Sunday, 31 March 2013

Nature can be cruel

Lioness who had just killed a leopard cub
We can never be sure what we will find on safari. But one thing that is for certain, is that nature determines what we will see. Often wonderful, sometimes breath taking and on occasion sad.
Take for example a recent game drive in the Thorny Bush reserve, where we came across three female lionesses lying in a dried up river bed.
A wonderful sighting any day. But my heart sank when I discovered the reason they were there. They had killed a six month old leopard cub.
Sad scene
The blood on one of the lions was testament to the fight that the leopards mother had put up, but she didn't stand a chance when facing three lionesses. We could see from the tracks that the leopard and another cub had fled the area. Yet the lionesses stayed put hoping that she came back to check on her dead cub.
She had more sense and stayed away.
There were mixed emotions as we drove back to our lodge for breakfast later. We had experienced nature in its cruelest form. Predators are very competitive and lions won't tolerate other predators competing for prey, even when there is enough to go around for everyone.
Yet the overwhelming feeling was one of being privileged to have been there and seen it first hand.

Written by Will Fox
On Track Safaris

Friday, 22 March 2013

We don't just view animals - is more than a tag line

We don't just view animals, is more than a tag line. It embodies what our safaris are about. Take yesterday morning as an example:
We found quite a large herd of Elephants in a heavily wooded area and with some careful off road driving we managed to get close up to the herd. Oblivious to our presence, they were doing what Elephants do, and basically destroying the trees in their path. Either by stripping and eating the bark (effectively ring barking the trees) or pushing them over to get at the top branches and expose the roots.
The herds’ matriarch was very relaxed. A mood that she transmitted to her family and to us as well.
We were able to sit surrounded by these giants of the bush and observe their interaction and behaviour and communication at close quarters. We don't grab a quick photo, tick off another species and move on. That is the a ground rule of our safari ethos. Unlike the run of the mill safaris, we spend time enjoying being in the bush experiencing wildlife. 
Hence our second tag line - Experience the difference.

Written by Will Fox

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Livingstone's birthday and a visit to the 'smoke that thunders'

First view of the falls from above the Zambezi gorge
The smoke that thunders

The local name for the Victoria Falls is Mosi -oa-Tunya, which translated into English means the smoke that thunders. And thunders is exactly right.
The falls are said to have been discovered by David Livingstone in 1855, which in terms of European exploration in Africa may be true, however the falls were already known to the indigenous people, so discovered is a relative term. But given that March 2013 sees the 200th anniversary of Livingstone's birth, we thought that a refresher visit to the falls ahead of this years safari season was inorder. Business can be hell sometimes.
We all know that the falls are recognised as a world heritage site, but it is only when you are there and experience the full magnificence of this natural wonder, that it really comes home. Walking along the viewing footpath opposite the falls, drenched by the misty spray that rises up out of the Zambezi gorge below, one experiences the full magnificence of this natural phenonemun.
The iconic images we see in photographs and on TV screens do not come close to replicating the real experience. It is a must do for anyone who visits Africa.

Tips for visitors to the falls:
  • You will need to carry your yellow fever vaccination certificate to show to custom officials on return to South Africa, which is the hub for flights to the falls.
  • An enterprising group of locals have set up an informal rain coat hire shop at the enterence to the falls park. For $3 you can hire a plastic coat, which trust me, is well worth the money.
  • An evening cruise on the Zamesi river is well worth the expence. It's included in our packages, but whatever the case it is a wonderful experience. You'll enjoy a glass if something refreshing, cruising down one if africas main arteries, while watching Hippos are crocodiles. Fantastic!
  • The currancy used in Zimbabwe is US$, which you will need to buy local arts and crafts.

View from behind the falls, the smoke that thunders rising up above the falling water.
Written by Will Fox

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Vultures - love them or hate them - we need them

Love them or hate them, vultures are an essential component of the eco-system of the African bush, yet are worryingly in serious decline.

We often see them on safari and they are a great indicator of where we might find lions, as they will hang around a kill waiting for their turn to clean up.
By finishing off the carcasses left by predators and even more importantly those of diseased animals, vultures prevent the spread of life-threatening diseases, which makes them an invaluable component in maintaining the balance.

Well that’s the nature lesson over, but to put my conservationist hat on for a moment, it is their decline that is a major concern.  We all need to support vulture conservation efforts such as those at the Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre.
We visit Moholoholo as part of our safaris and also assist them in various conservation initiatives. Our visits are very popular and often we are lucky to go behind the scenes and see the parts of their operation that aren’t open to the general public. After all that is part of what makes our safaris different. 
Moholoholo have a vulture restaurant. No not a themed eating place for us humans, but an area of bush, where they regularly leave meat and old carcasses for vultures to feed on. It’s quite a sight to see hundreds of Vultures and Marabou storks in a feeding frenzy around a carcass. 
Each species has its own place in the (excuse the pun) pecking order, taking turns to feed. The Moholoholo team have had some amazing success in rehabilitating (literally) hundreds of Vultures before releasing them back to the wild.
Long may they continue.

Written by Will Fox