Unfortunately, my days of having Matt to myself were over but I must say the people I shared the vehicle with were fantastic and enthusiastic company. The only downside for me of having newcomers in the car is that the hunt for the Big 5 starts anew, while I think there’s so much more to enjoy on a safari. But hey, that’s how it goes. And so far, I couldn’t complain at all as I’ve had more than my fair share of sole-use of vehicles.
When we drove off in the morning, we stumbled upon a big herd of Buffalo. This big male was not impressed by our presence at all and met us with quite the attitude :-). The morning went on but because of the drizzle there wasn’t much to see. Matt did his best and drove us all the way south, but it seemed that all the animals were hiding out until the rain would stop. It’s such an amazing thing, one day the reserve is just swarming with animals and the next day they all seem to have vanished into thin air! Where do they all go!! I mean we’re talking thousands of animals here!!
Well anyway, we drove on and everyone sort of dozed away a bit for lack of anything to see. As I had nothing better to do I started scanning the trees to see if I could find leopard. Given the fact that in 20 years I only found 3, my hopes were not very high. But all of a sudden I sat up straight.. I thought I saw something; a shape on a branch. I grabbed Mattt’s arm to get him to stop. And there she was!! The Jakkalsdraai Female Leopard lying totally motionless in the fork of a tree. On Matt’s “Niiiice fiind!!” my chest grew a couple of inches :-).
The Jakkalsdraai Female is also an old acquintance. I saw here on 2 occasions in the last 4 years. She has had cubs earlier in the year (beautifully captured by Max Waugh) but one cub was killed and the other one was also believed to be dead. Fortunately, Mala Mala’s cyberdiary recently brought fantastic news; the second cub is alive and well). This day however, the Jakkalsdraai Female was on her own. I was really happy to find here alive and seemingly healthy and well-fed. Good for her!!
It also goes to show that you better stay awake at a game drive.. 🙂
It did seem like a particularly good period for all of the big cats in Mala Mala, as within the first week after I arrived, all of the impala dropped their young. They were all over the place!! A charming sight to see all those youngsters jumping around; all legs and not knowing yet what to do with it. Really funny to watch. And of course it’s party time for the predators with all those clumsy little babies around. Yes, it may seem cruel to us but there’s a purpose for everything in nature. If every Impala born would stay alive, soon the whole ecosystem would be imbalanced and all wildlife would suffer from it.
When finally we moved on my spirits had lifted enormously. That’s what seeing a beautiful animal does to you. When we were slowly making our way back to camp we found a couple of bateleur eagles high up in a dead tree. The curves of the branches made for a nice graphic setting for them. I blew up one of the shots of one of the juvenile birds to the maximum to show the amazing face mask of these gorgeous birds! They are completely different from the adults, but quite impressive already I would say!
When we crossed the bridge over the Sand River it became clear how much water had come down the previous day. When I arrived at Mala Mala there was hardly any water in the river and several sand banks were visible. Now, not a patch of bare sand was there anymore as it was all fast flowing water! To the left the equipe of today; ranger Matt and the 3 other guests I shared the vehicle with.
The birds seem to come back first after the rains. Of course the Lilac Breasted Roller makes for a brilliant photo opportunity as it, in my view, is one of the most colorful birds of Africa. But also the – at first glance – bit more dull colored birds as the Starling, turn out to have fantastic colors on closer inspection. Their shiny coats bare all kinds of beautiful sheens of green and blue.
The day ended in a beautiful sunset turning the entire world around us golden. Even the Gnu, permanent resident of the area around the airstrip, seemed to enjoy the perfect light.