A Travellerspoint blog

Week 7 in Karongwe

Tuesday 6th November 2012
After a pretty uncomfortable night’s sleep it having eventually reached 39C yesterday afternoon and a few mozzie bites which I must have picked up at dinner. It was up at just after 0400hrs and out on drive with Nico at 0500hrs. For the first time for a while it was actually quite warm this morning and comfortable on the back. We spent some time trying to find the Lions and Cheetahs.
Zero was found again by a game drive. He is still on his own and it would appear there has either been a fall out in the pride or one party is ignoring or avoiding the other. Despite numerous efforts no-one could find the other Lions all day.
We did find those good old Cheetah Boys. They had travelled a long way from where they had been seen yesterday. They were north of where we had found them on a kill on Saturday.
We did have another close call withy Lucky the big Rhino male. We had just slowed down to look at a large tree in flower when he came bursting out of the bush just in front of us. He was not as aggressive as previously and just trotted along in front of us. We also saw three other Rhino but haven’t at this stage fully identified them.
We parked for some time at Lioness Dam and watch a Hammerkop (a type of bird that makes a huge untidy nest of sticks), a Yellow Billed Stork and two Monitor Lizards just chilling out.
It was then back to base and a quick breakfast and off to the school in Oaks again today. I ran the show on Viv’s behalf as she is up in the mountains this week. I managed to make a fool of myself doing Hyena, Lion and Elephant noises and motions. We then had the kids drawing facemasks, playing a game involving animals and then drawing their favourite animals. The kids were amazing again and a bit more relaxed than last week. The highlight for them, in particular the boys, was to see Jesper’s tattoo of a half naked Polynesian lady on his forearm.
Back to a very hot and sticky Karongwe for lunch and a relax before afternoon drive in this heat...phew!!! Shouldn’t moan really as I was complaining last week was too cold.
We set off at 1500hrs with Beth. We had two trucks out again. Our truck was assigned to find all of our subject animals whereas the other were primarily going to do a check of all the dams and large waterholes to see how many crocodiles there are on the reserve at present. Jesper and I shared the Tlem duties and we spent a long time searching for those pesky Lionesses. Whilst doing so we found Ketswiri’s location although she was deep in the bush and it was almost dark so no sighting of her physically.
We were lucky enough to have a quick view of Zero sitting in an open area. He is obviously getting lonely and was calling his girls. The noise was very loud close to and you could feel the air vibrating with the sound. A number of drives today have reported that Zero is limping. However, we know that he has walked a great deal over the last few days and has made a sizeable kill so he can’t be that bad.
Whilst driving along after dark we saw three different sorts of Scorpions walking in the road including the deadly type with the small pincers and big tail, the other way round will sting but not kill. We didn’t get back until after 8pm so a very full day. On the way home we could see storms building all around again and hoped it would break the heat. However, as we went to bed Bruno’s thermometer in our room showed it was 31C, a bit warm to say the least.
To add to the heat problems I got bitten a number of times on my left ankle on Monday and despite Anthisan and Piriton they are a bit itchy, probably exacerbated by the heat. In the event though, I slept well.
Wednesday 7th November 2012
Another day in Karongwe, but completely different to yesterday. It is still warm but it is quite blustery and there is a lot of cloud about today. I am on Tlem duty today and at 0500hrs we set off with Andreas. Our truck had been assigned checking the East of the reserve for the Lionesses in particular.
Eventually they were found, lying as usual, but quite ironically next to Lion Kopje (a koppie as it’s pronounced is in essence a rocky outcrop). Whilst searching for them I saw another new species, the Side Striped Jackal. They are very elusive and skittish and we were lucky to see one.
We met up later on with the Head Warden on the reserve, Simon, who had heard about Zero’s alleged walking issue. The general consensus is that he may have at worst a thorn in a paw or he has rheumatism and as an old man has initial difficulty walking after lying/sitting for so long. Simon asked us to locate Zero so I put my best Tlem skills forward and guided us into the bush in the vehicle until we found him; yes you have guessed it, doing nothing. As a result Simon could not judge if he needed to call a vet, but he has asked GVI to monitor it and update him.
Nothing much else of note on the drive and it was back to base to find that the generator was again producing power and we could charge our stuff after no lecky since Saturday.
In the afternoon we were out on drive with Nico. We found the Lionesses quite quickly not too far from base, well about 3km away, but as the Lion walks not too far. They and the Subby were still lying near to Lion Koppie.
Zero was found, again by the Horse Safari, and they too said that he had a slight limp. We spent a considerable amount of time looking for the boys and eventually as the light faded we found them lying on a river bed. The weather started to change and the heavens opened. Nico decided to make our way home as lightening was approaching. On the way back we saw another Serval and then two Honey Badgers. Pretty good sightings. We got back to base at 1900hrs to just beat a huge lightening storm that swept through.
Thursday 8th November 2012
When we woke it was nice to see that the rain had stopped and the skies appeared to be clearing. I was on Data Duty today which meant sitting in the cab of the truck, where it generally stays dry. Nico was our staff member today. We got good signal for the Cheetah Boys, back in their usual stomping ground and I managed to spot them walking through the bush, although it is fairly open in that area.
