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Good-bye Mr. Warthog

Witnessing a leopard kill from start to finish!
(Not for sensitive readers)

Wildlife documentaries on National Geographic and the Discovery Channel are full of violence – prides of lions taking down old buffalo bulls and wild dogs ripping apart helpless impalas – and despite the gore, it remains the one thing all guests coming to the African bush want to see: a kill!

One afternoon I was assigned to drive N.C.P. group leaders from area to area, for ‘action shots’ of the guests on drive to help them remember their African trip. Initially I searched for hyenas, driving from one hot spot to the next in the hope of bumping into these spotted hunters. Instead, we landed an once-in-a-lifetime sighting of a leopard kill taking place just five metres from our vehicle.

A commotion caught my eye in the far south of the reserve, just as I was about to make a turn-off. Dust filled the air, and as we looked, a spotted cat bolted toward an impala herd. Before we could properly make sense of the scene that was playing out in front of us, we heard the distress calls of an animal in danger.

To our surprise, the leopard had captured a warthog instead of an impala. The hog’s den was located behind the thicket in which the impalas were feeding and Mr. leopard obviously caught it before it could duck underground. The warthog put up a brave fight, squealing and kicking until it was eventually, suffocated by the leopard’s powerful jaws.

Only when the dust finally settled did it dawn on us exactly how lucky we had been. To see the whole kill from start to finish right in front of us was priceless. Exhausted and completely out of breath, the leopard dragged its prize into a thicket, took a well-deserved break, then feasted.

NOTE: The following photos are not suitable for sensitive viewers

The adrenaline only wore off an hour after we had returned to camp and, as you can imagine, we couldn’t stop talking about what we had witnessed during our dinner in the boma. Although some guests felt like it was a sad scene, most were filled with excitement and ready for their next drive, because you never know how Mother Nature will amaze you next!

Francois van Rhyn
Kapama Southern Camp

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Wildlife wonderland in Southern Africa

Baby elephants playing together

It is no secret that we love images of elephant calves here at Kapama Private Game Reserve. After all, what could be more adorable than baby animals playing together? Viewing these sprightly, good-natured elephant calves in their natural environment makes for a marvellous safari drive.

Leaving Karula for an evening game drive with four Geman guests, I discovered evidence of elephants on the road – unmistakable, huge circular tracks, not far from the lodge. I immediately told my guests to be on the lookout and their faces lit up with excitement. Within seconds, they were camera ready!

One elephant made a brief appearance and then suddenly there were more. Parked near a waterhole, waiting and listening for the crackle of broken branches, the entire herd materialised and ambled towards us. Passing just a few metres on either side of us, these gentle giants wandered towards the water with three calves between them – two very little and one slightly larger future giants. The herd of elephants wallowed in the mud for some time before moving on again.

The sun was setting and the light was absolutely beautiful for photos of these three show-offs rolling and chasing each other up and down the dirt road as if they knew they had an audience.

Testing their strength against each other with their bodies, heads and trunks, the two smaller youngsters wrestled, rolled and kicked, before teaming up to take on the older calf. As cute as they were, it was clear to see that in nature, there is always a territorial aspect involved.

The following day, with a warm blanket and hot water bottles, we made our way back into the bush for a morning game drive. We came across a heartwarming display, a herd of elephants was standing in a circle to protect their calves from a possible threat lurking in the bushes.

It really is a wildlife wonderland here in the African bush. Every day is a new adventure and we are so often lucky enough to witness a little bit of the magic of Southern Africa.

Written by: Morne Ferreira
Kapama Karula

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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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Recent Comments
  • Dr Tahira S Ahmed: Our trip to Kapama was one of the best in all our travels . ...
  • Dr Tahira S Ahmed: You already gave warning to adults . Our trip to SA was the ...
  • Karsten Kemp: Yes, these people and mr. Francois van Rhyn were extremely l...
  • Karsten Kemp: That was a very charming rapport and with good pictures. I w...
  • Karsten Kemp: Congratulations with that luck to see the pangoline. Just to...
  • 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...