As previously mentioned here, one of the questions we probably get the most from guests are, “are there any snakes around here?” The easy answer is normally “Yes!”. However, snakes are very elusive and even though there are in excess of 30 species recorded in this area, most guests will probably leave without having seen one.
Last night conditions were perfect… very hot, humid and a chance of rain, and during our night drive we spotted a Red lipped Herald crossing the road. Red lipped snakes are only mildly venomous and are partial to hunting frogs, small reptiles and then also the occasional small rodent. They can grow to lengths of up to 1 meter but average out at about 70cm. Normally they are olive green or grey with tiny white speckles.
The head is usually black or at least darker than the body and the distinguishing factor is the red, white, orange or yellowish upper lip. The belly is normally white to mother of pearl cream coloured. Red lip Herald snakes are nocturnal by habit and fairly common and widespread from here to all the way to our Cape Province (hence the name “Herald” which is a very well known newspaper in the eastern Cape).
Although most people find snakes quite “unpopular”, our sighting last night was fascinating and our guests enjoyed every moment of it!
Ranger – Kapama Main Lodge
Everyday after a long dry season we all wonder, when will the weather change? Tonight we witnessed the opening of a new season, the rainy season. Days are hot and humid, and usually end with a refreshing thunderstorm. The next morning game drives are refreshing, and all animals act like they have been given new life.
The rainy season is also baby season, with most of our antelopes dropping their young late October or early November. Even though the bush becomes lush, predators seem to feel the change, and roughly only 50% of these newcomers will see the New Year. Those who make it will see the seasons change again as the cycle goes on.
Tonight before game drive we had the usual hot and humid day, and with clouds building on the Northern face of the Drakensberg Mountain, I could not help to think that just maybe today we will get the long promised rain. And now, whilst sitting typing, we are in the middle of the opening of a new season…
Story by by Wynand Erasmus van Niekerk, River Lodge Ranger
Last night on the afternoon safari after our sun downer stop, we decided to drive in the area of Mamba dam hoping to find signs of Lions in that area. However, we had a bigger surprise in store for us, besides the seven Buffalo bulls at the waters edge.
My tracker Willies captured in the beam of the spotlight a young male leopard on the dam wall. As we approached it moved and we could immediately see that it had sustained quite a bad injury to his front left leg. It was limping very badly and stopped after a few metres to lie down badly hampered by this injury. One of my guests broke down in a crying fit, as she was overcome with emotion and all this we were witnessing just became to much for her to bear.
Predators often sustain serious injuries and find themselves severely injured after territorial fights, hunting or skirmishes with other bigger predators. This however does not always spell “DOOM” for them as we have witnessed numerous times, their resilience and ability to recover after what looks like fatal injuries.
We left with a feeling of elation at seeing this elusive cat bad also couldn’t help but feel sorry and worry about its uncertain future. Only time will tell…
Sebastiaan Jansen Van Vuuren
Ranger – Kapama Main Lodge
After our bit of disappointment not being able to find the Leopard that walked past the lodge yesterday morning, last night we were rewarded for all our efforts! We were on our way back when we stopped for a quick astronomy “lesson” about one minute away from the lodge. As we were ready to go, my tracker Morris spotted something in the long grass. Upon investigation we were elated to see the leopard we tried to find that morning, busy stalking Nyala.
She moved into the drainage line which feeds the lake surrounding the lodge and we were unable to follow her any further. At least we had a fantastic sighting with plenty of good photo opportunities. This might be one of the most rewarding ways to find an illusive animal like leopard… by following up on tracks without much success, and then suddenly an appearance out of the blue!
Strangely enough we were not the only ones who got rewarded with excellent leopard sightings last night, and ours was just one of four sightings of leopards on the reserve… and as always, you would not ever find us complaining about that!!!
To conclude… PURE MAGIC!
Ranger – Kapama Main Lodge
This evening myself, Divan and our trackers Give and Harry set out with a definite objective – to find leopard. We had already been fortunate to show our guests most other animals on the reserve but were missing the illusive one!! We split up and started in the area where a female leopard and her 2 young cubs were last seen with a view to using the light that we still had to find tracks and try to narrow down a more precise area where we could follow up after dark. We first started by explaining the tracks to our guests so that they could get involved in the challenging task ahead. The first tracks that we stumbled upon suggested that the leopards had moved north from their last position. Working as a team we followed the tracks quite far north. We of course stopped to look at lots of other animals on the way. We first smelled and then saw a big group of waterbuck (my favourite antelope!). Male and female waterbucks emit a, not unpleasant, musky smell which normally lingers at resting sites. As expected and suggested by their name, Waterbuck are often found near some form of permanent water and they make use of this water when pursued by predators, often right up to their necks! Waterbuck exhibit much less fear of crocodiles then most other antelope, although crocodiles do prey on Waterbuck. It seems as though they would rather take their chance with the crocodiles than the cats!! We also saw two impressive displays from Korhaans, the sound of their call getting louder and louder before they launch themselves 15 metres into the air and do a freefall dive back to the ground –all designed to attract the ladies! One of my guests even managed to get a great picture of the Korhaan mid flight. After stopping together for a nice sunset drink we continued on our mission. And the hard work and effort paid off – Divan found the leopards not too far from where we had tracked them. A very exciting and satisfying experience for all concerned!
Story by Sarah-Estelle Sangster, River Lodge Ranger