South Africa Day 16 (AM): Excited Rangers and Cheetah Wagers

We had a 5 am wakeup call this morning. When I say wakeup call, I mean someone came and knocked on the door of my tent to make sure I was awake. At 5.30 am we had coffee and rusk (which is a little bit like biscotti in the sense that is hard and best dipped in your hot drink), up at the lodge, and we jumped in the truck and we were on our way.

The guys had been hearing some interesting stuff on the radio last night, and we were in for a long and fast drive, to try and see something special. They wouldn’t say what it was, because they don’t want to disappoint you when you can’t see what they were looking for, but they were clearly buzzing about it and were super excited. I had my suspicions it was a cheetah, whereas Les thought it was a rhino… we will see!

We saw some zebra on the way, which the guy called pyjama donkeys (such a good name). Zebra are so vibrant in comparison to the other animals in the bush, and once you have spotted them, they really stand out against the background… If you can spot them in the first place!


We then spotted some elephant in the bush, it looked like there was only one or two about. The guys wanted to keep on trucking to catch up with whatever we were chasing, so we left the elephant and carried on. At about 7.45 we got to what we were looking for – a pack of wild dogs, amazing! Apparently, these guys haven’t been seen for in ages, they have been up in the northern area for a long while and this is the first time they have come back south in a long time.

 

Mummies and daddies

They need an area of around 20 hectares in which to hunt, and they have the highest success rates of all predators. Some packs of wild dogs have a hunt success rate of 97 percent, how good is that?! They have incredible stamina, and they work together to run their prey down. The lead dog follows the animal they are chasing, and the others work to cut the prey off on the left or right-hand sides. They also use slipstreaming to help conserve some energy, and the lead dog switches over with one behind, to give itself a break.

 

Puppies!

There were a group of 6 adults and 7 pups. They had started off the season with 12 pups, so they have had a better than 50% survival rate, which is really good. They were so sweet, with their giant ears and all laying on top of one another in a big bundle. They were beyond cute.

 

Puppies! Puppies!

We started off on the chase after the thing we were originally chasing, but over the radio the guide had heard no trace of the animal we were after, and seeing as it was another hour away and the wind was getting up, he decided not to continue going after whatever it was. We had the fortune of coming across a mummy giraffe and her baby, alone in the bush. The baby giraffe was less than a week old and he was still unsteady on his legs and was sticking close to his mum.


This little one was so beautiful, and I could have spent all day watching him. His legs were all gangly, and he looked so ungainly when he was running to catch up with his mum who had crossed the road. They are such wonderful creatures, and the height of them just seems impossible.

Running to mummy


We drove down a bit further and saw another, slightly older female, who was expecting a little giraffe, or “carrying”. She was very tall and she had beautiful markings, which were so different from the giraffe before.

We saw an eagle in its nest in the top of a tree, and then we spotted an elephant. And then another elephant. And then a whole herd of them!

There was a little one too, who trotted across in front of us. They are so sweet and they always look like they are smiling and happy.

There was a young male who flapped his ears at us and trumpeted. The males stay with the herd until they are about 22 years old, after which, they get pushed out by the females to go it alone.

A young female legged it across on front of us, and I got some great photos of her in action, with her ears flapping and her tail swinging around.

We watched them roaming around in the bush for a while and doing their thing, then carried on up the road. We saw a female lioness with her two cubs, a boy and a girl, who were about 6 months old.

They were laying out in the open because it was windy, and this gives her better visibility and makes it easier for her to protect them when she can’t hear as well. These guys “belonged” to the male lion we saw yesterday. It turned out, he was just around the corner, and was fast asleep in the grass.

He has a big gash on his leg (which looks worse than it is), but it is taking a long time to heal because he is travelling so much.

They guys took us to a giraffe which had passed away from natural causes (a big male), and it was surrounded by vultures. They were stripping the meat from the carcass and fighting with each other. The giraffe had only been there for a day and a half, and it was already pretty much gone.

 

Gruesome eh?

The vultures make such a racket, and they bicker with one another constantly, and I can’t say they are the most attractive of birds. They don’t have any feathers on their necks like the long ones on the rest of their body; this is so that they don’t get covered in animal innards when they are scavenging inside a carcass.

We saw a few warthogs and I managed to get a really good photo of a hornbill, who had been proving difficult to get a good snap of.

Considering this was all between 6 and 10 o’clock in the morning – I think we did pretty damn good. Oh, and it turns out that the animal they were looking for this morning was a female cheetah and her cubs. Ousshhhhh – I win the wager!!

Wildlife seen today:

  • Kudu
  • Impala
  • Ngala
  • Zebra
  • Eagle
  • Vervet monkey
  • Wild dogs
  • Giraffe – mummy/baby/lone female
  • Elephant – herd/lone male
  • Lion – male/female/cubs
  • Vultures
  • Warthogs

 

Bonnie

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