Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Day 2 (Morning): OUR AFRICAN SAFARI - TANGALA: Breaking Dawn

Monday 22nd April 2013
Breaking Dawn

At 4am I wake up with a start.
 “Did you hear that?” I ask ‘The Boss’.
 “What?”, he asks sleepily. 
“That sound?” 
The familiar, deep and hollow call of a male lion drifts through the bush.  
“There it is again!” The boss seems oblivious.  
Soon silence descends and I shudder. I look through the window.  Ghostly shadows of dappled moonlight add to my nervousness.  
“Go back to sleep,” he murmurs and resumes his snoring. 
I can’t.  
The bush is calling…

I lie awake and wait.  Fifteen minutes later, I hear the lion again.  If you have not heard the call of a lion before, it’s something to experience.  The sound resonates across the landscape and stamps its authority on the world.  The ‘King of the jungle’ doesn’t go by that name for nothing. This time, however, the sound is a little different – a distant roar, followed by hollow grunts.  I’ve not heard this particular roar before, but then again, I’m not that intimate with lions.

 By 4.30am I can’t stay in bed any longer although it’s still really dark.  I rise, grab my torch and light the small paraffin lamp next to my bed.  It’s time for a warm shower to ease my nerves.  Perhaps it’s also the opportunity to venture onto the deck and truly experience the African dawn.  I get dressed, grab my torch and venture outside.  The Boss is fast asleep.

 Our wake-up call is at 5.30 – only half an hour away - and coffee/tea is served at 6am, so the kitchen staff should be busy already. It’s really chilly outside and I zip up my jacket tightly and make my way to the deck. 

As I sit outside on the deck, the beauty of the early dawn greets me.  A million stars blink down at me.  The milky way shines across the sky – it’s crystal clear and magical.  The southern cross (a guide to us in the south) lies close to the horizon – another indicator of the impending dawn -  and a shooting star paints its silver trail across the sky. I hold my breath in awe. 

Besides the stars, it’s still extremely dark but as the minutes tick by, the hue of the rising dawn illuminates recognizable shapes – the tree next to the water hole, the anthill in the field.  

 The orchestra of cicada beetles that has been buzzing throughout the night, continues its vigil.  Their rhythmical buzzing rings out across the landscape.  I take a moment to absorb their music.  It seems that they have adopted the rhythm en masse.  If I were a conductor, I would be pointing my baton to the right, then to the left and they would be obliging.  But soon the rhythm changes – these beetles are oblivious of their collective cycle. The symphony of the bush continues.

The two resident Blacksmith Plovers (Lapwings) suddenly shriek out their own early morning angst - they have eggs to protect.  This if followed by the stark calls of two Francolins in the bush. 

Above: Francolin

These birds are very loud and I jump in fright then settle back in amusement.  The landscape is waking up fast.  The warthogs, too, are starting to move.  A domestic squabble breaks out and disturbs the peace for a good minute and the sky is getting lighter as this is all happening.  Our lion continues to roar, but he seems to be moving further and further away. I know many other animals are also on the move.
Above: Yellow-billed hornbill checking their reflection in the window.

Next the hornbills wake and coo to the world, then the waxbills and the finches.  Impala rams break out in a clash of grunts – it’s rutting season and the fight for dominance over the herd begins early.  The bush is alive with sound.  I feel so privileged to be experiencing this and can’t wait to see what more the day offers…

There's so much to tell about our early morning game-drive, but this time I think the photos should speak for themselves ...

Above:  Early morning beverage by the fireside.
 Above: Kudu bull
Above: Giraffe
Above: Dwarf Mongoose
Above: Shrikes
 Above: Rhinocerous mother and calf
 Above: Buffalo
 Above: "Ditto"

 Above: Impala crossing the road

Above: Ticks on Buffalo

 Above: Oxpeckers enjoying a feast of ticks.
 Above:  "Oops, the vehicle won't start."

 Above: Buffalo bull drinking

Many thanks to the incredible trackers and rangers at
Your tracking skills are extra-ordinary!
Thank you!

Sending lotsaluv to all our friends around the world.

Sunday, April 28, 2013


MAXMOM here...

We continue our exciting adventure into the African bush:


Sunday 21st April - evening game-drive

It’s 3pm and the game drive vehicle is waiting in the driveway.  It’s an open-top 10-seater, but ‘The Boss’ and I are the only guests. “Floris”, our ranger, smiles.  Choose a seat,” he says. “Any seat.” We’ve been on game drives before, so the Boss and I go conservative and choose the seat just behind the driver – this way our legs will be shielded from the evening chill and we can pepper Floris with questions.  

