Sunday, 5 May 2013

Saving It For The Next Generation

With our belief that if one is saving nature and its marvels for the next generation the next generation must know what we are saving, we chose a quiet day and took some five and six year olds from a local pre-school out for a game drive in Mkhuze.

They arrived at the hotel and quietly piled out of the taxi. I was amazed at the discipline as they then lined up to go to the restrooms in orderly fashion.
Then it was off to the Game reserve to see animals they had never seen before – along the way through the community there was much hilarity as dogs, chickens, goats, cows and donkeys were called to with very lifelike imitations and we swopped Zulu and English words for everything.

Once in the reserve we stopped at the first hide to work off some energy and laugh and comment at the first sighting of wildebeest running across the plains.
Along the way we passed their first sightings of impala and nyala but their excitement at seeing their first giraffe was a joy to see
The next hide delivered some amazing sightings and the awe etched on the faces was a sight to see.

Watching Rhino
Zebra waiting their turn
Yong baboons fighting
Displaying Nayala

For all of the new animal sights and sounds I think the highlights for most were the slippery floors (newly oiled) in the hide and the chance to be in a game drive vehicle.

Then was the drive home and not even a chocolate, chips and a juice could stop eyes from closing along the way and so we returned to the hotel and of loaded a group of heavy eyed children.

Hopefully this will be something they will remember for a long, long time


Monday, 10 September 2012

Are Cold, Grey, Rainy Days Worthwhile

Now I often get asked by guests “Is it worth going out – will we see anything?” My stock answer is that it is always beautiful and you will see more than in your hotel room. This was one of those days and my intrepid explorer guests decided not only to go out on a cold wet day but to do a full four hours in the downpour. Their reward at the end of it all – wild dogs.

Towards the end of the drive we came across some baboons behaving strangely. The females were disappearing with the young, the big male where in a guarding stance and some of the young males giving a strange bark. Their behaviour was one of concern but not fear as with the presence of most predators. I stopped to look around and explained that the behaviour was indicative of something wrong but I was not sure what. I could not see anything and drove on slowly looking around. Suddenly a wild dog appeared in the road ahead of us to be joined a little later by the rest of a small pack.
So my advice is always “Let’s go and enjoy ourselves no matter what”.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Rhino Surprise

In the few weeks that Adam has worked for us one of the things that he mentioned a few times was the desire to do some game capture and to see Black Rhino so When Wildlands trust hired a game drive vehicle and guide to drive for the for two days I decided to reward him for the hard work over the last month by giving him two more long hard days. I never mentioned darting black rhino – only that he had to be at the gate early and drive for the people (they would supply a guide who knew the reserve) all day for two days and to take lunch with as there would be no break for him (I get cruel that way).
Here is his stoy and these are his photos:

Rhino surprise-by Adam Snyman

What seemed to me and to be just a full day game drive safari for the day, out on a reserve I’ve never been to, turned out to be a lifetime experience. Only once I got back to Ghost Mountain did I find out that Jean set me up but what a setup it was.

I arrived bright and early at the game reserve gate ready for the day, the entrance boasting the big names in wildlife conservation that recognise this place. I was surprised to find that I had no knowledge whatsoever of the reserve and what on earth they were protecting inside. With organisations like WWF, Black rhino expansion project and Wildlands trust, I knew they had something special wildlife waiting inside.

I arrived at their restaurant to be greeted by members of the Wildlands conservation trust, the team of Ezemvelo Wildlife vets and Wildlife act.

In the corner a box caught my eye and on closer inspection found medium sized tracking collars and tracking equipment, perfect size for what seemed suitable for a cat or a wild dog. What on earth are they going to find?

Ease-dropping with the crowd, I overheard something...something black and white. Are they talking about which dog has certain markings or the rhinos?

I finally asked some Wildlands trust personnel and it was rhino they were going after.

After everyone finished a full English breakfast it was all systems go! The Ezemvelo pilot fired up the light weighted game capture chopper and set off to locate our first rhino.

Finally I understood what I was there for and that I was responsible for driving with our cruiser to where they dart the rhinos from the helicopter and race into the bush with the vets, cameraman and volunteers from Wildlands.

Stroke of luck, this was to be my second rhino encounter and interaction. I remember clear as daylight my first rhino tagging and encounter with the men and women of Kapama back in 2007.

