A First, by Ranger Dylan!

A First, by Ranger Dylan!

It was an unusually warm morning for this time of year, and after dragging myself out of bed at 5:30 in the morning I was in my game viewer and out in the bush with my trusty Stanley coffee mug and camera. I decided it was to be a birding morning, but had to wait for the golden glow of the rising sun to entice them to start their morning singing; at 6:00 am however, there was only the faint glow of dawn in the sky, and so I came across a breeding herd of Impala who seemed much less skittish than all the other times I had encountered them; so I turned off my vehicle and enjoyed my coffee while watching them calmly grazing, with the dominant male keeping close watch over his harem, making sure they dare not stray with bellowing calls and grunts. Then, without the faintest sound or disturbance, all the Impala simultaneously lifted their heads and stared in the same direction, concentrating like a collective consciousness, towards something behind my vehicle; “Strange”, I thought, nothing I had done would’ve caused this unison stare – and then it started – that sound one can only experience in Africa; the loud, bellowing roars of the male African Lion. After spilling half of my coffee all over my lap, I nearly broke my neck turning around to see the silhouette of the King of the Plains, telling all who would listen that he was here. I started my trusty Land cruiser and turned around to get a closer glimpse, but that glimpse turned out to be quite the story unfolding; low and behold, all three of our lions were together. Our male was chasing one of our females whom he hadn’t really seen since her release from our boma, and it wasn’t innocent and inquisitive either – he was chasing her with a sort of aggression that he would show a trespasser, and off they ran into the bush, female bolting like an Olympic runner and him in tow. Calmly, our other female (The Olympians’ sister) watched this race unfold, and slowly made her way through the bush. “Oh no” I thought, “I hope she got away.” I followed the lioness, stopping every now-and-then when she called for her sister with soft, low rumbling calls before moving on. As this was to be a birding drive, I had no rifle, but the urge to follow these majestic cats outweighed my personal safety – luckily for us, our animals are true gems; I have only once needed to cock my rifle at an animal, and this sufficed as fair warning of what could possibly follow. She eventually lay behind a small bush and I parked about 5 meters from her, her head turning and looking at me as though to acknowledge my presence, but not worried by it, before turning to look in front of her. “Amazing!” I thought, I was just another inedible animal to her, all rubber and metal, and so I watched her and drank what was left of my coffee, wondering where the male and the Olympian had dashed off to. Then, suddenly, something which I could not pinpoint caught the lying lioness’ attention, and immediately she stood into a crouch, eyes dilated and intense, and she slowly edged forwards; now that stance is indicative of these magnificent hunters, and I knew then and there that she had found what she wanted for breakfast. I picked up my radio in vain, hoping that someone would hear my transmission: “Stations, I am about to see a lion kill”, but no one answered my excited call. She slowly edged forward, oblivious to my vehicles loud and clattering sounds as I edged forward, and then WHAM!, she pounced. I heard Blue Wildebeest snort and scramble, I followed the sounds with my eyes and saw a dust cloud then, long legs with hooves flying through the air followed by the unmistakeable sound of an animal in distress, calling out for the last time. All of this couldn’t have taken longer than 5 seconds, and then it was done. The death bellows stopped; the female lioness had bitten down on her preys face, covering mouth and nose, slowly suffocating it. I drove my vehicle into the bush, trying to get close, and in the corner of my eye I caught that shape that I had seen earlier – the male had reappeared, chasing off any would-be uninvited guests to his breakfast, he turned and looked me directly in my eyes and started towards me. “Oh flip…” I thought, “Here comes trouble,” but he took a few steps and then turned away, as if to imply that I was actually an invited guest. My heart was already racing from watching the scene unfold, but in that moment I went ice cold, as if it were winter in my veins. “Stations, she has taken down a Blue Wildebeest, her and male are now stationary, feeding.” I tried the radio one more time, but to no avail. After watching for about ten minutes, I thought “people need to see this!”, turned my vehicle on and went back to the lodge to fetch everyone I could find. We travelled back to the breakfast table and watched both lions eat their fill, before leaving what seemed to be a substantial amount of meat behind and left. This was my first successful lion kill, and to say it was a highlight is an understatement – that day I saw exactly why Africa’s largest cat is the King (or Queen) of the Savannah Plains; their elegance in the chase, their sheer power and their determination cannot be firsted by any other animal in Africa. And so my respect of the species is cemented, an experience such as this is awe inspiring and definitely worth seeing.

– By Ranger  Dylan Dempsey 

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Dust Bath anyone?

 

Hornbills have always been one of my favorite birds. With their long, banana like beaks, constant “tocking” display and smooth elegant flight pattern. I always find myself totally intrigued by these feathered critters. Recently I was fortunate enough to come across two southern yellow billed hornbills perched perfectly next to our main access road. It was a typically beautiful summer afternoon and I had nowhere else to be, but in the Bush (yes we have perfect jobs), so I switched off my engine and waited for the two birds to start doing something typically Hornbillish (yes, there is so such word). One bird flew down in front of the vehicle and began to bath, what’s fascinating about this is – there is no water involved. It uses dust to bath and the behavior is simply known as “dust Bathing”. I watched the two take it in turns to swoop down and shake themselves about, covering themselves in the dusty, fine “puddle” of sand. Apparently this will suffocate any mites and fleas and in time vigorous shaking helps to disclose the ecto parasites.

