It should be winter now and maybe once or twice in a week a day is cool enough or a night feels chilly enough to reassure all living things in this part of our planet that the circle of seasons is progressing as it should. When the sun shines though, the temperatures still soar into the 30’s and the ground that was so sodden just a week ago is rapidly drying to dust.
And then I look at the bush around me and I could be absolutely certain that it is still late summer. The grass is green and lush with the “new” infloresences now turning to silver, russet and gold. The trees that 2 months ago were yellowing and starting to shed their leaves have turned back to a brilliant early summer green. Flowers and butterflies abound and the bird song deafens us every morning. The heavy rains from late March until just two weeks ago have certainly ensured that there is ample food for all the herbivores and that the small waterholes will not dry out until very late in the coming dry season.
This dense, lush bush has of course made animal sightings that much more unpredictable so one can go for a few days without seeing a single lion, or giraffe, or buffalo and then on the very next game drive you start seeing them all the time! We have been particularly lucky over the last 3 months in the number of Wild Dog sightings that we have had – probably as a consequence of the thick bush they are hunting on the road more often.
As we watched this magnificent leopard subdue it’s prey, the young warthog’s sister desperately charged in, seemingly fearless, grunting harshly, trying to distract the cat from it’s intended meal. No chance unfortunately for the warthog, this leopard was too hungry and too experienced to be so easily driven off! After an endless two or three minutes, and the arrival of a second vehicle at the scene, the leopard decided that it needed to get it’s kill to a safer place and it hauled it off across the road behind us into deep cover and that was the end, for us, of that incredible moment in the bush.
The wonderful thing about being in the bush is that one sees, experiences, learns new things every day, on every game drive. Many times it is getting confirmation of stuff that one has learnt from the text books, many more times it is stuff that is never found in the text books, and of course the one word that sums this all up is EXPERIENCE! There is no limit on how much experience one can get (except in some peoples minds, those unfortunates who think they know everything!) and in an environment where everything is so alive and so natural I don’t think I will ever get bored.
I’ve tried to describe some of my other fascinating experiences below:-
The Water Monitor Lizard “fishing” in a shallow pool by curving his body and long tail into a net and sweeping through the water towards a corner. The small, indignant terrapin climbing up over his tail onto the bank to get out of the lizard’s way.
Another terrapin, a baby from it’s size, finding a wonderful large “rock” on the edge of a muddy waterhole, crawls steadily upwards to sun itself, only to be lifted abruptly way into the air as the grumpy old buffalo staggers to it’s feet, irritated beyond measure by the tickling of the terrapin’s feet!
The three juvenile African Goshawks, having been raised in a nest high above the path, so used to the presence of humans walking to and fro, stare inquisitively down upon us.
The young buffalo calf, enjoying the cooling late afternoon and the soft sand of the dirt road, bucking, gambolling, kicking up his heels, and in-between staring at us along his up raised nose to make sure that we are not going to interfere in his fun.
And then the wonder of recognising a female cheetah and her cub, first photographed along the Salitje Road in Kruger in mid January and then seen again early April in north eastern Sabi Sand Game Reserve (a good 40 kilometres between the 2 locations).