Tuesday, August 19th, 2014
in General, Parks.
I spent the past week at Malelane and Berg-en-Dal camps in the south-west of Kruger, and at Skukuza, the biggest and most famous camp, further north. It’s been a pretty quiet week in terms of spotting plenty of wildlife, but I did have two amazing experiences.
The first was spectacular just because a leopard was involved (anything is guaranteed to be spectacular when a leopard is involved). On a sunset drive with field guide Peter Zitha, we spotted a big male leopard on the side of the road, gnawing on an old impala carcass. We watched him for a few minutes, then he got a big fright, and bolted up the nearest tree…and out of the bushes came five marauding hyenas. We watched the imperious leopard perched in a thin, dainty tree, looking irked as he stared contemptuously at the hyenas below him. After half an hour or so, we left the scene, to leave the leopard and hyenas sort things out for themselves…
Then, this past weekend, I had the privilege of flying over Kruger with Major-General Johan Jooste, the chief of anti-poaching who has been contracted for five years to sort out the rhino poaching scourge. I interviewed the General in detail, and you can read my interview with him here. After spending a day with General Jooste and his team, my overall impression is that he is a man with a plan, and knows exactly what has to be done to sort out the poachers. He instills confidence, he is experienced, he is decisive, he is a team player, and he is an excellent communicator. It was a privilege to spend time him and his team.
In the chopper alongside General Jooste was pilot Iain de Beer, and Otch Otto, a senior member of the anti-poaching task force. We flew for most of the day, as the general visited several section rangers who are spread out over the 20 000 square kilometre bushveld wilderness. The conditions were terrible for photography – probably the worst possible light! Cloudy, grey, dull with slight drizzle. Nevertheless, it was a highlight of my career, and it was special to see one of Africa’s most famous national parks from the air.
We saw plenty of ellies, a few rhinos, some lions, and of course lots of plains game…including a herd of about 600 buffalo! Enjoy the photos below.
The look of a seriously irritated leopard. But I'd be too, if I had my dinner stolen by five hyenas!
Yum. The old carcass of an impala must take like well-cured biltong.
General Johan Jooste talking to pilot Iain de Beer
General Johan Jooste (left) flying with pilot Iain de Beer
A white rhino, killed a few days earlier by poachers. Photographed from the SANParks chopper
The herd of about 600 buffalo that we saw while flying over Kruger
The buffalo were spooked by the helicopter, but although they tried to run, they refused to leave the mopane woodland into the adjacent grassland. They probably felt they were safer within the woodland.
The rivers of Kruger flow mostly from west to east, and are the lifeblood of the reserve. In winter, they dry up to leave beautiful, sandy river beds. From the air, they provide visual interest in a landscape of endless bushveld.
A big tusker, spotted from the air in the SANParks chopper
What a sight...a big bull, parading his enormous self.
The rivers at this time of year are drying up quickly, but there was still water in this one...
Three ellies, in typical open woodland and savannah in the central area of Kruger
Hippos make for the water, as the chopper flies over.
One can see how wide this river CAN be in times of flood. During dry season, the rivers narrow dramatically.
There are always lions around...at some point, if you spend enough time out and about, you'll see them.
A brother and sister near Skukuza, enjoying the early morning rays.
It's so hard to keep the eyes open...
Klipspringer in early morning light, near Skukuza
A female kudu snacking
A brief glimpse of a hyena, early morning. It was on the hunt, and didn't stick around to pose for me.
Just north of Berg en Dal I came across a group of wild dogs...but there were so many cars, that I left the scene earlier than I would have liked. It's the one downside to visiting the south of Kruger at this time of year. There are so many tourists, that sightings can become congested.
A martial eagle perches on a marula tree, near Berg en Dal.
A white-bellied sunbird savours the nectar of an aloe, in Berg en Dal camp
A spotted eagle owl...on the road near Berg en Dal camp
Field guides at Berg en Dal - Rasta Nkuna and Peter Zitha
The early morning walks at Berg en Dal are great...the scenery is among the best in Kruger for walking. Here guides Rasta Nkuna and Peter Zitha take in the views.
A white rhino...how we like to see them - alive! We spotted this one on a walk near Berg en Dal.
Up close to a red-billed hornbill
It was full moon while I was at Malelane Camp, and it was also a "super" moon...so the moon seems a bit bigger, apparently, because it's at its closest point to the earth on it's ellptical orbit around our little planet.
For more, go to www.yearinthewild.com and www.facebook.com/yearinthewild. Check out my Flickr photos at www.flickr.com/scottnramsay and my Instagram photos at www.instagram.com/wildscotty. Twitter on www.twitter.com/yearinthewild.
Thanks to my partners Cape Union Mart, Ford Everest, Goodyear, and K-Way.
As well as WildCard, EeziAwn, Frontrunner, Globecomm, Hetzner, National Luna, Outdoor Photo, Safari Centre Cape Town, Tracks 4 Africa, and Vodacom.
Conservation partners BirdLife South Africa, Botswana Department of Wildlife and National Parks, CapeNature, Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, Gorongosa National Park, iSimangaliso Wetland Park, Namibia Wildlife Resorts, Parque Nacional do Limpopo, South African National Parks and Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.
Scott Ramsay of Love Wild Africa is a photographer and writer in protected areas, national parks and nature reserves in Africa.
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