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Amakhosi Safari Lodge – Pongola – South Africa Phone 03444141157 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Amakhosi Ranger news – 26th July 2015
What a lovely sound to wake up too! the sound of steady and drenching rain. We have all been praying for months and the situation was getting rather serious, with the lack of rain and draught in various regions of Kwa – Zulu Natal. We were not the only ones longing for the rain and the sight of the animals out and enjoying the wet weather, was so gratifying. Giraffe have been seen in numbers eating off the moist leaves of the knob thorns. Impala gathered in large groups albeit with their fur raised, this is known as Pilo erection and is similar to humans getting ‘goose bumps’ to maintain body temperature. It felt like an animal kingdom gathering with the added bonus also of great predator sightings of the local Lion pride as well as the 2 Cheetah brothers.
With the weather forecast predicting a clear up, we can expect some more good sunshine. The bush will respond in a flash of new green foliage and will look even more beautiful. Fresh smells are also the order of the day! So all in all we have all been smiling in the rain!
Chat soon Ranger Gary!
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.
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
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged africa, amakhosi, big five, buffalo, elephant, endangered, lions, photography, safari, south africa, this is south africa, wild life, zululand
“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