Sue & Gordon's Notebook.
Writing this newsletter in the middle of September 2013, it is worth reflecting back on the last few months since our last news in May of this year.
May was early winter for us, with our coldest months usually being July and August. Well, winter did not really happen this year - no need for electric blankets, winter sheets and heavy duvets. For those of us who do not like the cold, it was great, but unfortunately a mild winter means possible trouble on the horizon!
Talking to local farmers, who are usually more reliable than most weather forecasts, a mild winter is often a sign of a poor rainy season to come in Summer. Whilst the animals will adapt and survive as they have done for milenia, if we do not have good rains this Summer, it will be for the third year in succession that the rainfall has been well below the annual average for this area of 500ml.
We hold thumbs, cross fingers, and hope that the big man upstairs is listening to us, and trust that for once the farmers are wrong, and a good rainy season will be delivered.
Our rains usually start in October / November, so we are now very much towards the end of our dry season. Amazingly, the antelope species which show the first signs of a lack of good food (kudu, impala, etc) are mostly still looking in good condition. Although we have not had any rains yet, new shoots and flowers are starting on the trees, which will no doubt provide extra nourishment.
Sue and I seldom go out on game drive, which might sound "criminal", but the reality is that besides being kept more than a little busy with everything that goes on at the Lodge, we do have the most wonderful waterhole and underground hide right in front of us. Every day is different - some a little quieter than others, and some where you wonder what could possibly happen next to "top" what you have already seen!
Here are a couple of shots you don't see every day - combinations of animals visiting at the same time, tolerating each other's presence in close proximity.
The rhino cow and very young calf are totally relaxed with buffalo all around them, so much so that she continues drinking without any fuss. The rhino bull and male lion are not happy with each other, but did eventually find their own space and settled down to drink.
A potentially far less happy combination - kudu and spotted hyenas. This female kudu was highly stressed as shown by her elevated tail, but managed to outlast and outwit her predators (sounds like a phrase from the television series Survivor). She refused to run, which was her first great decision, and used the waterhole to her advantage most of the time. When one of the spotted hyenas got too close, she head-butted the hyena, and chased it off. In the end, the hyenas gave up, and she survived to live another day.
The picture below is of another kudu cow running with a strange "blur" behind it. The blur is a wild dog giving chase across the top of our underground hide, and was one of three wild dogs trying to bring this kudu down.
The dogs chased the kudu into the fence in the gulley immediately in front of the waterhole, and she then became badly entangled in the fence, and was unable to free herself. Because of our activity, and that of our guests at the time, the dogs left, no doubt in search of easier prey with fewer human interruptions. Still, the kudu could not free herself, and after consulting with the Park Operations Manager, we had two choices. Either shoot the kudu - we could not leave her to get more and more entangled, or try to cut the fence and free her. The risk with the latter option was the very good chance of getting severely kicked by a stressed animal, not understanding what these humans were trying to do. Werner and I chose the latter option, and managed to cut her free to the relief of all, not least the kudu, and with no injuries to ourselves.
We often say to our guests "always keep one eye on the waterhole; you never know what can suddenly appear." We were caught not following our own advice two days ago, sitting in the lounge having a cup of coffee in the morning. Sue got up to find something, and saw these two girls had stopped in for a drink. They had come in quietly, with no-one noticing them at all. In future, we will make sure we follow our own advice!
Whilst one shouldn't have favourites, we really do feel special when the coalition of male cheetah's pays us a visit. This picture of two of them having a drink was taken recently at night using our webcam. Remember that our webcam uploads still pictures to our website every minute, 24/7. You can keep half an eye on our waterhole via our website from whereever you are in the world, as many of our guests already do.
The underground Hide at Bush House continues to be a delight for our guests. You never know what you might see from there, and the camera angle from the Hide gives you the chance to capture some great and unique shots.
The opportunity to photograph lions at eye level gives a totally different feeling and perspective to a photo taken from a game viewing vehicle. Together with the magic of experiencing elephants drinking so close to you that you feel you could almost touch them, gives our guests the chance to experience something really special and unusual from the Hide.
Even more unusual could be something walking across the top of the underground Hide, right above your head, as happened with this lioness, who then settled down for a drink just in front of the Hide. Imagine sitting in the Hide, watching that shadow move
You can understand why we sometimes don't mind missing out on game drives, with everything we are lucky enough to see right in front of our eyes, without moving. You can do both - a combination of drives, and relaxing at the Lodge. Love to see you soon ......
Gordon & Sue.