Ranger Diaries

October 11, 2011

Buffalo on horseback

On the 14th of June myself, Tracey, Justin Dare our stable manager and one of our homeowners Aarnie Van Der Horst went on a outride , I picked up a problem with my bridle and had to return to the stables with Justin.

We decided we had to canter and gallop to catch up to Tracey and Aarnie so we had a great time riding through the fynbos, however they were too fast for us.

We just took it all in and rode amongst Cape mountain zebra, Bontebok, Eland, Red Hartebees .Our Riding area is truly an awesome experience for all levels of rider.

On our way back we spotted Two Buffalo and decided to go in for a closer look, this was great as one can get close to the game on horseback. The buffalo decided to come and investigate us and my horse was not to keen on this and ran off a bit with buffalo crashing through the trees behind us. The horse quickly relaxed and the buffalo ran passed me. Justin had ridden around to assist me but all was
well and we had just had an amazing encounter with our local buffalo. Our horses are used to the game and ridden daily ,this ensures a great outride experience at Gondwana.

We have horses to suit all levels and an outride in the fynbos with Justin and Tracey is something i would highly recommend.

Read More
October 11, 2011

Lion Kill At Kwena

Last week after the heavy rains we were on our way in to Kwena Lodge when we spotted fresh lion tracks as well as zebra tracks, The lions were following them on a hunt.

We suspected something had happened nearby as we could feel the tension in the air ,shortly afterwards Chantelle De Bertoli called in that she had spotted a dead zebra 30 meters from the entrance gate of the lodge. Myself and Arno Smit went on a search for the lions to get a location on them. We followed their tracks in our vehicle for a while but couldn’t get a clear view so we went on foot.

This was great as we could read the “story” as to how the lions stalked the zebra and ambushed her, from the tracks we found where they had attacked and in the end we found the carcass and then realized we needed to get onto our vehicle as soon as.

What a great experience though tracking the lions all the way to a kill. What a way to start ones day! Gondwana truly offers once in a lifetime experiences for guests and staff everyday!

Read More
April 26, 2011

Young 'Bulls'

Our young Elephant Bull, Mabitsi, has a special relationship with Trevor, one of our Rangers.

They are both the same age (a young and tender 22) and for some reason when Trevor finds him in the veld, Mabitsi always has to kick up some dust and do a little show!

Guests love to see this and although safety is always first, it is a highlight to see how these two young ‘bulls’ interact with each other!

Read More
April 11, 2011

Lion Hunt

One Thursday night I went out on drive with two clients in the Red rocks area in search of  lions.

The area is perfect for them with long grass and a rusty colouration… ideal for a lioness to lie in ambush – as my guests remarked.

After a while we started heading back to Kwena camp and found our magnificent pride walking towards our security gate two with a weary guard in it.(Our male lion loves to chew the guard’s doormat and stare deep into his eyes late at night).

We started following them and got really close to them, they were on a hunting mission and were after Zebra this evening. The reached the road and split up as though they had sat and planned an attack, the three lionesses went one way and the male went to the far right and hid in a burm at our communications tower .

We were right next to him and he crouched down low and started moving slowly towards the zebra, they could sense something was wrong and grouped together. The male moved in to pounce and at that very moment Viktoria Dedola came driving right through the hunt…this did not bother them, instead the male attacked in the dust left behind by the car and chased the zebra towards the lionesses.

The zebra broke through the attack and one lioness nearly grabbed a zebra mare but was run over and shook her head in disgust!

What an awesome experience for clients to see!!!

Read More
February 11, 2011

Uninvited Lions

It was that time of the year, summer time, where the weather allowed for fantastic bush dinners to be held. I was excited as I had a good game drive and now it was time for one of our chefs, Dirk to prepare a great braai for dinner. My two guests are an Australian couple, Kevin and Wendy, that farm with beef cattle in the outback and so far we’ve had a great time together. Only one problem still lingered in the back of my mind; we have seen many big and interesting wildlife in the past three game drives, but the mighty lions cease to show themselves. I was mildly irritated by that fact, but didn’t let it get me down. We approached the bush dinner site and saw the smoke of a fire Dirk already prepared. The sun was getting lazy now and we had about an hour of daylight left.

We seated the guests and I went to pour the G and T’s they had ordered from the back of my game vehicle. The day could not end any better. Lost in my own mind thinking of the successful series of drives we had, I heard Wendy calling my name in a mildly worried, but more amused tone: “Nadia…uhm…there are four lions staring at us…”

My blood froze in my body and a slight chill went down my spine that made the hair on my arms raise. I knew she was not joking as I could now sense the danger everyone felt in the air. We all from Gondwana have anticipated this moment for a long time. I just did not expect it to happen to me. I was still outside of the boma, but Dirk was already half way in the boma next to the guests. I rushed inside, cautious not to make a too sudden move and attract the attention of the one lioness I now saw in a crouching position. I knew I had to stay calm and get the guests on the vehicle as quickly and discretely as possible.

