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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!

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!

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.

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!

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!

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.

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!

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!

Posted by Rachellina 23:57 Archived in South Africa

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