bettel

A lot of spotted cats and not only :)

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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:

 

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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:

 

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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 :) ):

 

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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:

 

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But then rhinos arrived to the scene and made lions to move :). To run or to stalk that was a question:

 

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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.

 

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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:

 

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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.

 

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The rest of the evening we were just following the pride.

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What a fantastic start to our trip! :) Love the leopard shots and the rhino calmly drinking. Looking forward to the next instalment

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Great start, wonderful leopard pics. "Best trip so far"? Your last report was already such a doozie that we´re in for a real threat then. Looking forward to more, and very curious about the "jackpot". :)

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Great start, wonderful leopard pics. "Best trip so far"? Your last report was already such a doozie that we´re in for a real threat then. Looking forward to more, and very curious about the "jackpot". :)

Well, it is always hard to compare :), but there were at least couple sightings that I had and that I could not even hope to have :)

 

Day 2. Morning.

 

The morning was crispy so we really appreciated blankets and hot bottles. We started the drive with looking for lions that we were following the night before. Richard found the track and walked them pretty quickly.

 

The sub adult male continued to entertain himself and us :). He was playing with his mom, climbing trees and just running around:

 

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His father was slowly moving behind the family:

 

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The lioness was thinking about some hunting and playing with the son. There is a very strong bond between her son and her and I was feeling sorry as her son will definitely be kicked out soon either by his father or by new male coalition that is starting to push the old coalition away from the area. I hope her new cubs will be females so that her pride can grow:

 

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After spending the morning with lions we found a breeding herd of elephants. And I apologise for too many pictures but it was my best elephant sighting so far as I had never seen elephants playing like pups before. It started with one small calf, he was trying to play with his older friend:

 

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But then another calf joined them and the little one stayed not invloved:

 

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But he did not give up and participated when he could:

 

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One older calf fell and the little one decided to help him…

 

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… to fall

 

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But the unpredicted collapse happened :)

 

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But real warriors don’t give up and there was the second try:

 

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It ended up pretty much the same way:

 

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Elephant sandwich:

 

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The little one could not stay aside:

 

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At this point the adult female came and explained to everybody that this was not the right behaviour for elephants :)

 

So the little one came to practice his charging skills on us :):

 

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Unfortunately, it did not work the way he expected :)

 

As we still had some time we crossed the river and unexpectedly came across more lions’ tracks. As usually, Richard found them pretty quickly (I have no idea how he was doing it). It was some unknown pride of three adult lionesses and four cubs:

 

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Some giraffes on our way back to camp:

 

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And a small askari of elephants:

 

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A great start with lions and leopard already.

I have never see that sort of behaviour from young elephants - great to see your photos of it!

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That is just too cute @@bettel!

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post-49296-0-80877700-1434741549_thumb.jpg post-49296-0-55180000-1434741562_thumb.jpg

 

~ @@bettel

 

Your ‘elephants at play’ series was so humorous that I laughed out loud.

It was ‘pachyderm slapstick’ so well captured by your camera lens.

What a great shot of the lion with the rhinos!

Like others, I'm immensely enjoying your trip report!

Many thanks for sharing it with us!

Tom K.

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Love Love Love the elephant sequence; Oh and the leopard

and of course the lion

 

Great beginning to your safari!

Looking forward to more.

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finally got a chance to read this. what a tremendous start to your trip. just full of Cats!

That sequence of young elephants at play is so endearing and so enjoyable! they looked relaxed.

 

Looking forward to that jackpot soon!

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The elephant playground sequence and your narration is just adorable. Lion and rhino in one shot is remarkable. I remember your last trip and the tremendous sightings you had. But if this one is the "best ever...."

I am wondering if JP will miss guiding once he is an accountant. Quite a difference in those professions.

 

Great start to your 8 nights.

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Thank you very much for all your comments!!!

 

 


I am wondering if JP will miss guiding once he is an accountant. Quite a difference in those professions.

It is a big change for sure and he is already missing guiding but he will always be able to come back as a guest :)

 

Day 2. Aftenoon.
This trip I decided to pay more attention to birds, not that I am now a keen birder but it was pretty interesting to learn more about them. And JP supported the idea with the suggestion to create our bird list. He even started to ask me what bird we saw and sometimes he even asked for a full name. Haha, that was quite optimistic :). I am pretty sure he was thinking that I was horrible with birds but only till he tried to teach me some trees (I think that I am awesome when I can say if it is parsley or dill)
But going back to the drive, we started it with a juvenile bateleur eagle:
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And then it was a lilac breasted roller (if it is incorrect, please remember that I warned you about my level of ornithology)
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As usually some elephants were there as well
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And then we found leopard tracks and Eckson walked to check them. JP and I continued the drive. Soon JP stopped and said that there was a lion track but only one. We was going to quickly walk and check but there was a hippo in a nearest bush :
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The funny thing as soon as we picked up Eckson (a leopard crossed to MalaMala), he said "Here is a lion!".
It was my favorite lioness. Her pride was killed one by one by another pride and she stayed with two young nephews. She not only managed to survive but she raised them to a new male coalition. All three of them are just unbelievable hunters. You will never see them being hungry (knock on wood): if they want to eat, they have food. They also mastered a technique to kill using a river so they kill pretty easily giraffes, buffaloes, and the lioness herself is extremely good at killing adult kudus and other big antelopes. She now has two new cubs (unfortunately we did not see them but it was nice to meet her)
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We spend some time with her and then we went to check another pride as these lions did not come quite often to the area. It looked like they made a kill on another bank of the river but Charleston boys (nephews of the lioness above) chased away six sub adult males but allowed lionesses to join them. So we had an opportunity to spend some time with these guys. One day they will be a powerful coalition of six :)
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Day 3. Morning.

