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Lurking in the waters

Crocodilian giants

It’s winter here in South Africa, but in the bushveld temperatures can still reach nearly 30 degrees Celsius during the day. As the African sun climbs, animals wander to the nearest waterhole – home of the crafty crocodile.

The largest of Kapama’s water sources is the Klaserie River. This area of the reserve boasts some beautifully scenic views and it’s where crocodiles maintain a particularly large stronghold. That’s not to say it’s safe to swim in any of our other bodies of water! Throughout the warmer months it’s quite common to see these scaly giants sunning themselves on most sandy banks.

Late one morning while out on drive, we stopped beside one such waterhole. There were no crocs to be seen, but the tension in the air was tangible as wildlife gathered for a drink – they knew what could be lurking beneath the surface waiting for the perfect moment to strike. A warthog approached to wallow in the mud at the water’s edge, risking the danger for a little relief from biting parasites.

Within seconds, a toothy grin appeared right in front of the warthog and with a quick and efficient SNAP the warthog was caught. Razor sharp tusks are no match for a scaly suit of armour, and soon the writhing warthog disappeared into the churning water.

We all seem to share a natural fear towards these prehistoric creatures – it’s probably what fuels our fascination towards them. Watching them basking on banks or cruising slowly through the water is enough to send a chill down most spines, but watching one rise up out of the water to ambush its prey was a reminder that, out here in the African wilderness, we may not be quite as firmly at the top of the food chain as we like to think…

Written by: Jimmy Vincent
Southern Camp Ranger

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Playing hardball

A once-in-a-lifetime daytime pangolin sighting

As a ranger, there are only a few animals that I have not yet seen. Unsurprisingly, they’re all quite rare or extremely shy, but during an early morning safari on Kapama Private Game Reserve, some Italian guests and I were fortunate enough to spot a ground pangolin, also known as a scaly anteater!

The morning started of with a hot cup of coffee in the African bush, before we set off to find the Guernsey Pride lion cubs. Just 5 minutes into our drive, I noticed an animal armoured with heavy yellow-brown scales walking slowly on its hind legs with its tail, forelegs and head just off the ground. My heart did a little dance before leaping into my throat and I had to rub my eyes to make sure they weren’t deceiving me. This near-mythical creature had eluded me for years, but there it was, right in front of me. My guests sensed my excitement, and as I explained just how special a sighting it was their own excitement grew and cameras started clicking.

River Lodge ranger with pangolin sighting

River Lodge ranger with pangolin sighting

This nocturnal animal is seldom preyed upon. When threatened, it simply rolls itself into a ball, exposing only its tough outer scales. The pangolin lives in underground holes dug by itself or other rare animals, such as aardvark. It has a strong sense of smell and claws on its forefeet to open underground food sources. The pangolin has no teeth, but licks up ants and termites with its long sticky tongue. The biggest threat to this remarkable animal is illegal poaching for their meat and scales.

Rassie Jacobs, River Lodge ranger, was also lucky enough to spot a pangolin during a recent safari bush walk: “Johan Taljard, River Lodge ranger, called a pangolin sighting in on the radio. I could not believe my ears and asked Johan to please repeat himself. When he did, I was overwhelmed with excitement – the particular sighting was just a few metres away from us! We walked quietly towards it and fortunately, it was quite relaxed and I was able to photograph it.”

During another bush walk Doctor Mbisi, Southern Camp ranger, also got up close and personal with a pangolin.

Even as a guide, living and working in the bush full time, you’re lucky to get a glimpse of the pangolin after dark. Here at Kapama Private Game Reserve, we have been most fortunate to spot this scarce and special creature in daylight, with enough time to really appreciate its rarity and uniqueness.

 

Written by: Alister Kemp

Kapama Southern Camp

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Built for the kill

Guest visiting Kapama look forward to getting away from the hustle and bustle of daily living to experience tranquility, unique culture, spectacular scenery and close-up encounters with Africa’s wildlife on every game drive.  Most guests recall that seeing a kill in a private game reserve results in the ultimate safari experience, maybe it’s the anticipation that builds up as these animals stalk their prey.

We watched as a dazzle of zebras grazing through the vast African plains on the reserve.  Two of these zebras started to display ferocious territorial behavior. But suddenly, we heard monkeys alarm calling and the Zebras left nothing but dust behind. We watched in anticipation, as we knew that the zebras were running out of fright for its predator. Within minutes the Guernsey pride lions were in reach of the zebras. It goes without saying that for the lions, it was a successful day in the African bush.

