Posted by: tim ellis | December 28, 2012

Just Cats:- Monday 22nd October 2012

Lions

Before we have even got in the vehicle this morning, Richard has found us a pair of mating giant African land snails! Our morning drive finds us a pride of 4 young female lions (“the breakaway pride”) seemingly asleep – but at the sound of an impala warning call, they all snap to full alert. We leave to see if we can see what alarmed the impala, but on failing to do so return to the lions, who have gone back to relaxing.

Leaving them we find a termite mound under construction. This activity usually happens mostly at night – the sun obviously hasn’t risen high enough yet to drive them to seek shelter underground. Richard allows us to get out of the bus to take photos as he says he has never yet lost a tourist to a swarm of termites! After this we take a coffee break, then visit the local hyaena den (an old termite mound) where two young hyaena are snoozing outside,waiting for their parents to arrive with breakfast.

Tick

We return to camp for our own breakfast, again a marked improvement over the Kruger public camp catering, before setting out on a guided walk with Richard at 09:30. Once again we are finding stuff before we set out with a rhinoceros beetle just outside the lobby. The walk sees small creatures – ticks, dung beetle, water scorpion – and trees and other plants like wild aniseed, feverfew and wandering jew – a flower from which one can extract minute amounts of fresh water.

The walk takes about an hour, then it is back to relax before lunch at 2pm. A chance to watch the local wildlife – striped skink, tree squirrels, bush cricket etc.

It was Sheila’s birthday yesterday, but Phil and Leon have pretended it is today, so lunch includes birthday cake. Sheila tells Richard that on 2 previous trips to Africa over her birthday, guides in Tanzania have found her birthday leopards, and he can’t let himself be outdone by Tanzanians…

Nyala

When we set off this evening the first animal we see is a male Nyala. We have had brief glimpses of females before, but this is the first good sighting of the species. Clement goes off on foot to check some tracks while we circle round in the van. He finds drag marks, evidence of a leopard kill, but they lead into dense bush where he can not (safely) follow. Richard goes to check from a different angle. He says he knows which leopard it is, and he is quite safe to approach in the vehicle, but not on foot, and he is holed up in an area inaccessible to vehicles.

Leaving him we encounter more elephants, before finally achieving our target – a female leopard called Salayexe (“one who walks alone”). We follow her for a while, getting some excellent views when she settles down to pose for us. After we leave her, Richard gets a call on the radio – the male leopard, Tingana (“Sly or Elusive”) has broken cover and is now sitting, letting his meal go down in plain view. We are able to get even closer (I am sure I have been to zoos where it is not possible to get this close to a leopard…)

Leopard

Sundown is fast approaching, and there is a park rule of no more than 3 vehicles per animal, so we leave him and drive up to the airstrip for drinks, followed by the lamping part of the trip. We see white tailed mongoose (another new species for us) – but it moves to quickly to get a photo, and another chameleon. Clement also spots a genet in a tree, but the rest of us struggle to see it – I suspect that Doreen and I, in the back of the vehicle are at the wrong angle anyway…

Dinner tonight is ostrich steak. Sheila’s desert arrives with a sparkler stuck in it to a chorus of Happy Birthday!

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