I lead them along elephant tracks

12th May 2014

A walking safari heads out over the dry flood plain at Makuleke

Saturday 3rd May 2014

It was Chubby and Claire’s last morning at camp so we had to make the most of it by showing them one of Makuleke’s highlights. Johna gave me the lead so off we went, Johna as my Back-up and then just two friends all the way from England heading off into the enchanted Fever Tree forest.

I imagine that Chubbs and Claire found the whole thing surreal. Here they were in the African wilderness walking behind me as I lead them along elephant tracks armed with a .458 calibre rifle and just eight months of knowledge.

The walk was made even more special knowing that our little group of four were probably the furthest north people in South Africa at that moment in time as we came within 200-300m of the mighty Limpopo River and border with Zimbabwe.

As the walk went on the temperature rose, this is what the butterflies were waiting for, they now had the perfect conditions to fly. I had the best position in the trails group walking at the front through colourful lepidoptera confetti.

Doing the scene justice with photographs was not easy. Johna was determined to get the perfect shot of them in flight. So much so that he had the three of us running through the forest flushing butterflies. I was doing it armed with two rifles which appeared slight overkill.

We stopped for a break at Racket-Tailed clearing, here there was a flock of white crested helmet shrikes feeding. The clearing lived up to its name with three or four racket-tailed rollers doing what they do best, rolling in an aerial display.

There were plenty of signs of a breeding herd of elephants but we didn’t bump them, nor the buffalo that must have moved on earlier in the morning or late last night. We did eventually find them on the floodplain but this was on our way back to camp after Jomi picked us up at Hlangaluwe.

After breakfast we headed to the gate where we ran into the musth bull again. Today we were luckier as he was just east of the Sand Pad and Pafuri Main junction. Three minutes later we could have had quite a delay on our hands.

The elephants are certainly back, after stopping for phone signal on the Western boundary I came across a breeding herd of eles. The Matriarch gave a brief display, I’m really starting to build the experience now. You can’t buy experience at the supermarket.

Duncan and I stopped to clear up the mess that the musth bull left last night in his testosterone fuelled display. The mopane was easy to sort but the knob thorn is never fun, doubly not fun today as he’d knocked two of them onto the road.

I ducked out of the sun downers, opting instead to stay back to get my blog up to date, do a 10k run which was then followed by some research on the history of Makuleke. Johna’s talk last night made me realise that the wilderness story is far greater than just the biodiversity, the occupation of this area over the ages is just as fascinating and incredibly important.

We had eles on the firebreak this evening, one chose to chomp on the croton outside my tent. This meant that whilst everyone else disappeared to bed at around 19.30 Duncs and I weren’t able to get to our beds until after nine.