We climb onto the vehicle and make ourselves comfortable.
Above: Tracker and guide: "Bennet"

Our tracker this evening is “Bennet” – a well experienced man who has lived in the area all his life.  He knows the bush like the back of his hand. His job is to sit on the seat in the front of the vehicle, read the tracks on the road, the signs in the bush and communicate them to our ranger who will, in turn, be communicating with other vehicles on the reserve.  This way our chances of finding game are increased.  This is the beauty of 'Private game viewing'.  "The Boss" and I put on our sunglasses and hold onto our cameras. Floris starts the engine.

The bush at TANGALA is beautiful – thick and lush – an Eden for animals.  But the denseness of the thicket makes it difficult to spot game.  I focus on the millions of grass shapes which decorate the landscape.  The thatch grass, in particular, shines honey-gold in the late afternoon sunlight. What a wonder!
Many people wonder about the dangers of open-backed, game-drive vehicles.  The truth is that the animals perceive the vehicle as part of their world – un-threatening too.  It’s the silhouette of the vehicle that is important; any change in the silhouette will make animals suspicious, frightened or aggressive.  In other words, the rule is ‘to be seated at all times’ and to not allow any part of the body to disturb the vehicle's silhouette. The Boss and I settle back to enjoy the wind in our hair, the clean air and the ambience of the bush.

Our first sightings include Impala and wildebeest.  Vervet monkeys watch us from branches and warthogs embark on a hasty retreat when we pass.  We stop to watch three beautiful giraffes – their profiles magnificent against the blue sky.
Floris and Bennet have told us that they will be on the look-out for lion this evening. Bennet’s eyes are constantly focused on the signs in the bush and on the road, and he directs Floris accordingly.  Occasionally we stop for Bennet to get off and study the tracks…

The presence of lion tracks tell us that we are on course for a sighting.

Then again, nothing is guaranteed in the bush.

I ask Floris to stop for a strange looking plant in a tree.  He tells me that it is a ‘Leopard orchid’ 

  - and it seems that a Genet (cat) has made its home in it.  Unfortunately no sign of the cat.

It's not long before we come across a lone Buffalo.  

This old man has exited his herd – to enjoy his time ‘out at pasture’.  A solitary life in the bush makes an animal extremely vulnerable to predators.  But years of experience - learning the tricks of avoidance - is exactly why this buffalo has been allowed to grow old.  Not many predators will risk taking him on.
He has found a mud puddle and has settled for an afternoon ‘spa’ routine. We watch him as he chews his cud happily.  It’s hard to believe that this guy is one of Africa’s most dangerous animals. 
Suddenly the radio is abuzz with activity – elephants have been spotted!  We make our way to the sighting.
Apparently this elephant bull is called ‘Norman’ – because his tusks are skew and he reminds the rangers of one of their bosses.  We share in their mirth and laugh heartily. 
Norman hears us and decides to get up close and personal. My heart stops for a moment as I take in his size.  He's HUGE and we are so close...

He seems to reassure himself and moves on...Whew!

We spend a long time watching Norman as the sun gradually lowers to the horizon.  It’s nearing sunset and Floris decides to find a place for us to climb off the vehicle and enjoy our sundowners.

As the sun sets in the east, there is plenty of mumbling amongst us about the elusive lion - no sign of them yet!  

After enjoying a glass of Amarula on ice, as well as various ‘nibbles’, we climb back onto the vehicle and resume our search.  Some lions have finally been spotted and Floris accelerates in the direction of the sighting.  
But it’s getting darker and darker.  Finally we see something, but it's fleeting...

It's a lioness and her cubs who soon disappear into the night.  Luckily I managed to capture a blurry silhouette of them against the lights of another vehicle.  Even a quick sighting like that is enough to remind us that this is the bush – wild and wonderful, with a surprise around every corner. 
“Tomorrow we’ll find them...and you'll get to see them better,”
Floris promises.  We don’t mind – we’re just so happy to be in this special place.

Back at the lodge, we are greeted by a candle-lit wonderland.  

The absence of electricity is compensated by the beautifully arranged paraffin candles along all the footpaths at the lodge.  It's very pretty indeed.  After a glass of sherry and a warm hand towel, we make our way to our room to await the drum-beat which will indicate that it’s supper-time.

Tonight we’ll sit by the log-fire, share stories and simply enjoy the stars.
What will tomorrow bring?
 We’ll just have to wait and see. 
Please join me in the next blog post to uncover yet another exciting adventure in the African bush.

Many thanks again to the management and staff of
for your gracious hospitality.

Sending lotsaluv to all my readers.