A Travellerspoint blog

"There's a deer just outside eating fruit from the orchard!"

Second to last week in South Africa...

sunny 31 °C

I’m so excited for next week, Katie got the call saying her research permit was accepted (Brian the reserve manager can be very persuasive on the phone apparently), so we’re all manically trying to get everything ready in time for the brown hyena darting and collaring! Katie’s University professor is visiting as he needs to check out the project himself, so he will be here next week with his wife, plus all the Pidwa staff and then the vet’s team, there may be up to 18 of us at the darting! So Katie has given me and Emma a list of things that she needs us to be in charge of on the day, e.g collecting the measurements, data, photographs, and making sure the correct collar goes on the correct hyena! I really hope it all goes to plan!

Monday
Brian radioed to say that a dead civet and eland had been found on Langa over the weekend, so we went up so Joe could collect the civet head (he has a carnivore scull collection) and to set up a camera trap for the eland.
Next we did some alien plant removal in the area behind Askari house, and I accidentally knelt into one of the spikes of the ‘Queen of the night’ plant. My knee hasn’t been able to bend properly all week and I’ve been nicknamed ‘The Hobbler!’
After lunch we did some river clean up with some quite impressive finds! We walked across the weir which was pretty cool!
Katie has given me the August report data input to start on. It’s interesting to see how the report is done, what information is put in and how it’s selected. I’m sure report skills will come in handy for the next few years!

Tuesday
I fell in love with a spider today! I got to hold a gorgeous golden baboon spider at the reptile park! They’re so badly endangered there is a R250,000 fine for killing one! Emma has a pretty bad phobia of spiders so there are no photos to prove I held it!
We bumped into Bernet and Adam from LEO at ‘Three Bridges’ when we stopped for lunch. It’s weird how you can be based an hour apart out here and yet bump into each other every week!
That night we went on night drive and saw 3 spotted hyenas pretty much as soon as we left Askari. They were just lying down in the road chilling out!

Wednesday
We left early to do route drive 2 and saw some impala antics. A few females must have become spooked by the car and they started running around doing massive jumps and leaps to show that they are fit and healthy as a way of deterring predators. The male got annoyed with them and started snorting and chasing them trying to get them back under control. It was so funny to watch!
We went on a cool bushwalk down a drainage line, and I’ve realized how bad I am at tree identification, so I’m determined to learn at least a few more by the time I leave.

Thursday
We had a long morning today – left early to head towards the lodge and Pidwa South to set up a new Southern Ground Hornbill nesting box. Ground hornbills have been recently seen and herd in the area, so in an attempt to encourage breeding pairs in the area, nesting boxes are put up in appropriate trees. This meant using a ladder and pulley system to get a massive plastic barrel up a tree which Joe then secured to the branches with wire. Now we just have to keep out fingers crossed that the nest is successful.
Whilst we were putting up the box, Katie got a call saying lions had been spotted at the dam in Garonga, one of the neighboring reserves. We all jumped into the car and sped towards the dam, hoping to catch them. It was a good half hour bumpy drive, so they had gone by the time we got there, but instead we saw a herd of bull elephants all trying to fit into a small pool and have a mud bath! It was an awesome sighting!
After lunch we started packing for sleep out. Sleep out camp was down in the dry river bed in Langa today! After collecting fire wood, Emma and I helped Katie prep some banana chocolate dessert things to go on the hot coals after braai! Phil joined us so each watch was only1 and a half hours long. Not much happened during the night, some very loud baboons calling and some zebra alarm calls, but that was about it. Me and Emma got up early and sat by the fire to warm up, having morning marshmallows! Yum!

