Wednesday, June 20, 2012


MAXMOM here...


(Above: SHIBULA GAME LODGE - from their brochure)

***Read about "DAY 1  HERE
***Read about "DAY 2 - (Morning)  HERE
***Read about "DAY 2 - (Evening)  HERE
***Read about "DAY 3 - (Morning)  HERE

DAY 3 (Evening)
(Above: Rhinos seen on this sighting)


The 'Boss' and I both feel relaxed after our massages at SHIBULA's BUSH SPA. My headache has dissipated, the knots in my back have all been worked out and I am ready for the evening game-drive. 

We are soon dressed with scarves, jackets, beanies and gloves in hand (It gets extremely cold on the back of the game-drive vehicle at night) and we are off to meet the others at the reception area. There are a few new faces who will be joining us this evening - new guests arrive at the lodge all the time. We introduce ourselves and take our seats on the vehicle.
(Above: 'Ranger Sean' showing us 'Brown hyena' tracks)

'Sean' is in attendance this evening.  He's the ranger who welcomed us at the gate on  ...... 
'The first day'.

 He has been on holiday for the past two weeks and is now clean-shaven and ready to entertain his guests.  He rubs his chin.

"I look different, don't I?" he grins.
This is his first official game drive since returning from holiday.  He's excited about being back in the bush and determined to show us some animals.

"Welcome back," we say - as if he's the newcomer. Yes, the bush has that effect on one - you feel as if you own it.

It's a new vehicle with extremely comfortable seats. I sink into my space - ready to simply enjoy the countryside and its beauty. The breeze is picking up. 'Dr Alex' (a 'vet' guest) is a wealth of fun information too.  He banters with Sean - who holds his own. 

 (Above: The kudu bull's colouring blends in perfectly in the late afternoon light)

Although Sean is still young, he is a fully qualified game ranger and field guide.  His knowledge of the bush is extensive and he shares it willingly.  He and Dr Alex dive into companionable conversation about grasses, trees, birds, etc.  I just listen up and smile - enjoying the privilege of being in the company of such experts.

(Above: A female giraffe - not the one we saw on this drive though.)

A little further, Sean stops the vehicle and points out a giraffe in the distance. It's standing on a very far hill and I squint as I try to make out its shape.  It's very difficult to see, but he and Dr Alex are riveted in conversation and give their reasons why that little silhouette is actually a 'female' giraffe. 

"...her stomach is bigger, her shoulders smaller...."  I simply nod.  

Suddenly Sean puts down the handset of his radio and turns to us. 

"There's a cheetah spotted by another group somewhere in the reserve.  It's a good half hour drive from where we are at the moment.  Should we try our luck?"

I'm indifferent - happy to be anywhere - so long as it's in the bush, but the others are keen, so Sean steps on the accelerator.

It's late afternoon and the sun is dipping.  The temperature is too and I reach for my thicker jacket, including my gloves.  The last rays settle on the other side of the ravine and I spot a duiker. 

'Stop!' I shout.  

The vehicle comes to a sudden halt and Sean reverses.  All heads turn in the direction I am pointing.  

'Well spotted!' says Sean. 

The little duiker looks different to the ones we spotted at the lodge this morning, but they tell me it's the light that is confusing me. We admire her for a while and then get on our way again.

Finally we arrive at the spot where the cheetah was last seen. Expectedly (and disappointingly), it has moved off.  I knew it! 

Sean, however, is not deterred.  Some 'ranger' instinct kicks into him and he turns the vehicle up another road.  It's a far less travelled one, but he's following his gut-feeling.  He understands these creatures and their habits.  It's just a feeling he has. I am not convinced.

But suddenly there she front of our eyes, staring at us with her beautiful spotted coat and 'tear-drop' eyes. He was right all along!  

 Sean quickly gets on to the radio to alert the other vehicles.  The cheetah pauses, flicks her tail and walks ahead.
For those who may not know: Cheetahs are very difficult to see in the wild.  They don't like noise and will move off quickly.  In addition, they are remarkably camouflaged and blend into the surrounding landscape perfectly.  We are EXTREMELY lucky and the cameras click frantically.

"Don't go," I pray silently.

As if by magic, the cheetah turns and looks back at us.  She is static for a moment and seems to make up her mind. 