Before I could even plan my next move Dirk got adrenalin rush and charged at the lions at full speed while waving arms and screaming. It did remind me a little bit of the Springboks winning a final against the Aussies, but at that time I was just hoping that the lioness, that only trotted off lazily and turned around to look at Dirk, did not think of a springbok too. She did not. I could see they were scared and off course the “big and mighty” male was nowhere to be seen in a matter of seconds. We got to the vehicle safely, and I thought well done for my guests staying so cool and calm about it. My guests were excited but also bummed that they did not get a good picture of the lions, although they were merely 5 meters away on foot. So I had to go and see them from a slightly higher and safer perspective.

Dirk was a true hero in the Kevin and Wendy’s eyes especially after he brought them a delicious cooked meal from the safety of the lodge.  It was not the perfect bush dinner, in fact we didn’t ever make dinner outside, but this is something that they will never forget. One thing we do learn from this; if you are not invited to a bush braai, don’t mess with the chef, even if you’re a lion.

Read More
February 8, 2011

Aardwolf

I was doing an evening drive; it is summer, so at six o’ clock it was still reasonably hot. We have seen the elephants and a rhino earlier on and we were now driving through the fynbos thickets. Usually seeing big animals like that tend to be the climax of the drive, so now it was quiet on the vehicle, everyone just appreciating the scenery and the slight breeze to cool us down.  I was thinking about the bush dinner later on and checking the feathery cirrus clouds above us to make sure they hold no threat of rain that might spoil the occasion.

Lost in my own thoughts I came around a corner into a small open patch. At that moment four furry bodies ameter from the vehicle caught my surprised eyes. It was an aardwolf mother and her three cubs. They must have been sleeping as they were all bundled up on top of one another before we surprised them. They scattered in all directions, except one that trotted off a few paces and arrogantly turned around to look at what disturbed their peace. It was the big female. Three meters away she stared at me for about 5 seconds and then gave an incredible display. Her hair rose high from her shoulders which were deliberately spread apart to make herself look even bigger. She stood almost side on to show off her enlarged body. I knew she was more scared than anything else as this is typical behavior for aardwolf under stress. But I have to give it to her, for something that eats mainly termites, she did look quite impressive.

That made me realize that aardwolf, like many other smaller African wildlife is so underrated. Although classified under the carnivora genera and hyaenidae family along with the mighty strong hyenas, they do not feed on protein from mammals. The skull and teeth structure differ a lot from other canines and has been especially adapted for the diet they prefer. The cheek teeth are much smaller in size and secondly the palate is much broader. They have a full set of incisors and formidable canines, but the rest of the teeth are poorly developed and peg-like. This allows the aardwolf to consume large amount of termites quickly. There is no need for chewing, because the mastication occurs in the pyloric region of the stomach. However, an even more important reason for the reduction in cheek teeth is said to minimize the terpine release when feeding which would be substantially increased if the aardwolf had to chew on soldier termite head capsules.

In all aardwolf is definitely one of the most interesting family members of carnivora genera and although small, rather brave for its size. I cannot help but to feel proud to have these fantastic animals roaming on Gondwana.

Read More
December 16, 2010

Sightings

One particular sighting that comes to mind is one involving our male rhino. It was a warm afternoon, myself and three guests departed on evening Game Drive. We had struggled previously in the day to find the rhino so we went back even more determined to find him.

After a good hour and a half of searching our luck changed and we found him as he was walking out of the valley from below us. Myself and my guests sat in complete silence. He proceeded to walk right towards the vehicle as if he didn’t even know we were there. As I started speaking to my guests he realized there were people watching him and came charging towards the vehicle. I banged on the side of my vehicle very loudly and he immediately stopped in his tracks a mere 10 or so meters away from us, where he calmed down and even started feeding again.

This was a really exciting experience and great pictures were taken by all.

Another great sighting we had this month was with our Lions. We had not seen them for a few days previously so I was keen to try my luck. This game drive I had new guests. They were very interested in the lions which I knew might be a challenge as we had not seen them for awhile. We headed out on evening game drive and the lions were top of the list. I drove all over, up the valleys and down the valleys but there was no sign of any cats around, so we stopped to take a drinks stop, stretch the legs and watch the sun set.

Once everyone had enjoyed there drink and some snacks we hit the road once more to see what the night may hold for us.

Just as the last light was fading we were fortunate enough to find the lions all laying down close to one our small dams which we call stork pan. They were lying right out in the open area which is covered in grass, this allowed us to approach to within 15 meters of the pride which was exciting in itself.

We sat watching them for a good 10 minutes and just when we thought it could not get any better three of them started calling all at the same time – truly awesome. It is a sound that brings goose bumps to the back of your neck, you can physically feel your whole body vibrating. It is a feeling that cannot be described. We enjoyed the sighting for about 15 minutes more after that and then called it a day. We left them in peace with huge smiles on our faces to head back and enjoy a well earned dinner.

Read More
October 7, 2010

Mukani

Mukani
This is a story of a zebra that earned his stripes by proving his rank.

