The Calls of Africa

Our safari was almost complete. We only had one night drive and a morning drive left. It was time to look for what we haven’t seen yet. The answer – lion cubs. Setting out, all the other rangers were determined to find a leopard. So we were alone. We did however have an idea of where the animals had been by trying tracking them that morning. But they hadn’t been found yet. And the tracks disappeared because of a soft rain all day. So this was going to be a mission from the start.

As we drove around, we started losing hope – there was no fresh tracks to be found, and the spots that were most likely to be their end destination turned up empty. Until that one unknown turn you go around and they are, lying on the road. Mom and the older sisters sleeping while the cubs play around and on top of them. It turned out to be fantastic. With everybody else still looking for leopard, that ensured that we had the sighting to ourselves for as long as we wanted. Then however, we got thirsty for more.

We made our way to a nice open spot, far enough away from the lions to enjoy a sun downer drink. Just as the guests were finishing up their last sips, we heard a lion roaring. Then a few minutes later another roar. Closer this time. So we packed up and got back onto the vehicle. It didn’t take as long to find the big male walking along slowly up the road, marking his territorial boundaries after the rain. He walked closer to the car and flopped down a little distance away from us, but still facing the vehicle. We got the opportunity for some amazing photographs and then he started to roar. Lying down, head up. Full volume roar. It sounded like it came right from the stomach, straight through the car! Awestruck, we realized again the immense presence this magnificent animal has wherever it goes. And there is no place I would have rather been at that moment than right there. Beautiful, amazing Africa

Story by Jacques (River Lodge)

The African Buffalo

This afternoon, we had a breeding herd of buffalo with many calves that moved through the southern parts of the reserve. For the majority of the females, the 11 month gestation period is now over. Now that the bush is lush and green, there is enough food and water for a few big herds. Herds of buffalo don’t stay in one area as they are always moving from one area to another looking for good water and good grazing areas. All the bachelor herds that we had wandering around last couple of month have now seemed to have moved back to the breeding herds. Our trusted old dagga boys are still around, always close to waterholes or mud pans to keep them cool in the harsh African sun.

Story by Clement (River Lodge)

Commelina benghalesis

It was on a late morning walk, when everyone was walking with their heads up after viewing a breeding herd of buffalo at one of the dams, when suddenly, one of my guests was trying to tie his shoe laces, and one of the grasses draw his attention. With a flower with a light blue colour, he called me to have a look at this beautiful plant on the ground. I immediately I started to think of names that this plant might be, like Benghal Wandering Jew, Blue Mouse ears, Venus Bath and many other names of this lovely blue wild flower belonging to the Commelinaceae family. During this time of the year, in this area, we have 25 different species in Southern Africa and in Brazil. There are 3 of the Commelina species that are poisonous to humans. This plant it is well known from Southern Africa to countries far like India, Tanzania and Islands of Philippines, Madagascar and Mauritius, where the plant have been used as a cure for fever, swollen glands, leprosy, dysentery, sore throats, sore eyes, infertility, burns and many more ailments.

Story by Kallie (River Lodge)


Getting Some Sun

It was a very overcast morning with a gust of wind or 2 swirling in the bush when we went out on drive.
We originally decided on trying to go for lions as the weather conditions were suited for them. But no lions were anywhere to be found! A little bit later on in the drive, we found a dead giraffe that looked like it died because of old age. Even though this is something we as rangers see often, what made this carcass so special was the fact that over 80 vultures were feeding on this carcass.
With some fighting going on, and these scavenging birds scattering to find a spot to forage some food, they suddenly stopped and ran into the open. Next moment, the sun came out and immediately, almost as if they were in sync, they all turned their backs and opened their wings to soak up the sun. And then, as quickly as it appeared, the sun disappeared they all ran back to the carcass and continued feeding.
This was definitely the highlight of my day as it just goes to show that a little bit of sun goes a long way.

Story by Rassie (River Lodge)

The Private Lives of Hyena

In one of our quieter times, not too long ago, we decided to drive towards the den where the hyenas keep their young. Because it was a quiet time for most of the lodges, there were no other safari vehicles in the area and we had the sighting to ourselves for more than an hour. Normally the traffic of vehicles entering and leaving will disturb the movement and behavior of the animals. This did not seem to be the case today. They did look at us for a while when we arrived there, but afterwards, they seemed to be relaxed with us and just went about their daily business. Mother grooming the youngsters, youngsters playing and bullying each other – all behavior which one would not normally see with these very secretive animals. Even the older juveniles took part in a bit of the play. This, once again, proves that they are not the vicious animals they are believed to be. Even though they are dangerous animals with an immense bite force, they can control how they use those jaws.

Some of the other myths about hyenas that are not true are: –
? They do not eat everything they see – even though they do eat carrion, it still needs to be quite fresh;
? They do not only scavenge off lion and leopard kills. Hyenas are very successful hunters and are very capable of catching and killing their own prey if they need to;
? They will not go mad and eat themselves from the back just because they smell blood. They will however try to lick the wound the same way dogs do to keep it clean and stop infection;
? They are not dogs; and neither are they cats, for that matter. They are biologically closer related to cats than to dogs, but they are in a complete different family. The hyena family only has three members in Southern Africa – the spotted hyena, the striped hyena (also known as the aardwolf) and the brown hyena.

Story by Jacques (River Lodge)

The Stories Behind Chameleons in African Culture and Folk Tales

This is the best time of a year where we see a lot of chameleons. They are found throughout almost all of southern and central Africa, with the northern limits of its range extending from Nigeria and Cameroon in the west, to Somalia and Ethiopia in the east. They are also common in Kapama. Some chameleons are known to grow up to 35cm, with their colouring ranges through various shades of green, yellow, and brown. On some of them, there is usually a pale stripe on the lower flanks and one to three pale patches higher on the flanks. They mainly eat grasshoppers, butterflies and flies. Their short mating season is the only time when females will allow males to approach them without conflict. After mating, the female will once again become aggressive towards the males, turning black and butting heads with any male that approaches. After a gestation period of around one month, she will lay between 25 to 50 eggs in a hole that she has dug in soil, which is covered over again by the female.
They are known to be related to witchcraft in many cultures around Africa. In this particular case, let’s look at the Swazi speaking people. They believe it is being used by the witch doctors to send bad spirits to families because it changes the colour. People say that it could transform good luck to bad luck, or if it bites you, it can transform you from being a man to woman or the other way around. Zulu people believe that if it bites someone, they will have a wound that will never heal until they die. Some people also believe if it bites you, you will immediately start laughing to death. The Tsonga people say that if it bites you, you will automatically become infertile and it is also believed that if a chameleon dies, the bones will produce baby chameleons which is quite a funny concept because when you read scientific books, they have found that they lay up to 50 eggs that will hatch. Try telling that to my grandmother and she will think that you’re crazy!

Story by Nelson (River Lodge)