Recent Sightings

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May 2012

The last couple of days of April and the beginning of May have continued to provide our 'recommended daily adrenalin rush'! 

For months we have been seeing a big old wildebeest bull constantly hanging around at our Mamutumi hide, all alone, muttering to himself, rolling in the dust, sleeping for hours then running around like a lunatic for no reason that we can see!   Fondly named Raymond, we have grown very attached to him and always look out on the way passed!   On the 29th of April we found a dead wildebeest at the hide - it appears he was killed in a territorial fight as he had injuries from a horn.  So now the question is, is it Raymond or has he disposed of a rival in the area?    We will hopefully know in the next week or so if he comes back but in the meantime, Mamtumi has become like a bus station at night.

Knowing the ways of the bush, and that this animal would provide a meal for others, we stationed ourselves in the hide before sundown and sat to quietly wait and see what happened.     What a night!!    It started with hearing the call of one hyena and then another and escalated until  NINE spotted hyena were all around us. It provided a very unique opportunity to sit and observe them and their behaviour at very close quarters for a number of hours.

There is such a big difference between 'seeing' animals and 'observing' them behave naturally.   It appears that there were three distinct clans who arrived and the politics and interactions were fascinating to watch - who gets to eat first, who chases who, who tries to sneak in and snatch some meat and how the pecking order is sorted out.    A really young hyena arrived and we got to see the begging and hear the screaming and 'giggling' and submissive sounds and watch it get chased off a few times before coming back to try again.   

Hyenas love water and once all the politics had been sorted out we watched them swimming and splashing and diving under the water in the waterhole, only to come up spluttering and shaking the water off.  One even went under the water completely at times.   Then they would race out of the water and chase each other and rough and tumble - they are really playful animals - and then eat a bit more and start the whole process again!   The antics continued the whole night before they all 'waddled' off to sleep off the feast!.   And then the next evening, more of the same.   They came back and put on an equally amazing show, while putting another dent in their meal.  Within the next couple of days there will be no trace of the carcass as it will have been cleaned up nature's way.

Of course the jackal were ever-present but never dared come anywhere near that sort of fighting power so they will get the scraps.

We  arrived back at the house after the second night's viewing and were sitting outside when a leopard streaked through our garden, passed the swimming pool and out through a gap in the wall!!!!!  It then proceeded to call and call and call, right outside the gate as it patrolled the area.   This is getting a bit close for comfort as we do not want the dogs to become a leopard take-away!  We have not resolved how to keep the leopard out so we will keep the dogs in and for a few days put up the camera trap to see who else is 'trespassing' in the yard!

April 2012

The Mopanis are losing their leaves very early this year and it is becoming easier to see through the bush. Elephants are everywhere and there are lots of tiny babies. They have provided us with hours of entertainment at the waterholes as the babies try to slurp water up with their uncontrollable trunks!   They end up on their elbows and knees trying to suck the water up with their mouths and providing us with some really special photo opportunities!!

No matter what Chinese year it is, we have declared 2012 ‘The Year of The Cobra!!!!’  We have had a number of encounters with them and have spent a lot of time catching and relocating them to more remote areas!!!  Thankfully it is cooling down quite rapidly now and they are starting to look for places to hibernate.  We have also had some lovely sightings of African Rock pythons, on of which visited us on our lawn the other night.    Ever alert for cobras, Helena and I immediately hurled all the garden furniture at this ‘suspicious object’ and it never moved an inch.   On closer inspection we saw what it was, watched it slowly leave the garden and then spent half and hour collecting all the chairs!!!

Our very best of the best was the evening of the 28th April 2012.  We found a kudu that looked like it had been killed by a leopard in the river bed at our top hide so we decided to sleep out there  for the night and see if it came back.  Well, come back it did – and it was right in front of the hide  - the most stunning young male.    He arrived just before sunset,  had a good feed and then disappeared into the brush nearby.   Two hours later he emerged to have a long drink, check out his meal again and then have another rest – and of course terrify the living daylights out of two jackal who were on their way to the river – they went into hysterical screaming fits for about half an hour!!.  All the while a brown hyena was lurking in the shadows hoping to dash in but no luck!!

Just before dawn he arrived back and woke us up with all his scrunching and munching of the remainder of the hind quarters before vanishing into ‘thin air’ presumably to sleep off the meal.    The brown hyena kept trying to come closer but did not quite pluck up the courage and eventually went off into the bush for the day........

