HI, and welcome to my blog! I am a field guide in a private game reserve in South Africa and below you will find stories and pictures of my amazing job!

October 10, 2011

Growing Pains

Last week, we dealt an unequivocal reminder that summer is approaching, if not with us already.  Leviathon-esque storm cells were building in the sky behind us like a black volcano as we raced back from the other end of the reserve in an attempt to beat the ominous clouds.  However, as is usually the case when one tries to challenge Mother Nature’s all powerful grip on our lives, we lost.  Dramatically.  During the last 10mins of the game drive, we were battered into submission by a torrential downpour of biblical proportions.  I have been in this industry for 5 years now and getting wet is part and parcel of summer but this was the worst I have ever seen.  Although the cloud burst only lasted for about 20 minutes, the rain lashed down with such force that visibility was down to about 20 meters and made driving conditions appalling.  I don’t remember ever having to concentrate like that before.  Putting the windscreen up was impossible as the game viewers have no wipers so we were subjected to the full force of the storm.  By the time we slid into the car park, we were all half drowned, sloshing about in a land rover that, rather like the human body, was about 80% water, my eyes were bloodshot from the dagger like droplets. 
Although a brutal reminder of the seasonal change, this spells the beginning of a new lease of life for the bush.  Sabi Sabi has supervised a lot of controlled burns recently in anticipation of the summer rains and was rewarded with perfect timing.  Already, a week after the event, the bush is now alive with tender green shoots emerging from their winter hibernation, bringing with them a swathe of hungry animals keen to cash in on their first nutritional meal for some months.   
A hippo wallows in the shallows accompanied by a bull elephant
Sightings have boomed in light of this smorgasbord of fresh produce and we have been inundated with a plethora of animals.  This influx of herbivores inevitably brought with it the predators in hot pursuit and we were delighted to welcome the wild dogs back to Sabi Sabi for the 2nd time in the last few weeks.  In typical fashion, their killing spree ripped through the reserve over the course of a couple of days and we saw them on multiple occasions, even drinking in front of bush lodge one misty morning.

One of the wild dogs sizes up a new target

Wild dog pup takes a moment to scratch her hard to reach places

In possibly the most beautiful sighting of the week, we were lucky enough to witness young rhinos of between 3 and 5 months dueling it out in a friendly game of push and shove.  I have never seen 2 young rhino interact in that way before and it was nothing short of an honour and a delight to watch them explore the boundaries of their strength.  I was reminded that not all things out here revolve around finding cats killing things and instead was able to sit back and appreciate a truly beautiful and innocent scene between two fledgling heavyweights.

2 young rhino hone their fighting skills 

Best of friends after the first scuffle ends in a hard fought draw 

Young rhino estimated at 5 months

Many of you will be happy to know that our southern pride has suffered no more casualties in the past week or so and all 9 remaining cubs are soldiering on.  They are all in great condition thanks to a huge herd of buffalo that have taken up brief residence inside our boundary.  We estimate numbers to be in the region of 400 animals and the dinner bell has been constantly ringing!  The other night, the females took down 2 buffalo and gorged themselves to bursting point until the Kruger males chased them off again.  Thankfully, their belly took priority over their loins, and the pride got away unscathed.  The males have been sighted often in the last few days and we even had one of the males roaring next the land rover.  Long may it continue, as of all the experiences possible out here, feeling the ground shake as a lion’s roar fills your head, is one of life’s most humbling.  It is simply not possible to put the sheer power and presences and reverberation into words on a page.  A magnificent king indeed!

The setting sun prompts the beginning of another hunt

The southern pride waking up after sleeping through the heat of the day

Of late, the hot weather has returned and the budding trees and emerging grasses are basking in nature’s tonic of sunlight and water.  The ensuing feast continues to attract game and we have seen more zebra than ever roaming our open plains.  The next downpour cannot be far away and soon it will prompt the start of the calving season for the antelope and a myriad of bandy legged buck beginning their challenging lives; and enriching ours!    

A magnificant martial eagle takes to the skies

A male steenbok, our smallest antelope, considers his options before feeling for cover
A pied kingfsher enjoys the morning sun