Saturday, 23 April 2011

Dulini Day 1:Metsi Female and the Dogs

I am at Dulini lodge again, and it is as awesome as ever! I'm here with my dad, Dan and Greg for 5 nights, over the Easter long weekend. Everything is still very green, altho the grass has begun to die down a little. Our ranger and tracker team is Craig and Eric, as it was last month, and the welcome we had back to the lodge was fantastic!

For the duration of our stay we have a vehicle to ourselves, which is obviously super as we are able to better decide which sightings to be a part of, and can have a more interactive experience. Its also awesome for photography, as we can maneuver the vehicle into suitable positions. Drive 1: We left the lodge and went straight to the wild dog den. None of the puppies are out yet, but we were hoping to maybe catch a glimpse of one. Both the Alpha female and another have given birth, in two separate den sites, both of which are on Exeter property. At the first den, there was no one at home. The second den had the mother, who didn't hang around too long before going down the hole in a huge termite mound where she had given birth, so we left her to tend to her babies.

A lot of the drive was spent just appreciating being back in the bush. Then all of a sudden the bush exploded into life. Our first leopard then came onto the scene in the form of Tlangisa, the daughter of Mambirri, who was relaxing atop a termite mound. We sat with her for a while until she and us eventually moved off to allow another vehicle to view her.


 We were then called into a sighting of the Metsi female leopard, a leopard I have never viewed before. She was walking down the road toward some clearings. As we arrived on the scene we could see 2 rhino in the road behind her. She headed onto the clearings just as a wild dog appeared up ahead. Both sat down staring at each other, neither wanting to risk injury. While this was happening, another 2 dogs appeared behind our vehicle, jumping around at the area she had been scent- marking in. When they spotted her, they ran at her, and she launched herself gracefully into a nearby tree. The dogs then spent the next while jumping around the base of the tree, while she settled in for the wait. While this was happening the 2 Rhino came trundling into the scene to find out what was happening! They eventually chased the wild dog away, and bumbled off.

By now, a drinks break was in order to celebrate the first drives success! We stopped in the middle of the road to enjoy some Chili biltong and a Gin and Dry lemon. Not too far off we could hear 3 lions roaring in Unison, one of the most evocative sounds of the African bush. It was lovely to stand in the dark, drink in hand, and listen to them proclaim their territory. Naturally, after drinks we made our way to them, and spend a while watching as they relaxed on the road. One of the male gave us a beautiful and powerful serenade, the other snored.

Dinner was served next to a glowing fire place, and when we finally headed off to our extremely comfortable beds we were all wed fed and happy.

This morning it was still quite overcast when we left at 5:45am on our drive. Our first stop was naturally the den site, where a couple of adults were relaxing. No pups in sight though, so we left them to themselves. Next up, we got to view the Kashane male leopard. He is pretty large, with a very big head and neck. As we arrived the previous vehicle with him lost him in some very thick bush. It proved quite a challenge to find him, and when we eventually did, it was an even greater challenge to follow him. The car really got put through its paces, pushing over trees, and driving over holes and mounds. It the sands the off road driving is controlled, and the only species which can be driven over are those that suffocate areas, or appear due to past over grazing before the reserve was proclaimed. When he went into the drainage line, we thought he was lost, but he decided to show himself on the flats, and we were finally able to view him properly. His eyes are very lightly colored and pretty. He is an impressive male though!

A pair of wild dog had been found on the same clearing as yesterday, so we headed there and watch them jumping around agitatedly while hunting. They were quite a distance off though, so no pictures were forth coming. On the way to them, we saw the Metsi female leopard again in the road, but didn't stop. The wild dogs obviously got a hold of her scent though, because after a while they took off in her direction and again tree'd the poor leopard!

We stayed with her for a while after they ran off, and watched her relaxing in a tree, quite safe. She is a very beautiful leopard, with such a seductive tail. I have always found leopards to the most seductive cats, with their mannerisms and their attitude. We left her and were looking for a place for a coffee break when we heard there was a Caracal just around the metaphorical corner! A caracal?? That certainly had to be viewed!! This individual was so ridiculously relaxed that we actually spent a good 20 minutes with it before it moved off! Unfortunately there is still a lot of tall grass, but despite this we had an excellent view. The past 2 drives had really delivered!!

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