‘Til Later – Judi and Helena

March 2012

The water in the Limpopo River has dropped dramatically at Island Camp and this month has seen many animals crossing on to the island.   It is not unusual to see impala and kudu during the day and at night guests have often heard elephants foraging near the tents. The Pel’s Fishing owl has been heard and we have seen a saddle-billed stork near the lounge. Baboons have been crossing over the rocks onto the island and never delay long if they are in the water.    Sadly one of them was not quite fast enough and a crocodile came barreling out of the water and grabbed it right near the hanging bridge.  A warning to all of us who look at the river and think it looks innocent!!!

Our resident leguaan has become more and more comfortable in the camp and goes about the daily business of checking out his territory and seeing what he can find in the kitchen and utility room!!!

At night we have a genet who has become quite ‘tame’, frequenting the kitchen looking for scraps and guests are able to see it almost every evening during dinner. 

The Wild Dogs have been seen at our Elephant Springs hide as well as at Island Camp and Koro Camp. 

An unusual sighting that we had was of a Lesser Spotted Eagle which had caught a tree squirrel and swallowed it whole right in front of us.

The Red Hartebeest have increased in numbers and we are now regularly seeing at least 7 of them in front of our house.   A young cheetah seems to be establishing a territory around our house and we have seen it a few times now, and found evidence of a kill nearby so we are hoping for more frequent viewings.

‘Til Later – Judi and Helena

February 2012

The 3 Wild Dogs seen in December 2011 appeared again this month at our Top Hide.    They were spotted by a group driving passed at about 7.00am and were resting right in front of the hide.   They managed to take some really good pictures of the dogs which we sent to the Wild Dog researcher, Craig Jackson, and he was able to positively identify them as being one of the daughter’s of the Mashatu pack and two of the males that dispersed from Limpopo Lipadi.

The next afternoon they were back at the same hide, once again in full view  and a few days later Helena was walking in the Mahabe river on the northern side of the Reserve when she heard a barking noise and walked right into them again.   Since then we have seen their tracks quite frequently, especially at one of our water holes.

Leopard sightings are increasing and a group who slept out at our Elephant Springs hide had the priviledge of seeing one of these stunning creatures walking passed.

The water hole we built at ‘Little Serengeti’ has become more and more popular and the elephants have put it on their route.

Another very exciting sleep-out in the northern part of the Reserve resulted in no-one getting ANY sleep.  First a very curious elephant came really quite close to investigate who was there, then a leopard ambled out in the open,  had a long drink and then lay down flicking its tail and just watching the group and to top it, a couple of spotted hyena arrived and had a great time ‘swimming’ in the water hole.

December 2011

Each year, from the beginning of December we eagerly await the birth of all the little impala and wildebeest babies but this year they kept us waiting – we only started to see them towards the end of December, possibly because rainfall has not been very good yet.   However,  we were not disappointed and cannot resist stopping next to every little nursery group and taking a hundred pictures.   They must be the most photographed babies on the planet!!

Friends and family joined us over the festive season and we had some other really good sightings – particularly at our Mamatumi Hide.   Spotted hyena visited in the evenings and thoroughly entertained everyone with their antics in the waterholes.  As always we had many elephant herds and it really was a battle to keep up with the water there.   The other usual visitors were impala, wildebeest, zebra, kudu and jackal with the occasional spring hare and scrub hare.  The one evening some family members decided to sleep out at the hide and were rewarded with a leopard walking right passed!  And we saw another leopard on the road driving back from Island Camp one night.

Father Christmas gave us all a REAL present on Christmas Day – driving up from camp there were Wild Dogs – RIGHT IN FRONT OF US!!!   It has been many months since we have seen any on the Reserve so it was extra special.   We saw 3 dogs which seemed to be heading for our airstrip so I drove around and sure enough,  on the airstrip they were!

What was most exciting was that they were not from the pack that is being tracked and we managed to get a couple of pictures which have now been sent off to the researcher and we are hoping that someone can identify who they are – perhaps we have some ‘new kids on the block’ – who knows?   The other pack that we know of has been spending much time in northern Tuli and when last seen there were 4 adults and 5 pups.

'Til Later - Judi and Helena

October 2011

We have been watching a real love affair playing out this month – right in our front garden! 

Every evening, for many months now, we hear Pearl-Spotted owls in the garden at night and we have been able to see them quite often.  This month we saw two of them every day, during the day as well as in the evenings, and we finally saw them mating in the big apple leaf tree.  This tree is very tall and has an overhanging branch with a hole in it and the pair chose this hole as their nest.     In the heat of the day the female could be seen hanging her head out of the hole presumably to try and cool down a bit.   We also got to see them hunting in the garden and who would have believed it - one of them caught a tree squirrel – almost as big as the bird itself.   We are hoping to see their young come out of the nest one of these days.

