No More Leopards Today Please (but maybe tomorrow)

Trip Start Jan 17, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of South Africa  , Limpopo,
Wednesday, February 9, 2011

I was supposed to finish this draft a little while back but the last week has been hectic... wait no, HECTIC!

To complete the news from prior to all that, we still had (and actually still have) no signal for Renee our collared hyena. It's making things quite difficult in terms of my night drives because the volunteers are not "seeing results." I think it's a bit of a shame because how often do you get ot do night drives and perhaps have the opportunity to see amazing nocturnal animals?! Even if it isn't our objective, we've had amazing sightings by being out at those times. But what can you do?

Everyone here was on anti-hisamines at one point, hayfever, rashes, all kinds of stuff. Luckily I didn't need any though! I did have a weird toe thing going on but I don't really feel I should give details on that, haha!

Now onto the last week. We had a new volunteer get picked up last Monday and had enought time to pop out for a Sundowners. We have a number of view points and given it's nearby, B has decided that Mafazi Mine is a good one for those types of drives. On our way, not even 20min in (probably not even 10min in!) we have a close up elephant encounter. One of the bulls came over to the vehicle and had a sniff before turning away, farting in our direction and moving off! Everyone thought it was a bit funny, elephant farts and all, but it's surprisingly common but what wasn't common - the smell!! This guy had seriosu issues! It was nasty!!

The next day we had a hyena emergency so instead of heading up to the other side of the reserve (which we already were mostly there!) we headed to the area with this particular hyena. I wont go into too much detail simply becuase the issue is on going but suffice to say I had a big week because of it... and not too much sleep either! But I did get some amazing sightings out of having to follow this little guy. Just before we arrived, there was a report of 2 leopards in the area sure enough, they were there, a female and her sub-adult son. We had to check out some other areas but by the time we got back they had killed an impala and it was hanging in the tree. Myself and B would get to know these guys and their impala very well over the next day... I never thought I would reach the day that I would not want to see a leopard, let alone two! But, they were interferring in what we were trying to do so it was kind of annoying.... Having said that it was an AMAZING sighting - 2 leopards up a tree with a kill while a few hyenas tried to scavenge below. And yes, I wasn't shy about taking pictures.
On our way home from staying in the area (myself, B and a brand new volunteer only hours after arriving) we headed back to Twines but our way home, we had even more insane sightings - B saw his very first aardvark - yes AARDVARK!! (and I always TOTALLY LOVE those guys.) And just as we pull in, I finally got to see Mr Kitty's friend - the full breed African Wildcat that lives nearby. Very cool. We tried explaining to our brand new volunteer that this drive was not normal under any circumstances and she had been rediculously lucky so she should very much try to make everyone jealous (haha!)

In continuing my hectic week, in that last little bit I managed 3 hours sleep over 36 hours... I did have a little break between but the next "session" involved an idea put forward in part by me (though with much collaboration with abotu 3 other people too who deserve credit I have to say). It was an all night Renee Telemetry Sleep Out! The plan was that all the volunteers would go and take turns doing watches and checking the telemetry... nice idea... until all bar 2 volunteers dropped out. *sigh* Not wanting our two new, enthusiasic, and happy to go on sleepout volunteers to take the brunt of this, I decided that I would do it all night instead. I would have stayed up the majority of the night anyway but with more volunteers I would have planned to at least get an hour here and there. It ended up I got about a total of an hour over the whole night. But it was a great sleep out I have to say. With just me, B and the 2 girls we had some funny conversations (as you do around the campfire) and one in particular has become a bit of a running joke. I don't think the actual conversation is suitable for here but lets just say "jacuzzi" is all we need to say to make the 4 of us laugh. I didn't get signal for Renee but wrote down A LOT of different calls over the night. It's quite cool when you get to tell the different hyenas apart by there call, or even the rough age of the hyena.
The best bit was waking up, we packed up camp and I thought I heard a wildebeest by the dam - I checked it out to make sure the 2 girls would be fine (or get a photo, either way) and what do I find - a hippo that wasn't there yesterday!! And even better - a baby baby hippo with her! The ittle one wouldn't ever stay above the water long but when it came up it was very small. I told the rest of the guys when they came back to pick up-drop off things and everyone was quite excited. It was a nice way to wake up. (And then randomly as we went home, I saw a lone female impala playing (yes playing) with wildebeest calves! It was purposely running and then hiding being a bush then jumping out and then they all ran around together. Very sweet.

I did get some sleep after that, but then more stuff came up. So I look after the hyenas and lions here... and the hyenas had already had one (well, actually one new, one ongoing) issue for the week so what other animal could cause one this week? Yes, the lions. Just my luck, but I guess you have to laugh. We did resolve this issue too after a bit of coaxing. (My screaming warthog track I got off a friend came in handy!... In addition to some fresh meat as you can see in the pictures. So sunset approached and so did the al most end of the week... At least in terms of animal duties... for now.

I do actually have to give props to B for that week as well - he pretty much stayed up just as much as I did and had to drive too (and drive on a bucket - I'm not kidding, the seats in the Cruiser were taken out to get replaced!!) So yes, props to B.

We also had to visit one the other vounteer programme within the reserve, Askari. It was really nice seeing their place and even better, as two separate groups, we're now on the same page with all of our ID'd animals. Just part of the stuff I'm doing when I'm not driving around seeing leopards, hippos and aardvark (even in the bushveld, computers are a necessity!) .  

This week has only just started but we've had some nice sightings already - elephant bull Bombyx and Dracula's herd today and of course all the general game too.

It seems so much has happened this week, I haven't even talked about all the little things like the spiders and scorpions we had fun with (and the Mahlahla-ings too). As I said, hectic week - but who would change it!?

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rossport on

G'day Purple
Wow what a lifes time experience the photo's are great :) and so is the commentary :) will follow as i read the rest of your travels
Cheers Stewart

purplebuggy on

Thanks Stewart - I hope you continue to enjoy and hopefully it encourages you to come and visit this wonderful country and experience it's wildlife too! (Or simply to live vicariously, haha)

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