Beho Beho Bushblog – Onno – 20th Aug

“Wilde Bunch”

As I often say to people (jokingly but with a serious undertone):

You made a mistake. You come to the best park in Africa and to the best lodge in that park”.

So basically it is all down-hill from here.

And whatever “the Wilde Bunch” do after this it will prove hard to top the experience they had here. They saw more Leopard in their five day stay than I’ve seen in three years!! (slightly exaggerated but you’ll get my point). On their first day Jessica and Simon went out for a “sun-downer drive” with Salum and on their way back to camp they found a leopard. Leopard number one.

Sometimes people just have the right vibe and you know as a guide you will see something special. I was chuffed when it was their turn to take me out on a walk.

So, off we went, turned left at the “parade ground” and made our way down to the Msini river. I always stop for a moment as I reach the riverbed for two reasons. One is to stand still and listen to whatever is around. Noises like foliage against skin, or the flap of an ear, or pieces of badly digested wet grass flying around are telltale signs of something being around.

 The second reason is that it is just plain beautiful down there. There are some puddles with water (where all kinds of animals wallow) nestled underneath the Doum-palms and all kinds of birds flutter in the shade. Coming from the hot sun into this little, cool, paradise is always a pleasure. After a moment we move on.

The riverbed itself is mostly dry (and getting dryer still) and filled with dense bush and scattered pools. Prime location for Hippos and Buff. At one point there is a little water-source where the animals come down to sip. Always nice to have a look and see who visited and as we are looking for tracks we find the fresh tracks of a Lioness with two cubs….. hmmm, not good.  A protective female Lion is not what I had in mind to find. Not in the thick bush anyway. We steer away and follow the riverbed meandering southwards.

A bit further on, about three meters below us, we find a Buffalo Bull ruminating in the shade on the cool sand. We watch him a bit and then leave him well alone to move a bit downstream where we cross the dry riverbed and climb up the other side.

And now the fun starts…..

In the thick forest we are looking at a Sausage tree with wide-spread, thick branches. We joke and say that this tree should be prime location for Leopard and that somebody should tell them. As we’re looking around ahead of us a Doum-palm starts shaking making a hell of a rackett!

 It’s an Ellie going for the palm-nuts.

We stand still.

After some quiet moments (In which I scanned the area for safe places) the tree starts shaking again, we can see which one it is and more-or-less know that the Ellie is in the riverbed. We decide to move towards the edge of the river to see if we can get a good look and some good pictures.

As we reach the edge we’re looking down on a youngster….. Eesj..… breeding herd. The wind is in our favour though and none of the ellies are aware of us. Jessica and Simon get a real good look at these elephants without them knowing we are around.

 I keep scanning the area just in case the “Shaker” decides to climb the riverbed and cut us off. From the corner of my eye I see movement going upward in a tree. It can’t be the ellie, hey? My first reaction is “Baboon”.

Funny colour though….

I look again and see a Leopard climbing up. I motion to my guests to be absolutely quiet and point out the animal. There is a bush in the way and there is always little time with leopards: they tend to disappear.

I reach out to Jessica who is next to me and try to move her in my line of sight. She’s wearing one of those modern-day fabrics (North Face or whatever) and my fingers can’t find grip. Time is of the essence and un-gentleman-like I grab her by the collar, drag her into place, point and probably in a voice that must have sounded like the Gollum I say “P·r·e·c·i·o·u·s” ……

From the tree it’s in it jumps over into that same sausage tree we were looking at earlier! Howzatt for whishful thinking?

Slowly and without any sound –don’t forget we’ve still got those ellies below us- we move around to the other side of the bush to get a better view of the leopard. We do but as soon as the animal sees us it is down the tree in one fluid motion and with an irritated, disdainful snort it disappears into the underbrush.

We turn back to look at the Ellies again and from the opposite riverbank another elephant appears.

A Big Boy.

With a boystrous swagger it comes down fast, pushes one of the others around a bit and starts climbing up the other side.  Our side…

I groan……. It’s in musth!!!

So here’s the situation… we’ve got “Shaker” to the left, Leopard somewhere in front (probably looking at us) and a “Macho” coming from the right and a three-meter-drop behind us…………. Hmmm, not good…time to move out and fast!

We scurry a good fifty meters to where the undulated terrain starts and find a higher position. We look down and see “Macho” stop and test the air as it smells us. With its trunk it is taking in the smell of our footprints….. and starts following us!!

 We quickly keep climbing until we reach the summit and I keep looking backwards to see if we should increase our speed but it turns out to be unnecessary.  Being in musth probably means you got other things in mind than chasing insignificant bipedals

A bit further on Heriel is waiting for us with some cool juices.

So… that was Leopard number two. ..

Leopard three Karin told you all about in the previous blog.

You made a mistake. You come to the best park in Africa and to the best lodge in that park”.

See what I mean?

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