Here at Bushwise, we as Fgasa Field Guide trainers are often rewarded with amazing animal sightings. This week was action packed; from the game drives (including the Bushwise dung spitting competition) to lectures for the week about Ethology (animal behaviour) to tree identification – which was quite interesting as the students needed to be able to correctly identify the most common trees in the area as well as some traditional beliefs, medicinal uses etc.
One of the favourites was the Buffalo Thorn Tree – Ziziphus mucronata. Some interesting facts about this tree is how it got its name. The African Buffalo would rear himself backwards into this tree for protection as his back and both sides will be covered by hooked and straight thorns and thus its front by the deadly horns which occur with both male and female buffalo. The wood can be used to make tool handles and spoons. The fruit and leaves are high in nutritional value, and are eaten by antelope and birds – to mention a few. Also an infusion of the bark is used to cure coughs.
On Wednesday we left campus to go on Game drive with the hopes of finding Elephants. We went to Pidwa North and drove around to look for any possible sign which would be left behind by the Gentle Giants. After a few good sightings of beautiful birds and plains game we came across recent Elephant activity. We got off the Land Rover and showed the students how to interpret the tracks and signs.
We then decided to find a suitable spot on the Selati River for a well deserved coffee break. We were welcomed by a gorgeous sunset which was reflected over the water, a perfect Bushveld backdrop! An African Fish Eagle and Crested Francolins sounded off in the background. Maybe they also wanted some recognition?
After sundowners we heard a sound from not too far away. It got everyone’s attention and we all knew that it was the sound of Elephants! Most of them always believe they are bigger and stronger than anything else and this one wasn’t any different from other young calves. He turned away from his Mother and faced us, opened his ears and trumpeted as if to say ‘watch out for me’. He really enjoyed it and couldn’t understand why he got no reaction from this ‘strange animal’. He then decided to break a branch off from a very tiny tree and came closer again while trumpeting. He stopped in his tracks and decided that his bluff was not taken seriously and just turned around and ran back to Mother with a very deflated attitude. It was a really special display from the BIG STRONG Calf.
This week’s experiences made me think again about how lucky and privileged we all are to be out in the South-African bush. Being rewarded with an amazing Elephant sighting while the glowing orange sun sets in the background over the majestic Drakensberg Mountains.
The life in the bush as a Field Guide trainer is simply the BEST.
Greeting from Almero & The Bushwise Team