Monday, June 27, 2011

The Return of the PM Safari!

Hello everyone,
As you are all well aware, WE here at WildEarth Safari have only been able to broadcast a morning safari for some time now. We had our operation compromised when a serious storm and what must have been a mini-tornado, ripped through Djuma Game Reserve, disabling the antenna and other important equipment. I went on leave and this meant that we had only one presenter in camp when there was a return of some sort of normalcy to allow the broadcasts to continue. Tara was alone when we restarted drives and it was necessary to reduce the drives to only one per day so as not to over stress the crew as there was a lot going on at the time. When I returned, it was time for Tara to take a break and now that we will be back to having both of us on site, it is time to resume our PM safaris. I am looking forward to once again be able to follow up on the morning's sightings and, most importantly, reconnect with those of you who have been unable to join us in the mornings. I would like to thank you all for your support over the last few weeks and I hope that WE can get back to our normal routine, immersing you in the lives of the characters we have all come to love.
We will be heading out at 15h30 CAT, which is 09h30 EST and 06h30 PST as of tomorrow, June 28 2011.
We have had some fantastic sightings lately and I will endeavour to post some of those images as soon as I can. We had two big male lion pass through, We have had the Tsalala pride come to Djuma, at first only the old lady, BB sans tail with her 4 granddaughters and today we were lucky to find them on a buffalo kill near Buffelshoek dam with the two adult lionesses, making a formidable force of 7 lionesses that had brought down the adult buffalo cow.
I think the best sighting all week so far has been this morning's time with Karula and the two bundles-of-spots-that-have-yet-to-be-named. They were seen last night by the guests shortly after Karula killed and treed a young impala and it was wonderful to se them still on the kill this morning. The two cubs had obviously had their fill and as soon as one of the local hyenas had departed, they began a game of tag and tumble.
There have been elephant about, we have seen the crash of rhino we are becoming familiar with, even seeing six of them at one point and there has even been a visit from the Styx lionesses and young male at the same time that we had some unidentified males wandering Buffelshoek cutline.
I can only hope that this run of wonderful sightings continues in the coming weeks and that you can all catch up what you may have missed live.
See you from the Ganda in the morning,


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Changing role

I know many of you have been asking if Siphiwe will be affected by the changes that are being made to the Djuma Water Hole camera. And I understand that you are worried that she could no longer have a position with us at Djuma. To put your minds at rest, Siphiwe will be staying with the team at Djuma. However as you may be aware the W/H camera is moving over to a new system similar to that used at petes pond. The details of which are best explained by our Pete and I know he will letting you know more about the new system later.
The good news is that Siphiwe has already started in her new behind the scenes role, assisting the crew with a variety of admin tasks as well as supervising the cleaning staff and looking at some of the post production work that the editors will produce.

I know that Siphiwe is keen to develop into her new role and the crew at Djuma are also keen to support her.
Although Siphiwe will be very busy, I'm sure she will have time to keep in touch with you all via facebook and let you know how things are going.

Written by Will Fox

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Karula's family tree - Her Son Mixo, part two.

Hi everyone!

It has been a while since I have written about Karula’s family and realise I have still yet to discuss the character of her son Mixo!

From what I can gather he was fairly independent from the word go. Induna seemed to keep close to his mum, Karula and she seemed to dote more on him than Mixo. I think in a way it helped him become the leopard he is today.

He seemed to be more willing to hunt larger prey than his brother at the same age. His first large kill we found him with, was a duiker and for a while he was seen on a more regular basis than his brother Induna. This could be the reason why we thought he was mastering the art of hunting big prey earlier than his sibling, but without seeing Induna as much, it is difficult to say for sure.

Mixo warning his bother to keep his distance!
We followed this boy as he started becoming a successful cat in his own right, showing the ability to hunt guinea fowl, dwarf mongoose and impala; he is even partial to the odd tortoise.

One of the close encounters!
His independence seems to go hand in hand with his bold attitude and on a couple of occasions he found himself almost nose to nose with a hyena, when he was over 18 months. He stood his ground and not having any meat with him; the hyena respected the fact and let him be; maybe a bit wary because he didn’t turn tail and run too!
Mixo checks out the cheetah!
He has also had an encounter with a cheetah in the past and I think maybe the first time in doing so. He wasn’t quite sure how to handle it. At first he was crouched low, then craned his neck for a better view! It was at this point the male cheetah saw him and he suddenly became very uneasy; looking around for possible escape routes in case it turned bad. (from his reaction, to me he has encountered his spotted cousins before.) A stalemate was evident, neither cat sure of what to do, it was only when the cheetah started to flee, did Mixo realise he was feared and gave chase, but only for a few metres! He returned to a termite mound very pleased with himself!

