Christmas Cheer

Christmas day on a game reserve usually for the staff is just another working day. This year however, was different! With the lodge and all its decorations, the staff all wearing Christmas hats and everyone in the Christmas spirit, we started out on the morning safari. Little did we know it would turn out to be an amazing one!  With the temperature being rather warm for this time of the morning, we found many of the animals at the water holes! Even some of them, the buffalo, for instance were all in the water. Imagine 70 buffalo all together in a waterhole ! An interesting sight!

 The Elephants decided they needed a swim a plunged into one of the water holes as well. The Lions were lazy and as always lying around under the trees! The most interesting thing happened in the afternoon at around 3pm when  we heard thunder and saw lightning in the distance. As it came closer it got louder and louder and when the storm eventually arrived it was pandemonium. Hail stones the size of cricket balls were falling, and animals were running as fast as they could to find some cover. The thunder was so loud you couldn’t talk to the person standing right next to you! 

 It was actually really impressive to see and once again, an incredible time on Kapama Game Reserve!

 Seasons greetings to all

Tim Verryenne – Head Ranger – Kapama Lodge

Civet and Jackal fight!

One of the big advantages of our night drives, is that we often encounter creatures normally not seen or less seen during the day.  Last night we were fortunate enough to came across a group of Black Backed Jackal. Two adults and 2 younger pups. We were not there for too long when we spotted a Civet unknowingly heading straight towards the Jackals.  At the last moment the Civet spotted the jackal family, but by that time it was too late, as the jackals launched a vicious attack on the poor civet, biting and chasing it away in a very aggressive manner.

Never ever have I witnessed interaction between these two species, and we were all fascinated. Eventually the Civet high tailed it out of the vicinity with loud grunts and growls with all it’s hair on end making him appear twice his actual size.

This was one sighting that’s memory will stay with us for quite a wile.

Westley Lombard –  Kapama Lodge Ranger

Elephant bull

This morning we set out to find a herd of elephant.  We spotted some tracks and decided to follow up to see where it would lead us. After quite a bit of serious tracking we eventually ended up at the edge of quite a big block on the eastern sector of the reserve. Since we do not go off-road for elephants we circled the block a couple of times, and at last saw a big bull elephant all alone and feeding just a short distance from the road. We watched him for quite a wile, and it was fascinating to see him go down on all fours trying to dig up roots from the tree he was feeding on.

A short distance from there was a small puddle next to the road, and this is where our elephant decided to take a mudbath. This is always interesting to watch, as elehants really enjoy water and will frequently take mudbaths to cool down and get rid off and repel pesky insects. Altough their skin is as thick as 2 inches in some ereas, it is sensitive enough to feel the bite of a mosquito. Hence the mud treatment in natures very own spa.

We left after a wile, and even though we did not manage to find a herd of elephants, this one individual more than made up for it, and we all left the area with smiles on our faces.

 Jeffrey Mmadi – Main Lodge Ranger

Big Birding Day 2010

Every year in November birders from across South Africa get together and try to identify as many birds as they can within a 24 hour period.  The competition is organised by BirdLifeSA and the results are used to establish which birds occur where, as well as other information about numbers and distribution of rare birds.

At Kapama we have some especially good sightings, particularly of the big cats.  But we also have a huge variety of birds here.  So on the 27th of November tracker Vusi Nkosi, ranger Jordan Jacobson and I set out to see how many of the birds we could find.

While many people find the birds intimidating and think that they are hard to identify, once you break it down they become much easier to recognise.  Once you exclude those that don’t occur in your area, you can then narrow it down further by looking at which family they belong to.  From there you can look at the sizes.  This should then leave you with a handful of birds to sort through.  By this process of elimination you can identify many birds quite simply.  Another big clue to the different species is to listen out for their calls.  Interestingly many of the more drab, shy and seldom seen birds have quite distinctive calls that offer instant identification to any avid birder.  Again, with the calls there is a huge variety and it can seem overwhelming.  How could you possibly identify a bird from just a few notes?  And you can’t even see it?  Well if you think about it, how many songs can you identify just from the first few notes?  Even songs you may never have heard for years.

In the end, using both sight and sound we were able to identify 154 different bird species.  Most of these species we were able to see simply driving around, while some we found walking along the Klaserie River.  Unfortunately, even though we looked for a few “special” birds we were unable to find them. Those on the “specials” list included the Pel’s Fishing Owl, Narina Trogon and the White Backed Night Heron.  These birds are lifers for many birders and even for the guides who are out here every day.

Next year we hope to improve on these numbers and even though we came first in our category for birds we should be able to find at least 50 more species, and get past the 200 mark.

Mike Kirkman – Senior Ranger, Kapama Karula

November the Month for Leopards

Great leopard sightings for the month, left us with some magnificent photo opportunities.

November we had about 36 separate leopard sightings on Kapama. From these sighting, 6 different Leopards (without the cubs) was individually identified using spot pattern variation. These characters ranged from number and spacing of muzzle spots to the forehead and eye patterns. 

One of the Leopards that we have seen is a female with the 2 remaining cubs that is about 4 months old, most of the sightings were around Karula.  This female and her cubs provided some great photo opportunities and the cubs are completely relaxed with the game drive vehicles. Hopefully these cubs will remain in the area and stay as relaxed as they are now.

Another female with 2 cubs been seen around River Lodge and to the north of the lodge. Toward the end of the month her young male cub was not seen frequently and this may simply be due to the thick vegetation after the first rains.

A resident big tom leopard has been seen a couple of times and also one morning with one of the females with her two young cubs. We also had a couple of great sighting of two young males, one that spends his time in the North of the reserve and was also seen with one of the females, possibly mating. The other one regularly seen in the south of Kapama tends to be shyer.

Another female leopard was regularly seen in the middle of the reserve. Sightings were more challenging and photo opportunities not great at all times due to the thick vegetation and many gullies rather than any nervousness on her part.

A great way to end November and start December.

Mike Kirkman- Kapama Karula, Senior Ranger

Photos by- Andries Jamneck