Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Oma and the girls on safari

For our safari trip this time with Oma we went to the Welgevonden Game reserve in the Limpopo province. It was only 3 hour drive from where we live. Since Dirk was not going with us and I don't like to drive that far, we went to Clearwater Tshetshepi Lodge in the Waterberg region. Malaria free, which was important to us as well, since we all didn't need to take medication.

Wow, we had a great stay! The lodge was hidden against the mountainside amongst lush indigenous trees with each chalet enjoying the tranquil trickle of a mountain stream - the ultimate bushveld hideaway! Exactly what I wanted for my mom to experience. The real bushveld. It was gorgeous. We were the only guests, since school had just started for the Afrikaanse children, so we were pampered like Queen's and Princesses. Actually that is how they called the girls the whole 3 days we were there; Princess. And the girls loved it of course ;-)

Each day we would do an early morning game drive and at sunset we would do another. The lighting is gorgeous at those moments and the animals are most active. During the hot day they are asleep, so we wouldn't see much.

So you start driving around in your open Jeep hoping to come along the big 5 and many other animals that freely roam the game reserve, which in this case is 150 000 hectares. And nature is just gorgeous!!
And about mid-time you get out of your Jeep and have in the morning some tea or coffee with rusks and in the afternoon you get some Amarula or other drink you like with some biltong, dried fruit, nuts and some other goodies they manage to bring along for us. While we are standing there on one of the open plains I always wonder if there are eyes in those bushes around us who are watching us. I know we are watching them, but are they watching us as well? ;-)

The Waterberg has been described as South Africa's best kept secret. Its rugged beauty, together with its diversity in plant and animal life, has led to the development of several exciting eco-tourism projects such as the biosphere reserve, the Waterberg Nature Conservancy. The 75 mammal species include big game such as elephant, lion, white and black rhino, hippo, leopard and buffalo. African python and the Nile crocodile are also resident, and it is a birdwatchers' paradise with more than 300 bird species.

I love the giraffes they are one of my favorites, so gracious and elegant, with those huge eyelashes (if it is a girl) really nice. It is funny when you stop with your Jeep how they stop what they are doing and just stare at you, most big animals tend to do that. Stare at you, perfect for us to take a picture ;-)

The animal that doesn't do that though is the warthog. They just run away, with their tail in the air, like an antenna, it is a sign for their fellows to follow. We saw many times warthogs, but I could never ever catch them on my camera. Just this one, so I am proud to show you this picture. I have so much respect now for photographers who can capture a warthog (in the wild of course) not in a zoo... since these buggers are fast!!

We were also lucky to see the hippos. There are only 2 in the whole game reserve and they liked the pond close to our lodge. There are a few ponds and they tend to travel from one to another. We drove close by the little lake and they told us we were too close. Started watching us and giving us signs to move back a bit, since this is their territory!! (Our guide told us this) He said that hippos can come out of the water and start chasing you if you come to close, and they are surprisingly fast on land! Luckily I had my zoom on. More than their nostrils, ears and eyes you hardly see...

We saw the Rhino's quite often, there was a group of 2 and a group of 3 grazing close by our lodge. They are very relaxed, don't move much ground, just stay at one field and graze...all day. But don't you dare to come to close with your Jeep and they are not so relaxed anymore!!

Kudus are just amazing beautiful antelopes. With those big ears and beautiful stripes on their bodies. They are just amazing! This is a female kudu, the males have dramatic, long spiralled horns. The females stay in herds with the younger ones, which we indeed saw many young ones with only 4 females. The males leave the breeding herd at around two years of age.

We got the opportunity to see many zebras. Although we saw so many I am still loving these little horses in their pyjama stripes!! Did you know that their stripes come in different patterns unique to each individual. They are generally social animals and can be seen in small harems to large herds. Look at the baby one, still a bit unsure of its legs ;-)

This is a picture of a lonely Wildebeest (or sometimes called gnu) with a herd of Impalas or as they say in Afrikaans: Rooibok since they are reddish-brown in color. The name impala comes from the Zulu language. Impalas are the prey of the bigger predators. When frightened or startled the whole impala herd starts leaping about in order to confuse their predator. They can jump distances more than 9 meters (30 ft) and 2.5 meters (8 ft) high!

These were not all the animals we saw. We saw many many species of birds and other smaller animals. Although we didn't end up seeing the elephants. We heard on the radio of the Jeep one afternoon that a big Elephant bull was spotted, so we drove there and saw his tracks, but we didn't end up seeing him. The same was for the next morning, a group of 4-5 elephants were spotted by another ranger and we rushed to the plains, saw many fresh tracks, and big piles of poop, but again didn't end up seeing or finding them. You would think such a big animals they must me somewhere?? And on the plains it is a wide open field where for miles you can see, but no signs of the elephants. Well, we have to go back and do it again.

Also we didn't end up seeing the lions, tracks yes...lions no! So we ended up going to the Lion park close by our house after our safari. More pictures and stories about that in another posting. But first I will tell you more about our safari adventures tomorrow!

Have a good day,


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