7 April 2016
What a spectacular day it was. The morning started with the South African custom of coffee and rusks before sunrise. Rusks is a traditional breakfast meal or snack. It has been part of South African culture since the late 1690’s. Rusks are typically dunked in coffee or tea before being eaten. It is essentially double-baked bread dough. Round balls of dough are closely packed in pans and baked like bread, after which long chunks are cut or broken off and slowly re-baked to a dry consistency. Sometimes made from non-traditional ingredients, such as baking powder rather than sourdough. In addition to plain and buttermilk, aniseed, whole-wheat, condensed milk, muesli and lemon poppy seed variations are popular.
We got onto the game viewing vehicle for the morning ride. Herds of impala, zebra and wildebeest were abundant. As we looked up to the sky we saw a circling of vultures. Now, this could only mean one thing. Some predator had a successful evening of hunting and was possibly still feasting. Driving off-road we headed that way and ran into a cackle of Spotted hyenas. They were filled to a capacity of almost uncomfortable bellies. The prey was an unfortunate Kudu cow. Whilst we were watching the scene on the driver’s side of the game viewer a leopard female came walking past our vehicle, constantly keeping an eye on the much larger hyenas. She hid in the undergrowth of the bushveld. One of the hyenas thought it a good idea to drag a part of the kudu into the shade of a clump of Acacia trees. The leopard used this to her advantage and stole a piece of meat from the carcass.
She dragged her loot for almost 50 yards, before stopping by the thickets of a Buffalo Thorn tree. She started giving these very soft chirping sounds where upon two cubs emerged from the brush. We estimated the cubs to be around 9 months old. The first adventurous cub came up to mama and started eating on the breakfast momma served. The second cub stayed in the thickets. With loud snarling sounds, some of the hyenas came too close for momma’s comfort and momma leopard jolted up a Marula tree with the smaller cub following. The adventurous cub climbed to its ability into the small Buffalo Thorn tree, literally 2 feet from our vehicle.
On their hideout spots they started waiting patiently for the hyenas to pass by towards the drinking hole. The leopards started descending and with no trouble at all started eating on their meal. We spent at least 2 hours with this spotted family. We decided that we have experienced enough in this area and started driving into the veld. Everyone was so excited in seeing such an incredible sighting that we did not realize that we got into a herd of bachelor elephant bulls. They were so relaxed feasting on the new leaves of the Mopani trees. It is truly humbling to be so close to these gentle giants and just to sit there and observe them using those trunks so delicately.
On our drive back to the lodge we had incredible sightings of birds. There were the beautiful Lilac-breasted Rollers to the sociable Buffalo Weaver.
This awesome day was ended with the flavors of Amarula and finger snacks during an exceptional sundowner.