The southern sky Part 1

The southern hemisphere has some of the most beautiful constellations in the night sky; for e.g:

The Southern cross: the Southern cross points out the southern direction and its also the only constellation that is visible all year round. It consists of the four cruxes:

1. Alpha crux
2. Beta crux
3. Delta crux
4. Gamma crux

There is also the counter part known as the two pointers; they are alpha centauri and beta centauri. Alpha centauri is the brightest of the two stars because it has a twin right next to it known as proxima centauri and it is also the closest star to our galaxy, besides the sun. It is about 4.9 million light years away from us.

Since the South African sky is one of the most beautiful, I thought it would be interesting to share some information on it. Watch this space for some more interesting facts about our night sky.

Pieter – Kapama River Lodge
17/08/2012

Small but brave

Bullies

On a warm afternoon safari, my tracker and I decided to try and find a pride of lions that had been spotted earlier that day. We call this specific pride the Moria pride as their territory runs mostly in an area that we call Moria.

As we started tracking, we came across many other animals such as Impala, Zebra, Giraffe, Duiker, Wildebeest, etc. It was my guests’ first drive and they were fascinated at the variety of animals despite the dryness of our winters. I explained to them that they, as humans do, adapt what they eat in order to receive the best nutritional intake.

As the sun was setting, someone had found the pride of lions – a male, one of the three females and the three older cubs that we have. The other two females must have been with the new cubs that are around one month old, or so we thought.

After I had responded, there was no one else that wanted to come and view the lions so we sat their and watched how the three cubs were playing with each other in the road. After about five minutes, out comes one of the brand new little babies.

He came out of the bushes as if he was one of the older cubs and started biting and tackling his older siblings. Little did he know, his brother and sisters are a little stronger than he thought. Despite this, he did not back down. The three older cubs were pushing him around and dragging him by his tale but the little one just growled and bit back, as if he was the strongest of all the cubs.

I found this amazing and inspiring. This shows us that nature can be about teaching lessons but it can also be about fun and games at the same time.

Kim (KC) – Kapama River Lodge
14/08/2012

Off-roading for the king

It was a warm Friday afternoon in Kapama. My guests and I were on the trail of lions. My tracker, Lot, got the tracks and we followed them for quite some time, at least an hour and a half, when we were about to give up thinking all hope was lost.

Then, we heard the call over the radio saying that the pride was found at one of the dams. So I called in to respond as fast as I could and started making my way to the area. The sun was setting and I knew we had to get to the pride as soon as possible, but what I didn’t know was that there was a monster of a two-track fraught with danger.

There were thorn bushes and big trees curving all along this tiny two-track that was curving from left to right. So I put the vehicle into 4 x 4 and told my guests to brace themselves and keep vigilant. As we slowly made our way towards the lions we heard tiny moans coming from the little infant cubs. Hiding in the grass was the king of the jungle with his three female lionesses and their three cubs of around six months old as well as their six new cubs, only around one or two months old.

It was a spectacular sighting and everybody was happy. I’m hoping to see more of these new cubs and monitor how they grow to become prominent hunters.

Pieter – Kapama River Lodge
12/08/2012

Sounds of the bush

Alarm calls of different animals can tell amazing stories and give away the location of the most elusive predators. Whilst on game drive this afternoon we had an experience where the alarm calls of a troop of baboons gave away the location of a female leopard. We were on our routine sundowners break when my tracker and I heard the baboons go ballistic.

Shortly after their show, we heard a “coughing” sound frequently described as the uneven sawing sound produced by inexpert handling of a two-handed crosscut saw. We were sure those baboons had been stressing the fact that there was leopard in the area.

We let the guests finish their relaxing drinks break without telling them about the potential surprise that lay a head. After packing up and getting everyone settled on the vehicle we set out in the direction of the audio we had just heard. As we were closing in on the area where we thought the audio had come from, we were able to confirm she was in the area as we heard some bushbuck also giving alarm calls. Shortly after we stopped to listen to the alarm calls, she graced us with her presence as she crossed the road in front of us, giving us a great sighting of this beautiful cat.

F.W de Klerk – Kapama River Lodge
09/08/2012

The fearless honey badger.

So many times there have been stories told about the honey badger that is tough and fearless.

This morning our mission was to find some lions. We had an idea where to start looking for a specific pride of lions and so we took off from River Lodge. On our way to this area, in the road right in front of us, the luck struck us. There were six lions running around and playing with each other. Well, that was what it looked like from a distance.

As we approached these lions, we realized that they are not playing with each other. Instead, there was a honey badger running straight towards the lions. This was amazing! The male honey badger, which may weigh up to 30kg, was showing its teeth and groaning while he was approaching the lions without even hesitating. Everybody thought this was a suicide mission, but to our surprise, that was not the case.

This honey badger was fearless and stood his ground running straight through the pride of lions. They didn’t know what to do and tried to play games but they did not succeed. When he got to the young male lion he growled at him and actually aimed with the front paw to hit the lion in its face. Once he ran through the pride, he went to safety into a hole in the ground where he probably spent the rest of the day sleeping. The lions eventually took off, losing interest and minding their own business.

The honey badger is not known to be the most fearless animal for nothing. It is an extraordinary animal which will defend itself against the king of Africa. It was amazing to witness with my own eyes that the honey badger is indeed as tough as we thought it was.

By Janco Du Plessis – Kapama River Lodge
08/08/2012