buffalo and rhino around every corner, making the chances of  getting to the river crossing on time very slim,  I was starting to lose hope that we will ever see the leopard before sunset,  but after almost two hours of driving , tracker king and I were still optimistic and determined to keep looking. We finally arrived at the crossing and the odds looked even worst there was tall grass and lots of thick reed beds and no visual signs of the cat.  We had to act fast and decided to cover as much as the river as we could, hoping to find some tracks to indicate that the cat was still in the area. The sun was setting fast and still no tracks of the animal, so we decided to give up the search. We decided to find a nice sundowner stop, so we then set off and to our delight and surprise there was the female Leopard, was just down the road, like she was expecting us,  the search paid off we spent some quality time and then she this magnificent lady just disappeared, back into the safety of the bush she had given us enough of her time and it was time to become the ever elusive and always much asked after cat in the world!

The satisfaction of arriving back at the lodge with excited and exhilarated guests is what it is all about, it makes each day for us a wonderful adventure.

 

 

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New look rooms special offer

 

We are so excited to show off our new look rooms so we have decided to offer you a 15% Discount to celebrate our new look river suites!

Rate is R2450 per person per night sharing and if you quote NEW LOOK special you receive the 15% discount.

Rate Includes:

- Accommodation in our luxurious River Suite

- Brunch, High Tea and Dinner

-2  game drives per day with qualified  guides

VALID 5 July to 30 August 2015, NEW  bookings only, min two night stay subject to availability.  T&C apply

Amakhosi Safari Lodge – Pongola  – South Africa  Phone 03444141157   Email:  info@amakhosi.com

 

 

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The Clash of the Titans a.k.a the Buffalo

I have never really ever been a fan of the buffalo. The animal merely resembles a large cow and never really ever witnessing its supposedly dangerous nature makes it difficult to appreciate why this bovine makes up part of the Big 5. As a ranger you hear stories; stories of how lone buffalo should always be avoided on trail and how of the Big 5 they are probably THE most dangerous to hunt due to their obstinate and head strong nature. I have seen many buffalo in my time as a guide, lone bulls laying casually in mud wallows and large herds that stare at you until you make a sudden movement and poof, scattered. And in my two years of guiding and an estimated 4200 hours of driving around the bush, never have I seen this “aggressive” nature, until a week ago.

Our drive began as usual looping along winding roads and checking all the usual spots for those more interesting animals; we were actually on the search for our male lion who we had missed the evening before by the skin of our teeth as he had been laying on the roadside with another vehicle and out of the blue bolted into the long reeds in chase of what can now be assumed was a leopard… but that’s a story for another day. It was the last drive for my guests who had actually seen everything but our lion and pressure was starting to build as he was missing from all his favourite hiding places. As time began to run out, I decided to check one last road, a road we barely ever drive because it really isn’t a road, but options were running out. As we bumped and wobbled along the river’s edge over boulders and through beach sand, a loud crash was heard nearby. “An elephant?” was the first thought to come to mind… not really a road I wanted to bump into a grumpy elephant on as it is impossible to turn around. We edged closer to where the sound had irrupted and as if it had been shot out of a cannon, a one ton male buffalo came flying out from the reeds, followed by another head on. The two bulls were in the middle of a brawl clashing horns as though thunder were hitting the ground. One bull was clearly winning as it jostled and hooked the other under the front limb and lifted him off his feet. The smaller of the two had one horn missing, which was working to his disadvantage and both his eyes were swollen to the size of tennis balls.

Five, ten, fifteen minutes later and the weaker bull started to tire. His breath was heavy and his head kept falling to the ground as he continued to defend himself from further lashings. Eventually he looked up for just a moment and in a second both bulls sped towards the vehicle with me and the guests inside. I thought, “this is it, this is what everyone has told me about buffalo the whole time and now my vehicle is about to be rammed by two angry bulls.” At the last second I shouted “HEY!!!” and the first bull took a sharp turn followed closely by the second as he chased his opponent down river and into the water. The fight was finally over.

I felt my heart pounding on the inside of my rib cage and turn to face my guests who were like wise sitting in silence and awe of what had just happened. My opinion of the boring old cow-like animals will never be the same as I now too can share stories of how dangerous the buffalo is.

By Ranger Simone

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“So taai soos ‘n ratel!”

“So taai soos ‘n ratel!” 

