I called it in to show off

7th July 2014

The very big baobab at Makuleke

Saturday 5th July 2014

Up at 04.55, quick shower before walking down to the lodge, picking the Landy up as I made my way. It didn’t take too long to get the hot box prepared, then it was time to wake my guests. The lodge is quite futuristic so the rooms are not called rooms, but spaces. My guests were in Spaces six and seven. This was a bit of a walk down a wooden/metal promenade, much further than I expected. I soon found where their “spaces” were and woke them up near enough to 05.30 as the walk had allowed me.

Ezra was up to serve them their morning coffee which I was relieved about. I had no idea of how to use the fancy piece of coffee making equipment other than to extract hot water for a cup of tea.

I explained that we were going to mission it down the tar road to the floodplain so we could drive west along the Luvuvuh. This would be a long drive but would be worth it when we got there – the scenery didn’t let me down nor did our special sighting.

After a couple of hours we stopped at Mangala. I prepared the coffee, hot chocolate and my third cup of tea for the morning. It was still a bit chilly so I suggested we take our drinks and some of the freshly prepared muffins down by the river. The morning sun was warming the sand of the river bank and I fancied some of that sun for myself.

One of my guests, Sandy, had spotted some impala running across the river. They’d come running out of the bush down and slope and up the other side of the dry river bed, donga, which was a seasonal tributary for the Luvuvuh. This looked promising but nothing followed.

I was busy showing one of the boys a good example of a leopard track on my phone. Sandy who had been watching the donga announced that she’d seen movement, she was convinced it was a cat. I still couldn’t see it, but the next thing that Sandy said made me desperate to see it, “Lion”.

After much explaining I eventually did see it. It was a he, a young he and he was making his way towards us. He was either coming down to the river to drink or to cross it. I glanced back to the vehicle, it was some 100 metres behind us. We could have sat tight as we were well concealed with the sun was directly behind us. However, if he had crossed the river then there would be very little else we could do other than hope we gave him a bigger fright than he would give us.

Instead we retreated onto the top of the high-level river bank in to the shade of a big nyala tree. This movement was enough for him, he turned tail and lumbered off into the ridges south east of our position. No doubt about it, this was special and very much worth the long drive to this end of the concession. There was no reason for me to call it in other than to show off. So I did.

For the evening drive we, once again, headed to the far end of the concession, this time to Mpimbi. On the way we had a nice bull elephant encounter, he was nice and relaxed but as he ate his way closer to the vehicle he showed some signs of agitation, we took our cue and moved on.

The boys climbed the big baobab after which we had sundowners on the banks of the Limpopo. We drove back along Middle Road and Sandpad desperately looking for leopard. We had no luck other the ‘popcorn’ smell of scent marking, got my hopes up but no cigar. We also, like yesterday, had a”Black-out” moment with a bull elephant. This is always enjoyable if not a little bit nerve wracking.

The youngest of the two boys sat up front with me and operated the spotlight. This proved exhausting work as he was a bit too good and spotted every possible bushbaby going. Certainly a good day out which was topped off with a fleeting honey badger sighting. So fleeting I was only 80% sure it was a honey badger.