Drives 3 and 4
Both yesterday and this morning we did a walk in the reserve. The walks offered are not big 5 walks, but instead they focus on seeing the smaller things such as butterflies and learning to read the bush better. They are only an hour long, and do provide a way to use up some of the energy from the over feeding- as the food provided at these private lodges seems to be never ending. I will share with you a few of the interesting things we saw and learnt on our two walks.
We saw many species of butterflies, small black ones with a silver triangle on the wing, yellow pansies, tiny yellow and blue butterflies, smaller than a 5c coin, purple ladies (I stand corrected on the names) and many others. We also watched a Garden Orb Web spider feeding on a beetle that he had trapped. The spider surrounds the beetle with a sack, which then digests the beetle until it forms a liquid, which the spider can suck out.
Garden Orb Spider and kill
We saw Golden Orb Web spider spinning its web, using its dainty and delicate front legs to attach each strand as is comes out of the spinneret. The web is incredibly strong, and feels very similar to Nylon when you rub your hand along it. Craig even showed us some mating locusts!! In summer the grass grows pretty long, and the insect life just thrives, so we were never in short supply of creepies and crawlies to observe.
Many people who visit the bush regularly are likely to have tried Marula Fruits. Even more will have tried the drink that is made with them. Well, the Marula fruits are delicious, especially at the peak of the season and once you bite through the thicker skin, the soft sweet flesh is waiting beneath. Marula fruits, as all wild fruits, have very large pips. When elephants feed only 40% of what they eat is digested. The pips from the Marula therefore tend to come out whole, and these are a treat for squirrels and not bad for humans either! If you do find a pile of dung with some dry pips, you can flick open the three small lids with a pen knife and remove a small oily nut. It has a very similar taste to a pine nut, although more bland- I enjoyed it.
Last night our drive was pretty slow. We had new guests from Canada on the vehicle, and we were looking for some lion cubs which had presumably been hidden in a drainage line. Our tracker picked up their tracks but despite a thorough search we had to abandon the effort. On every trip there are bound to be some slow drives, and it gives you a chance to appreciate the smaller things. I enjoy sitting with herds in open areas and being quiet and at peace with nature. Listening to them feed, and pretending for a fleeting moment that I too am prey, particularly at dusk when everyone seems nervous before the start of night.
We also found a breeding herd of elephant drinking at one of the dams and spent a while sitting with them as the calves splashed about and mock fought with one another. One cow brought her very tiny baby, perhaps a few days old, down for a drink, and it was interesting to watch her as she prevented it from getting too close to the water, directing and comforting it with her strong trunk as it struggled on its feet. We ran into these elephant later after dark and had to make a big detour to ensure we didn’t disturb the mother and her calf, otherwise we might have had some angry elephant on our hands.
We stopped for drinks-a gin and dry lemon (my drink of choice)- and some chili biltong (avoided by the foreigners) and nuts and sat enjoying the last light of the day.
A male leopad had been found with the remains of his kills earlier, but as the afternoon had been quiet, everyone wanted to view him and we were unable to get into the queue. After drinks we made our way toward the leopard as everyone else had viewed him and he wasn’t going anywhere. It turned out to be one of those very fortunate moments in the bush when everything comes together so nicely.
Most of the afternoon the viewing of this male had been average at best, and when we arrived it appeared it would remain that way. He was panting heavily and kept moving his position to find a comfortable way to lie on his huge, full belly. He began to move away, and we followed unsure whether there was any water near by, or if he was just moving off the kill site. Not far from us he took a turn, appearing to be leaving the road for some thick bush, but in fact he was about to drink from a small donga (hole in the road) which had filled up in the recent rains. He bent down a couple of meters from us and began to drink his fill under the spotlight.
This is a scene I have been waiting for forever! A beautiful spotlit leopard and his reflection. He drank for around ten minutes, after which I was nearly cheering our good luck!! It was the Xinzele Male, a male I had never had any luck with in the past but as of yesterday he is certainly my favorite male leopard in the reserve.
This morning we saw a few good Rhino, and a 30 off herd of buffalo. We also viewed some wild dog although they were just lazing on the rocks after killing something earlier.
It’s just so lovely to be in the bush, to hear the birds, and the insects and to never know what you find around the next corner. Anything can happen in the blink of an eye.