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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Low for High SAVE R1400.00pppn

 

Wishing all our wonderful guests a very prosperous 2015! to celebrate we have extended our special into the month of love!

PAY ONLY  R 2450.00  per person per night sharing, fully inclusive:

WHICH IS THE LOW SEASON RATE!!

Normal rate R3850.00 pppns SAVE R1400.00 PER PERSON

Rate Includes:

- Accommodation in our luxurious River Suite

- 3 Meals excludes drinks.

-2  game drives per day with qualified  guides

VALID to 30 March 2015  for NEW  bookings only, min two night stay subject to availability.  T&C apply Block out period do apply.

Amakhosi Safari Lodge – Pongola  – South Africa  Phone 034 4141157 -

Email:  info@amakhosi.com

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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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Wildebeest, Brindled Gnu….!!

Now it’s a bit unfair to base an animal’s intelligence on its ability to solve an algebra equation,  but certain animal’s make me wonder. The wildebeest is case and point.

According to local folklore, when the Maker had finished making all the animals, there were some parts left over, so he put them all together, and boom, the wildebeest. They claim that it has the stripes of the zebra, the back of the hyena, and the horns of a buffalo to name a few. Though I think that when all the parts where put together, there wasn’t a brain. Or if there was one, it must have come from a spatula.

I shall further my case.

Some time ago, I was at a sighting of our male lion, who at the time was taking a rest after a long bout of shouting at the neighbours, and as a result was on the fenceline.  In the distance, a small herd wildebeest appeared, looked around, saw the lion, gave the necessary alarm calls and then ran away. Nothing unusual there, so far at least.

A short time later, the herd reappeared, looked around, saw the lion, gave the necessary alarm calls and then ran away. This happened FIVE times while we  sat with this lion, FIVE. Do they have the memory span of a twig?

On a walk recently, I disturbed a herd of wildebeest, who then promptly ran off. The herd of zebra that were there, just looked on as the wildebeest ran off then returned, then off again, and then back again. Maybe that’s why zebra hang out with wildebeest, for the entertainment value.

And have you looked at a wildebeest, they just look like they are a few sandwiches short of a full picnic.

Or maybe evolution just got high one century and left us them as some sort of practical joke.

But to end on a serious note, if you are lucky enough to witness the great migration through the Serengeti, you will see them in a different light. To see that may together ( I’ve heard its over a million animals) is truly amazing. Probably one of the most incredible things I have seen in my ten years of guiding..

by Ranger Nicholas Hindson.. For a good giggle see the attached!

http://youtu.be/JMJXvsCLu6s

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