Hennie van Heerden's Wildlife Diary

December 2, 2010

Buffalo Bash

 Soon after we left in the morning we ran into a group of Baboons. Usually, in Mala Mala, these animals are pretty skittish as they are being chased away from the camps to avoid that they become ‘too friendly’. So when they see rangers or ranger’s vehicles, they associate it with a lot of noise and danger.
But today they had other things on their mind. When we found the troup, this female seemed to have seen something hilarious.  When a big male decided to ‘join in the fun’ she was still smiling 🙂

As we went on we had a big surprise coming….
We found a leopard; a female one and on top of that a new one: The Dudley Female. But she was not alone!! I was absolutely thrilled to find also her son in her company. The encounter was brief as they soon went off into the thickets, but still it was a lovely sighting. Played around with Black and White and I must say, although I’m really a color loving  person, that I’m kind of pleased with the result.

We stumbled upon lions, elephants and huge flocks of Wattled Starlings. They are so pretty in their breeding plumage! But the absolute highlight of the day happened in the afternoon. Dean steered the vehicle to the river bank and just stopped there. There wasn’t much to see, but we could hear a rumble in the air. A cloud of dust was quickly approaching just over the hill from where we stood. Soon a few buffalos came in sight. They went straight for the river to drink. Behind them more buffalos followed, and more… and more. Soon an endless stream of black bodies gulfed over the hill towards the water. We found ourselves surrounded by hundreds of animals all heading straight towards us. What a sight!! They were in the company of dozens of Red-Billed Oxpeckers. What an amazing sight!! The mass of moving bodies was endless.

 They drank,  played and bathed in the water and stayed there for the good part of an hour. Until one of them stood up and went back over the hill again. Soon a couple of others followed. And more and more. Within minutes the whole herd was moving up that hill again, all following the leader. 10 minutes later, the field was empty again as if nothing had ever happened there. What an amazing sight!!

December 1, 2010

Band of Brothers

After 3 weeks of travelling alone today was the day that Hans would arrive!!!! I could hardly wait for the plane to arrive. Of course it had been fantastic so far but especially on safari it’s so nice to share all of the wonderful sightings with each other. He would be arriving in the early afternoon, so of course I went out on game drive first in the morning. But I had to be back in Main Camp fairly early as I still had to pack everything as I would move to Rattray’s Camp to spend another 2 weeks there together with Hans. And in my case, it’s not so much the luggage that takes a lot of time to pack; It’s more fitting all the photographical gear back into it’s carry-on case 🙂

The day started brilliantly by finding the Matshipiri Female leopard high up in a tree. She is the mother of Pretty Boy or “The Italian” as I call him. So far we saw him a couple of times, but she had been invisible up till now. What a glorious sighting to start a day with!!
All kinds of Eagles were pretty active too and the Lilac Breasted Roller sure made a nice graphic picture on his branch.

I just couldn’t waint until it was time for Hans to arrive so I was ready on the deck way too soon. The transfer to Rattray’s went smoothly as was the ‘handing over’ to ranger Dean whom we got to know last year.  And it was a very big thrill to meet all my friends again. Alan the Barman, galant as ever, was waiting for me with the nicely chilled Chardonnay I like so much…. How’s that for a welcome!
A little before 2 we went to the airstrip and like clockwork the plane came in….
The man sure knows how to make an entrance.. 🙂

Of course we went on gamedrive that afternoon! And what a treat we had! I’ve mentioned before that Cheetah are a rare species in Mala Mala. The beautiful cats are more at home in the vast plains of the Serengeti than in the more densely populated South African parks and there had been years that I hadn’t seen one at all during my visits. We had been looking for them on the northern boundary for days already but other than a glimpse of only one, we hadn’t been lucky.

Until today…
When we arrived at the boundary there were 2 vehicles standing in the middle of the plain there….. And then we saw them.
The four brothers were together, watching a tiny newborn Wildebeest baby some 500 meters further on. They never lost sight of it while they crept closer and closer. Step by step, with endless patience. We came in on the right of them but the light of the setting sun was not in our favour. Dean quickly turned the wheel and got us to the left of them. Perfect Light!! And on top of that, the brothers chose that moment to line up absolutely perfect!!!! I’ve never in my life seen a more beautiful sighting of Cheetah than this. I didn’t know what to shoot first of last and ended up by just letting the camera rattle 🙂 I am SO happy with these shots!! The magnificent cats got up, crept closer to the Wildebeest baby and went down again. Surely a sighting I’ll never forget!

We stayed with them until it was completely dark, but not without getting treated to a most beautiful sunset. What a fantastic day!!

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