Monday, 26 June 2017

Life on course

Wonder what life is like on an Africa Nature Training course? The proof lies in the pudding as they say… And in this case it comes from the mouth of Matthew Haynes. He is currently at Intibane camp at Thanda Safari in KwaZulu-Natal participating in the FGASA Level One course.

Matthew is having the time of his life. There is evidence in abundance from his diary of the past week. In his own words: “Overall another AMAZING week at Thanda Safari. We are blessed!”

Sit back, relax and let him take you right to the action. The chances are that you’ll book your own spot right away…

We all saw our first Parabuthus, or Buthidae scorpion, with its thick tail and small pincers indicating its venom's toxicity.

It was the most glorious of days as we took a 13 km hike through the stunning scenery of the Sand forest. The Purple Crested Turacos were calling all day and we saw a flock of rare Crested Guinea fowl, one even flew about 8meters straight up to sit in a tree, which I did not know they could do and had never seen before.
We saw many new trees, especially the enormous Lebombo wattle with its sprawling canopy and plethora of epiphytes clinging to it as well as a stunning silver cluster leaf tree with its shimmering silvery leaves.
On one of the Lebombo wattles we saw a Strangler Fig squeezing the life out of it as it creeped up the tree reaching for the sun.
We saw many red duiker running through the under growth. We also saw many porcupine tracks and a few quills.
Another 2 interesting sites were 3 large leaf nests stuck to the branches of a tree as well as an enormous termite mound that was about 2meters high and about 5meters wide at the base.
We then drove to the lake after the hike and viewed the huge Lake St Lucia.

On our usual morning drive we managed to tick the following:
A Juvenile crowned eagle
4 Crowned hornbill calling
2 Burchelles Coucal close up doing a duet
Male and female Kudu together
A Slender mongoose running for its life across the road
Ally and Andy gave a lecture on Ulwazi (Research initiative at Thanda Safari) which was very interesting.

We spotted 3 young inquisitive nyalas with their beautiful orangey colour and huge ears. They jumped very acrobatically into the bushes when we stopped.

The highlight of the day was undoubtedly the sighting of three very lazy and well-rounded lionesses. They were near a buffalo carcass, just being very content. Two of them were play-fighting and purring loudly as we watched from about 15m away. The third was eating the buffalo where we could clearly hear the carnassial (scissor) teeth shearing the buffalo’s flesh as she tried to get a mouth full.
We also witnessed two male girraffes fighting about 600m away from us, headbutting each other so hard that we could hear the impacts of the very hard hits to the legs and chest. 
The sighting of the gorgeous Grey/Common Duiker 10meters from the road was really special. It was not scared of us at all and then we saw 2 more 100meters down the road. They were more skittish and bolted as soon as we got closer.
We also saw 2 red duiker on 2 separate occasions, but they were too fast and we only saw flashes of them.

The sighting of a herd of about 20 elephants spotted right near Intibane camp in the valley was really special – from a huge bull to a tiny calf. We watched them for quite a while from a distance and they actually came closer to us while we sat quietly. 
We also found red sand leopard tracks on the side of a reservoir as well as tracks inside the reservoir which means the leopard jumped up and into the reservoir that was over 2m high.

In the afternoon we saw our first black-shouldered kite for two weeks after seeing them everyday since start of course.
There was also a sighting of a zebra skull in a tree showing huge canines that we didn't know they had.
We watched two lions on the road looking for prey until it got dark.
On our way back we came across a huge buffalo thorn that was knocked over across the road and we had to turn around. It was a good thing as we then saw a black-backed jackal.

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