Basically, Wildlands and Wildlife act received funds to track, tranquilise, touch and test tracking devices for black and white rhinos on this new piece of land. After reading a wildlands magazine lying around the lodge, I finally understood the whole purpose of this operation and how the reserve came to be and how Wildlands are working with the Nkosi of the Gumbi community to protect and run a reserve just outside Mkuze.

Even though I was just the driver I was very much involved with driving to the rhinos, taking loads of 'Kodak moment' photographs, assisting with bringing equipment to the vets and wildlife act team who rush out ahead into the bush to locate the hallucinating animal, settle it down carefully in a stress free position and then begin the process of fitting the tracking collars or drilling into the fragile rhino horns and fitting it with a tracking device deep inside the keratin.

It’s not an easy job and the entire operation has to be done quickly and efficiently, so Ii kept well out of the way as the guys from Wildlife act and Ezemvelo were working under constant pressure and they needed to keep their focus and their cool.

That Monday morning was hectic and the time flew by and we successfully located and tagged four rhinos. Two white and the rarest of the rare - the infamous black rhino! What a magnificent creature and I didn’t hesitate to become 'touchy' with the bhejane. I don’t get to see, let alone touch a black rhino! my memory of my first wild black rhino I’ve seen dates back to when I was a laaitjie driving through Kruger National Park with my family and stumbling on the road near Letaba we found our first black rhinos. And here I am probably 10 years later, reaching out and running my fingers down the sweaty, rough and rugged rhinoceros.

Everyone was buzzing with excitement with everyone taking in the experience.

Most of the Wildlands staff had never done this in their lives before. It was truly special for them as most of them spend their lives in an office or living in a big city. As for me, I was familiar with everything going on and I humbly stood one side to watch the drama unfold.

I couldn’t help but just smile and just appreciate nature on these two days of adventure and what we are trying to achieve, were here to protect these animals, to educate, to preserve them for future generations, I was there, and I gave my contribution to conservation. I couldn’t help but think about what Bruce Bryden wrote in his book-A game ranger remembers and watch his very words become real, right before my eyes! It is so true-in the life of a game ranger you are never well-off but you do get to see things and do things no one else experiences, not in this lifetime.

I was amazed of what I am and where I am today. From surviving the polluted and overpopulated world of Shanghai to the wild, open spaces of Zululand. It’s here, where I feel at home and where I want to be and what I want to do with my life! What a privilege and experience it is to be an African and to contribute to protecting our heritage, our wildlife, our future.

After successfully tagging the rhinos with their devices, we all parted with smiles and satisfaction of a job well done. Wildlife act were amazing and extremely professional, Ezemevelo-the vets were in their element and the pilot was outstanding, some of the craziest and most skilled flying I have ever seen; and Wildlands trust for their contribution and education and their vision for the future.

A final bush toast-here’s to the future and many more adventures to come in sunny South Africa and the best job in the world!

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Spurwing Butterfly

At this time of the year Spurwing geese keep me entertained. They gather in large numbers on the shores of the lake and many of them moult. This results in flocks of geese either running along the shore to get away from anything that makes them nervous or else they take to the water with an ungainly butterfly stroke

                                          This makes everybody nervous

                                          And this makes Adam nervous

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Elephant Creche

Like small children everywhere the elephant herd’s crèche is causing chaos and mayhem at every opportunity on Lake Jozini

Lets kill the egret
practising dominance behaviour
safe to play surrounded by legs
upside down in the mud

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Battle for water

Adam and I took two guests who had never been in an African Nature Reserve to Mkhuze for their first drive. kuMasinga hide delivered an education in what happens when water runs low (take note humanity) once again.
Horns and Hooves - a Dangerous Place to Be
Excuse me I go here first
I'm Warning you
This will teach you to try que jumping

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Clash of the Titans

kuMasinga hide, in the Mkhuze Game Reserve is often spectacular on winter mornings particularly between around 9h00 and 13h00 which seems to be when everything comes down to drink. This time the water was low and there was a very impatient queue. As size rules the rhinos were hogging it all however the female, her youngster and his young friend were obviously in charge. The big bull was on the edges but every time he tried to get close the female roared at him and he backed off only to take his pent-up aggression out on the poor wildebeest, zebra, warthog , impala and nyala that had the misfortune to be close (at one stage he sent a wildebeest flying through the air). Then it got interesting – another bull approached the waterhole resulting scuffle was as impressive. The sight of these two stirring up dust and causing general pandemonium was stunning but the roaring, squealing and clash of horns cannot be described adequately.
Scrum Down
Dust and Noise
Back Off
Chasing pesky Wildebeest