Friday
Me and Emma cleaned all the sleep-out stuff, and then we went with Joe up to Langa to collect the camera trap memory card to see if any good pics had been taken. However, we only got a few shots of a side-striped jackal, so we left the camera trap up and hopefully will have another look next week to see if anything else has found it.
Katie then took us to HQ to drop off her research permit application for Brian to look through, and then we headed to the Buffalo camp bomas to see how both cheetahs were doing. Hwaqile and Kusala both seem to be doing really well, the only problem is where to release them. Brian has suggested back onto Langa, but I’m really hoping not, as the rogues will no doubt just break straight back in and kill which ever cheetah tries to stop them.
We went on another river clean up, but most of the rubbish was only really accessible by canoe… and the hippo that’s lingering around somewhere in the river wouldn’t make that particularly safe!
Brian then called over the radio saying could Katie and Joe stop at his house on the way home, so looking a right state and very filthy from clean-up, we all sat on his veranda over-looking the river having a cold drink. Brian then explained that he’d looked at the permit application and decided it would take 3-6 months for it to go through the system and be accepted, so instead he made a few quick phone calls to the right people, and got a verbal acceptance of the permit, so long as the man that accepted it is at the hyena darting in person to see how the procedure is done, and so long as he’s satisfied, then all is well and it’s as good as done! Katie was so ecstatic! We all are! So we all then sat and brain stormed how best to go about the darting, what would need to be done and what information Katie needed to be collected, Brian made a quick phone call to the vet booking him for Tuesday afternoon/evening… before we knew it we were planning the darting and collaring after Katie has been waiting for a year!
That’s one thing I really don’t understand about this country. You need a permit to have an animal, a permit to have it darted, a permit to move it onto your reserve, and then a permit to do any research involving it…these all take 3-6 months to apply for and get approved…and yet a poacher trespasses on your land, kills your animals, leaves snares that kill even more once he’s gone, and the worst he’ll get is a slap on the wrist and a few months in prison where he has a roof over is head and is fed! You try to do a good thing and you get stopped at every step along the way, you do a bad thing and nothing stops you from doing it again. The system is just so backwards here!!

Saturday
Up early for route drive, but not much was about. We did see lots of bushbuck which was cool, we don’t often see them. And loads of birds of prey!
After drive, Katie went through the whole hyena darting with us, gave us instructions as to what we’re in charge of and what she needs us to make sure gets done. Me and Emma get clip-boards and everything!
The afternoon was mostly spent sunbathing and just relaxing. In the evening we made a banana cake whilst a couple of nyala females walked past the kitchen window! It was a real ‘Friends’ moment when Ross is on the phone and says “There’s a deer just outside eating fruit from the orchard!” Couldn’t stop quoting it all evening! They’re still my favourite antelope, just so pretty! We had a chilled out evening, watched ‘Quantum of Solace’ and just chatted.

Anyway, looks like it's going to be a busy week, not long till I'm home now either! Eeek!
Rach
xx

Posted by Rachellina 13:52 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

Cheetah mayhem!

Rhino round every corner...

sunny 31 °C

We have had such amazing opportunities this week! It’s definitely been a cheetah and rhino week! The news of de-horning rhinos in the Hoedspruit area is pretty much the talk of the town. 1 rhino is poached every 20 hours for its horn in South Africa, and the problem is so bad in Hoedspruit that reserves are asking the local wildlife vet to simply de-horn all their rhinos, and huge signs are being put up declaring it a rhino-horn-free area. It’s not compulsory, but if you’re the only reserve not participating, then obviously you will be targeted by the poachers. It’s only in the immediate area at the moment, no where near as far out as Pidwa, but Selati is on the border, so it may happen there. It may sound drastic, but if something isn’t done now it will be too late!

Monday
An elephant greeted us as we left base for our morning herbivore count route drive, so we followed him for a while before heading off. The drive was mostly uneventful due to the bad cloudy weather; most animals stayed hidden, most likely lying down.
In the afternoon we went to check on Hwaqile, and then tracked Kusala in the Buffalo camp. On the way we found a few week old Eland, laying down in the road, head tilted right back, and in a very bad way. Brian, the reserve manager was radioed, and it was his decision to put the animal out of its misery. The body is going to be sent to the local wildlife vet for analysis, because if it is a disease that will affect all the young Eland, then we may have a problem.
It wasn’t a good day for healthy animals, as when we did find Kusala she was vocalising, making a quiet groaning noise that cheetah make when they have a kill or are injured. We got closer and she stood up. Straight away, Katie spotted the blood dripping from her stomach! She appeared to have a small injury to her front, but it was hard to get a good look, and she seemed able to move ok, but was obviously in pain.
It was already getting dark so there wasn’t much else we could do except come back the next morning and see how she was doing. A bit of a somber day today.