We had the camera trap up again – this time focused on a dead impala that we found.  The first night all we saw was a very large bull elephant walking passed – in fact he nearly stood on the impala but turned away as soon as he sensed it.   The second night brought in the ‘heavies’ –first a leopard and then a concerted effort by a spotted hyena.  Oh and a rather large porcupine scooted passed as well!!

As always at this time of the year it is extremely hot and we have been ‘invaded’ by elephants.  Everywhere we turn we see herds of them with youngsters and tiny babies, all searching for water and a place to cool down.

It is still a while until the rains come but we are hoping that it will be soon so as to provide some relief to the dry, dry bush and to fill up some of the natural waterholes

‘Til Later - Judi and Helena

August 2011

From this month Wild At Tuli Safaris moved to a new camp on the Reserve.   We are now running our business from Island Camp which is also on the Limpopo River, 2.5km away from Koro Camp. 

It is situated on an island in the Limpopo river and is reached by a hanging bridge.    We now have 4 large meru tents with en-suite bathrooms, a beautiful kitchen / lounge / dining area, a splash pool and a boma for evenings around the fire.

The sightings of the month were seeing the Pel’s Fishing Owl flying down the river right passed the camp in the early morning  and having a lioness run right in front of our car near Koro camp at about 9.00 at night.  She headed for the airstrip but by the time we located a spotlight and went looking, she was gone!!   So finally we can confirm that there are lions around albeit very shy!

‘Til Later - Judi and Helena

July 2011

We have built 3 new dams and installed two new windmills on the Reserve and although we have not seen much game at these holes yet, all the evidence is there of what has come to have a look, including aardvark spoor and……………….

This month we saw our first aardvark on the Reserve.  We were traveling back from Island Camp at about 10.00pm when we spotted it right in the middle of the road.  It was quite unfazed by our presence, did not seem to mind the lights at all and walked right up to the vehicle.  It is a surprisingly big animal when you see it and it was fascinating to watch it going about its nocturnal business of ferreting out termites for dinner

 ‘Til Later - Judi

 June 2011

It got progressively colder this month but did not stop the comings and goings of the bush!!    In our yard we found a couple of leopard kills – an impala up a tree and a while later an impala right next to our quad bikes!   We had seen 2 young leopards walk passed one late afternoon and suspect that it was them who were hunting in our garden!!    

We also found a kudu carcass that had been killed by hyena and only half-eaten so we decided to position a camera trap near the carcass to see what would come scavenging in the night. 

The first night we decided to sit up nearby and watch but it was absolutely freezing cold and we lasted until 10.00pm before giving up and retiring to the relative comfort of a cold house!!

It was amazing to see what actually walks right passed our house while we sleep!!.   When we downloaded the camera the next day it showed that we were visited by brown hyena, spotted hyena, genet and civet.  All in one night!!   AND that the temperature dropped to 2 degrees C!!

‘Til Later - Judi and Helena

April 2011

April was a very busy month for us with visitors and catering, and we welcomed back 'old' friends who were with us last year as well.  The elephants arrived back on the farm en-masse and so there were wonderful sightings of big herds with their babies.  They now firmly have on their route the Mamatumi hide as a stop for water so we have been keeping the waterhole pumped at all costs.

Helena went tracking the Wild Dogs and twice picked up the signals.  She tracked them on foot the one day and was lucky enough to find two of them who, not wanting people too near, growled and moved off.  The next day the signal was there but no-one was able to see the dogs.

What made up for the lack of Wild Dog sightings was the first every Aardwolf sighting for us on the farm.  It was a magnificent animal and was seen in the late afternoon in the middle of the farm.  We always thought they were here as we have seen the spoor, but this was the first time one was out in the open.

We also saw various snakes including cobras and a puff adder, all who were going about their business and would rather run a mile from us than stay!

Opposite Koro Camp a hippo put in an appearance on few times , resting his head on a clump of rock for hours on end, so visitors got really good sightings.

The Wild Dog project is keeping us very interested as we are dealing with other people in the area and they have seen the dogs and managed to photograph them a couple of times and once we put them all on to the computer we realised that there are at least 3 distinct groups of them in the area.   We are putting together profiles as best we can and will hopefully soon have enough information to be able to identify them by sight.

