One of the many perks of my job is, no matter what I do or where I go, I have the chance to see amazing things on Kapama Game Reserve.
One afternoon I was on my way back from the short 10-minute transfer to Eastgate Airport after picking up a guest. We came across a mitre drain that was wet and muddy from the previous night’s much needed rain. From behind a nearby bush, a female warthog emerged, then another smaller one and shortly there after two more young ones came into view.
It was a really hot day so these warthogs did what warthogs love to do. They decided to visit the spa for a mud treatment. I am not referring to the “Royal Rasul Treatment” offered at our River Lodge and Karula Wellness Centres. This was a different type of spa therapy.
No, they decided to indulge in an authentic bushveld spa, African style!
The younger ones seemed a bit nervous of us and stayed back. The mother, however, was much more courageous and made her way into the mud. She immediately flopped to her side and started rolling around. She then got up, went down on her knees and used her snout to dig up some mud. She was making a more comfortable spot in the sludgy mess!
Once she was happy, she rolled over again and covered herself in the mud until she was brown all over. The piglets wanted to get in on the fun and soon made their way into the mud, mimicking their mum. They went in one by one until all three were rolling around like children, with not a care in the world. After the mom warthog had her fill, she slowly stepped out of the muddy mess and made her way to a Bushwillow tree. She stared at us for a moment, but her gaze seemed to go right through us, clearly completely mesmerized and submerged in her relaxing, satisfying afternoon activity.
She soon started rubbing herself against the tree, scratching every part of her body she could reach. She started with her sides, moved to her rear and finished off with a soft exfoliating facial. The 3 little ones, decided to keep the mud on their bodies, to escape the blistering sun. With patches of drying mud still sticking to her body, that she was unable to remove, the little family slowly walked off and disappeared into the thick lush bush.
This is very common practice for warthogs, buffalo, rhinos and elephants. However, in most cases you normally only get to see the muddy animals or maybe a scratch or two. Seeing the whole therapy session play out in front of us was just such an awesome treat, especially for my guests!
These animals all do it for a couple of reasons:
- Cooling Down: On hot days these animals wallow in the mud, covering themselves in cool mud which helps keep them cool over the course of the day. Animals like Buffalo and Rhino sometimes lie in water or mud all day if necessary while warthogs and elephants prefer a short mud wrap.
- Removal of Parasites: Parasites like ticks are very common out in the bushveld and are very irritating for animals. Oxpeckers can only do so much. So these animals roll in the mud covering all the parasites. Most parasites drown and fall off but some remain. As the mud dries it kills the remaining ticks. The animal then goes to a tree and rubs off the dried mud along with the parasites trapped inside it.
It is always interesting for me to stop and have a look at the trees. You can tell what animal it was at the height of the mud. A warthog mark down by your shins and an elephant mark well above your head! If you look closely enough, you can often find some hairs and maybe even a tick or two!
The next time you come across animals on safari dripping with mud, or have the tell tale signs of a mud bath that has dried on their thick hides, think back to mommy warthog and her Kapama bushveld spa treatment.
If you want to know more about the River Lodge Wellness Centre and Karula Wellness Centre click here for all the details.
River Lodge Wellness Centre – click here
Karula Wellness Spa – click here
Story and photos by: Ranger Mike Brown – Southern Camp