As some of us know, there is a Plains zebra on the reserve that does not particularly like hanging out with his own kind, in fact he has taken a liking to the rare Watusi cattle herd that grazes Gondwana plains. Everyone always thought that he had an identity crisis. However recently my fellow horsemen and I found out that this is not entirely the case.

One afternoon we were riding out on three of our biggest horses. We came across the herd of Watusi, including its strangest stripy member. We kept a distance as we didn’t want to disturb their peace. Peace, however was not on this zebra’s train of thought, because out of nowhere the zebra came trotting towards us on horseback. Now this is often normal for cattle to be inquisitive and I thought he must have learned it from his adopted herd. Under the circumstances this would’ve been normal if the zebra stopped and gave a vacant stare like cattle do. Unfortunately he did not stop, but rather flatten his ears and increased speed.

Naturally, I became mildly worried and when the horses spotted the charging zebra they became, well, a little more than ‘mildly worried’. This I could understand, I would also stress is something that looks like it escaped from jail ran angrily at me!

My horse gave a leap forward almost leaving me behind and bolted off, though I must admit I was reluctant to stop him. The other two quickly followed as the zebra continued to run after us for a while. Eventually he stopped when he realised his legs are after all three times shorter than those of our horses, but to keep his pride he gave a whinny that would have any stallion jealous; as if to say: “yeah, you better run!”.

What would’ve happened if we stood our ground is a mystery, but even if the zebra’s whinny is worse than his bite, you have got to admire his courage. That’s when I realized that this is no confused zebra, he knows he is a zebra but he has ambition, because he is the Watusi guardian. Come rain, hail or humongous shire horses, he will protect this herd.

We look at the photo of this herd at Kwena lodge and no longer pity a confused zebra, but we admire Mukani meaning ‘the one who fights’ in Shona, native language where Watusi originated.

Mark and Wendy can rest assured that their precious herd of Watusi is in the safe hooves of this brave little stripy warrior.

Read More
June 17, 2010

Black Rhino

It’s a cold winter’s early morning on Gondwana, freezing on the open game viewer. I can’t feel my face, and by wearing a warm hat I try to keep a bit of heat. Even though I’m half frozen, there is nowhere else I would rather be. The rays of the sun are running up the mountains to the east, indicating that the much awaited sun will be with me shortly. I just know that it is going to be a beautiful day.

Our rainy season is almost over, and we are still waiting for most of the rain. We get around 380mm per annum down here on the eastern side of the Southern Cape. The veld is not too bad but I’m worried that we might have to go into summer like this. On the many open plains within the grass there is a lot of wild clover growing, which is saving us at the moment. The little rain we get every few weeks seems to be enough for them.

I can see small herds of kudu and some bushbuck coming out of the thickets every afternoon to feed on these delicious clovers. Even the very endangered Black Rhino (Diceros bicornis bicornis) is seen almost everyday on the open plains grazing like a White Rhino on this wonderful plant that gives life to those in need. With Black Rhino being solitary, aggressive and mostly seen running back into the thickets they came from, these rhino seem so busy enjoying the clovers, they kind of ignore my vehicle most of the time. I like to think that we are getting some of the best Black Rhino sightings in South Africa at the moment. It is also the first Black Rhinos being reintroduced into the Western Cape for 180 years.

Read More
May 12, 2010

Becoming A True Lion Pride

It’s a beautiful, crisp morning and I am about 30 meters behind 3 lionesses stalking a Gemsbok (Oryx Gazelle). I always get excited when this happens, even though I know how low their success rate is. The male is watching from a safe distance, a good 300 meters, so he cannot get in the way. The females are barely visible in the knee high grass. Suddenly they are off, almost reaching full speed within 20 meters. They never got close though. The gemsbok made them look silly, and as they come back my way I notice why. They are so fat, overweight, call it what you like’ no wonder they were unsuccessful. But then, how did they get so fat?

They stop and lay down next to my vehicle. The male joins them. They are beautiful, in perfect condition. Actually their condition is too good!? It’s worrying, right? Is it the vegetation (Fynbos) on the reserve which makes them more successful by allowing them to stalk closer,or lay in ambush longer? Or is it good genes, hunting instinct? Could it be because they are just over 3 years and still growing, or are they just eating more than the average lion?

Normally lion will kill a big animal every 3-5 days. This young pride goes on for some weeks knocking down something big almost every second day. Now, months later they are still this fat. It is fascinating to have seen these lion grow since the beginning of 2009, losing their spots and becoming massive predators. Watching the male adapt from being a nomad to moving a bit closer to the girls every week’ wanting to join in on their kill and getting rejected every time. Now the girls respect him and he only leaves them when he is out marking his territory. The females hunt for him and he protects them. They are now a true lion pride. Watching this young pride begin and form on Gondwana has been so rewarding, almost growing together with them, particularly knowing they will be around for a long time.

Read More
Page 8 of 9« First...56789
  • Affiliations Boutique Hotels Preffered Hotels Group