Sunday 11th November 2012
If you remember dear reader last night was Base Party Night so today is the morning after the night before. Yet again though I had a sensible pill at about 11pm and went off to my bed quite sober, yet tired. I think the young revellers finished about 2am but did not disturb me and I slept well. I was up at 0600hrs and did my laundry, some work on my photos and blog and by 0900hrs I had done all my chores for the day.
It was very very hot today and quite muggy which didn’t help some of the hangovers that appeared during the morning!!
Played some pool during the day, read and mainly relaxed. A nice chilled day.
Monday 12th November 2012
Today is normally town day. There were not enough spaces on the bus today so I decided not to go and went on the two game drives instead.
The morning drive at 0500hrs with just myself and Cheongwha as volunteers, the leader being Kaggi. I was on Tlem duties. We started off with some early success finding Ketswiri quite close to base, she had been on her travels again and was sitting chilled and relaxed about 2km from base in the south.
Unfortunately we could not walk in with Kaggi as she cannot carry a rifle. We then worked quite hard to try and find the Lions. If remember on Saturday we had found them, eventually, in a deep drainage line, but only on signal. On Sunday they were seen when one of our staff did an off road and found them on a Giraffe kill, they had taken a 2 year old male, quite a feat. When we looked today they were in the same area but had moved even deeper into the drainage line. They were obviously stuffed and were sleeping the meal and the heat off, it being quite hot today.
The Cheetah Boys were found by a tourist drive so we didn’t have to look for them. We did see some prey animals so the morning was spent mainly collecting data and searching for Lion signal.
The afternoon’s drive was again just Cheongwha and I this time lead by Beth and Turner. We again found Ketswiri pretty quickly and confirmed where the Lions were, they had still not moved. The tourist trucks were very anxious to see the Lions but where they were it was impossible to get any view or go off road.
The excitement of the day started after drive and after dinner. Andreas was talking to some volunteers outside at about 2015hrs when they heard a Leopard growl close to the house. It growled behind the staff bedrooms and then by the water tanks. Zuri, our dog was going mad and had to be restrained from going into the bush and I am afraid inevitable death. Myself and Ida joined some staff on a truck and we went off to find the Leopard. We drove around our area and we could hear the local Jackals going mad. We drove around a bit more and caught sight of Scar walking without a care in the world from the direction of our camp. And only a few hundred metres away.
He went into thick bush and when we parked up we could hear the Jackals barking and Scar growling and then the sound of bones being crunched. It was likely that he had a kill in there. We then did a bit of off road driving into the bush and sat in the dark and quiet of the night. The silence was broken by the continual warning barks/cry of the Jackals that you could hear reverberating around the bush. We did not catch sight of Scar again.
Tuesday 13th November 2012
We were out this morning with Beth again. I was on data so sat in the cab. We went to check for the Lions and found they had moved overnight. They took some finding but we followed tracks in the roads and Tlem signal and eventually located them in yet another drainage line, well out of the way and again not visible from the road and in an area when off roading was not possible. We then went up north and were driving along when a small herd of Kudu burst out of the bush ahead of us sounding their alarm bark. Beth quickly spotted a Leopard up a tree nearby. It was not a clear sighting but a pretty cool one.
I have forgotten to mention that this being the last week of the four week cycle we have another competition running. This month it is a scavenger hunt. Each team has a list of 18 items to find in the bush and around base. As we find each item we get another letter. That will provide 18 letters to decipher into a location. The first team to get a photo of the team at that location will be the winners. We managed to get most of our items this morning, just a couple more to get this afternoon.
Towards the end of the drive we met up with Simon, the Reserve Manager, and he came into the block where Scar had last been seen. He was sure that Scar was still in there and showed us some tracks in a drainage line that indicated there was a male and female Leopard in the area, so Scar may have more that Impala Burger on his mind!!