Tuesday
We left early to track down Kusala again. We followed her through the bush for a while, she was going at quite a pace so we thought she may be doing ok, until Joe spotted some fresh blood. Katie finally found her and went as close as was comfortable. Kusala kept quietly groaning, mostly due to the fact that Katie was so close, and because she was too sore to do anything about it. Joe and Katie made the decision that the vet was needed, so Peter Rodgers, the local wildlife vet was called in. He couldn’t get to Pidwa until 3pm, so we dashed back to base for a quick lunch, and then straight back out again to find her. Luckily the heat had kept her from moving far. Peter arrived with his team, and he went in to dart her. Her wound was about 10cm long and deep through the muscle, probably made by a warthog.
Me and Emma then got an awesome opportunity to be involved the operation. We helped carry her to the car, and then I got to hold her front paw in the right position whilst he was cleaning her and operating on her. He stitched up the muscle and then skin, leaving a small hole at the end for drainage, seeing as it’s a wild animal and the operation was done in the bush, that’s pretty much the best you can do!
Hwaqile was moved across into one section of his boma, and Kusala was then put in the first section. It was the boma she had initially escaped from when she arrived on Pidwa, so we all crossed our fingers and hoped she would be alive and still there in the morning.
That night we had a braai and relaxed a bit seeing as we’d pretty much spent all day sat in the sun waiting. It was a good end to the day and we all just hoped she would live up to her name: ‘ Kusala’ means ‘survival’.

Wednesday
We went to check on Kusala first thing in the morning, to our relief she was still there! She paced around the boma a bit when we arrived, slightly agitated, but walking fine and looking good!
Next was our delayed town trip to get food and supplies. This time we headed to Tzaneen, a non-touristy town, so very different atmosphere. The locals aren’t used to seeing non-Afrikaans white people, so chatted away to us in every shop!
Katie did some dodgy dealings with the butcher in the supermarket to get Cooper some bone scraps, and then we headed back to Pidwa. We did one last check on Kusala in the evening before dinner, and then bed.

Thursday
We had such an incredible sightings day, it was as if all the animals just came out of the bush for us today!
Kusala was alert, had eaten, and was intently listening to and stalking Hwaqile behind the fence when we arrived early in the morning, so we left her to it.
Back on schedule, we started with road clearing the area behind the Askari house, down towards the river. However, it was cut short as around the bend were 2 elephant bulls! We stopped and one came right up to the car! Emma was silently panicking as the bull put his trunk onto the bonnet and leaned on it. He then went round to the game viewer chair and lifted it, exactly as the elephant had done last month. We wondered if maybe it was the same one seeing as it seemed to know what it was doing.
We also saw our first tiny baby nyala! The pregnant female would have been released from the breeding camps a few months ago, and within that time had given birth! A successful bush birth is always good news!
Next we went on to river clean up, collecting rubbish that was washed down in the flood, before heading back for lunch.
After lunch we set out on a herbivore count down in Pidwa South. For the first half hour we were spotting animals every 5 minutes! There was a huge number of zebra, giraffes and kudu out today! We saw 2 young zebra, and then one with a floppy ear that we named Bunny! Towards the end of the drive we had stopped to look at the zebra, when we literally heard a crash of rhino moving through the bush. 4 rhino came into view! We followed them until we could turn onto a road in their direction so that we could get a good look and ID them. One was a grumpy male, and he watched us for a bit before stomping towards the car. Emma silently starts freaking out again, bless her, and I tired to get a picture with her camera. The flash went off, and because he was so close it really startled him and he shook his head, getting upset. He must have decided he didn’t like us, much to Emma’s relief, as he then walked off in a huff!
On the drive home it was dark, so we had the spotlight out, and amazingly we picked up a civet! Such rare sightings, they’re weird looking half badger/half raccoon animals. Was really cool as he stopped in the bush to watch us for a bit! Joe was a bit jealous about that when we got back to base. And then on the end of the Askari drive way, yet another Rhino! It was amazing, really was like all the animals just came out to say ‘Hi’ today!

