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Unfortunately, I am back from my South Africa trip. It was short due to the requirement to be back to office so I spent all 8 nights at Kirkman’s Kamp in Sabi Sand reserve. Overall it was a great trip, I would say it was the best trip so far: 1) I again had JP as my guide. It was almost the last minute change as JP left the company in January to continue with his accounting degree. But he was able to come to Kirkman’s Kamp for his vacation and guide me 2) I got my favourite room with 180 degree river front view so even during quite short breaks between games I could see wildlife (elephants, buffalos, antelopes). 3) I was concerned that my flight could have been not smooth so I ordered the private vehicle only starting day 2, but I got it the minute I arrived 4) I was told by JP that the overall cat viewing at Kirkman was pretty slow due to some changes in leopards and lions population (e.g. two adult female leopards got killed during the year and their territory is still not occupied). So I did not expect a lot and I would have been glad just to spend time outside no matter what we see. But the viewing was very good and I had one big jackpot (stay tuned!) Day 1 PM drive. As soon as I arrived and signed the waiver (if I am eaten by lions it is my fault) we went on a drive. In the morning Schotia female leopard was found so we went to check the last known position. On our way we saw some zebras and elephants: When we found the track Richard (the tracker) went for a walk while we were checking tracks around the block. 15 minutes later Richard radioed that he found the leopard in a drainage gully and explained us how to get there. Schotia was panting and at the beginning we thought that she had just eaten something but then we noticed a fresh kill under the bush. It was almost untouched so she was probably catching her breath before bringing her cub to the kill: Year ago when I was at Kirkman Schotia had a 19 month old cub. It is now an independent female leopard Ndzilo. The new cub is 11 month old. Schotia used to have two cubs but recently one of them was killed when the family was unlucky to be caught between a lion pride and an unknown male leopard. The good thing at least one cub survived she could have lost both cubs. We were patiently waiting for Schotia to get up and in half an hour she started to clean herself, to yawn and finally she started to move. It was hard for JP to follow the leopard as tracker was not with us (he was on another bank of the gully so as soon as he showed us where the leopard was he walked away not to stress the animal) and the bush was very dense. One time we totally lost her but then I noticed some movement in the bush. I am a great spotter lol: I managed to notice a leopard but I totally missed the rhino that was there as well. The rhino was not quite happy with the cat around so he chased the leopard away. A few minutes later Schotia walked to an open space (by that time we were all covered with leaves, thorns and brunches ): After spending an hour and a half with the leopard we had to move to give other guests a chance to see it. We started to look for lions (when I say “we” I mean “JP and Richard” ). We (“JP and Richard”) found tracks and Richard went for a walk. It was probably the shortest walk in a history as he walked 30 meters and found lions. Lions were lazy: But then rhinos arrived to the scene and made lions to move . To run or to stalk that was a question: The young sub adult male was actually trying to hunt rhinos. He was stalking them but as soon as they turned to check what he was doing, he stopped and ran away. But he was very stubborn and slaked rhinos all way to the waterhole and away from it. He was so persistent that at some point his mom lost him and decided to find her too enthusiastic son. On her way she noticed an impala and tried to hunt: But elephants arrived and chased the impala away (the moral of the story: sometimes if you are chased it might actually save your life lol). Then elephants noticed lions and chased them too. Poor lions realized that there going to be no rest with all these rhinos and elephants browsing around and started to patrol. The rest of the evening we were just following the pride.
Day 1. Afternoon drive. The trip to Kirkman’s kamp was long but uneventful and nothing could have stopped me from going to the bush as soon as possible. I was waiting for this for long 6 months. I did not expect to see a lot and the fact that I was on safari drive already made me absolutely happy. My ranger in Kirkman was JP, and my tracker was Eckson. After a short rhino walk (Eckson noticed sleeping rhinos from the road and we walked there to stretch legs. It was successful as rhinos never found out that we were there) we went to check if Charleston pride had crossed the river or they were still on the property. We found them on the beach near the crossing and they were absolutely flat. The maximum action that they were ready to show us was to raise a head and look around. JP was telling stories about the pride. This pride suffered a lot from fights with another pride. At the end only one lioness with two small cubs (her nephews) managed to survive. And this lioness did an awesome job. Both boys are now 4 years old and look great. She also taught them to hunt and this pride is famous for bringing down giraffes. The lioness herself is an amazing hunter, if I remember it correctly, during one year she brought down around 15 kudus without any help (and these are only animals that rangers know about). The evening was slow, nobody else was willing to join us and we were having the pride all to ourselves. We were sitting in the car and discussing lions’ dreams. JP suggested to wait as lions might have decided to cross the river and these would be great shots…Everything changed in seconds. Mala Mala ranger who was on another side of the river told us that he could see wild dogs moving in our direction. So we went closer to make some pictures This year dogs are denning on Kirkman’s property but they still like to cross Sand river for hunting. Dogs were running along the river and did not see lions. However the lioness noticed them immediately and she turned into hunting mode immediately. Boys were not so enthusiastic. They were raising heads, watching dogs for a few seconds and then returning to a flat position. Lions were behind bushes and dogs could not see them at all. And then even worse, dogs went down to the water and their sighting was blocked by the river band. Lioness did not lose a second. The river was a huge handicap for dogs as they could not move in water as fast as more powerful lions were able to. Alfa male did not have any chances: It is more than two weeks since that day but I can still hear how the dog was screaming. I am not one of people who dream to see a kill. I love to see predators but in a lot of cases I like to be blind and deaf. And although I started to think that I might tolerate without a hysteric a quick antelope kill this was far beyond my limits. So I was crying like a kid. To make the scene even harder the rest of the pack was staying not far and was calling from there. JP was very kind to ask a few times if I wanted to leave. My emotional part was ready to leave immediately but brains were saying that even if we had left nothing would have changed so I asked to stay and even continued to make pictures. In split seconds a lioness was joined by males I was glad that the death seemed to be quite quick, but I was so wrong. As soon as lions started to pull the dog back to the beach, he started to scream again. I was ready to join him in this, only the fact that it was our first drive with JP and he might have decided that I was totally uncontrollable made me to sit silently, I just started to sob more. After another few minutes when lions calmed down and were just resting near the dog I noticed that the dog was blinking. I asked JP if dog was still alive, he answered that dog was dead and these were just eyeballs moving when lions were touching the body. Couple minutes later dog screamed again. Thanks God, more cars arrived to see a sighting and we left. When we were starting the drive early afternoon I told JP that I did not like sundowners and I did not want to spend time on them but after this sighting I changed my mind completely. I asked JP to stop and to give me something really strong. So the rest of the evening I spent with brandy. And these are photos made by Roan Ravenhill (Mala Mala ranger) he was watching the scene from another bank. So he made photos of us watching the sighting: I learned my lesson. When I was asking the bush to show me cats, dogs and maybe a kill, I should have been more specific and I should have stressed that I did not want it all to be one sighting. We were discussing a lot after this if we should have tried to do something, and decided that it could have turned into even worse situation and it would have been very hard to live with it.
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