 

It was again pretty slow beginning of the drive as it was very cold and it seemed animals were hiding when the temperature was so low. In addition we spent some time following up on some impala’s alarm calls but it looked like antelopes were just having fun alarming on everything :).

 

Monkeys were cold:

 

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And then Xovo was found. Xovonekela is as handsome as only dominant male leopard can be:

 

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He arranged some decent off road driving for us as he was patrolling the territory. It was pretty amusing to watch how he would stop and saw/rasp every time he got noticed as if he was saying that he did not even think to hide. My skill to fall between seat rows and to wait for JP to drive through especially branchy and thorny spots was upgraded to almost the state of art :). After some walking Xovo stopped to have some rest:

 

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We used our chance to have breakfast. From time to time Xovo was trying to check what we were doing and if we were going to share:

 

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But mostly he was enjoying himself

 

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He politely waited for us to complete and continued his patrol crossing the river

 

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On our way back to lodge we met quite big askari of elephants (7 or 8 big bulls):

 

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@@bettel

 

I well remember your report on Kirkman's from last year, which struck me as exceptional. If this visit was perhaps even better, well, then you certainly have my attention. You are certainly off to a great start.

 

We were so close to booking a stay at Kirkman's Kamp this September, but, alas, logistics simply did not permit it. Next time for sure. You mentioned your "favourite room." Do you mind sharing which number that might be?

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Well, I think now the expectation is too high :), so I will explain (those who think differently will be able to drop :) ): this time I saw one animal that I had dreamed to see for a long time, but I did not even hope to see it as it is pretty rare in Saby Sand (one per year or even rarer in Kirkman). And the overall cat sightings were very frequent and we saw three week wild dog pups two times :). But here is my personal jackpot :). Details will follow when I get to this drive :)

 

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We were so close to booking a stay at Kirkman's Kamp this September, but, alas, logistics simply did not permit it. Next time for sure. You mentioned your "favourite room." Do you mind sharing which number that might be?

 

It is room 14. It has more than 180 degrees of river front view (but you will have to walk little bit to the main area and back :) ). Room 13 is also pretty good (13 and 14 are attached to each other) but it has slightly less view.

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Pa...Pa...Pa...PANGOLIN!!!! Jackpot indeed, very cool! :)

 

(And your Leopard sighting was just wonderful, too, what a beautiful one.)

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@@bettel

 

What a fabulous sightings you have had, and what a great photography and writing skills you have! Now I need to look for your other reports!

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And your Leopard sighting was just wonderful, too, what a beautiful one.

 

Lol I had 18 leopard sightings on 16 drives and at least 4 or 5 of them were female leopard with a cub :). I could not expect more :). I think I spend 70% of my trip with leopards.

 

 

@@bettel

 

What a fabulous sightings you have had, and what a great photography and writing skills you have! Now I need to look for your other reports!

 

Thank you very much!

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Schotia is a gorgeous leopard. I love the shot of her walking in the roadway with one paw caught mid-stride.

 

You've had many humorous sightings...always enjoyable to see the cats get put in their place by the larger animals of the bush.

 

The elephant pile is such a delight to see! Your worries about there being too many pictures are unfounded. :)

 

You must have felt incredibly triumphant upon seeing the pangolin. Looking forward to seeing how it played out.

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You must have felt incredibly triumphant upon seeing the pangolin. Looking forward to seeing how it played out.

I was bouncing like a ball when we found the pangolin :).

 

Day 3. Evening.

 

The whole break between drives I spent hanging on my balcony railing. It is not because I am crazy (I am, but that is not the point :) ). It is because somewhere near the river a leopard was walking. First, baboons started to alarm call and immediate the leopards started to saw. Then there was 15 minutes break and antelopes started to alarm call and again the leopard immediately started to rasp. It seemed to be very close to the lodge but I could not see him. So as soon as a drive started we went to the river. Tracks were there. For the next two hours we were patiently tracking Xovo. He was patrolling and was covering a lot of ground. But at some point he got tired and fell asleep:

 

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We were hoping that he will continue soon, but Xovo was satisfied with his achievements for the day (he probably did 5-7 kilometers) and pretended that he was dead.

