Catch-up of the last few weeks
02.08.2011 - 20.08.2011 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!