The winter is certainly in full swing in Welgevonden. It is rather cold in the mornings but with a breathtaking sunrise next to the Sterkstroom River the cold is almost just a figment of the imagination. With the streams and rivers flowing almost all year round makes for a nice cloud of warm condensation above the water and almost paints a cloud in the sky. I thought this was a perfect opportunity to take this picture with the effect of real clouds and as they say at Victoria Falls the smoke that thunders. Almost the same effect as above. What a stunning setting…. Visit us at Clifftop for an unforgettable experience.
I know Welgevonden is an irresistible place to be even for the local wildlife. The two sub adult lions you see on the picture to the left decided to make our reserve their new home. With the abundance of wildlife on the reserve they have been staying very contently in the South of the reserve. We are not complaining as they have been giving us some great viewing pleasure during drives. At this age still very playful and full of mischief they even stalked a crash of Rhino of all things the other day. Not sure what they were trying to achieve but none the less a spectacle to observe. They are experienced enough to hunt on their own without the help of the elder lions of the reserve. I have lately enjoyed going to the very South of the park as i know i always stand a chance to witness these guys in action. I truly hope they will stay with us for a long time and make the South their new territory. It will be a challenging task for the male as he has extreme competition from the coalition of brothers of the Western Pride. If they find him here they could chase him out or even kill him. The female will then also become a prime target for mating purposes as it is a new gene and male lions always love to keep their own gene pool strong as possible. Let’s hope that their stay at Welgevonden will be a fruitful one.
Yes my dear readers. It is that time of year again and that means that Clifftop is one of the top holiday destinations for our gentle giants. At this high altitude where Clifftop is situated evergreen plant life alike is found. Plants like the Silver Cluster Leaf (Terminalia Sericea) and the Stem fruit or Stamvrug is found. Elephants find this irresistible even though the smell of the Silver Cluster smells of stinking feet.
Due to them being in the camp more frequently we do have the occasional road block on our access road and parking lot. We don’t mind as we are the visitors and this is their house. We respect their space and natural surroundings. We also are aware that all our roads and lodges are built on old Elephant foot paths and they remember this and memorised it over the years so we just have to abide by their 6 tons of rules and regulations. Above you can see an Elephant bull in Musth drinking out the pool at our staff village. An Elephant certainly gives a new meaning to where there is a will there is a way…
Well what can i say about this lady but total bliss. It is not every day that we encounter a sighting like this. Right next to the road relaxing like there is no tomorrow. Leopards are mostly nocturnal and would use the darkness of night to stealthily seek out and hunt their pray. In this case she was already at the dinner table and decided to take the night off.
Welgevonden reserve also recently conducted a Leopard research exercise that has proved to have been very successful. Motion sensing cameras were placed in strategic locations all over the reserve where we thought the most activity occurred. I had a brief conversation with our park Ecologist on the drive by and he informed me that we would be shocked to see how much movement of this elusive creature actually exists in Welgevonden. Funny enough most movement was picked up in close proximity to Clifftop.
Saying the above mentioned will be justified in my sighting for the month below…..
Not that many sightings was reported around the reserve over the past few weeks.
We know that the Buffalo or the “Dagga” boys as we call them like to hide in the more dense parts of the reserve hence us not having great sighting each and every drive. Due to the areas that we locate these fantastic animals does make them rather dangerous. Walking in Welgevonden is certainly a very thrill seeking experience as we know that Buffalos roam these lands unseen. The Cape Buffalo loves water and will often be basking in the sun among the reeds on the Sterkstroom river banks near Clifftop. An encounter with these humongous creatures on foot or on game viewers always promises to be one for the books.
Sighting for the month
Believe it or not but my sighting for the month was so intense and at night at a distance that i could not take any pictures whatsoever. My guests that were with me however did say they would send me the pictures but still have not received it to place on the newsletter. I can however tell you about this typical Sabi Sands style sighting that took place right here in Welgevonden.
It actually already started on the morning drive already when me and my guests left from Clifftop on the 12th of June 2015. Little did we know how this day would start and end for us?
I think we drove for about 15 minutes when I spotted very recent and fresh Lioness tracks on the road close to Jackal road. I told my guests, folks let’s see if we can get this lady. Started tracking north along Jackal Road close to Clifftop. Not even 5 minutes of tracking went by when something white or rather Tawny caught my eyes on a ridge on the other side of the river that i was about to cross. It was strong looking lioness running up the hill and disappearing under a guarri bush. Not knowing this female at the time i quickly called in the sighting for other lodges and rangers to respond asap as i know if she went any more north i would lose radio comms with everyone. I was then informed they think it is a female that use to be part of the Southern Pride.