I must admit I miss seeing him. We have had reports he spends a lot of time in the South West, but he is getting to the age where he needs to move out of his mother’s territory and start looking to hold one of his own. He may stay a nomad if he isn’t successful, dogging the large males wrath until maybe an area opens up.

We did see a reunion between the brothers a short while ago on the open area with the remains of a kill. It is difficult to say how much time he really spends here now, but when we do see him, he is just as relaxed as his mother and when we do see him, he generally graces us with a walk by, maybe just reminding us he is still around!

Mixo asking us to move politely! 

I remember another thrilling encounter where myself and Marc were following him, Marc was driving, I was on camera and we unwittingly stopped on the remains of something. Mixo noticed it and approached us, almost requesting we move! He looked at us and came within, it must have been half a meter of Marc's leg, looking like he was going to clamber under the vehicle. Thankfully he decided against it and with a look up at me and everyone back home, he started to sniff the ground in search of other parts that might be hidden. It was only when we moved, did we find there were a few shards of bones!

Seeming to have his mother’s life skills I am sure he will do well for himself! I must admit he holds a special place in my heart, for he was the first leopard I ever saw here at Djuma Game Reserve and even at his tender age of just over a year old, he came within 5m of us which had me buzzing for quite a while as it was the first time I had ever been that close to a wild leopard and spent quality time with one!

My first sight of Mixo!
I hope he doesn't wonder too far from home and continues to drop in from time to time!
Thank you to everyone sending in pictures of Mixo and the bringing back the memories of one of our special boys!

Written by Tara 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Karula the expert huntress and mother!

Karula 7 June
Hi everyone!

What a fantastic few drives WE have shared with our lady and her family! 

(Just to serve as a warning, I have included a picture of Karula with her kill later in the Blog)

It all started 3 mornings ago on the 5th June when I went out to check the Ganda as usual. It was still dusky at 6.00AM with a slight nip in the air; this helped to wake me up a bit but I was still half asleep. I went about popping the bonnet and checking the vitals of our game viewing vehicle. On hearing a small rustle, I took a step back and looked to my left. It took a short moment for my brain to register what my eyes were seeing; the outline of a leopard, stalking close to the ground, a few meters from me! As it Noticed me noticing it, I think both of us were maybe not expecting the other to be there and both of us exclaimed in our own way! Luckily the leopard dart off in the opposite direction to where I was! 

I couldn't tell who it was in the dim light. Literally seconds later the rest of the crew drove up the drive way, as the adrenaline was well and truly pumping! Believe me I was wide awake after that what a fantastic wake up call!

As the light filtered through the dusk I could see the tracks and found they belonged to our lady, Karula! I have been convinced she has been around the lodge and drainage line for the last few days. She had made a kill close to Inga's house a few days earlier, but didn't cache her kill in time before the hyena clan stole it. It wasn't long before the 3 Majingilanes who were snoozing by Gowrie Dam caught wind of it and chased them away claiming the prize for themselves!

WE were biding our time, hoping with the increasing temperatures, Karula might turn up somewhere and she did! Tracks were found on Zoe's road, heading west with only one set of cub tracks. As we stopped for some honey badger spoor, another guide announced Karula had turned up at Impala plains and interrupted their drinks break by hunting the impala on the opposite side of the open area! What a lady!

Karula 5 June 
Immediately WE jumped aboard the Ganda and as we arrived she was already dragging her bounty to a favourite weeping wattle out of sight from vultures. As soon as she was satisfied it was well hidden, she promptly left to fetch the cubs, this turned out to be on Zoe's road! The mystery as to why only one set of cub's tracks was there was solved! Karula must have left them there and one cub followed before realising it must stay put!

Once they we reunited it was time to head back to the carcass, where we waited for them to arrive. I was starting to wonder if she had decided to take a short rest as she took her time getting there, but suddenly they appeared as if they just wanted to build up the anticipation! The excitement of the food was hard to mask in the cubs as they tried their best to start eating, but the tough hide made it difficult, they had to wait for Karula to "open the restaurant!"

Little female 6 June
WE headed back to see the progress the following day, sure enough they had round bellies, but the carcass was still on the ground and no sign of hyena! They took it in turns to add to their already expanded girths in between their play! Even Karula became a cub again! It was pure magic to be allowed to share this time with them!