The afternoon drive was with Viv. We found Ketswiri almost as far south as possible on the reserve and she had just killed a young male Impala. We could not walk in but could see a bit of her from the road. She took about 25 minutes to eat the Impala and then move off.
We then went to the Hyena den nearby and saw the same two youngsters as the last time. They are even bolder now and came very close to the truck. We also saw one of the adults sitting further into the den and heard younger cubs too. The matriarch, Giggles, had been seen earlier in the day chasing Ketswiri about, although that hadn’t stopped Kets making a kill as we saw.
Wednesday 14th November 2012
Base duty today with Rob. Started cleaning up at 0600hrs and by 1000hrs we had the whole place cleaned and lunch prepared, we had even had a cup of coffee and a couple of games of pool.
During the day one of our teams noticed that Ketswiri, who had moved some considerable distance since we saw her the evening before had a badly injured leg, so much so she could hardly walk. As you will be aware a Cheetah lives by speed and any injury could mean no hunting and death.
Throughout the day she was monitored and in the afternoon the vet attended and she was darted and examined. It transpired she had a long piece of wood going into her leg from the side going up the leg and penetrating her muscle. The vet operated to remove it and some of our volunteers got to help. The luck of the draw was I was on base duty so missed out unfortunately.
The vet hopes that he has managed to repair the muscle damage as best he can and Ketswiri is now in a Boma for a couple of weeks to hopefully recover. Hopefully she will be able to return to the wild and continue hunting. It is a difficult decision for the management here to decide to intervene. It is likely that Kets got the injury by landing on the stick whilst running at full speed. If nature had run its course then Kets would now probably be dead either from starvation or having been caught by a Lion, Leopard or Hyena. However she is a breeding female Cheetah and an important scientific subject so I think that the right decision has been made to intervene.
As far as base duty is concerned it was the usual fare and talking of which we appeared to cook successful meals at lunch and dinner.
Thursday 15th December 2012
Today is the Mariepskop Challenge Day where we will be raising money for environmental education projects in SA.
We were split into three teams consisting of mixed staff and volunteers. I was in Team C, the Forest Shrews. We set off for the mountains having had to decide on a team colour and construct a team flag. One in the mountains we were given various challenges and tasks to do up and down the mountain. Although we did get some lifts to some places if we answered various riddles there was a fair amount of walking up hill and down dale. The weather was nice, it was sunny and quite warm but not scorching. After completing all of the tasks all of the teams ended up at the cabins where we stay on the Mountain Phase of the expedition. After that we all went down to a secluded part of the Blyde River and cooled ourselves by swimming in the river and using the rope swing there. We stayed there for about 90 minutes and had a great laugh.
It was then back to base camp for a Braai.
Whilst sitting around the Braai we saw a Centipede going down a hole followed a couple of minutes later by a Red Roman. Both of these creatures are quite vicious and give a nasty bite, although not venomous. The Red Roman which looks like a spider but isn’t actually a spider was hunting the centipede. The centipede was about 4 inches long and the Red Roman about the size of my palm, if not a bit bigger. Anyway the Red Roman came out without its prize and then decided to wander round the camp fire causing a few lifted feet and was much to the fascination of Zuri who followed it round.
After a few well deserved Savannah Ciders it was off to bed.
Friday 16th November 2012
Today is the last day for four of our volunteers, Ida, Rob, Bruno and Daan. This morning we will be going to a nearby Safari Lodge, can’t remember its name at this stage, for Brunch. It will then be back for the monthly big tidy up and then final drive for the above four and we will hopefully get both trucks to meet up for Sundowners (Phouza in local language) and toast them on their way.
Brunch was at a place called Wildebeest Lapa about an hour’s drive from base. For ZAR65, (£5) we had a very nice breakfast with bacon, the thing a lot of us miss here. It was a very nice little friendly restaurant with a beautiful well tended garden at the rear where we sat out. It was then next just up the road to an Ice Cream and Sorbet shop, very nice too. So stuffed to the gunwales it was a drive back to base.