Shortly after that the weather changed quite dramatically in a very short period of time. The weather appeared to close in from three sides and within a few minutes we were surrounded by very violent thunderstorms with some quite spectacular lightening strikes within a mile of us. In fact one was probably less than 400m away. We started to run for cover but unfortunately the guys on the back, Jesper and Heinrich, got soaked by the time we reached Wait a Little Horse safari camp and hid in their garage. The owner, Phillip spotted us and invited us into the main lodge for a dry and a coffee, nice place with great views over the Makutzi River.
The weather seemed to abate and clear up so we decided to press on. However, within 15 minutes it changed again and the boys in the back got bombarded with huge hailstones and we ran for home in a huge rainstorm.
The weather cleared up again just after we got back and it was dry most of the day. Bruno and I finished off his Leadership Project in the Education Room by building a new workstation.
In the afternoon the drive, which was lead by Beth, started off in quite good weather and I had been allocated Tlem duties for the afternoon. We managed to find Ketswiri. She like the boys was chilling out on a sand bank in a river. Just after that the skies opened again and Beth decided there was little point in staying out so we again ran for home.
Friday 9th November 2012
Again the rain abated overnight so we set off in dry but cloudy conditions. Because of all of the storms we were tasked to locate all of the target animals as we had not had full data for a couple of days.
We found the boys fairly early doors but could not walk in with Jamie as tourist trucks turned up straight away; they too were short of sightings because of the rain. We went off and found the rough location for the Lionesses but despite all of our best efforts we could not get a sighting for them. We then went back to the boys and eventually found them not too far from where they were earlier. Clearly though they had not eaten for a few days and were thin. In addition they seemed a little more agitated than usual and I reckon that they had been pestered by too many visitors during the morning.
We then went looking for Zero and Ketswiri. Zero could not be found but we eventually got hold of a signal for Ketswiri and went on foot to find her. She refused to be found, we wandered round the bush for about an hour covering about 1.5km and eventually gave up. We presume she was mobile and keeping away from us.
It was a long drive home after a long day, but we did see a Serrated Hinged Terrapin which actually has a flap at the front it hides behind. We did not get back to base until 1200hrs so a 7 hour drive, but no rain.
At lunch we met three Bushwise Students who are with us to be assessed by us and the staff to see if one of them is suitable to take over from Viv in January when she leaves GVI. Bushwise is a training School for Bush Guides and the three candidates have just completed their 6 month course and are now looking for their first placements.
The afternoon drive was with Beth. We also had one of the Bushwise people with us, Helen. She is from the UK and gave up her job this summer as the training manager for Trailfinders in London, bizarrely enough the people I booked all my travel with to get here, small world isn’t it. We were tasked with finding Zero and travelled almost the length and breadth of the reserve trying to find him, with no success. I was on Tlem duty again and must have got up and down to do my searching about 20 times. There was one corner of the reserve we didn’t cover. Would you believe it on our way back we found out one of the game drives had seen Zero and the Lionesses in that area at 5pm and hadn’t called it in...there were a few choice words said in our truck as you can imagine.
Although we saw none on the subject animals we did have a few good sightings on the way back, two separate Gennet spots, a Bush Hare with its young, a Chameleon and a termite eating snake whose name I cannot remember.
We got back at about 1945hrs so another long drive.
Saturday 10th November 2012
We set off with Nico at 0500hrs and again searched high and low for our subject animals. Our car eventually found the boys. They were initially sitting in the middle of the road but then went mobile into the bush. We tried to follow them on foot but they had too much of a head start. We made our way around and tried to follow again. This time we found them sitting in an open area. We took our data and left.
We then searched for Ketswiri and after a great deal of searching we found her deep in the bush. We walked almost 400m to find her, which is a fair way through the bush. She was also lying down in the heat and just chilling. Both sets of Cheetahs were thin so must hunt soon. The other car at long last found Tlem signal for the Lionesses and Zero and they may be back together, the first time for a couple of weeks. No visual could be obtained so that will be our task, or at least one of the teams this afternoon.
We got back to base at 1045hrs to find that we have no water at all now. By the time of afternoon drive it would appear that a leak by the water pump on a borehole in the Karong-we had been identified and a repair initiated.
We went out on afternoon drive in very hot muggy weather, but the storm clouds they were a gathering. We were with Andreas today and I was on data duty, so up in the cab and out of the rain if it was to arrive.
We set off with a plan to follow up on the signal for the Lions. As we were driving along I looked out of the cab to see what I could see and saw a Cheetah sitting there in the bush, oh yeah there’s a Cheetah....pause...”Stop, there’s a Cheetah. A quick check and by pure chance we had driven past Ketswiri. She sat and looked at us for a while and then set off on the hunt. We could now see her standing up and she was very thin. I suspect an Impala may meet its end tonight with her.
We found the Lions on telemetry very quickly after that. They were located down a drainage line but out of sight. Just after we found them the heavens opened and the lightening came in again. The poor guys in the back had to endure about 20 mins of rain and lightening flashing and thunder crashing all around. We were quite dry in the front!!!
We stayed around the area for about two hours and tried everything to get to see them but couldn’t. However, by telemetry we could show that Zero and the ladies were back together again, so whatever family dispute there had been seems to have been resolved...for now.
On the way back we saw another Chameleon and an African Wildcat, another new species.
Tonight is Base Party so a beer is calling.

Posted by Neil Craig 05:24 Archived in South Africa

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