Thousands of people go on safari every year, many with great expectations of seeing Africa’s beasts in action. Witnessing a hunt of any sort is often a very thrilling exciting insight to a way of survival long forgotten by modern day man.
I am privileged enough to work as a safari guide and have witness many a hunt from start to end, most being near misses and on the odd occasion watching the hunt turn into a success while writhing in my seat as I see the flabbergasted expression on my guest’s face as the impact happens.
When you are there, in the hunt amongst the predator and the prey, being just an outsider witnessing an ancient natural process, you realise that no amount of discovery channel or national geographic could bring you the feelings of rawness that you are feeling right now. Its happening right here and right now, one animal dies to serve a greater purpose or one predator walks away hungry letting its intended victim live another day.
The one example I will use is just last night. We came across a single lioness with two female cubs. All three lions in very good condition, their coats gleaming in the shine from my trackers spotlight. As we watched them playing and tumbling across the road there was a loud explosive bark from the darkness to the right, my tracker whispers ”Nongo” (kudu) everyone is bought to attention, both lions and guests are staring into the darkness listening for any sounds. The lioness crouches and slithers into the bush out of the light of the spotlight. The cubs remain on the road watching and learning from mom, being way too young at 9 months to be of any contribution to the hunt,
In the soft light of the moon we can make out the female lions figure moving ever so slowly through the low acacia veld towards something in the distance, we dare not shine the light on the lioness for that would give away her position to the animals she is pursuing. So we wait and listen. BARK! Another alarm call from a kudu, in a flash the light is back on the area we last saw the lion and my cruiser is switched on, kudus, impalas zebra all alarm calling, she has obviously chosen her victim and has revealed her position in a sprinting effort to pull down the animal. Where we shine there is nothing, back to the road, the cubs are gone! ” We’ve lost them” I mumble to my tracker, the next moment as I turn on the headlights of my game viewer a kudu comes running past at lightning speed with the lioness hot on its heels, there was a squeal of excitement from one of my guests, we followed the two animals as far as we could into the acacia thicket but to no avail, we don’t know if she was successful or not but what an experience!!!!!!!
Defiantly something to talk about around the dinner table!
Jordan Jacobson-Ranger Kapama Karula
One afternoon drive, we already had a great beginning with seeing two male Leopards having a territorial dispute. The older male Leopard ended up getting pushed out of his territory and the younger male won territory that he could finally call his own! A little while later we had found a pride of Lions, one male and two females lounging around like lions do!!! Finally we decided that this was too much action for one day and a drink was needed. We stopped at a waterhole, with the sun setting just behind it.
We had just served everyone with drinks and chatting about the day’s events, and all of a sudden my tracker Tully asked us to keep quiet! It was as if someone had switched the radio off, we were deadly silent! Not far from us we heard these strange snorting noises and Tully explained that this was very unhappy Impala’s. So we very quickly packed up to go find out what was
upsetting these Impala’s so much. Drove one block switched off the engine and listened, drove to the direction of the snorting and switched the engine off and listened. We found the Impala’s all facing the same direction and as we looked beyond them we saw this little white body lying on the ground. As we drove closer i could not believe my eyes, we had just witnessed Africa’s largest snake- the African Rock Python kill a young Impala.
Males can get up to 4.5metres and females 5metres and easily weigh 55kgs, that’s a lot of snake for some people to handle. Their diet is varied but they can consume small antelope, monkeys, fish, monitor lizards and even small crocodiles have been recorded. Today this Python had killed a young impala, and it was through the mothers distress calls that we had gotten this phenomenal sighting. African Rock Pythons seek prey with their heat sensors, ambush and then use strength rather than venom. As the animal exhales the snake constricts and with every breath until the prey is exhausted of oxygen. Once the prey stops breathing the Python then releases his grip and goes towards the head and starts to consume his hard earned prey. At this time the snake is at its most vulnerable to predators, so he swallows the prey surprisingly fast. Once the Python has devoured his prey he goes into hiding like a cavity of a tree or maybe an old Aardvark hole, so that the digestive juices can take over!