Dust to bath  – ironic, effective and wonderful to see.

By Ranger Kevin

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Stay healthy Amakhosi style! by Chef Lauren

 

Every year millions of people all over the world celebrate the new year by adopting an age old tradition of making some  ”New Year’s resolutions” .  Here at Amakhosi we are no different, one of the most popular resolutions is, to  eat healthy and in the hopes loose weight!  I often get asked about healthy recipes so have decided to share our popular Amakhosi health bread with you.  So here goes and give it a try!

Amakhosi Health Bread Recipe

2 cups nutty wheat/brown bread flour

10 ml bicarbonate of soda

5 ml salt

60ml honey

60ml olive oil

2 cups plain yoghurt/ maas/ buttermilk

1 cup of your liking mixture (oats, seeds, nuts, muesli, cereal, coconut, dried fruits)

 Preheat the oven to 160ͦC.

Mix all the ingredients together and spoon into loaf tin and bake for 1 hour.

 Hint:  Measure the olive oil first then the honey in the same measuring cup, so the honey will not stick to the cup.

Enjoy .. stay healthy and hope to see you soon at the lodge!

Regards

Lauren

 

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Lions vs Cheetahs

Now under normal circumstances a lion would easily win in a fight with a cheetah, but then this wasn’t a normal situation.

So first you find a pitch, gather a handful of staff members, preferably from different departments, add a soccer ball, sprinkle some skill over them and season with a bit of chaos and you end up with the Amakhosi staff Christmas party soccer match between the reining champs (the cheetahs) and the lions (no actual resemblance).

The match started at precisely  17 minutes past 5 in the afternoon and the action heated up quickly in the mid-field, which lead to the opening goal just 3 minutes and 42 seconds into the game.  And the supporters went mad. 

The first half saw the lions take the lead by 4 goals to nil. The second half, which started almost immediately saw the table turn on the lions, as they conceded 3 unanswered goals, all of which got the crowds going 

Though the second half was significantly longer than the first, possibly owing to some delays  and a not so well placed kick  which lead to more crowd response the Lions still walked away with the victory.

Which thankfully restored the natural order of things back in the bush.

By Ranger Nick

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So how fast does a cheetah go?

Recently with the assistance of Endangered Wild Life Trust and Mountain Zebra National Park, South African National Parks, we managed to relocate a beautiful cheetah to our reserve, we sent our ranger Nick to collect him and asked him to tell us all about it!!

“A question I have been  asked a few times in my guiding career, and well, the answer really depends on which book you read. Though I can safely say I know of one cheetah which did 124 kilometres an hour on the N1 highway between Cape Town and Johannesburg…..and this is how he did it.

To reintroduce animals into an area can be tricky sometimes, just look at the buffalo incident a few months back.  So when we needed to bring in a cheetah, a different approach was required.

Now due to various legislation, the air speed velocity of unladen swallows  and the square root of a tree, we couldn’t just pop into the local pet shop and pick one up. No, that would be boring, so off  set to the middle of  nowhere to get one (a small town called Craddock, in the Karoo. Which used to be an inland sea and now is just a semi arid desert. Ironic).A journey that was fraught with many perils, such as potholes, toll booths and discarded carrots.

There are also various rules regarding the transportation of certain animals. For instance, you can’t just put the cheetah in the back seat with the window open and expect him to sit peacefully while you listen to some DJ on the radio telling you about Rihanna’s latest hair style. Nor are there any special cheetah seats, so we built our own cheetah crate and used this.

Now outside Craddock is a reserved called Mountain Zebra National Park. A park which used to have about 30 odd cheetah, until they basically ate everything and were subsequently reduced in number by relocating then elsewhere (which is how we managed to get one. Though in truth, this is great success story for an animal which is critically endangered).

So exactly at 17 minutes past 4 in the afternoon, the vet which accompanied me on this endeavour,  darted the male cheetah, loaded him into the crate, and left  him to sleep off the effects of the drugs.

The following morning, at the crack of dawn, we began our return journey armed with the knowledge of most potholes and an extra spatula (because you just never know). Though the trip was close to 14 hours, most of it was uneventful. The entertaining bits where when we had to stop to fill up on diesel, as the cheetah would growl at the petrol attendants, which generally resulted in a good bit of humour.

Now he waits patiently in our game capture boma until we release him, which will be soon (the minimum time is 3 months as laid down by the Endangered Wildlife Trust). Though I am sure he can’t wait to find better accommodation (we gave him a warthog when he arrived, and he’s clearly not a fan of trying out the local delicacies as he didn’t touch it, though impala seems more to his liking. And then two days later it rained, probably something else he’s never seen before, apart from the warthog).  I can just imagine the conversation he’s going to have with his travel agent when he gets back…”it took me 14 hours to get there, and then the room you got me was nothing like in the brochure. Then after two days this strange wet stuff came out the sky, and don’t get me started on the food.”

So there you have it. A fussy cheetah that hit 120 kilometres on the highway, you not going to read that in a book.”

By Nick Hindson, Ranger at Amakhosi

 

 

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