During another safari game drive we were most fortunate to have a cheetah sighting, to our amazement we noticed that this particular female cheetah was on high alert and it became clear that it was stalking its next prey. We respectively followed the cheetah tracks, the vegetation became dense and there  stood the impala, the next intended victim of the stalking cheetah.  The cheetah crouched low with its ears pulled back and eyes focused on its meal.  The impala moved obliviously towards the cheetah and we found ourselves holding our breaths. When the prey was more or less twenty meters away from the cheetah it leapt into action. With speed and agility on her side it took down the impala with not much effort at all.

The cheetah stood over her prize for about five minutes, probably to catch its breath before it started to feed on the impala. It was yet another eventful week on the reserve.

Written by Andries Ndlovu
Kapama River Lodge

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The Amazing Hunt

Dining like a king

Lioness hunting buffaloDeep in the African bush lies a variety of creepy crawlies, lazy leopards and cheeky monkeys, but most will agree that the fearsome lion is the most incredible – when he’s not asleep! The king of predators often keeps us on the edge of our seats, and on this particular day, it kept us holding our breaths as well.

“Lion! Lion!”, hissed one of my guests as he caught a glimpse of tawny fur through the bush. I hit the brakes not far from a lioness lying prone in the grass and was delighted to discover she wasn’t sleeping, but stalking! A glance in the direction of her focused gaze revealed a delicious herd of buffaloes marinading in a mud pan.

“Rassie, isn’t this lion a little small to catch a buffalo?” another guest asked hesitantly. “On her own, yes, but I have a feeling she’s got her eye on one of those calves…”

Lionesses hunting buffaloSuddenly, four more lionesses jumped out of the bush, scaring the buffaloes into the tickets. The air was filled with anticipation and the sound of thudding hooves, and there was no way we could keep up with the action. Instead we waited on the road to listen for the kill.

Four minutes passed in absolute silence, giving the dust just enough time to settle before being kicked up again by the whirlwind herd of buffalo in the road behind us. They stopped and turned, anxiously staring into the bushes, so we crept back to take a closer look. The lions had caught a small buffalo calf, much to the dismay and the milling herd, which lingered, stomped and mobbed the lionesses until they backed off and relinquished their injured meal. The buffalo herd surrounded the calf and wasted no time running away, with the lionesses hot on their heels once more.

The chase went on for another thirty minutes, with the injured calf lagging further and further behind. Its mother persisted in fighting off the hungry cats, until the pride split up and managed to separate her from their prey for good. The buffalo herd finally admitted defeat and left the lions to their meal.

Mother nature never ceases to amaze, and although this wasn’t everyone’s idea of an enjoyable sighting, it was truly awesome to see nature unfold before our very eyes.

Written by: Rassie Jacobs
Kapama River Lodge

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Recent Comments
  • Simon Witney: Sitting in my office in Vancouver, Canada, I open the email ...
  • Helen Cox: Beautiful photos-thank you so much. Now I ought to have ask...
  • Salomien Rudolph: We saw the lionesses and cubs often on our visit in March, e...
  • Karl Brandt: Educational, and (excuse the pun) offering fascinating evide...
  • Karsten Kemp: That was a touching story. That impala-calf must have been b...
  • Krishnan: Enjoyed your piece, Greg! Tells us anything can happen in th...
  • Nalin: Hey Gary. Great sighting I was with Marius when I veistid y...
  • Melissa Smit: We are delighted to hear that you enjoy Kapama's Ranger Blog...
  • Hellen: - Hey, I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the mo...
  • Melissa Smit: It is a pleasure Carmen. We hope to see you back at Kapama s...
  • Carmen Haas: Thank you for sharing this experience - brings back wonderfu...
  • Melissa Smit: Wow, this sounds like a real adventure you had Karsten!...
  • Melissa Smit: It still could Elaine! Hope to see you back at Kapama soon....
  • Helen Cox: Thanks Melissa-looks like the next blog (11/12) is the "stor...
  • Elaine Ahlberg: I wish this had happened on my visit -- a true once in a lif...
  • Karsten Kemp: I can easily understand the excitement of this event, where ...
  • Melissa Smit: Dear Helen Cox, Thank you for your positive comments. In the...
  • Helen Cox: On work days when I need a few moments to escape I often "re...
  • Melissa Smit: Dear Corina Pick, We are glad that you enjoy our ranger blog...
  • Corina Pick: Dear all rangers and trackers of Kapama, coming home from a...