I won cleaning vehicles in the big clean up which was quite a task in the heat, it reached a max of 38C today in the shade but the vehicles were not fully in the shade. I certainly built up a sweat.
I forgot to mention that on Wednesday a Leopard was spotted on our reserve. Nothing new in that you may say, but this one had a GPS collar on it. None of the animals on our reserve have such devices. We found out today that the Leopard was released 2 weeks ago in a reserve near Orpen Gate, that is 75km from Karongwe and the other side of the Oliphant River from here. Therefore it has escaped it’s own reserve and travelled all that way, obviously killing on the way and managed to climb into our reserve. Plans are being made to try and locate it, although that may be difficult as its collar only transmits its location at midday and midnight.
Afternoon drive went well with a storm brewing from the mountains. We managed the two teams to meet up and we had some nibbles and a drink together. Then as an added bonus for Ida and Rob, the leavers on our car, we managed to see Zero and his son lying in an open area just before we headed home.
We all had dinner together, made by the staff and then had the awards presentations and a viewing of the best photos submitted by the volunteers this month. The best photograph, as voted for by everyone was a portrait of the Subby taken by Daan, it was a great shot. I was asked again to give out the awards this month for peoples silly mistakes or comments etc, they appeared to go down well.
Saturday 17th November 2012
8 weeks today I arrived on base, where has that gone? That means 4 weeks today I will be leaving. In many ways I can’t wait but I am enjoying my time here. Last night was very hot in bed. Although we had a thunderstorm during dinner it has not cleared the air and it was hot when we woke up.
Up at just after 0400hrs and got ready for morning drive. Our four leavers got up to wave us off as they are not leaving until 0600hrs, there being no new volunteers joining us this month, so the staff do not have to try and get them back in daylight.
It was sad to see the four standing there as we drove off to do our morning’s research.
We spent most of the morning trying to relocate the male Lions who obviously moved in the storm. Whilst doing so I saw my first Impala lamb. Yes they are called lambs, seemingly up to Kudu size they are called lambs and then with the bigger antelope and herbivores they are calves, don’t ask me why.
We also drove past the Boma where Ketswiri is recovering to find her up and about and walking along its fence looking very pissed off but walking without a limp at all, let’s hope that bodes well for her recovery.
We got signal for the Lions indicating they were not far off the road. Fortunately enough old eagle eyed Craigy saw the Subby sitting up looking at us through some bushes.
It was then back to a very hot and sticky base camp where I chose a cold shower but as I sit here writing this it is very muggy with not a breath of breeze. Let’s hope it cools for this afternoon’s drive.
No such luck with the cooling. It just remained hot and very sticky all day, I even took two cold showers between drives and fell asleep reading. As a result afternoon drive, with Beth, started in very hot temperatures but riding on the back was quite pleasant whilst we were moving. The animals had the right idea too and we saw very little until we eventually found Zero and the Subby about 50 trees from where they had been earlier.
We then set off to find the Cheetah Boys. That was easier than expected as Sue spotted them sitting by the road before we had even tried a Tlem. We sat with them for about 20 mins, but because of the heat they weren’t doing much, but appeared to be keeping an eye open for prey, so they may hunt later.
The Lionesses were found by another game drive so we didn’t need to find them at all. We spent the rest of the afternoon looking for prey species and eventually got to see the Elephant herd. There is a rumour on the reserve that there is a new born calf but yet again we did not see it, even if it exists.
As we left the Ellies there was a magnificent sunset in the west and a huge storm in the east and south. We set off for home and were entertained again by a lightning storm coming in and just got caught by a bit of rain about 10 minutes from home. It was quite refreshing after a long hot day.
After drive it was a quick dry and change and then it was off to Mahlahla for dinner again. I had to have the Filet again....and of course two small bottles of Savannah Cider....hope that’s available in the UK, but probably not at a £1 a bottle like it is here.
Everyone was v tired so we left after dinner and came back to base.