Friday, February 24

Surprise attack! (Part 2)

For Part 1 of the "Surprise Attack" click here

Who could have anticipated that those seemingly docile buffalo, having walked cautiously past the lion only 10 minutes before, would suddenly decide to charge back down the valley and chase the pride off their kill?

It all happened so quickly that one needed a video camera to really capture the action.

After initially taking shelter behind a large termite mound the lionesses then decided to cross the road behind us to put some more distance between them and the buffalo.

Here, they hunkered down in the grass and peered through the bushes, across to their lost meal and it's new guardians.

As I mentioned in my last posting, it was a very very hot afternoon, and all the cats were panting heavily after the unexpected exercise.

After a few minutes of no further action from the buffalo, the lionesses started crossing back over the road.

The cubs, obviously still hungry, were not going to be left behind!

During the previous lull I had driven up the road and U-turned to be in a better position for  photographing the next lot of action. I was rewarded with the following views of the mothers and their cubs (albeit through my rather dusty windscreen....)

But, those buffalo were not going to let these enemies of theirs back to their meal quite so easily.....
As soon as they sensed the lion they charged again, though never going as far as crossing the road.

While I watched over the next five minutes there were two more approaches and two more chases. 
The lion were definitely not winning this one!

Eventually the lionesses settled into the taller grass behind the termite mound, and some of the cubs came out onto the road to wait for the outcome.

And here's where I should say - "wait for Part 3" !

But I can't, because I don't know what Part 3 is either.

Much to my frustration, sunset was only a few minutes off, camp was 10 kilometers away, and I had to get going, or face a heavy fine for being in after "gates close".

So that's where I'm going to leave the story.

Friday, February 17

Surprise attack! (Part 1)

This is a story that I have been wanting to share with you for quite a long time.

A couple of years ago I went on a Birding course in the far north of Kruger, and on the way there I had an incredible experience with lion and buffalo.

This was near Punda Maria, where I camped for one night on the way north. After pitching my tent in a shady spot, I went on a slow leisurely game drive. Though it was already late afternoon, the heat was stifling and the animals were mostly out of sight hiding deep in the lush green bush.

There was a large buffalo herd near one waterhole which I spent some time with, until a passing car told me of lion further up the road.......

Being a quiet time in the Park, there was only one other vehicle at the sighting so I had a great view.......

There was a beautiful lioness with three cubs, feasting on what looked like the remains of a Kudu antelope.
This peaceful scene lasted for a few minutes after I got there, until the lioness suddenly sat up, alert and focused.

She then crouched down behind the carcase to keep out of sight. 
One of the cubs decided it was definitely not going to hang around and skittered off behind a bush.

Three old buffalo were walking up the valley past the lions. 
One of them had obviously seen the movement, or had scented them, and paused to glare.

The buffalo resumed their slow, deliberate trudge and the lions relaxed a little.

A glimmer of gold in the distance, and another lioness with cub came into view.

And then a third lioness with more cubs strolled into the scene.

Within a few minutes we had 3 lionesses and 9 cubs relaxing, playing or idly gnawing on kudu.

What a wonderful sight!

In an instant, this peaceful scene changed.

A lioness leaped to her feet and stared up the valley.

She whipped around and moved swiftly into the bushes on the right.

The other lions were a little slow in reacting, but..... 

as two buffalo charged into the bushes on their left, they all scattered, a blur of tawny gold and black tipped tails......

What happened next?

Well, to find out go to Part 2  of this story.

Friday, February 10

A Parade of Elephant

There's another uncommon collective name for you! A “parade” of elephant. And boy, they certainly can parade.

There is no better place to see parading elephants than when they are coming down to drink.

In Etosha, where water is only found in a few, scattered waterholes, if you wait long enough, you are almost guaranteed to see an elephant breeding herd come down to drink.

As with many animals, they appear to get quite excited within scent of water, their pace accelerates, the dust billows, and the “bunched up” herd stretches out into a distinct “parade” as they hustle down to the water's edge........

This sequence of photos was taken on a late, cloudy afternoon, so the light wasn't particularly good, but the elephants are clear enough.......

