A Pitta’s Rain Dance

 

Hello from a humid, windy, overcast Mana Pools!

With the rain looming over us in thick heavy clouds, we’re preparing to get drenched for the first time this season.  It will be a welcome cleanse for the dusty dry bush… and for us bush lovers who have grown accustomed to sweating more liquid than we drink in a day!

The high temperatures aren’t the only reason I’ve been sweating.  The lions disappeared for most of the month. Their tracks disappeared high up the Chewuya Gorge and they weren’t coming back down to impress my guests.  They really made me work hard for them, and with  a fleeting glimpse of a cub or lioness, they left me entertaining eager photographers with rocks and vegetation!

Thankfully, the Wild Dog weren’t going to let the 5 day long safari turn into a botany and geography photography project. They came right to camp and posed like the supermodels of the bush that they are. I was very relieved!

The Wild Dog have since moved out and the lions have moved back in-announcing their return with an elephant kill close to the spring in front of camp a few nights ago!

On an even more exciting note, I saw my first African Pitta!  We went out this morning in search of the illusive bird, ducking and diving and weaving through elephant in thick bush, following its call.  What a moment!  It is such a beautiful bird.  Unfortunately, I did not get a picture, but we will be back next week to try again.  One of our Shareholders and pirvate guides in camp had the privilege to see the Pitta performing its rain dance.  There is an awesome video on the Kavinga Facebook page if you would like to have a look.

I will be going out for a break tomorrow and will finally get to do lot’s of fishing including a competition!

I’ll let you know how it goes!

Have a good week!

Siraaj

Lion or Leopard?

The lions had left the gorge with all the cubs, they were on the move again, and I was under pressure for the new group of guests arriving that afternoon. They were all on a photographic training tour around Southern Africa, stopping over at Kavinga for one night with high expectations. It was time to get serious, a quote I had learned and heard many times as an apprentice.

Luckily Clyde had told me roughly where he saw the last set of lion tracks, heading towards the Tsetse Fly Research Station.
Our group of Photographers arrived fully kitted with all their equipment and gear. “I hope that we find something good!” I said to Luke anxiously.

With no time to waste we had a quick cup of coffee and we were off! The first question I asked everyone was “Would you like to see leopard or lion?” just as a joke to get them excited. They all requested ‘’Leopard please!” and giggled as they knew that it was not that easy!

Within 10 minutes of our drive, we had watched a herd of chocolate coated elephant wallowing in the mud, then a little further down the road we saw the leopard! She was lying in the open on the bank of the Rukomeche river bed.
It was our resident female leopard- the super model, Ushingi. Caitlin named her in our first year we started at Kavinga. She would never run away and actually started coming closer to see us in the vehicle, she knew we were not a threat and was happy to let us take pictures.
Ushingi means the brave one or the courageous warrior. We named her this because of her personality and also the characteristic double line of spots on her forehead, like the war paint of a warrior.

After leaving Ushingi, we made our way towards the tsetse Fly Research Station and ended up photographing baobab tree silhouettes.
I was listening carefully to the Photographic tutor and picking up valuable photography tips while everyone was learning how to take the best pic and what settings to use. We had just jumped out of the vehicle to get a better angle of the baobab, when I told everyone to stop what they were doing and stand still. From the corner of my eye I picked up movement. It was one of the male lions lying under a bush about 20 meters away. We quietly got back into the vehicle and drove up to take a closer look. The whole pride was there and the cameras started to work over time! Now I know what it sounds like when 10,000 pictures are taken in 5 minutes. The bush paparazzi had arrived!

The lions have since killed and been feeding on an elephant in the spring in front of camp. The last three days have been awesome for our guests who got to see the restless cubs play while the pride gorges themselves and sleeps off the food baby-belly up.
Our guests have also been very lucky to see leopard drinking at the pan every night this week!
Its constant action during this time of the season, seeing either lion or leopard OR both!fullsizeoutput_161

A Once in a Lifetime Experience

Hello readers, sorry it’s been so long since I last wrote to you, its been pretty hectic down here. Camp has been very busy lately with a lot of bookings from excited wildlife enthusiasts and photographers.

This week all started with a bit of sad news after I had found an elephant carcass. I was lead to it by following a circling flock of vultures. The elephant had died from natural causes, it was not a pretty sight after the hyena had been there, so we left the scene to try find something more exciting. “Lion” the guests asked!