Friday
A tough end to the week, as we had all the practical stuff to do that had been disrupted due to the cheetah dilemma. We started by finishing off the road clearing along the river, now have some nice new scratches! Then after a quick breakfast break we set off the find any non-indigenous plants such as the prickly pear and queen of the night to kill them with herbicide. Then just before lunch we weeded the herb & veggie garden. Emma did really well braving all the little garden spiders! I can’t believe I’m no longer the one that’s terrified of spiders; I’ve turned into the spider-ninja, able to remove or kill them! Might all change when I get back home though!
After lunch we headed out on a poacher patrol. The walk through the bush was tough, it was very thick, and we almost lost each other at one point. We didn’t find anything, which I hope is a good thing. Joe did spot some impala that we stalked for 5 minutes before they caught wind of us and bolted!
A friend of Katie and Joe’s has been staying at theirs for a week before leaving for Tanzania, and it was his leaving-do party in Hoedspruit. We all went along to say goodbye, and on the way out of the reserve saw a civet and we got trumpeted by an elephant! Then about half way to Hoedspruit, the car in front of us suddenly swerved into the right hand lane, and coming straight towards us was a car, in our lane, driving the wrong way! It was scary! Joe swerved onto the hard shoulder easily enough and it was fine, but it shows that the roads can be so empty but still very dangerous out here!
It was a good night out at Sleepers, Joe and Emma started arguing about her spider phobia, and we met some of Phil’s other friends which was cool.

Saturday
Had a very hot day today, me and Emma both got a bit burned! First thing this morning, Garth took us out hunting. The brown hyenas are due to be fed, so the impala culling goes to them. It was all over so fast! We then had to walk in to find it, hoping Garth had got a clean shot. On the short drive we saw another rhino, and the ostriches, and a young eland! Good to know that not all the young eland are falling prey to the disease the other we found had.
Next was a buffalo camp herbivore count drive. The heat had forced a lot of animals to the dams, and we got to see 6 male nyala drinking, which was amazing as we haven’t seen much of them!

Time for the weekend now! Spent most of the time so far sun bathing, but we’ve got lots of baking and movie watching planned! I’ve still got some intern work to get finished, but not too much. Just waiting for the internet to be working properly again so I can get some research done for Katie.

I’m having such a great time here, and 7 weeks would never have been enough for me, but 3 months is enough… I’m going to miss Askari so much when I do go home, but right now I feel like I’m nearly ready to go back, which is a good thing I guess…

Rach
xx

Posted by Rachellina 13:57 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

This is Africa!

Such a great week of sightings...

overcast 23 °C

First week doing lots of intern stuff for Katie! I’ve had so much to do I haven’t even had time to do any studying from the FGASA book that I got hold of. It’s been an awesome week though, had wicked ellie sightings and seen Hwaqile twice!

Saturday
In the evening we went out to Mahlahla, the local pub, and had dinner and drinks. Funnily enough, LEO were there too, which was a bit weird, but it was nice to see and chat to Kathrine and Tiina again, and Adam had managed to tie-die his t-shirt with the red bark an elephant had pulled off a tree! The night ended with lots of Springbokkie shots, yummmm, and we just generally had a good night. Got chatting to some Bushwise students that were at the bar, and they all seemed quite friendly and wanting advice for what sort of placement they should ask for… Garth started introducing me to people as his wife, which was a bit worrying…but other than that it was a good night out!

Sunday
I hung out with Phil all morning watching films, and then got the menu and shopping list for the week finished and tidied up the house ready for the new volunteer starting on Monday.

Monday
Went into town with Katie to do the food shop and then went to Phalaborwa airport to collect Emma, the volunteer for the month. Emma’s really cool, we actually get on really well, considering we only just met!
That afternoon was her first drive, and it was amazing! We saw a few elephants running through a small clearing, and so followed them. There was a whole herd, and we got some awesome sightings of two youngsters with them, one less than a year old and just tiny! We followed them as they made their way to Ranch dam, and then as it got dark they started playing in the water, splashing, bathing, rolling in mud and trumpeting to each other! It was such a cool first sighting for Emma, even if she was terrified of the massive bull coming so close to the car!