Thursday, February 2

60 minutes at an Etosha waterhole

Apologies for no postings for a while but this safari guide has been busy at home rather than on the road..... 
It's “low” season at the moment, just as well with the floods in Kruger having been a little disruptive recently. No holidays for most people right now, which equals no safari work for me. 

As for this posting, I thought I would share with you a rather special late afternoon I had at an Etosha waterhole back in November.
(Note - there's a lot of photos in this post but be patient and get down to the end where the best ones are!)  

Nuamses Water Hole, November 6th

3.55pm  I pull into the parking area overlooking the waterhole, no other cars, and gemsbok (oryx) are down there next to the water, yippee!
We don't get these large, elegant antelope in Kruger, and so far on this trip I hadn't really had any good photo opportunities..........

4.00pm   The gemsbok appear to be a little nervous, leery, so after a last drink at the waters edge, they move up the bank and exit stage left.


4.07pm    All's quiet around the waterhole, except for a few birds foraging in the dried mud and taking occasional sips of water. A brazen Cape Glossy Starling perches on my windscreen wiper,  plays “traffic cop” and inspects my licence disc.

4.14pm      Just as a few black/white striped heads appear around bushes across the waterhole stage right, a couple of rental 4x4 vehicles with “ignorant” tourists pull up in the area behind me.

Loud voices, car doors slamming, total disregard for others, ignorance of the risk to themselves, the disturbance goes on for a long 4 minutes.

The zebra watch, ears pricked, they are thirsty but skittish, much more wise to potential danger than these oblivious humans. Then they start walking on past the waterhole and I'm cursing under my breath!

I am not sure if those people ever had a good look at the water hole, but they depart at last, in a skid of stones and flurry of dust – their misfortune !!
4.18pm  Fortunately, the zebra, 30 to 40 of them, now start making their careful way down to the waters edge. Always some are looking out as others take their turns to slake their thirst.

4.19 – 4.28pm   Something is in the air though. The slightest movement, a bird taking off, a whisper of wind in the grass, and the whole herd reacts in a flash.

I am totally absorbed behind my camera trying to capture the swirling eddies of black and white, rippling reflections and the bucking, prancing youngsters on the right.

I have no time to look for any possible source of the animals jitters. I am just making the most of this wonderful photo opportunity.

4.29pm Thirst quenched, the zebra start moving up the bank to exit, stage left, the waterhole arena.
I am taking a break from the camera, sitting back in my seat, relaxing my concentration, enjoying the birds and watching the lines of zebra file off into the distance.....

4.37pm   A flicker of movement in the corner of my eye snaps me back into the present. A leopard is walking down to water's edge! It has already walked across 20 metres of open ground before I wake up to it's presence!

Immediately I understand why the gemsbok and zebra were so nervous. This is the predator they must have been scenting.

This graceful, young cat is also thirsty on this baking hot afternoon and has waited for all the larger animals to leave before coming down to drink.

4.40pm Just a few tongue laps of water, some cautious glances across the waterhole, and the youngster climbs over the rocks into a shadowed crevice out of sight.
Although I don't have much hope that I will see it again, I call on the radio to see if I can contact my friends who I think should be not far away by now. Yes, close enough to hear me, but still about 20 minutes away by road......

4.48pm YES!! Out the young cat comes again, obviously still thirsty and perhaps it's too hot in the rocks....
Some playful poses on the dead tree, a photographers dream - even though it's a little too far away for my lens.
This time having a drink exactly where the gemsbok and zebra first drank.

4.50pm     Casually strolling across to the right, up the bank, and disappearing into the long grass.

4.54pm     I think to myself “well that was definitely the last I'm going to see of that beautiful large cat”, but no, after careful scanning through my binoculars I spot it's head silhouetted against the grass, under the shade of a large Mopani bush. Too far for my camera, but I take a shot anyway.

4.55pm      Then up it gets and vanishes deeper into the bushes.

10 minutes later my friends arrive.

Post Script

Almost three months later whilst selecting and editing the photos for this post, I spot where the leopard had been for the first 40 minutes before it showed itself out in the open.

See if you can spot it, especially in the photo of the zebra climbing the bank, leaving the waterhole – the leopards silhouette is quite obvious once you find it.......

None of the animals coming down to drink saw that leopard either!