Karula and male cub 7 June
My concern was rising this morning as we turned onto impala plains road to once again catch up with the family, seeing tracks from hyena. As we returned to the weeping wattle, Sebastien noticed the remains of the impala in the tree. I was relieved! Karula and the female also came out of hiding to greet us before the approach of floppy ear caused them to make their ascent to safety once again. I was surprised the young female took her time about it. She allowed the clan matriarch to get a few meters from her, before climbing her chosen spot. The old lady didn't even bat an eye lid as she scaled the trunk, her focus was on the impala and seemed to quickly accept for now it was out of reach, but the possibility of food was noted as she strolled off into the bush. 

Female cub 7 June
A few minutes passed and eventually the male cub made an appearance, taking his time to climb his mother's choice of tree. WE left them to their dreams and planned to check in on them later.   

I am glad we did as WE managed to catch up with the Gowrie Gang even if it was briefly! Little Genesis and Evelyn seem to be doing well, but I am a bit worried we haven't seen Hewey for a few days, I am told by Graham he was around after the storm. I hope he is just lagging behind the troop a bit behind and we are just not seeing him. WE will keep a look out for him on drive.

Male cub 7 June
Sadly the call of lion I heard last night didn't mount to anything, no tracks were left on Gowrie Main either, so WE made our way back to impala plains. On the way we bumped into Andrew, another guide, who said a quick hello to everyone and filled us in that Karula headed north through Sandy Patch, but the cubs were still around! I wonder if she is already scouting out a new area for her next meal! 

Sure enough the cubs were there! Back on the ground they were inquisitive of their surroundings, but soon they tired and found a comfortable patch of grass to snooze in! 

Male cub saying "Goodbye"
Thanks once again for the pictures, and love the quote from one of the pictures on facebook, sorry I can't find to give credit, but found it very apt! 
Written by Tara

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Where we are

I have been asked by several viewers to explain more about our current reduced service i.e. AM drives only.
As per my earlier blog on this matter it is all down to available resources. We can only do so much with the team we have and our work load in terms of repairs following the storm, installing the w/h camera (digging trenches, laying cables etc), and other minor works, leave us temporarily short handed.
I have also been asked if we can alternate drives from AM to PM, but we are committed to producing an AM drive and need to maintain that service.
I very much appreciate that this disruption is causing frustration to our extended family of viewers, for which I can only apologise. However, after the recent storm I am determined that we do not rush back until we have fully addressed the production related issues we need to attend to and have a fully resourced team to support drives 100%. My decision was made from the point of view that we should only return to two drives when we are able to sustain that production rate.
I am sure you will appreciate that there are many factors involved and that we want to get back to running two drives a day asap.

Lyn also suggested that I reiterate some of the operational issues that we need to consider when operating in the Sabi Sands. Of-course this is a tourist area and lodge guest experience is very important. We work in close cooperation with Djuma and as such work within agreed parameters for drive times and when carrying out any work. Our drive times are scheduled to be in keeping with the lodge game drive time. I know we may start a little earlier dependant on season and indeed vary our start times to be in tune with the seasonal changes in dawn and dusk, but in general we our out on drive at the same time as the Djuma game drive vehciles. This has the added benefit of more eyes on the ground as it were, in that the Djuma vehciles are able to spot sightings and call them in to us. The weather also dictates animal sightings, as you all know, animals tend to be active in the hours after dawn and before dusk and rest during the middle of the day.

We also need to consider the lodge guest experience when for example wishing to dig a cable trench to the water hole camera, which would be in clear view of the main deck. This means that we need to coordinate our work to minimise any effect on lodge guests, which be necessity slows down any major works that we need to do.
I know that many of you are aware of these issues but for those who are new to our drives, I thought it worth explaining the reality of working within the Sabi Sands.

Folks, will bring you two drives per day as soon as we can, in the meantime please enjoy the daily AM drive.

Written by Will Fox

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Drive times

Folks, I know that some of you have been wondering about the recent drive time changes.
We will be running an AM drive per day, but not the PM drive for the next two weeks.
We are currently short handed in camp and also need to get the Djuma water hole camera back into full operation after the storm damage. That work means we need to dig trenches and run cables.
We also have a number of minor upgrade projects going on and add to that the team are in need of some time to catch their breath. However we will bring the PM drive back as soon as we can. It won't be too long and meanwhile you'll be able to enjoy the AM drives and very soon the Djuma water hole.
Written by Will