Tuesday
We had quite a few lectures today and I showed Emma around the base and explained how the duty roster worked and how to do things like initiate the borehole, feed Eddie, where everything is kept and just general house stuff. Phil gave us his lecture and then he took us to see Hwaqile in the boma, the cheetah that was injured in Langa by the rogues. He’s got a nasty wound on his leg that the vet stitched up, but he’s looking so well, and definitely feisty enough to go for Phil when he went in carrying his food!
Joe gave us the fences lecture and then we went to go see the brown hyena feed! Only Gismo came out today, but hopefully we’ll get to see them all in the next couple of weeks!

Wednesday
4X4 driving lesson today, and I can’t say my driving has gotten any smoother, but it is still so much fun! I got a good video of Emma driving down the river bank and then driving into a ditch, might see if I can get it up on here later.
We had our wilderness lecture from up on the koppie today, and it’s still such an amazing view from up there! On the drive back down we saw the rogue cheetah boys! They’re still in Langa, which is awesome, so even though over the last year they have attacked and killed 2 of the 3 brothers that were there, they obviously did it to get onto the area and have it as their own territory, so it’s nice that they’re sticking around and we get regular sightings of them.

Thursday
Rifle shooting today, so much fun! I’ve gotten better as well! Joe then gave us our first aid lecture, and didn’t reaslise how scared of spiders Emma is. Ended up shoving a picture of one under her face and she burst into tears! He got a demerit for that…
In the afternoon we went out to find Kusala, the female cheetah in the buffalo camp. Emma learned how to use the telem equipment and actually did a really good first job! We tried and tried to find her, but she must have been moving as the signal kept getting weaker. However, we did find some really rare hartebeest! I don’t think I’ve seen them before so that was really cool!

Friday
Today we cleaned out Eddie’s cage, basically meaning we scrubbed poo! It was looking very sparkly by the time we’d finished though, so hopefully he appreciates it. Katie gave us some office work to do, and I spent about an hour trying to find some journal Katie needs for her brown hyena study…I’m now not looking forward to University research projects using the online library for journals!
Garth called in a hippo sighting so we went to try find it, but instead found the herd of elephants again. We got out the car and sat on some rocks overlooking the river as the ellies were on the other bank. One was being so funny, he was right by the water rolling around in the sand and blowing water with his trunk, when a small water lizard swam across the water towards him, and he just freaked out, jumped up and ran up the bank!
Later in the day we got to do the nyala camp feed, and I got shocked by the electric fence! It doesn’t really hurt as the amps are low, but oh my word! The volts go right through your body and make every muscle just jump! I literally leapt in the air! However, we did get to see the smallest baby nyala come up to the freshly filled trough to eat! She was so cute, which made up for being shocked! The nyala are such pretty antelope!
For dinner we went to Hoedspruit to Sleepers for dinner. It’s nice to get out once a week and try some different food, plus I had a ‘Giggling Giraffe’ cocktail! Sooooo yumm!

Saturday
Yet another awesome ellie sighting today whilst out on a herbivore count drive. We’d stopped to look at a tree (coz we’re cool) and we heard some loud rustling in the bush close to the car, and then a trumpet coming from a little way in front of us. Katie suddenly goes, ‘I think the elephants are about to run across the road’, and sure enough, in groups of up to 5 ellies, a whole herd just ran across the landing strip clearing in front of us, trumpeting and making such a noise! It was so funny to watch, as they’d been spooked by the wind!! One group ran across with a small 1 year old baby inbetween them all, and then another group a few seconds later ran across with an even smaller baby! So cute! Elephants are so silly; they get scared by the smallest things!
Last job of the week was to clean out the sable camps, empty the water hole, scrub it and fill it with fresh water in all 3 camps, whilst Joe raked up all the old food on the floor to clear the area. It’s hard work, but satisfying, and we knew once we were done it was time for the weekend!
It’s been a bit of a cloudy weekend, but it’s been ok, just chilling in the house and garden. Emma’s been reading, I’ve been doing the menu and shopping list, and then we’ve watched some films too. I’m really glad I get on so well with her, or this could have been a difficult month!

