On safari in Africa people tend to focus a lot on the animals that are notorious, especially the “Big 5”. True, they do play a major part of the safari experience and do attract all of us to the bush. But we tend to forget about the smaller things, living and non-living. A lot of times the smaller things give away the location of the bigger and more notorious animals.
For instance, the red-billed ox peckers help guide us to many of the big mammals like rhino, giraffe, kudu and impala. Broken branches and fallen down trees usually lead us to elephants, and the alarm calls of different birds and other mammals give away the area where the predators might be busy hunting or walking.
This allows us as guides and trackers the privilege and opportunity to show these wonderful signs and sightings to the people visiting our wonderful country and especially the lowveld. It also allows many people to realize how all the small things come together in nature as well as the roles that various things play, whether it be big or small.
F.W – Kapama River Lodge
With our departure on our morning game drive there was a cool chill in the air. All the animals were slowly getting more active as we were treated to seeing a beautiful African sunrise.
Not far from the lodge we came across two very special and interesting birds called Southern ground hornbills. Now, for anyone that knows a bit about birding, this would definitely be a big deal. The Southern Ground Hornbill is one of South Africa’s vulnerable bird species and they mainly forage on the ground where they feed on reptiles, frogs, snails, insects and mammals up to the size of hares.
Something that is interesting about these birds is their breeding behaviour. Most of them only reach sexual maturity at the age of seven years and even then they won’t necessarily start breeding. It has even been recorded that these birds can live up to 70 years in all ideal conditions. Like most birds they are monogamous and the breeding pair can take up to eight years to raise a single youngster.
What a beautiful and exciting sighting.
Wayne – Kapama River Lodge
By my guests’ third night staying at Kapama, they had seen almost everything they wanted to see – Rhino, Buffalo, Elephant, Lions, as well as Cheetahs. So my tracker, Alfred, and I decided to focus on finding a leopard for them on their last night drive.
As we went out into the bush, we saw quite a lot of plains game, such as zebra, giraffe, impala and wildebeest. But still no fresh signs of a leopard. Nevertheless, we heard a lion calling from a nearby dam where we had seen some hippos. We decided to try and follow the roars. As we drove in the direction of the calls, we came across a female lion lying out in the open.
As the sun started setting, we stopped for a quick sundowner drink. Afterwards, someone close by called in a leopard sighting. I was so excited as this was our chance to see the ‘cherry on top’. However, when we got there they had lost visual. We tried to relocate for quite some time but unfortunately, we did not come right.
As we started making our way back to the lodge, we decided to go past one of our dams – a nice area for leopards because it is quite thick. As we got their, we saw something in the distance in the road. I asked Alfred what it was but he said he was not sure.
When we got closer, there she was – a beautiful female leopard walking in the road. We followed her into the bush where she finally settled on top of a termite mound. Every now and then she would look at us, yawn a little and then put her head down to rest. After a while, she came down the termite mound and started cleaning herself.
It was an amazing sighting. She was extremely relaxed, which is rare in leopards, and she allowed us to view her in the open with no concerns.
Kim – Kapama River Lodge
In our late afternoon game drive, when the Fork-tailed Drongos are trying to get their last few insects for the day, we were looking for a nice spot for sundowners. Just before it got dark, we saw a black-backed jackal sniffing around at a termite mound that was being used as a warthog home. All of a sudden, the warthog jolted out at an alarming speed and hit the jackal. The poor jackal went flying into the air trying to avoid the tusks of the warthog. As soon as he reached the ground, he ran as fast as he could and did not look back.
Nelson – Kapama River Lodge
Every ranger has their preference of where and when to go out on a safari. I prefer to drive in the mornings and since it is becoming summer, the days are getting warmer. Therefore, I like to drive along some dams or waterholes.
There are many different animals that are active at night, but in some cases, even more that are active during the day – for example, more plains game. On one morning drive, my tracker and I were searching for some fresh tracks of buffalo and rhinos.
At one of the dams, there were a few hippos. While watching them, one of the guests had a look around with their binoculars and saw two water monitors fighting. Once we got a bit closer, we realized that this was not the case. The water monitor was trying to kill a Mozambique Spitting Cobra. It took the monitor a long time as these snakes get quite large and are very strong.
Luckily for the monitor, they are immune to the intoxicating venom of this cobra. It also has very tough skin which makes it difficult for the snake’s fangs to penetrate through it. Since this day, I’ve got a new found respect for the water monitor.
This day had turned out quite well, even though we did not find what we originally started looking for.
Harry – Kapama River Lodge