Monday, March 16, 2009

Our Honeymoon in South Africa!! PART TWO - DAY THREE...

PART TWO OF OUR HONEYMOON - FEB 10 TO FEB 14 - SAFARI AT MALAMALA

“The highest aim of travel is not to see new sights, but to gain new eyes.” - Proust

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

2/12 AM
Windy, cloudy day, some light rain throughout the day

First we went to the tree that the leopard had dragged his kill up the previous night. There was another vehicle viewing the dead nyala, and as we waited, Gareth spotted the leopard lying in the grass just down the hill. We pulled up next to the leopard, and the leopard got up and walked back a meter or so into some thicker brush and lay back down.

Photo: Can you spot the leopard in the grass?

After the other vehicle came down to see the leopard, we drove back up the hill 10 meters or so to the tree where the nyala was. He had been placed perfectly in the tree so that he would not fall out, and his neck was cut open and his tongue hanging out and some of his guts hanging out below him.

Photo: the tree where the leopard had stashed his nyala kill...

...and the lovely site we found in the tree...

 

                                                                                         We snapped a few photos of this lovely site and drove on.

Next we went to the site where the Styx lion pride had been seen. There were 4 cubs and 1 lioness.  The 4 cubs were all hanging out in the middle of the road.

 

 

 

 

We watched them a few minutes, then drove off. We quickly ran into another portion of the pride down the road. There were 4 lionesses with the roller coaster male. We’re not sure where the other 2 lionesses and 5 cubs were, but I’m sure they weren't far.


Other notable sites we saw that morning -

A giraffe having a snack...

 

...and a good head-scratch.

 

A male elephant who huffed and puffed as we approached and did a half-hearted mock charge as we drove past...

    

   This shy little guy...

                                                                                                                    


Four white rhino grazing...

 

 

...Two kudus off in the distance on a hillside...


Martin spotted a waterbuck on a hillside – we could see the white circle on his hindquarters from a distance...

 

These spiders are everywhere... they are about the size of my palm...

...This is a female Golden Orbweb Spider. She spins the most beautiful strong golden web and has a number of (much smaller spiders) males around her in the web. Interestingly she devours the "boys" after they have served their purpose on their honeymoon!

(thanks Tanya!)

 

 

                  ...15 million impalas... ok maybe not quite that many...

...but close.


...Dwarf mongooses...

...even one nursing, which Gareth had never seen before!  (unfortunately this is the best pic we got of it)

 

...An African fish eagle flying overhead (looks like a bald eagle from a distance, with a dark brown body and white head)

We tried to find hippos at some of their normal water pools, but they were not around, probably because it was cloudy enough that they could be out of the water without harming their sensitive skin.

 

We saw our old friends by the river again...



...and we also saw another wildebeest hanging out with a heard of impalas (we weren't sure if it was the same herd and wildebeest as yesterday or not)...

       ...A troop of chacma baboons...

 


On our way back to camp for breakfast (yes, we saw all of these animals before 10am!!), we stopped at the leopard's tree to see if he and/or his kill were still there.  They were both indeed in the tree.  The leopard was sleeping hard, his nose tucked between some branches.

Photo: the tree where the leopard was sleeping (can you see him?)... amazingly camouflaged...



2/12 PM
On our afternoon game drive, we first checked the leopard's tree again. Now the leopard was nowhere to be found, and the nyala was gone from the tree. Gareth thought the leopard probably pulled the nyala down and was eating it under a shrub nearby.


While we had been back at camp during the late morning & early afternoon, the Styx pride of lions had made a kill and were seen eating it by some of the standby rangers. We went to see them. The area was surrounded by vultures...

Photo: White-Backed Vultures at the crime scene

Photo: a Hooded Vulture cruisin' for leftovers 

 

All the lions looked fat and happy, and one of the cubs was gnawing on a bone - the only evidence left from the kill.

Photo: the little guy on the upper right was the one working on a bone...

     

       

After a few minutes, a rhino wandered into the lions' midst.  The lions soon noticed him and watched as he walked nearer to them. 

But the rhino wandered past them without much disturbance, and they went back to their peaceful sleep.

We watched them resting for a few more minutes, then decided to go look for more animals.

 

We drove quite a while without seeing anything, as the rain was picking up...

Finally Martin spotted a leopard straight ahead of us on the road!

Video: sorry this video so shaky at first... but I think it's pretty cool...

He was an old male leopard. He had a swollen eye and lots of open sores all over his body, especially on his back legs and near his anus. He didn't seem to be limping, but he would stop every minute or so and lick his wounds, especially around his anus, which really seemed to be bothering him. He must have been in a fight, and the wounds on his hindquarters indicate that he had probably been running away…

...not a good sign for a leopard.

He seemed to be very hungry, and we followed him for a while, hoping we would come across a herd of impalas. Of course, the one time you hope to see impalas, you don’t.

    

Video: Gareth tells us he believes this leopard is the Newton male - a very old (11-year old), nomadic leopard. 

At one point, he jumped up into a tree – so gracefully, what a beautiful sight – to look around for any potential prey.

 

 

He saw something that caught his attention for a few seconds, but we couldn’t tell what he was looking at.

After a few minutes, he climbed down from the tree...

 

...and started walking down the road again.

We continued following him, and eventually he cut off the road into the brush, and after a few minutes he lay down for a while in some tall grass, and we stopped and watched him and waited for awhile.  When another vehicle eventually arrived to see him, we finally left.

 

It had finally stopped raining by this point. Not too far down the road, we spotted a herd of impalas, including one baby who was limping. If the wounded leopard has any shot of catching dinner, it was probably that little guy.

Near the herd of impalas, we saw the same 4 white rhinos we had seen earlier in the day, as well as 2 giraffes up the hill.

We chose to go up the hill to see the giraffes,...


...and after watching them for a while, we eventually drove away and found another road nearby. We drove again for a while without seeing anything, and eventually it grew darker and darker.

We were following the westernmost border of MalaMala, when I noticed a black shape that looked like the side & rear of a cow. I called out to Gareth, and he reversed back to where I had seen it. It was our first Cape Buffalo! 

Photo: Horrible photo, but proof nonetheless!

 

We hade officially seen all 5 of the Big Five (Rhino, African Elephant, Lion, Leopard, and Cape Buffalo) in one day!  WOOHOO!!  [These animals are collectively called the Big Five because in the hunting days, these were the 5 most dangerous animals to hunt on foot.]

It was too dark to take any good pictures of the Cape Buffalo, but we watched him for a minute as we listened to some impalas go a bit crazy on the neighboring reserve to MalaMala. There must have been some predator shaking them up, because they were snorting in alarm for quite a while. Too bad we couldn’t drive onto their property to investigate!


For all of our pictures & videos from this day, click here

1 comment:

KTB said...

That's awesome that you were able to see the Big 5...and in one day!!!

I love the photo of the cheetah heading down the tree. It's a view of his side, and he's almost vertical to the tree. Awesome pic!

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