I hope everyone doing resits did well last week, hopefully see everyone at Uni! I finally managed to enroll online for Uni, and I'm really looking forward to going back, except that it means leaving Africa... I'm loving it out here so much...

Missing everyone,

Rach
xx

Posted by Rachellina 04:03 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

Internship at Askari

Catch-up of the last few weeks

sunny 28 °C

Well, I’m still in South Africa and back at Askari, this time as an intern. Before I left Askari to go to LEO, Katie said she’d be happy for me to come back as an intern, so here I am, making the most of the ridiculously long summer holidays!
I didn’t have internet whilst I was at LEO unless I went into town, so I’m just going to catch-up the last few weeks as summaries.

Week 2 at LEO
I started enjoying Leo a lot more this week. Some of the best moments…
Whilst tracking the male lion, Mbhurri, Penny was on telem duty and realized she was the only one that hadn’t stood on the car roof to get signal yet, so up she gets, and then suddenly we hear hooves thundering down in the small valley hidden by trees. Penny starts clambering off the roof as quickly as possible. Adam’s laughing at her saying that zebra aren’t exactly going to hurt her, and she replies with, ‘but there’s clearly something chasing them!’ Just on que we hear lions roaring and contact calling as they made a kill not too far from the car! That night we drove in to see them after they’d eaten, was a good day.
The new volunteers arrived: a French couple called Caroline and Arnaud, a Finnish girl called Tiina, and two British girls called Kathrine and Abby. Jess left to go back to Issel.
Penny started teaching me some siSwati which is such a cool language with all the clicks! I even learned a song!
We had a great night out at Safari Club on Friday night, dancing till midnight completely sober! And there are definitely some songs that are starting to become the soundtrack to my time here. Ed was so funny dancing, we kept trying to teach him this cool step swivel thing, and he kept buying everyone these awesome Springbok shots which I can’t wait to make back home!
One drive Paul went off into the bush trying to find the lions kill, and he was gone for about an hour. Instead of getting bored we started a game of Charades! It got added onto the list of games to play whilst on drive.
We played a game of animal trivial pursuit on Sunday morning off, and then Bernet’s first drive since she’s been quite sick with middle-ear something. Basically it sounds like when you’re drunk and completely off balance and feel sick all the time. Anyway, her drive was the best all week! We found one of the herds of elephants and stayed with them for about an hour. Towards the end we started hearing lion contact calling, so decided to investigate. The ellies and knocked a couple of trees into the road so we moved one, drove on and Ed was the first to jump out to move the next when a really loud lion roar made him jump straight back up into the car in one leap. I’ve never seen a real Jack-in-the-box leap like that before! We couldn’t stop laughing at him! We had an awesome sighting of the lions Shaka and Selati that night… a good end to the week!

