There are sightings and then there are sightings. While most first time safari goers are looking for The Big 5 sightings and other things like a Lion killing a Buffalo, people who have been on safari over and over and over again are looking to build up their safari sighting profile with more exotic, or unattainable, sightings. For some, like Twitchers, they’re looking for Lifer Birds like Pel’s Fishing Owl, or for big cat specialists, their looking for unusual interactions between species or for specific Leopards, etc. For myself I am always looking for the unusual, the different, or the once in a lifetime type sighting.
The other day, my guests and I were fortunate enough to witness a sighting in the different, or even once in a lifetime category. W were busy looking for Lion, when one of my guests asked me to please stop and back up as he’d seen a bird he was interested in. As we reversed there, on the left hand side of the car not more than half a meter from us, sat a Dark Chanting Goshawk on a very low branch. We stopped and chatted about it for awhile. The Goshawk was very calm, not moving, just enjoying the day. After five minuets or so, the bird still had not moved, which is unusual. It was a full grown adult, not a juvenile, so he should had carried off after sitting so close to the vehicle for so long.
Then, to my delight, the Goshawk jumped to the ground and started hop-walking towards a very small bush. He then started to jump and flap on top of the bush, moving this side and then that. For twenty-five minutes we watched this beautiful raptor try and hunt something out of a thorny bush. There were no audible noises coming from the small shrub, so I could not for the moment ascertain what type of creature the bird was after, but I explained to my guests that they usually eat small mammals like mice and shrew and also other smaller birds. I’ve even seen one eating a fully Crested Francolin.
As we were reaching the 30 minute mark of this fantastic sighting small little squeals started coming from the bush. Bingo! A mouse and the Goshawk had obviously finally hit home with his sharp and slightly curved at the end beak. A few seconds later in a furry of half opened wings and squeals the Goshawk emerge with a baby field mouse in his beak struggling and pleading. He then proceeded to fly up the tallest tree he could find to consume his hard earned meal. FABULOUS and unusual sighting indeed!
By: Noelle DiLorenzo – River Lodge Ranger
Tonight was one of those blissfully warm starry nights! As my guests and I were making our way to view the big male Lion, my Tracker noticed some eyes up ahead on the road. As we approached closer we saw a large Lioness and her two sub-adults, a male and female. But just as we stopped to view them they ran into a mitre drain and were dully chased out by a large bull Elephant. After a few tense moments, the Elephant meandered off, but not before giving the young male Lion a good chase, and my guests and I proceeded to follow the three Lions down the road.
Again, far ahead of the Lions, my Tracker pointed out that there were some Giraffe in the road. So we shut off all the lights and followed the three in the moonlight. The moon this night was waxing and almost full, so we were able to see the Lions quite clearly. Shortly, they came to a stand still and we stopped the car. We were very careful to not make a sound and a few seconds later one and then two Giraffe came back towards the road from the bushes. The wind was blowing the Lion’s scent away from the Giraffe. Slowly and stealthily one of the Lionesses made her way towards an Acacia tree just in front of the foremost Giraffe and after a few more seconds the chase was on. In the moonlight we could see the other two Lions crouched low and hear the thunderous sounds of the hooves as the Giraffe raced away for its life and then there was nothing. Just silence.
The other two Lions stopped crouching and posed nicely for mug shots as the last Lioness came panting past the game viewer. The Lioness had missed but it was an awe-inspiring rush to watch and listen as these big cats tried to catch their late night dinner.
By: Noelle DiLorenzo – River Lodge Ranger
It was the coolest surprise ever! I went on game drive two hours earlier than normal… just to go and find the elephants.Driving around the corner close to the Klaserie River, I almost drove over the male lion. It was really such an awesome experience… and being the only car out at that time of the day we could spend about 40min with him. You can see the wild look in his eyes. He had a giraffe kill close by so he was paranoid about the vultures seeing his supper.
By: Veruschka – River Lodge Ranger
“The Art of Tracking may well be the origin of science. After hundreds of thousands of years, traditional tracking skills may soon be lost. Yet tracking can be developed into a new science with far-reaching implications for nature conservation.” – Louis Liebenberg (The Art of Tracking).
Apart from knowledge based on direct observations of animals, trackers gain a detailed understanding of animal behaviour through the interpretation of tracks and signs. In this way much information can be obtained that would otherwise remain unknown, especially on the behaviour of rare or nocturnal animals that are not often seen.
Furthermore, tracks and signs offer information on undisturbed, natural behaviour, while direct observations often influences the animal by the mere presence of the observer. Tracking is therefore a non-invasive method of information gathering, in which potential stress caused to animals can be minimized.
In the growing ecotourism industry trackers play a key role in tracking down animals for game viewing and on wilderness trails. On game viewing drives, trackers greatly enhance the efficiency of finding animals in the time available. On wilderness walks and trails trackers open up a new experience to tourists.
To recognise signs of danger requires a very high level of expertise, and as wilderness trails becomes increasingly popular, these skills will become increasingly important. The expert tracker can not only detect the presence of dangerous animals in the behaviour of other animals, but will also be able to recognise dangerous situations from spoor. For example, the presence of lion cubs may be indicated by the convergence of the spoor of an individual lioness. To develop these skills may require years of practical experience in the bush.
By: Wayne Lubbe – River Lodge Ranger
As we departed from the lodge this morning we had only one intention and that was to find a male lion as there had not been a sighting for a few days now. I started driving off to the Southern part of the reserve looking for new tracks of the male lion. Luckily enough we sighted the tracks of both male and female lion.
As we were busy discussing the tracks we came across three African Civets that seemed to still be quite young. We were very amazed to see these kind of animals and especially that they were so relaxed with us being there. They are quite abundant throughout the reserve, but remain in the “not so often seen” catagory. Because of this we thought ourselves to be very lucky to find not one but three of them together, and that in broad daylight..!
Everyone was very excited at this point as the Civets vanished into the grass. We decided to carry on searching for lion tracks, and after about an hour and a half we spotted both the male and female lions together. A perfect ending to an already amazing drive.