I then witnessed that she was not alone. She was playing with something darkish in colour under the bush. When i viewed her through my binoculars i realised that she was indeed alone and that she was just loosening the coat of the wildebeest she must have caught just a few minutes before we arrived. We were then spoilt with her dragging the lifeless body out into the open where the sun a few seconds ago started shining. The visual became 5/5 (a term we use to explain if the visual is great or bad) whereby my guest could take the most amazing pictures of her enjoying as much of this animal as possible. It is a lot of meat for one Lioness to finish in one sitting. Lions will often eat till their stomach is about to explode bringing a new meaning to Gluttony. Because of the size of the wildebeest she would have to store or hide the carcass until later when her food was digested from the first sitting and until the day temperature cools down again which will be late afternoon early evening. Now in this time she had to hide the carcass again under a tree so that the sun does not let the body decompose to quickly as this would let of a smell that would send a bush SMS to almost every Hyena and predator alike in the Valley.
After she hid the beast we had no visual left and handed the sighting over to a different ranger.
We proceeded with the morning drive and went back to Clifftop for a lovely breakfast.
>>> 15:30pm Game drive: Tell my guests what they would like to do go North or South, they all at once said no where let just go back to the kill from the morning drive. I said that i was hoping they would say that as this is exactly my plan as well. And off we went cooler box and snacks packed. We got to the area where we had left the lioness and the carcass but no sign of any movement. Even the birds are sounding relaxed with no chatter or alarm calls. I said to my guests I think all is over and some animal must have chased her and finished the rest of what was left. They all sighed and said OK Ed lets leave and see what else we can find. I was disappointed as i always want to give the guests the best experience possible. I said ok lets go but know this i will be passing here for the third time today on the way home in the evening.
Two long hours goes by without seeing much…….
After drinks break guests wanted to slowly start making way home as it was getting rather chilly. Luiperd Kloof, Camel Road then Jackal road again where we last saw our lioness. I see some eyes in the distance next to a slow flowing stream. I could not quite make out what it was at a distance only once we got close realised that something is happening at the old carcass spot. A Brown Hyena appears slowly walking toward where the lion was last sleeping. Little did we know what was going to happen next as the only eyes we saw was the eyes of the Hyena.
Next moment very loud scary sounds come from 2 directions of the grass in front of us. A lioness charges from the kill site where she carefully guarded her dinner towards two eyes lying in the grass some distance from my vehicle. Guess what the lion was chasing up a tree. A large and i mean huge male Leopard. Yip lots and lots of action going on at this point in time. Lion to scared to go up the tree as the leopard can do some damage and the leopard to scared to come down.
As all this was going on in the distance away from the morning kill, the King of scavengers decides this is the turn he has been waiting for. He nonchalantly walks over to the dead wildebeest and takes a few nice bites of meat including a leg and a bit of the hind quarter before disappearing for good into the night. The lioness very shortly after picked up that there is something near her food and looses interest in the Leopard and runs back to her kill. The Leopard saw his window to escape and as they so often do , succeeds. WHAT A SIGHTING.
I was almost in tears after seeing such a wonderful interaction between Africa favourite animal and this all only 10 minutes from Clifftop Exclusive Safari Hideaway.
It has been a rather dry spell when it comes to the Cheetah sightings. I don’t know if it is because of the weather or simply because of some of our cheetah been put into bomas due to some injuries to some of the population. With regret we recently lost a mother cheetah with 5 cubs. She broke her leg and was unable to recover. Her cubs are currently under supervision in the boma in great care and hopefully could be released back into Welgevonden very soon. We will keep you up to date on the status of this matter.
Furthermore I had this magnificent sighting you see below just yesterday morning. Although it was a a very sudden visual seeing such a majestic animal such as this doesn’t matter if it is one second or one hour.
The raptors are very often under estimated but they to play an integrate role in the balance in a wildlife reserve as like this Juvinile Black Chested Snake Eagle.
Rhino Poaching Update
Total Rhinos poached in for end of May 2015: 532
Total poacher-related arrests this year until end May 2015: 70