Week 3 at LEO
Ed and Penny were supposed to leave Leo on Tuesday this week, but their flights weren’t till the weekend, so they were allowed to stay until Friday, which was cool. Some of the best moments this week…
When we stopped for tea on drive, Adam went to pick up a rock to see if there was a scorpion underneath it. Instead there were some lizards, but seeing slithery things and not ID’ing them quickly enough made him jump and he dropped the rock, which slit in two and killed two of them! We didn’t let it drop and he started feeling really bad, bless him. The lizards that survived were pretty cool, so we watched them for a bit.
Paul managed to break the game drive car we regularly use by driving over a rock…he was in a worse mood to normal after that.
Bernet took us on another drive, and on the way back to base, we saw 3 leopards on one road! It was an amazing sighting! The first was just walking on the road along the fence line, and was definitely a sub-adult as it was quite small. We got a really good sighting of her for about 5 minutes before she walked off into the bush. No-one took any pics though! Then feeling ecstatic, we kept driving and 2 minutes a later we see another leopard in the road. To begin with we think it’s the same one, but this one was massive, possibly a male adult. He walked off into the bush a little way, to be met by a 3rd leopard, walking from the way we were heading, so definitely one not seen yet! The 2nd leopard was definitely not as shy, and we drove slowly down the road, spotting him at different intervals, and he was really posing for us, so people got some really good pics! It was just an amazing sighting!
Ed made a prat out of himself when we were up at the decking half-way up a koppie for tea break during drive. He pointed out the one plank of decking that was loose so no-one stood on it, then he went and stood on it! The plank fell away and his foot went through to the reservoir below. He looked like he’d had a heart attack! It was so funny!
One drive we were tracking the girls Mica and Selati, and finally found them with Mbhurri, laying in the grass right at the edge of the road. Suddenly Shaka walks down the road towards them and us in the car. He greets them by rolling onto them and head rubbing, only for his greeting to be returned with a snarl from Mbhurri. They then start swiping at each other, snarling and growling. Mbhurri wins and stalks off with the 3 girls, as Jane was hidden from view. It was amazing to see, and only a few meters from the car! I think we were all a bit worried for a second incase it got out of hand and the car became a prop!
Friday night out in town wasn’t as fun, but the drive home was epic! Whilst driving 140km/h down the tar road in the open game viewer car at 12:30am, the front left tyre came completely off! The bolts must have been loose or something, but one even snapped off, and the car landed on the wheel axle, sparks flying and the smell of burning brought everyone too pretty quickly. Luckily Bernet kept control of the car, and a few passing cars pulled up the help us jack the car up and replace the tyre. We drove for a bout 5 minutes to the nearest garage, and then the Selati reserve manager, Hanas, came to collect us!
The weekend was pretty quiet. Jess came back for a day which was cool, and then the weather turned really nasty! We had one more good sighting of the lions before I left, this time Shaka with the girls (he’d obviously won them back). All the landowners were out that night, so we had about 5 cars pretty much following us round the reserve as we tracked their signals. It was a bit manic, and the look of panic in Tiina’s eyes as she suddenly whispered to us ‘what if I’ve got the direction wrong’ was hilarious as Bernet was giving signal directions to all the landowners. But she was right, and we saw them just as it started raining. So good end to my time at Leo…

Animals seen whilst at Leo…
Aardvark X 4
Side-striped jackal X 2
Leopard X 3
Serval X 3
Civet X 1
Honey-badger X 1
Large-spotted genet X 1
Wildcats X 2
60 different bird species

Askari Internship… Week 1
This week has been pretty quiet as the volunteer doesn’t arrive until Monday. Katie has some friends visiting, so I’ve pretty much been able to have a holiday this week. Sunbathed when sunny, curled up and read my book, and generally just chilled out. Towards the end of the week Katie gave me some jobs that need to be done in time for next week, so I’ve been coming up with a menu plan for the week. I’ve still got to do the shopping list, stock take, and rota for next week.
We’ve been on at least 2 drives everyday as Katie wants to show her friends around the reserve. And we’ve been to see the brown hyenas a few times. They’re becoming my favourite animals; I’m learning to ID them already. I can’t wait for the darting and collaring in a couple of weeks!
We got really close to Kusala, the female cheetah in the Buffalo camp this week, which was amazing! She’s absolutely stunning! I was so sad to hear about the Langa boys being attacked by the rogue cheetahs, but Hwaquile is recovering, and hopefully will be released with Kusala in the camp. Might even have some baby cheetah cubs a few years time!
Kathy came back for one night which was cool to see her. Hopefully I’ll be able to meet up with her when we’re all back in England.
Cooper is so different this time around. I don’t know if it’s because he remembers me, or because he spent a week with Kathy whilst Katie and Joe were on holiday, but he even came up and put his head on my lap to be stroked. He never would have done that before!

Anyway, sorry for the massive long update, hopefully be able to update more regularly from now on. Sorry if anyone has been trying to get hold of me thinking I was back in the UK, I won’t be back until 21st Sep now, so chat to you then!
Missing everyone,
Rach
xx

Posted by Rachellina 05:37 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

LEO Africa

First week on Selati Reserve

sunny 21 °C

My first impressions of Leo wasn't great, especially after being at Askari and it being so homely, but the volunteers have been great and really friendly, and I have seen some pretty cool animals already!

Monday
I had such an amazing last day at Askari, we found the Langa cheetah boys in the morning just laying down in some grass and they let us walk quite close to them. We had an awesome sighting of elephants as well. One was having a mud bath in a pool close to the road and then afterwards came and inspected the game viewer. He kept trying to lift the back of the tracker seat with his tusk, and then started playing with the aerial with his trunk. Mud got flicked everywhere, it was so amaizng to be that close to him!