It just goes to show that the bush is extremely unpredictable, you never know what’s around the next corner and if you us all your senses you just might just get so much more…
Morah-Leigh Cooper-Ranger, Kapama Karula
This morning was bitterly cold but beautiful. After watching the sun rise over the plains we found some leopard tracks which we began following up on. The tracks took us up onto a dam wall with a spectacular view of the Drakensburg mountain range. As I was explaining the tracks to my guests
we heard the characteristic call of the African Fish Eagle, otherwise known as “the voice of Africa”. At Karula we are very fortunate to be situated on the Klaserie River so the call of the African Fish Eagle is very well known to staff and guests alike. The African Fish Eagle was perched on a dead tree in the middle of the dam. Just as we took out our binoculars to take a closer look the eagle took flight towards us, allowing us an even better view. As it neared the water’s edge under the dam wall we saw it swoop down with it’s talons out and attempt to grab something out of our view.
Much to our excitement a large grey heron flew into view. We watched as the African Fish Eagle and the Grey Heron had a long and drawn out battle which resulted in a stand off between the two. The Fish Eagle had soaked his wings as he was hunting the heron and the heron, whose flight is slow and energy consuming was completely exhausted! We left them to recover and decided to return later in the morning to see if a winner had been declared.
Sarah-Estelle Sangster-Ranger, Kapama Karula
Earth Hour started in 2007 in Sydney, Australia when 2.2 million individuals and more than 2,000 businesses turned their lights off for one hour to take a stand against climate change. Only a year later and Earth Hour had become a global sustainability movement with more than 50 million people across 35 countries/territories participating. Global landmarks such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge, CN Tower in Toronto, Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, and Rome’s Colosseum, all stood in darkness, as symbols of hope for a cause that grows more urgent by the hour.
In March 2009, hundreds of millions of people took part in the third Earth Hour. Over 4000 cities in 88 countries/territories officially switched off to pledge their support for the planet, making Earth Hour 2009 the world’s largest global climate change initiative.
On Saturday 27 March, Earth Hour 2010 became the biggest Earth Hour ever. A record 128 countries and territories joined the global display of climate action. Iconic buildings and landmarks from Asia Pacific to Europe and Africa to the Americas switched off. People across the world from all walks of life turned off their lights and came together in celebration and contemplation of the one thing we all have in common – our planet.
Earth Hour 2011 took place on Saturday 26 March at 8:30PM (local time). At Karula, being a contemporary, unique and innovative lodge, we decided that to pledge our support against climate change we would go one step further. From the time the guests returned from safari (7:00PM), throughout dinner and until they went to bed (8:00PM) there was not one single light burning in the lodge. This doubled the standard blackout to two hours. So as not to inconvenience our guests, we lined the pathways and dining area with twinkling lanterns which bathed the scene with wonderfully romantic flickering lights. Each one of our guests commented on what a wonderful idea it was and on what a statement it made for the environment. This was exactly our aim and even if only a few people were impacted by this gesture they will create a ripple effect reaching hundreds, thousands and eventually millions of people… Together we can make a difference.
As guides we are always asked “How often do you see The Kill”. This is a tricky question to answer because the vegetation, time of day, species and mainly luck all play a role. Many times we are able to watch hunts, but to actually see one of Africa’s Big Cats grab hold of something is very rare. Usually we watch them stalk, allowing the animals plenty of room, and keep the noise and lights to a minimum. Fortunately the prey animals at Kapama are just as used to us as the cats are and don’t associate us with danger, so our impact on the success or failure of a hunt is minimal. Once they are in range or are in the perfect ambush spot it is just a question of patience. This can mean sitting for 2 minutes or half an hour until a sudden explosive rush and then a mad scramble through the bush by predator and prey at speeds that have to be seen to be believed. By the time we catch up with the action it is usually all over, one way or the other.
All that said, sometimes it just all comes together. So on a bright, clear summer afternoon we were able to watch a lioness stalk and kill a warthog in the open. The hapless warthog had no idea that its time was up and that the lioness had positioned herself perfectly ahead of its path. The grass was just so long after our summer rain that the Warthog simply did not see the lion until she walked within a meter of it. The lesson learned was that if you can’t see where you’re going, don’t go there!
These pictures are stills taken off a video, and though not clear, tell the story better.
Mike Kirkman-Senior Ranger,Kapama Karula