An Afrikaans expression used to describe something which is “as tough as nails… or a badger”.  An expression which I thought wasn’t true until a huge thump on the side of my Land Cruiser one early morning game drive had the guests and myself off our seats in search of the cause. I hit the brakes as hard as I could and by the sound I had just heard I was sure I had a flat tyre or had even lost a wheel! On further inspection of my vehicle I realized that everything seemed to be OK. I scanned my surroundings amidst all the chaos and out of the corner of my eye I noticed a small black and white figure motionless in some bushes on the side of the road. It lay as still as possible until I approached and then kicked up a storm of dust and disappeared. It was indeed a Honey Badger.

Weighing only around 12kg these little guys pack quite a bit of strength. Well known for their ferocity when disturbed, they have been observed driving lions off their kills and yes, even attacking large vehicles that may be in their way. With their contrasting black and white pattern, other animals have clear warning of their approach and know all too well to steer clear of these feisty animals. Having a very thick and loosly fitted skin, the Honey Badger has few enemies because of its ability to twist full circle within its skin and turn on potential threats.

Do not be deceived by the cute face and name given to the Honey Badger as a sweet and cuddly Pooh like creature with only the goal of gobbling down fragrant honey. The Honey Badger gets its name from its ability to enter bee infested hives; usually with the help of a well-known friend, the Honey Guide bird, and calm the bees with a suffocating smell released from an anal pouch during a raid.

Little is known about this solitary creature which is only sometimes seen in pairs during the breeding season. They are extremely intelligent animals and only one of few species with the ability to utilize tools ; as can be seen in the footage filmed at Moholoholo Rehabilitation Centre where a pair use a rake, sticks, stones and pile up some mud to escape their pit.  At Amakhosi we have survey cameras in place, to monitor the game on the reserve and document their behaviour.  We were recently fortunate enough to have captured this honey badger on our night camera.

This tough and relentless creature is very difficult to spot in the wild but if you are lucky enough to have one ram the side of your tyre, be sure to stay in your car.

Blog by Ranger Simone

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Give a dog a bone!

 

The festive season is always a very busy time in the hospitality industry. Not only is everybody bustling about for family vacations and Christmas shopping, love is in the air and Christmas time also means wedding season and of course… baby season, but who would of thought we would also have four unexpected visitors? The lodge has seen two beautiful weddings this month in the lush green bushveld and lurking around every corner was a baby animal for guests to fuss and coo over. Amongst all the excitement and festivities however, what has really taken centre stage this season is the temporary arrival of the painted wolves to Amakhosi Safari Lodge.

One early and rainy morning whilst wedding party guests nursed hangovers on a game drive, we noticed a female impala staring intensely in to the thickets on a hill. She took no notice of our vehicle and focused all her attention into the distance. Wrapped in ponchos and soaking wet, ranger Corne braved the wet grass grasping his rifle and walking off into the direction where the impala was staring. As he reached the top of the hill a broad smile grew on his face and he looked over to us loudly whispering, “Wild Dogs!” We all looked at each other in confusion… Amakhosi does not have any wild dogs on the property; he must be mistaken. He gestured for us to join him on the hillside and forgetting about the rain we all climbed out and up the rocky slope. Indeed there they were; four Wild Dogs, two playing tug of war with the leg of a small antelope (presumably a friend of the impala) and the other two bouncing about in the background. One lifted her head taking notice of us when the breeze changed direction but then continued with her battle.

We watched the painted wolves as they playfully fought over their bone and skipped from one side to the other reminding the guests of how lucky they were to be witnessing four of the 400 dogs left in Southern Africa. This critically endangered predator is often mistaken for a feral animal and prosecuted for the killing of livestock by subsistence farmers whose animals are their livelihood. Wild dogs are not only depleting in numbers but are also extremely difficult to see due to their nomadic lifestyle and their ability to cover huge distances in short periods of time. For many, it is a once in a lifetime experience to view a Wild Dog in its natural wild environment, but for us, it was like hitting a gold mine to view the dogs, on foot, for over 30 minutes.

This keystone species is a must see on any visit to South Africa and while we know that the dogs won’t stay put for very long here at Amakhosi, us rangers will be on the prowl for the next few months in the hope that they will throw us a bone one more time this festive season.

Best wishes from Rangers Simone and Corne

 

 

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