Wednesday, March 27

Haunting Hwange (3) – A Mopani Spring


Desolation, despair, death.

Skeletal trees reach
Stunted bushes crouch
By parched, muddy puddles
The waterholes of Hwange.

Desolation, despair, death.
Vultures soar, wheel, dive
Hazy, cloudy skies
Over shadeless, naked earth
The pastures of Hwange.

Desolation, despair, death.
Ribcages etched
Dry skin sagging
On just alive bodies
The elephant of Hwange.

Desolation, despair, death.
Bleached bone, carcass stink
Hyaena whoop, lion roar
Each starless dawning
The graveyards of Hwange.

Desolation, despair, death.
Lightning flashes,
Thunder grumbles
Wet earth scents the air
The spring storms of Hwange.

Resurrection, hope, life!
Puddles fresh in hollows
Green fuzz on bare slopes
Red butterfly shoots
Mopani spring in Hwange!

Friday, March 22

Shadow fight

Last week I did a wonderful 7 day safari in Kruger National Park with cousins of mine from the UK.

We had many great experiences and one of the highlights was watching two bull elephants “measure tusks” on the banks of the Letaba River.

It was a late afternoon on one of those crystal clear autumn days that only Africa can produce, and the show was spectacular, especially the shadows of the two “fighters” on the sand.

The outcome was fairly predictable as the two elephant were of different sizes. The anticipation was in how long it would take for the younger bull to get the message that he really shouldn't be hanging out so close to an older bull in musth......

first, the young bull came down to drink
followed a few minutes later by the bull in musth
they both drank and then the first of several face offs ensued
the shadows they created were fascinating........

This fight broke off, but more "tusk measuring" encounters followed until the younger bull at last beat a tactical retreat up the river bank.....

This post is dedicated to Simon and Diana with whom I shared this great experience. 
Thanks for making this safari possible and celebrating with me my first five years guiding in this awesome part of Africa.

Wednesday, March 6

Looking out for Lion

We don't always find lion when we go on safari.

After all, they are the apex predator (in Kruger) and occur in much lower numbers than most of the other large mammals. This is only natural, otherwise they would run out of food soon enough, after depleting the herbivores in their range.

They are also superbly camouflaged, especially in winter, and generally sleep in deep shade for most of the day.

In Kruger, which has deliberately few tourist roads for it's large size, this means that we can search for hours, and occasionally days, before finding lion.

So, when we get to hear of a mating pair of lions we get quite excited. This is not only because it's an unusual sighting for us, but because they tend to "hang out" in the area where they are first spotted for a couple or more days, if we are lucky.

The female lion goes into oestrus for several days and like all cats only ovulates and conceives after repeated copulation. During the few days she is in oestrus, the male lion usually changes, with the final partner likely to be the dominant male in the pride, or area.

Luckily for us, mating pairs often seem to prefer open areas, and this sometimes results in them being on the road, or very close to it.

However, we have to be patient when we manage to get into a lion sighting of this type.

The actual mating takes a only a few, spectacular seconds, accompanied by fierce growling and snarling.

Then both cats flop down, close to each other, the female rolling over onto her back.

 For the next ten to twenty minutes nothing happens........


The male rises, stretches, sniffs encouragingly at the female, and the action starts all over again.

As I said previously, this can go on for two or more days and if we are staying in the area and the itinerary allows, we come back again, and again.....

Finding lion can be a challenge, but seeing mating lion is an exceptional event!!

My guests and I were lucky to see a mating pair this last week in Kruger, and I'm not sure if they fully realise how privileged they were.