By sunrise the next day we were out on foot, ready for the lions! The wind started to pick up which made tracking near impossible. So we made our way to the spring in the Rukomeche where we saw a very exciting bird. It was a lifer for me- A Wattled Starling! The first Wattled Starling that has been seen at Kavinga actually. After taking enough photos and awwing over the bird, we made our way back to camp for some bacon and eggs. We couldn’t sit back and relax after breakfast though, we had lions to find!

Later that day we went to the Chewuya Gorge where we had last seen the lion tracks heading. I suspected they would be drinking in the rock pools we used to swim in. When the water was still quite high in the beginning of the season, we used to take guests there and have a quick dip in the cool water of the pools. Our guests always asked if there were crocodiles in the water and would not be happy with my assurances of their safety until they saw that Luke, our eager Learner Guide, was in the water and not getting eaten! But this time it was not crocodiles that made our guests nervous: it was the lions! Unfortunately the lions got our wind and scrambled up the side of the Gorge. We waited for them to settle and then followed them up. What a view! From the mountains of the escarpment you can see the whole of Mana, the lions were just in the foreground, and a stunning baobab on a ridge was the center of stage. It was magical!
Around the dinner table that evening, we all shared our stories of our sightings and highlights of the day. When all of a sudden, Clyde got up very excited and with his flash light waving from left to right, he  chirped “Leopard! Leopard! Leopard!” We all left the dinner table and peered over the edge, and there he was. A magnificent big male leopard drinking at our pan, “wow” I thought, “what a way to put a cherry on the top and end such a wonderful day.”

After all the stories and excitement at dinner, I had more guests wanting to see the lions on foot, so off we went at sunrise back to the Gorge! There were tracks everywhere leading in all directions but we kept our original route that lead up further into the Gorge. We noticed there were some fresh tracks leading up the mountain, but there were no cub tracks following them. When movement amongst the rocks got our attention. There were the four tiny cubs! Trotting straight towards us! I told everyone to keep still and quiet while I looked for the adults with my binoculars.
Amazingly, one little curious cub stopped about 5 meters from us up on a rock. He lay gazing into each of our eyes and was probably thinking “what are these odd creatures?”
I felt my skin tingle and hairs stood up on the back of my neck .
The little cub began to call, I looked back to check for mum but instead I saw my guests smiling in aww.
I then realized why the hairs on my neck stood, it was not fear it was a feeling. I cannot explain exactly, but I knew that this was one of those moments that was a once in a lifetime experience that myself and my guests would always remember forever.

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I am going to stop there for now and fill you in with my next blog! What happened the next day and yesterday, is a whole new story!
Keep an eye out on my Instagram page to see my pictures @hookedonsafari.

Thanks to Clyde Elgar for this fantastic photograph of the curious cub!

October is Here!

The August winds have blown us right through September and all of a sudden we’re half way through October. Now the famous Valley heat is starting to set in! The change in the season has resulted in an increase in thirsty animals. Eland drink at the spring everyday and there are countless numbers of impala, kudu and warthog at the pan during lunch time. Elephant cover the pan during the evening and keep our guests up with the splashes and trumpets.

The bird life at Kavinga has been fantastic. We have had regular sightings of the Yellow Billed Stork and Broad-billed Rollers. Carmine Bee-eaters decorate the bare trees like bright colored Christmas decorations. The Greater Painted Snipe is an exciting bird to tick off the Kavinga Bird List, and we have three of them at the pan as well as a flock of Southern Pochards in the pan! It won’t be long before we can start ticking off the African Pitta too. Eastern Nicators and Red-throated Twinspots sing in camp, while the White-Headed Vultures build their nest by the spring.

The lions have had us tracking them in circles and are now in the Chewuye Gorge with the cubs where they had killed a young elephant. The Wild Dog have not been seen for some time- since we noticed four of the pups were no longer with them.
The Baobabs have started flowering already along with a couple  of other trees that only normally flower much later in the season.

Some pretty strange and early changes this season, including some Leopard Tortoises walking about and Egyptian Geese passing through. We’re excited to see what the rest of the month has to offer!

Take Care of Yourselves,
Siraaj

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