OK – For those that enjoyed reading about day one, here’s an overview of day two – and please don’t think that life in the bush is slow and dull – far from it.
Morning Welgevonden Game Drive
My day started early again with preparation for the morning drive – so up and dressed early then off to the restaurant to prepare coffee and snacks for the guests and load a morning hot-box onto the vehicle before heading out into Welgevonden, for what turned out to be the first of three game drives for the day.
One of our other guides, Prince, rode shotgun (with over four years guiding for Kololo, read navigator and fellow animal spotter) Sightings on entry to the reserve were the usual suspects: Waterbuck, Blue wildebeest, Springbuck, Warthog, Zebra, Eland etc. Then, to add to this morning’s delight – a cheetah female with four juvenile cubs (about 5 months) on an open area clearly visible and in photo range. As a bonus, in the distance another mother with four sub-adult cubs (approx. 11 months) visible with binoculars. These cheetah mothers are a credit to parenting, since they have managed to rear their cubs so well. Fingers crossed they all now have a good chance of reaching maturity! The four young cubs were in a playful mood, as all youngsters tend to be, but mother was interested in breakfast. A choice on the menu of wildebeest (too big), warthog (too dangerous), blesbok or springbok. Although a blesbok chase did ensue, none of these ended up on the table, so we tailed mother and cubs until they went to ground in a drainage line to try their luck later in the day.
After a whizz around we also had a better, if brief, opportunity to get a closer look at the older group. Then back to the lodge for the guests to enjoy breakfast, driving past a rather sleepy White Rhino.
Afternoon Welgevonden Game Drive
Back at the lodge Prince and I had to complete the first-aid course, which we managed just in time for a twelve o’clock game drive. This time with Prince doing the driving and me along for the additional road layout education – and, better yet, game viewing.
Out past the Wildebeest, warthog, zebra etc. These game animal species are frequent inhabitants of the South Gate area and I’ll only mention them in future if they’re doing something out of the ordinary. We came past the, still sleepy, White Rhino. This time he did us the courtesy of standing up. A sighting of a group of young Kudu bulls was then followed by a long but eventually fruitful search for elephant.
Welgevonden Night Drive
Due to the quality and number of sightings and discussions (I like to talk about geology, vegetation and consequent indigenous animal presence), we arrived back at the lodge just in time … well, OK, a little later than planned … for me to take another group of guests on the third drive of the day.
This time a solo-run – without local expert Prince, and with the knowledge of having to return on my own after dark to the lodge (OH NO!).
I decided that I’d take a drive out to the area where we had encountered the bull elephant in the hope they’d still be visible in that area. I headed off into the park only to come into very close contact with the two Southern Pride lionesses – a really unexpected and appreciated surprise for all of us, especially as one of the pair was sitting alertly watching some waterbuck that were grazing a couple of hundred metres or so away. They looked completely unaware of the lions. After watching them for a while, the lioness started to make her way stealthily towards the waterbuck but, not too surprisingly, this half-hearted stalk resulted in the waterbuck noticing the lion and moving off, after which the lioness laid down in the long grass (suddenly an invisible ‘flat cat’) and we drove on.
We passed all of the usual animals on our way to try and find the elephant bulls sighted earlier, but although we drove the length of the road they had either wandered off or we missed them in the long grass. We were however rewarded by sightings of a number of White Rhino including a mother with a calf, no more than 2 months. A pleasure to behold!
I then made a judgement call and decided to take a road back towards camp via a road I’d checked on the map but hadn’t before driven. The start of the road was as I expected it, and the beginning of the journey went well. We stopped for sundowners, but the light was starting to go and I wanted to ensure we had started off again the onset of darkness, to which my guests agreed. Then, the road that I’d expected to take no more than 30 minutes, turned out to be a little rough.
It meandered through quite rough terrain, showed signs of erosion in places, and it therefore took me closer to an hour to cover the distance and back to the lodge. Still, nature did it’s best to reward my perseverance with a close encounter with one of the lionesses that walked on the roadside past my vehicle in the opposite direction, giving us a brief but very close second lion encounter for that drive.
Another great day in the bush! But after two pretty full days, tomorrow morning I am scheduled for a lie-in. No morning drive (some light maintenance duties and admin) but off with guests once more in the afternoon.
Watch out for the next update.