Tuesday
Katie dropped me off at the Leo gate about 1pm. It was so sad to say goodbye to everyone! Leo base is so different. It's part of the open system (no electric fence) so you are confined quite tightly to the buildings and the path around them. I'm sleeping in a dorm room, bunkbed style, and there is a tiny front room where we all sit for dinner usually. The power is purely solar, so we have to be careful how much electricity we use during the day and night time, and we have to pay to have our laundry done. It's probably more realistic to projects in SA, but I think after Askari and having so much there, it's a shock to adjust to, though after a week I'm pretty much used to it.
There are 2 guys, Ed and John, and then Penny, and Jess for the long weekend as she's doing something else on Selati. They're really lovely people. The staff however are very different. None of them are fully qualified accept Koos, so they don;'t always know the answer and just don't have the experience that Katie and Joe had, but after getting to know them a bit better, they are very nice people.
Didn't do much except settle in and unpack the first day.

Wednesday
After an orientation morning we went on our first 5 hour drive in the afternoon. You're assigned either telemetry, data recording or phuza (hot drinks) on each drive. If you aren't assigned to anything you can chose not to go on the drive.
We saw a wildcat on the first drive, and two servals! Amazing! And then Adam managed to come round a corner in the dark later on, right into a herd of elephants. They trumpetted so he hit the floor and we raced down the road, elephants trumpetting all around us! It was quite an exciting first drive! Though I felt sorry for the poor elephants being scared half to death!
Every drive is based on one misson, track and find the lions, as last year I think 4 or 5 were caught in snares and died, so they like to keep close tabs on them now. Though you do see a lot of other animals along the way.
After Askari, I really got into identifying the birds, and I mentioned that the crested barbet had been nick-named paint pot as it looks like paint has been splattered onto it. Penny really took to this, and started asking me to ID and then rename every bird we saw! 6 days later we are up to 36 birds, all now with 2 names to help her ID them! On drives everyone would rather stop to look at a bird now than try find the lions! Not sure the staff are impressed, but oh well!

Thursday
During morning drive we had tea/coffee on the suspention bridge! Slightly terrifying, but good fun. During midday break we had a FGASA lecture on animal behaviour. We got a really good sighting of Lillie's heard today as well!

Friday
During morning drive trying to find the lions, Paul decided to drive off-road to find them, and ended up crashing into a rock! It really shook him up, bless, so we headed back home after that. We finally saw the lions just as the sun was setting. Mburri, Mica and Selati we crashed out in the drainage line with bulging stomaches! They pretty much ignored us as we watched them, about 15 meters away. On the drive home we played "Mr Aloo went to the zoo and he saw a..." from A-Z with African animals! It was a really funny listening to people try to remember the order of the alaphabet! That night was braai night, so we all sat round the fire and chatted. A massive baboon spider suddenly crawled out from under a rock when I sat down! It was huge, like tarantular sized! But completely harmless.

Saturday
We got ana amazing sighting of a Bataleur sunning himself early on the morning drive, and just had quite a good drive in general. That night we went in the game viewer to Mhlanga, right between Pidwa and Makalali for dinner and drinks. Imagine driving in an open vehical at night in winter at 120kmh! Its quite cold! But it was a good night, we played pool and the food was good!

Sunday
Morning off, so me Penny and Jess watched Toy Story 3 and Jackass 3 on Adam's laptop. Nice lazy morning. The evening drive we attempted to find the lions again, but we kept losing their signal. We had a punture, and after Adam changed it we got a radio call saying that Shaka and Skinny we right by the house, so we dashed back to base, and luckily they were still there! Shaka is absolutely massive! It was a pretty cool sighting, though we had to abandon the braai evening incase they got too close!

It's been a good week, just very different, so it's taken the week to adjust, but the staff are growing on me, you just have to give them a chance.

Hope eveyone back home is doing well. Miss you all, and am totally gutted that I'm missing the last Harry Potter film!
Rach
xx

Posted by Rachellina 23:57 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

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