She walks straight towards us this time.  Our cameras continue clicking although we try to remain as silent as possible.  The cheetah diverts to a nearby tree - only a few meters away from the vehicle.  

She reaches up and grabs the trunk, stretching her claws and smelling the scent.  

It's late afternoon and the light shows off her beautiful colouring.  She rubs her flank against the tree and then moves off into the grass.

The entire sighting has taken about 2 minutes, but the images will last a lifetime.  The cheetah has moved into the grass now - just a few meters - but already she is hard to see. 

"I hope the others get here in time," Sean comments.  We hear the drone of their vehicles coming up the road.

The cheetah walks a little way further into the bush and slumps to the ground.  She'll probably sleep there for a few hours, but she is now completely out of sight.  In a matter of seconds we've had to say our good-byes.

Another vehicle pulls alongside us.  Sean shakes his head as he looks at the other ranger.  The other ranger understands, but his guests reach for their binoculars and look as excited as we were a few minutes ago. I don't think they'll see her, but they'll remain on the sighting to take their chances.  We move off, totally satisfied.  It's time for sundowners.

In only a few seconds, we have captured what most people dream about. This is the way it goes in the bush.  Sometimes you are lucky, other times not.  Either way, the rangers at SHIBULA will do their best to give you the best sighting they can.

Once again....

Thank you, Sean, for your efforts - not only from me, but from my many readers around the world!!!  You have brought Africa to the homes and computers of people who will never get to see such marvels in the wild.  THANK YOU!

Can anything get better than this?
And what has happened to the pride of lions we saw yesterday afternoon?
Join me in my next few blogposts to find out the answer.  We only have a few days left of this 'AFRICAN SAFARI'.

Sending lotsaluv,

(Dear friends, be sure to follow the blog posts during this next week as I share our FULL adventure.  Many thanks to the management and staff at the beautiful SHIBULA LODGE for your incredible hospitality!) 


How Sam Sees It said...

OMG - the resort is so pretty - I love how warm it looks nestled in the trees.

I'd be so excited to see so many different animals.

Have fun!


My Dog Sam - Ruptured Disk said...

Wow, this is great.

Millie and Walter said...

Such long skinny legs. It's no wonder they are one of the fastest creatures on land.

Thanks again for sharing.


Molly the Airedale said...

What a treat for you! The cheetah has the most gorgeous coat!

Love ya lots,
Mitch and Molly

NanaNor's said...

Hi there, Oh what incredible photos and I would have put your copyright protected sign across all the cheetah photos. Once again, thank you for sharing my dear friend.
Love, Noreen

Mrs. JP said...

Thank you for taking us on that tour with you. That cheetah was a magnificent site. Great photography.
I'm so glad you had the chance to see all that beauty.

Unknown said...

those animals are amazing and wild, I only see them on the zoo but your so lucky to see them on safari :D

Dog Shock Collar | Puppy & Human Bond

Two French Bulldogs said...

Absolutely gorgeous
Benny & Lily

KB said...

All that I can say is "wow"! My young nephew shares my love of wildlife, and his current obsession is cheetahs. He can tell you every scientific detail about cheetahs. I'm going to tell his mom about your post.

The cheetah had much longer and more graceful legs than I expected. Thank you!

Tweedles -- that's me said...

I feel like I am sitting on the edge of my seat- as I read about your journey in the bush!
I am taking in every word! I am so happy that Sean had a gut feeling of where to find the Cheetah! And I am so glad that he was right, and that you were able to experience seeing it.
I cannot imagine seeing all this beauty that you are seeing -
the animals - the Giraffe and Kudu Bull, the Duiker,Cheetah, the bush country side!
The experience of a life time!
The world over there is so beautiful.
Thank you for sharing so much with us.

kks said...

all i can say is WOW! this would be a dream of a lifetime trip for me!! thanks for sharing!

MySpecialDoggies said...

Words can't describe the beauty of the animals and the bush...

Thank you for sharing with us!

Nadine & goldens Neeli & Elle

The Thuglets said...

Absolutely fabulous!
What an absolutely fantastic trip..such a privilege to see these beautiful animals.
Thank you for sharing your photos.
An experience of a life time which we would love to do.


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The Thugletsx