Good day and hope you have enjoyed this public holiday – my wife took me out for lunch at Helderberg Nature Reserve since it is my birthday this week. Was really lovely, and the little restaurant even smelt like thatched grass in Kruger chalets, but in the end Michelle said: ``We have been spoiled in the wild places, this is nice, but a bit too tame!’’ True. But still lovely.
Hope you enjoy this last entry on Pretoriuskop!1. Stop when you notice something unusual.
A hyena lay in the S3 not far from the Phabeni crossing. Three hours later when we returned, he was still lying there. So we stopped and waited. Because of the cool weather 3 hyena pups crept out of the thin culvert pipe, and entertained us for a while.
Michelle had to use a wide angle lens since they were so close.
It seemed that scent marking and sniffing was a very important procedure, so little Sister tries leaving her scent on the grass…
If she can do it, so can I, says little Brother.
Now remember how they do it? Yes, always sniff an elder’s bum – it’s a sign of respect you know!
But being a child is still the best of all!
I wonder how many families were entertained by these funny little hyenas?
2. Do take notice of the sightings board!
While we were in Lower Sabie, I noticed on the daily Sightings Board that our pack of 2 adults and 6 sub-adult wild dogs had moved past Nkuhlu picnic spot, closer to Skukuza, then past Skukuza, and finally near Kruger Gate. So when we had had enough of our lion family on the S7 at Pretoriuskop, we did a day trip towards Skukuza and the wild dogs. En route we were delayed by a pride of lionesses and cubs in the road, then in a riverbed.
On the Doispan road, what a joy to find our pack of wild dogs again, 1 km from the Skukuza/Kruger gate road! Within minutes the adults ran off into the bush, and we could relax with the 6 `pups’. Not long afterwards, an adult came racing through the bush with an impala lamb in its mouth! The pups went wild, grabbing and shoving to get a bite. Unfortunately this was behind some bushes, so no pics.
But patience pays off, and a sneaky looking dog moved in our direction.
He carefully approached another dog hiding behind a bush. Kind words didn’t help, so how about a bit of gentle persuasion?
If all else fails, then try a show of dominance by mounting your opponent!
In the end the whole pack joined in the squabble over the impala head!
Rather grisly, I must admit, but very rewarding to see especially that the weakest of the litter was not being bullied so much, and his sore leg looked better too…
3. Do take note when people tell you about their special sightings!
It was hot, and the swimming pool was the place to be. A family of photographers with big lenses came walking past, talking about `the leopard in the tree’. So I asked them. Oh yes, about 4 hours ago, it was up in a tree 400m after the junction where the Fayi loop and Voortrekker road splits, but it got down and walked off. Of course the leopard will still be waiting for us at the tree this afternoon!
Four hours later I put the aircon on, and slowly drove down to the junction. 100m, 200m, 300m, 400m, but no leopard. I was going at about 5 km/h when the shape of a HUGE male leopard went sailing past my window up in the tree! I slammed on brakes, and Michelle muttered: ``Just don’t turn off the aircon!’’. I reversed, and saw the most amazing pattern among the fresh leaves!
He was VERY hot, and lay panting. After about half an hour it cooled down a bit, and he turned around, looking backwards so the whites of his eyes appeared.
At last he stared STRAIGHT at us for a few moments!
After at least an hour he got up, moved over a dead impala nobody had noticed, then jumped down and disappeared. What a special experience -- Do take note when people tell you about their special sightings!
At 4:30 the next morning we were back there – no buck, no leopard!
At 9:30 I decided to drive down that road again for lunch at Afsaal.
Same place, same tree. Two cars in the road. Looking in the wrong direction. Another leopard, this time a female, marking her territory!
She daintily crossed a puddle of water in the road, and vanished into the thick bush.
Everybody drove off!
But because it is very rewarding to track an animal down, I reversed the 400m back to the junction where the road forks like a y-shape, and took the other arm of the ``y’’ that was nearly parallel with Voortrekker road. Maybe the leopard would come out on the other side? Five minutes later she appeared again, lay down for a while, then crossed the road so close that I had to use my wide-angle lens!
For another 10 minutes we had her all to ourselves as she marked territory right next to us (looking for a male?).
What more could I ask for…especially since I had been in Kruger in July 2009 for 15 days without photographing a leopard!
Fifteen days in Kruger without a male lion to photograph, but so many other beautiful gems to be found by following these simple principles:
1. Birds are easier to photograph in camps
2. Always look in your rear view mirror
3. Do take note when people tell you about their special sightings
4. Try that route you don’t like, especially if people advise you to
5. Do check the sightings board for animal movement patterns!
6. If you persevere, you will find that elusive leopard
7. Stop if you see anything unusual
8. It is very rewarding to track an animal down!
Thank you for enjoying these memories with me!
Last night Michelle and I enjoyed a stunning moonlight walk, and lay on the warm tar outside our school building looking at the stars, but winter starts tomorrow in the Cape, so please keep us entertained with your trip reports while we huddle under our duvets till we can go back to Kruger again in December!
Friedrich and Michelle von Hörsten