'Til Later - Judi and Helena

March 2011

In March we have had a few sightings of Wild Dog - between 4 and seven dogs.  They seem to move between the Mamatumi hide and the river when on the farm, but in one night they can be many kilometres away and onto another farm.     A couple of the dogs are collared and we have made an arrangement with the researcher of these animals to track them where possible here using telemetry equipment, so we are very excited about that and have started gathering data already.    As we build up pictures and profiles we will know where they are from and hopefully provide more insight into their whereabouts.   We will post updates as and when we see them.

The other 'big find' in March was a Pel's Fishing Owl, sitting on a branch right next to the river road fishing in the Limpopo.   For the people on the game drive it was their first sighting of this magnificent bird.  We hear the Pel's regularly at our camp at night and have seen him/her flying across the river a few times.

Another rare one for me was seeing an African Wild Cat early one morning.  My first instinct was what the hell is a domestic cat doing in the middle of nowhere, until I got a closer look - great sighting!

And the other creature that we have seen many of is chameleons - and they are in great condition and all very big.   We have had to stop on the road a few times to allow the slow progress from one side to the other and we even saw one swim across a large puddle in the road after a rain storm.

'Til Later - Judi and Helena

February 2011

February saw the return of the elephants in full force to the farm.  They had not been around for many weeks and suddenly, everywhere you looked - ELEPHANTS!!  And they certainly did make their presence very well felt - they marched into camp and debarked a few trees, then they discovered our water pipes running from the generator and promptly ripped them out of the ground and bust them and the also managed to remove the manhole covers from the septic tank at one of the hides.  Besides that they have been flinging rocks into the waterhole and persist in kicking rocks into our roads.  Oh, and the boom and front fence have been knocked down for the umpteenth time!  

Helena walked out onto our verandah one night and was staring right into the rear end of one large bull elephant who had wondered into the yard because we forgot to close the gate.  It took us 2 hours to get him and his friend out of the yard with much running up and down and opening and closing of gates!!!

All the babies on the farm are growing rapidly and we have now seen warthoglets, impala, kudu, wildebeest and ostrich babies.   The pair of ostrich on the airstrip had 10 babies and for weeks we would see them all running after their parents!

'Til Later - Judi and Helena

January 2011

January turned out to be one of the best sightings we have had here on the farm , if you love the big cats!!   I was driving out of the camp early one morning to take people to Pont Drift Border when we came across a leopard languishing on a tree stump - such a typical pose....   then I looked and there was another leopard!!  and then I looked again and there was a third leopard!  And did I have a camera with me????    Nooooooooo!!!!!     Leopard Cubs Jan 2010   But fortunately others did and clicked away frantically - I called Helena on the radio to tell her and she kept making me repeat myself - THREE leopards Helena, definitely THREE!!  

It was a Mum and her two cubs who had just made a kill which was lying on the side of the road - they had had their first snack and were resting but when the cubs saw us they were very inquisite and came right up to the car to have look - too gorgeous for words.  We stayed for an hour but then had to head for the border so I marked a tree nearby (read that as, I tied a piece of loo roll on a branch!!) and went on my way having told people where to go and look.

They raced down under 20 minutes later and not a leopard in sight, nor any sign of the kill - the Mum must have rushed out as I left and removed it to a safer place!  ( I had considered tying the impala to a tree with my snatch strap before leaving but it seemed wrong to interfer with their meal)

Anyway, knowing that the leopards would remain in the area we went back that afternoon and found them a little away from the road lying on some rocks, and there was the impala, safely tucked high up in a tree.  As soon as the cubs saw our vehicle they came down and stalked the car!   Mum watched from a distance and eventually they all got up and got ready for the nights adventures!   We did find spoor all around a puddle in the road the following day where they had their evening drink!

We were lucky enough to enjoy them for 3 days while they finished their meal and a couple of weeks later we walked up to the tree and all that was left were some dried out bones - quite amazing how nature cleans up!!

Croc and ImpalaAnd then the other amazing happening was at the camp where the river had flooded into the channel behind us - Helena heard quite a commotion and on going to have a look,     she saw a crocodile of at least 4 metres,swimming along with an impala it has just snatched, right next to the kitchen!    

Huge barbel joined in and the water was boiling with activity as they all tried to grab a morsel!  the following day we walked down to the end of the camp and saw the crocodile in the main stream of the river, resting behind a large tree under which we are sure he had 'stashed' his catch!

'Til Later - Judi and Helena

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