Even mongooses love sunbathing
When you think of an African safari you can’t help but think of the heat. Out here in the South African Lowveld, however, winter mornings and evenings can be bitterly chilly.
On one such morning, just as the sun was rising and the air was warming up, my guests and I noticed movement on a tall dead tree. Naturally, we stopped to have a good look with our binoculars.
It was a band of dwarf mongooses scrambling up and down the tree, searching for the best spot in the sun. These adorable little creatures had just emerged from their cosy den in an old termite mound at the base of the tree, and their antics in the bare branches above were their way of warming up after a freezing night for a day of hunting for insects, eggs, and lizards.
These beady-eyed, sociable creatures are cute and entertaining at the best of times, but on this morning as we sat curled up in the vehicle much as they were in the tree, we couldn’t tear ourselves away from their cuddling, grooming, and tumbling play.
Smiling, we left this little band of sun worshippers to their sun-loving ways.
Written by: Mark Burns
This last week we have been greeted by incessant rain. While it is much needed for the bush and the animals, guests arriving to what they expect to be a hot and sunny Africa often meet it with apprehension. Most expect it to ruin their safari experience, but this is only true if you let it! Although it has rained at least a little on all 3 of my guests’ game drives so far, it hasn’t affected their mood whatsoever. On the contrary, we’ve been having a blast slipping and sliding down the very wet roads on our determined quest to find the animals. We’d been lucky enough to have an awesome elephant sighting, watching in the rain as the herd with a couple newborn babies were playing and wallowing in a freshly formed and constantly expanding mud pan. Even the lions, which sometimes like to hide under the cover of thick bush in such weather, were considerate enough to have killed a wildebeest right next to the road, affording an incredible sighting of our big male lion feeding on his catch. So despite the rain, we were lucky enough to still have a lasting and memorable safari experience over the last couple days, with even a little extra added fun and adventure!
Story by Kevin (River Lodge)
Animals, just like humans, have personalities. Think about your dog at home – some days your dog is beyond excited about anything and the next, he might be laying in his basket, having what we as humans would call an “off” day. As rangers, we constantly see the behaviour of the animals and their reactions to different situations. These situations could include the weather, environment around them or hormonal influences. We have so many guests asking us everyday whether all the videos they have seen about animals attacking people are true, and whether things like that happen to us. Even though we do see many amazing things, we have been taught to be aware of our surroundings, especially when we are out in the bush. People who are going on safari for the first time are usually quite nervous and underestimate the sheer size and power some of these animals have. I have had many guests who are full of confidence while we’re driving around, but as soon as we’re near some lions, they’re suddenly pushing themselves as far into their seats as it will allow. Our animals are beautiful, and no doubt, could instill fear in anyone, but, if you know how to pick up the subtle hints they give off as warning signs, your safari experience (whether in a private reserve with a qualified ranger, or when you are driving yourself around a national park) will be more amazing than you could have ever imagined. When you are ready to go on safari, keep in mind that the animals have good days and bad days, too, and try pick a place where you will feel comfortable enough enjoying them from a distance where you and the animals feel happy. Don’t ever push animals, because then you could just land up being the star of yet another video on the internet. Enjoy your safari, and remember that the animals are not dangerous – only the people who don’t know how to behave around them!
Story by Angie (River Lodge)
Every now and again, you get up close and personal with a particularly beautiful bird. As I am rather fond of the birds of prey – each displaying their magnificent talons, strong beak and striking colours – I find myself drawn to taking pictures of them whenever I get a good opportunity.
One of my absolute favourites (if I really had to choose), would have to be the Western Osprey. It’s astonishing white feathers and stark, dark eyes make them look far wiser than they are given credit for.
This bird is diurnal, preferring to dine on fish. It possesses specialised physical characteristics and exhibits unique behaviour to assist in hunting and catching prey. It is a large raptor, reaching more than 60 cm (24 in) in length and 180 cm (71 in) across the wings. It tolerates a wide variety of habitats, nesting in any location near a body of water providing an adequate food supply, and occurs on all continents except Antarctica.
The Western Osprey is a summer migrant, making its appearance all the more worthwhile. I am still quite new in the birding world and I enjoy watching all of the feathery creatures, some more majestic than others, but my heart still skips a beat when I see one of these fierce creatures, hunting for their next meal.
Story by Angie (River Lodge)
The past few days have been really exiting – so many different sightings of animals interacting with one another. Not too long ago, we had two male hippos battling it out in one of our dams, real serious fight – water splashing everywhere, blood coming from the hippos mouths, spit almost flying on our faces… A real show of muscle! But it was an amazing sighting! A few days after that, we had our newly released male cheetah chasing blue wildebeest around and jackals around in an open plains. However, the best sighting was about a day ago. Our pride of lions killed a female buffalo while in the background, there were three rhinos just having a drink of water and enjoying the show. It didn’t stop there – after that, our big male lion and his lioness came and stole the carcass from the pride and drove them away. And the very next day, we had a lovely interaction between our lion cubs and mother with some buffalo. I didn’t go on drive tonight, but I heard from the other rangers that there were several leopard sighting all over Kapama and all in the same drive. It’s been a really exciting week and looking forward to my next drive, to see what new adventures await us.
Story by Jakes (River Lodge)
The Southern White Faced Scops Owl is a small owl easily recognizable by the very striking white facial disc with a border of black plumage. It has large, bright orange eyes, which are surrounded with black colours. They are 25cm in height and they weigh around 200gms, making them one of the smallest owls in Southern Africa.
This species is found singly or in pairs, where the female will lay a clutch of 2 or 3 eggs in an old stick nest of many other bird species. If these abandoned nests are not available, they will nest in natural tree holes. The young chicks will start flying at roughly 33 days.
These nocturnal owls are very well known for their ability to “transform” their shape. If they are alarmed, they have a way of escaping detection – they can elongate their bodies and contract their plumage, making themselves look taller and thinner. At the same time, they can narrow their very bright eyes into slits, making their faces less visible. To create the illusion of being much larger and more aggressive, they will open and raise their wings, creating a large “semi-circle” around their bodies – and then fluff out their feathers to further increase their apparent size.
According to tradition, owls are considered to be the wisest of all birds. Their large eyes give the impression of intelligence, so they are often depicted in stories as wise and knowledgeable.
In our world full of endless activity and distractions, being able to sit quietly is a lost art.
Story by Chané (River Lodge)