Thursday, 26 September 2013

Under African skies

Hello everyone and welcome back to my blog, it's been quite some time since my last post and this has in part been because of my return to South Africa which you will read more about shortly. I hope you all had a great summer and made the most of the sunshine because as September draws to a close it won't be long before temperatures drop and plenty of warm layers will be called for as the cold embrace of winter takes its grip.  As always I hope you enjoy the blog.

Back to Africa

In 2011 having  just landed back in England after spending a month living and working in the South Africa wilderness I knew I had to return, craving the sights, sounds and smells of a truly incredible country. A little over two years later my flight touched down at Durban to signal the arrival of the two of the most incredible weeks of my life. Having signed up for a programme run by Global Vision International focusing on tracking wild dogs, cheetah and elephant through the use of telemetry on Zimanga Private game reserve I knew there was a good chance of seeing some incredible things, nothing could of prepared me for the daily mind blowing wildlife encounters that myself and my fellow volunteers were about to experience.  Before I write about a few of my incredibly hard to pick highlights, a thank you should be said to all the staff and fellow volunteers at Zimanga base who made the experience even more special through being welcoming and very friendly made fitting into camp life very easy. The information, skills learnt and memories and friendships made will stay with me forever. So after careful thought I have tried my best to come up with a few of my highlights from the trip.

1) I'll hold your paw.

This was the one highlight that proved to be  a straight forward decision, with two of the African Wild Dog pups sedated to have collars fitted to aid with data collection and telemetry tracking, the opportunity to get up closer than I ever imagined possible to one of the most endangered carnivores on the planet was a truly once in a lifetime opportunity. One by one we were able to have our pictures taken with the sedated pups and had the opportunity to touch the fur, and even the paws of the beautiful creature. I made the most of every second of my opportunity!

2)  Night drive

Driving through Zimanga at night, never failed to amaze, Serval, Porcupine, Bush Baby and Mozambique Spitting Cobra were some real wonderful moments, however the drive to camp for the first time having only been in South Africa less than 48 hours, provided a glimpse of something very special. Driving along and suddenly a huge cat shape bounded in front of the vehicle, and into the grass on the roadside where it stayed for a minute or so allowing us a rare glimpse into its mysterious life. This animal was of course the beautiful, powerful, elusive Leopard. I may only have been able to see the outline of its muscular body in the darkness but having never seen a Leopard before this really was hitting the jackpot. The night proved even more memorable as later we caught up with the wild dog pack, looking relaxed again close to the road what a welcome !

3)  Being made to feel tiny

 Surely there are few animals on the planet that posses such awesome power as the African Elephant added to that their serious intelligence means when just a few metres separate yourself and a huge male in must that has the potential to be an intimidating and dangerous experience. Fortunately this particular Elephant has such a gentle and inquisitive personality despite its current condition that no harm is meant, as he wanders around our vehicle his huge size is clear to see in all its glory. The magnificent head the width of the windscreen so close to us its beauty so evident the experience one that was just awesome and one never to be forgotten.

Morning Cutthroat

Zimanga is home to a huge Spotted Hyena named Cutthroat, one of a very small population to live on the reserve, rarely seen I was far from optimistic about my chances of a sighting in a short period of time. As we were reminded time and time again however Zimanga is a very special place, no more so than on one memorable morning. Having located the Wild Dog pack on the perimeter of the reserve, we followed them as they went about their morning antics, primarily a mixture of play fighting and trying to track down potential prey. While most of us were watching the dogs, a shape behind the vehicle had caught the attention of our guide. The unmistakable form of the  Spotted Hyena known as Cutthroat was keeping its distance from the pack and until this point had gone unnoticed, not for long however, no sooner had we spotted the hyena so to did the dogs, chasing Cutthroat into dense thicket and out of sight, a  short but privileged encounter.

A little optimistic

With no Lion on Zimanga, and Leopard targeting medium size antelope predominantly, the Buffalo would probably be feeling fairly untouchable. The wild dog pack had other ideas however as for over an hour they harassed the herd on occasion getting them running in mild panic, and darting in to try and isolate a youngster. They came close at one particular moment nipping the dis orientated juvenile before the adults came back to restore security. Eventually the pack lost interest whether they ever had a real chance of snaring a meal is unlikely however to see such prolonged predatory behaviour was truly fascinating.

Beauty in the air

The African Fish Eagle is a bird I had always wanted to see and having seen it in the flesh its true power and wonderful colouration were evident. And of course its unmistakable, charismatic call is a sound quite magnificent another highlight on an unforgettable trip.

And a few more pictures, representing incredible experiences on a very special reserve.

African Rock Python.

Kalahari one of the male Cheetah on the reserve truly stunning.

Pretty awesome.

Only Africa can produce sunsets like this.

Badger update

Our garden still continues to offer a reliable food source for not one but two badgers who regular feed on our peanut butter bread morsels. I've said it before and I will say it again it is a true privilege to have these beautiful nocturnal animals visit the garden and long may it continue for watching them is an experience which should never be taken for granted.

World Rhino Day

It was recently World Rhino Day, celebrating these magnificent animals but also highlighting the sickening plight they face thanks to the myth of the healing properties their magnificent horn possess. People must wake up to this before it really is to late, to lose any species to extinction is sickening to loose Rhinos because of human greed and ignorance would be inexcusable.

Trails and Tails Travel
Looking for a truly wild and wonderful adventure? want to see some natures most amazing natural creations ? Trails and Tails Travel offers a wide range of once in a lifetime opportunity to visit some of the most amazing locations on the planet run by Nicole and Matthew, you can loo at their website by following this link you can also connect with them on Facebook!/TrailsAndTailsTravel?fref=ts.


You can follow me on Twitter @ReallyWildWykes where I will be posting regular sources of wildlife news, images and of course my blog updates direct to my Twitter account.

That is all for this issue thank you for reading and have a great weekend !