Hello from South Africa,
On Monday we went on a morning game drive and went to the boma to see Shaka, the big male lion. When we got to the boma we could see he was standing at the fence, on the other side of which were the two lionesses! As we watched from the vehicle one of the lionesses came up to the fence and flirted with Shaka, rolling on her back and making low growls. The rangers believe that one of the females is already in heat, which means that there could be cubs on the reserve by January!
On our anti-poaching walk this week we were shocked to find a female kudu still alive in a poacher’s snare. It was clear the Kudu had been snared that day as there were no lacerations around her neck. It was very traumatic to see the animal in so much distress.
Our ranger, Louie, explained that it was too dangerous to attempt to release a snared animal; especially a Kudu which weighs 350kg, a kick could inflict severe damage or even be fatal. The only way to safely free a snared animal is to dart it, which requires the rangers carrying the correct dosages for each animal they may come across whilst on an anti-poaching walk. An additional factor is also the severity of the animal’s injuries. Louie’s only option was to shoot the kudu, it was highly distressing and everyone was left in a state of shock, anger and sadness.
When we got closer to the animal it was clear she was pregnant. Although we did not find many snares there was abundant evidence of poaching in the area; trees were scared with the marks of previous snares. Seeing animals that have died in snares really makes you realise the problems that poaching causes. However, witnessing the death of a healthy, pregnant animal by a person whose job it is to protect them takes your awareness of such issues to a new level.
One evening this week, Claire woke me in the night to let me know she had heard something outside our room. As I got out of bed I looked outside and to my surprise saw an elephant only a few metres from my window! This was the same herd of elephants that had charged the car I was in only last week! Crouching by the window Claire and I could tell from their body language that the elephants were calm and not aware of our presence.
It is amazing how silent they are for such enormous animals, the noises that Claire heard was the snapping of branches, as they destroyed a few of the trees around our camp. It was amusing to watch the elephants drink from our pool and browse on our trees. At one point, one elephant was so close to the window that I actually put my hand over my mouth, thinking it would be able to hear me breathing! It was amazing to watch them in such a relaxed state; they were all unaware of our presence which was in fact very close! Slowly the elephants made their way through the camp and disappeared back into the bush, satisfied after demolishing a few of our trees, aloe plants and drinking half our pool!
This week we set off to Mozambique, we had decided to join the other volunteers in camp on their trip into another country! Not very long into our travels we came to the Lebombo border, where we had our passports stamped and our photographs and finger prints taken!
Despite the heavy rain in the morning, by the time we were in Mozambique the sun was shining. Our destination was Tan-‘n-Biki which is situated on the island of Macaneta, only 35km from Maputo, the capital of Mozambique. To get to the island we had to take a very short ferry ride over the Nkomati river, from there we travelled 6km to Tan-‘n-Biki. Our accommodation was chalets, which overlooked the Indian Ocean and was only a two minute walk from the beach. We were blessed with glorious weather during our stay and spent the majority of our time relaxing on the beach, swimming, reading and a good deal of sunbathing!
After several days of intense heat the weather started to change just before our night game drive on Friday evening. The light was very odd and the winds had picked up, we all thought we were going to encounter a massive storm whilst on our drive and not see a thing! However we should not have been so pessimistic for soon into our drive we saw a lioness lying in one of the roads. As we got closer the lioness got up and moved into the bushes but there lying by the side of the road was Shaka! He had recently been released from the boma into the reserve and was given the Kudu, the one we found on our snare walk earlier in the week. He was not the slightest bit phased by our presence and seemed to be fully aware that he is the King of the jungle! I couldn’t believe how close we were to him, it was a completely different experience with the absence of the wire that had surrounded him in the boma.
With the knowledge that Shaka had paired up with one of the lionesses we hoped that we may see them mate and to our good luck it happened! It was over in a flash but we couldn’t believe how close we had been to them! Our luck continued on our drive, we came across a bull elephant that had broken a water pipe and was happily quenching his thirst! We also saw two spotted eagle owls and a genet cat. It was a very atmospheric game drive, the lightening added to the excitement and drama and the experience of seeing the lions with the sky being illuminated by lightening is something I won’t forget!
Lots of love to family and friends xxx