Posted by: tim ellis | December 28, 2012

Just Cats:- Sunday 21st October 2012

Rhinoceros

There is light rain again this morning,but not enough to put us off, so we set out for our 5:30 game drive, enabling us to add ostrich to our species list as we drive past yesterday’s leopard site. There is no sign that the leopard was ever there. The rain eventually clears and we head back to camp for breakfast, and, given that we are there in daylight, a chance to photograph the resident Scops owl who lives in a bush outside the toilets.

African Wildcat

While we were out yesterday, Leon and Jason tracked down the cat I had seen earlier and confirmed it is an African wild cat. Luckily it was in the same place again today (it is watching the birds nesting under the eaves of my hut) so I am able to get a picture today. Not sure it will convince sceptics it isn’t just a pet though…

Before we leave camp for the last time, we also go to check a tree where fruit bats have been seen nesting in previous years, but we can see no evidence they have returned this year.

We leave the Kruger National Park by the Orpen Gate and take the public highway (seatbelts and speeds above 50 kph) to the Sabi Sands reserve – the first part of this journey is on tarmac road, but it then switches to dirt track through a village where breeze block houses are in every state from “shack” to “palatial” before we arrive at the reserve gates. Our first lodge here is Elephant Plains, where we are greeted with glasses of Cranberry Juice, before saying goodbye to Jason (who leaves us here) and being shown to our rooms. Mine is more of a mansion – 2 Bedrooms, two bathrooms (each with a shower) and an additional outside shower!

By the time we have had lunch it is time to get out on our afternoon drive. Leon gets to be a passenger, as we are driven by Richard and guided by Clement, his tracker who gets to sit on a seat mounted on the front of the bonnet.

As well as the obligatory impala,we see zebra, waterbuck, and kudu before chancing on a side-striped jackal. This is new to us, and much less common than the black backed ones we have seen before. He trots off down the road, seeming quite unconcerned that we are following, stopping occasionally to redo his scent markings before he turns off into the bush.

Side-striped Jackal

We come across a herd of elephants wandering along the side of the road. Richard drives past then stops to allow them to walk past us, which they do, coming quite close,but generally ignoring us, though one youngster does turn back and flap his ears at us when the engine is restarted.

In true civilised fashion we stop to toast the sundown with a drink and snacks (cherries wrapped in bacon – yum yum!) so we are standing by the vehicle when a hyaena wanders up, glances at us, then carries on along his way.

With the sun down, Clement becomes the lamper, looking for animals, although Richard explains we won’t necessarily stop and illuminate all of them, especially those more sensitive to light.

Our first spot is a flap necked chameleon, followed by a rhino (which is not lit, as we don’t want to upset him) and a newborn kudu (also not lit). We drive down a path near a boundary fence favoured by serval, but they are not evident tonight (unless they are disguised as a hippo). The Hippopotamus is quite unfazed by the light. Our final sighting is a Grey Foam-nest Treefrog’s nest being built over a pool.

Hippopotamus

There is sherry and hot towels waiting for us on our return, and time to freshen up before dinner, which is outside in the boma, around an open fire – and a big improvement over the Kruger menus. The meal is finished off with toasted marshmallows – for those of us brave enough to try…

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