I was hoping he’d come closer

31st May 2014

Two bull elephants coming down for water

Saturday 24th May 2014

Near perfect start to the morning, leopard tracks coming in and out of camp right passed my tent. If I’d only had my camera trap set up.

The morning itself was stunning, the fish eagles were calling their usual seagul cry, this for me is now synonymous with life at Pafuri Trails. It was cold again, cold enough to catch my breath, literally and figuratively. The cold air brought a thick mist that hugged the ground with only the giant silhouetted in the rising sun as they peaked out of the top.

We had a kori bustard sighting on our drive to Nwambi Pan, always good to get one of Kruger’s big six birds, especially as we had audio of the Southern ground hornbill as we had our morning tea and coffee.

The walk itself was special, we had three elephant encounters. One with a bull that must have previously had his trunk caught in a snare. You could quite clearly see the damage and also hear him breathing through the hole that it had made. This has probably made him wary, he came to about 30 metres of us as we were all sat on the floor in front of him. I was hoping he’d come to at least 20m, if not 15m. He was relaxed but this was as far as he was coming, each time he thought about coming closer he’d catch our scent and back off again.

It was the last encounter that was the days highlight. We were having a break at the western end of Nwambi Pan. I’d been to the Lava-tree, followed by Rhodes and then two of the guests, Oscar and Alice asked if they could go, “Of course” I said,“simply go the way we came in, it’s all clear”.

The next we know the two of them come round the corner trying to get our attention whilst sporting a surprised look. There was an elephant coming down to the water, in fact he was closely followed by two more bulls. Luckily the elephants chose the south side of the pan rather than ours, this as probably because they’d bumped Oscar and Alice on the north. We got ourselves into a great position and watched them for about 15 minutes as they sucked water into their trunks and then quenched their thirst, on what was now a hot day, by squirting it to their mouths.

We walked Houtin Gorge in the afternoon, it’s a long walk for this time of the day but great to see it in the evening light. The walk back was really interesting. No big game encounters but to be walking as the sun was all but down gave the walk a whole new dimension. In the low light I was seeing a lot of what turned out to be “Rockalos” and one or two “Logadiles”.

The baboons were slightly alarmed to see the humans walking at this time of the day, so much so that they bolted across one of the pans to get to the safety of their cliff face. The poor guys would have been wet when they finally roosted.

A nyala bull and ewe also found it strange that we were out and about, they couldn’t work out whether they should be bolting or not. This time clearly didn’t belong to us, instead it belongs to the leopard and lion, hyena and jackal. If you’re not a predator this is the start of a long night.

Rupert (the buffalo) was grazing in the long grass behind us as we sat around the camp fire. He’s not a quiet eater but he does make the place special, especially when there’s a break in conversation. At this point you either look up at the night sky or stare into the fire whilst listening to the munching Rupert, the calling wood owl and the yelping hyenas. Not to forget the leopard announcing his territory as he walked east away from camp, disturbing the impala as he went.