Each and every semester has its own highlights during the many drives we do here at Bushwise. One such highlight, happened this week, and will surely be difficult to beat! On Monday afternoon we set off quite early, taking advantage of the overcast weather. The plan – a sleepout on the reserve, and to complete a survival and navigation lecture with some practical activities. All packed up and ready to go, we set off with the plan we had, but as life in the bush goes, planning does not always help.
I had heard about a leopard sighting on route to our sleepout destination, and had a hunch it was going to be a good one! As we got into the area where the leopards were seen earlier, we were lucky enough to bump into a pride of lions! We had a great, but brief view of 2 lionesses, and 5 sub-adults crossing the road in front of us, quickly disappearing into a thicket next to a koppie (rocky outcrop), so following them would be impossible. But back to the original (amended) plan, leopards! A few moments later, a call came in over the radio, “I have them!”.
We quickly got there, and saw 2 leopard cubs playing near a kill from the night before. We assessed the situation, and decided that we would have a better view of the cubs’ mother, who was just on the other side of a small drainage line, staring intently at something nearby. We had hardly repositioned ourselves, when nearby Kudu started alarm-calling, and the cubs darted off into the bush. As we were trying to see where they ran off to, the female also ran, but straight up a nearby huge Marula tree! Out of nowhere, the 7 lions appeared! They must have picked up on their scent. Having successfully chased the much smaller cats off the kill, they fought over the remains, which at that point was not much more than a head and neck! The two adult lionesses staked the tree out, hoping the leopard would come down, while the younger ones were fighting over the remains. We decided to move on, and let them fight it out between themselves. What a great sighting indeed! Another highlight of this sighting, is that instructor Trevor’s “leopard drought” of over 18 months has been broken!
With all the excitement behind us, sleepout was a great success, students had to recover two vehicles stuck in sand, and try make fire using nothing more that natural materials. The fire making attempt was so close this time, with some assistance from instructors, the students managed to produce a good ember. Next lesson learnt, an ember needs to be successfully caught in the right material for fire to take place. Next time, we will try it again, and no amount of blisters will prevent that fire from burning! As for the other happenings this week, lectures included astronomy, and although most nights were cloudy, we managed to do a bit of stargazing during game drives.
Student presentations as always is a nice, fun and interactive way of learning about the smaller mammals you might encounter. Other lectures also included Taxonomy and Ecology, which help paint the picture of how and why things interact the way they do. Furthermore, more drives done, providing some amazing sightings of more lions, elephants, buffalo, honey badgers, Civets, Genets and much much more!
This week brings our first semester to an end, and what a busy semester it has been! Enjoy your well-deserved week off students, travel safely for those of you heading to Cape Town!
Until next time, Charles and the Bushwise Team