Day 4 – 26 Dec 2007 – A dramatic fight
Today for the first time, we are exactly on time. We wait 10 seconds for the gate to open and then we are off for the day – heading south once again.
The road is dark and quiet and the first sighting of the day is a few kilometers after we turn off to take the Tsendze-loop. It’s four white rhino’s. They’re not very impressed with our appearance and mill around uncertainly before stomping off.
What makes the sighting special is the magnificent sunrise behind them and the fact that rhinos in the north are pretty hard to come by. According to the sightings boards at Letaba and Mopani this is the only rhino sighting of the day in this area.
The loop further yields some waterbuck but no leopards – even though I search quite hard for them.
We stop on the bridge across the Letaba-river, but except for the pong, not much else is around. The smell is apparently caused by the bats living under the bridge.
Back on the tar-road to Letaba we find a baboon-troop. Three of the big male baboons have sore legs or feet, they’re limping along on three legs – which leads us to speculate whether they might have had a run-in with a leopard or some other predator during the night?
At Letaba we head towards the restaurant for breakfast – after watching a hippo cross a reed bed and disappear into the water.
The breakfast, although lovely, is not quite up to Olifants’ exceptional standard. It is also confusing to order what you want from the waiter, when all the other restaurants work on a buffet-principle. Furthermore I get baked beans, which I hate, instead of bacon when the orders arrive. It’s thankfully quickly rectified.
I love watching the bushbuck in camp – they give the camp a special atmosphere I think.
On the road again, we decide to take the S47-loop, but the pickings are slim. We see impala, another leopard tortoise and a chameleon.
Back on the tar road I spot two reedbuck. They are lying in the tall grass near Malopenyana. The ram is lying some meters away from the ewe, and they are so well camouflaged that it is very difficult to see them at all. I feel chuffed to have spotted them – another rare antelope sighting.
The mystery of the car parked in the bushes is solved – it broke down and we meet the towtruck towing it towards Letaba as we head north.
Heading on, we stop for lunch at Mooiplaas and I enjoy watching a mother Woodland Kingfisher who is feeding some babies in one of the poles of the thatched structure.
The nest is surprisingly low from the ground – about 50 cm from the ground. A party of picnickers arrive and take up position under the structure, so I can’t get a nice photo of the mother coming out of the hole as she watches the procession of cooler boxes from a tree branch.
Finally we head towards camp and find a party of four elephants and a herd of waterbuck.
Back at our bungalow I sit on the stoep, determined not to miss the afternoon action like yesterday when I was sleeping through it. And I am not disappointed.
I spot our friend the water monitor on a rock and decide to photograph him. While I’m taking his picture I spot another water monitor. It’s sidling closer in a shifty manner and I watch with interest to see what will happen next.
What happens next is beyond any expectations I might have. The two monitors tackle each other viciously, coiling round and round each other like a snake. Their silent struggle is characterized by moments of intense stillness, and then flurries of movement so fast the eye cannot track it, as they both try to gain the upper hand.
It’s violence on an unbelievable level and they seem to be very evenly matched. I read somewhere that honey badgers are ferocious and utterly determined in a fight. I’ve never seen a honey badger, but this is definitely obsessive behaviour. The intensity takes my breath away.
At times one of them gets the other on its back, but not for long. Round and round they go. They’re so busy and utterly engrossed in their deathly struggle that they don’t see me at all! Half an hour later they’re still going.
Then, one who is looking a bit more tattered tries to run away. The other however follows and tackles him again. Round and round, biting, clawing, trying to throw each other down like wrestlers – they continue.
Ten minutes later a mighty throw launches them, still clenched together with their jaws enveloping body parts of the other, off the steep incline towards the dam below.
I can’t see them anymore and I’m sorry not to be able to see how the story ends. The image of them plunging down the incline, with neither letting go of the other even though they’re falling, will stay locked in my brain forever.
I feel incredibly blessed to have witnessed this. Although it is a violent sight, it is not something you see every day. Wow.
I’ve downloaded three of the almost forty photo’s I took during the epic struggle. I just hope they do some
justice to it.
We leave at 16:00 to go to Stapelkop dam – it’s a long and somewhat boring drive. The Stapelkop-koppie is nice however and the dam is pretty.
We find some kudu, waterbuck, impala and hippo at the dam and then head back. We spot more kudu and an elephant that blocks the road for a while but luckily then moves off without making too many threats.
Back at camp we start packing, and making a fire for a braai – to celebrate our last day in the park before we head off to bed. What a day it’s been.