 

We went to lions. Lions were the reason of some debates. Some guides were saying that these were Four Way lions, some guides were saying that these were Charleston boys. Eckson supported the second opinion, JP and I supported the first. We were comparing lions to Internet photos, discussing their eye color, their manes, their size… lions did not care they were sleeping:

 

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But pretty soon they started to wake up, groom themselves and stretch:

 

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Unfortunately, as soon as they got up they walked towards the boarder so they disappeared pretty quickly.

 

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We went back to check what else we could find. Suddenly there was a leopard. Her name is Ndzilo and when I was in Kirkman last year she was still with her mom Schotia. But now she is an independent leopard. Normally she is very relaxed with vehicles but this time she was very concerned of lion’s smell and was noticeably stressed trying to locate them

 

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So she decided to run to thickets pretty quickly. But it was another good drive.

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Day 4. Morning.

 

The morning started with lion roaring somewhere nearby so as soon as we started the drive we tried to find lions thinking that these were Charleston males that I really wanted to see.

We were driving, looking for tracks, checking what was happening around when JP said something like “Wow! Anna, you can’t even imagine what you see now!” He was VERY excited. “Well, I see an ostrich” – I replied. I mean it is cool to see it, but not THAT cool. “There is no ostrich in Sabi Sand! We have never seen them here. Ever!” – JP said. Then it is really wow :)! So we spent some time with the bird (lions were roaring on another bank of the river)

 

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We were laughing that lions probably didn’t even know what it was that they saw (they grew up in Sabi Sand) so they did not even try to hunt it. When ostrich drank and crossed the river to Mala Mala we went to lions:

 

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They waited for us to come and roared again. This is my favorite sound of Africa. I wish a sound track could actually fully recreate it (I mean my chest was vibrating when two lions were roaring 10 meters away from the car).

 

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One brother was pretty lazy and could hardly lift his head:

 

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We sat the whole morning with them including having lunch.

 

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On our way back to lodge:

 

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And right near the lodge there was an unknown female leopard, she was kind enough to wait for us, but then she stood up and disappeared in thickets:

 

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Ostrich is indeed unusual in Sabi Sands....but maybe not as much as pangolin. Wow! How very fortunate you were.

 

At the other end of the scale, the vervet monkeys are almost ubiquitous, but may I say I love the photo of that pair at post # 12? Something about the light, their symmetry together and direct eye contact. Yet another reminder for us all to not overlook the more common or obscure wildlife as well.

 

I am so looking forward to more.

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There used to be a number of Ostriches in the area when the reserves were formed. They have had a hard time since then, though, and it's nice to see that there are still a few left.

 

But to my mind the Pangolin definately trounces an Ostrich!

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I am late to this party but I wanted to thank @@bettel for this wonderful trip report. Excellent writing and wonderful photos.

 

I especially like the young elephants trying to tip over their playmates.

 

And the Leopard photos are top-notch. @@bettel has put Kirkman’s Kamp into contention for my bucket list.

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@Alexander33, @Peter Connan, It maybe more about Kirkman being bushveld, but they see pangolins at least once per year/teo years, but they have never (well, at least last five-ten years) seen ostrich there (this is what I was told). But I agree that a pangolin is much better. It is exactly what I told to JP: "I would prefer it to be a pangolin" :)

 

 



I am late to this party but I wanted to thank @@bettel for this wonderful trip report. Excellent writing and wonderful photos.

Thank you very much for kind words!

 

 

Day 4. Afternoon.

 

This was THE drive.

 

We immediately went to lions to check if they were still there and if they were going to wake up. This is what actually surprised me a lot at Kirkman. Despite the fact that it was pretty hot during the day we saw lions and leopards moving a lot between 11 am and 4 pm. But not this time :)

 

On our way there we did some birding:

 

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This bateleur eagle was just sitting in the river and enjoying himself:

 

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As lions were sleeping we continued along the river. We found buffaloes but they were following lions’ example:

 

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Nyala male was little bit more active :) :

 

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While we were driving I suddenly realized that we had not seen any owl (normally you see one here or there). “JP, it is strange, we have not seen any owl yet!” – I said. Five minutes later Eckson said “Owlet!”

 

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And then 100 meters after Eckson said “Owl!”

 

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And then we found elephants and spent some time with them:

 

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As soon as we left elephants Eckson said “Owl!” We all laughed and I said “Pangolin! We have not seen a pangolin yet!”. Not even 5 minutes later Eckson said “Pangolin!». JP and I decided that it is continuation of the joke and just laughed, but Eckson raised his voice “PANGOLIN!”

 

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Pangolin was actually pretty relaxed. I mean he ran under thickets but he never tried to roll into a ball or to run away. He was just sitting there and watching people to come to take a look at him (or her):

 

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Oh my god! You can’t even imagine how happy I was. Actually, we were! We were hugging each other and laughing as if we had just saved the world :)!

 

After staying with pangolin for quite some time we continued the drive (it was getting dark). And soon enough Eckson said “Owl!” so I joked again “Honey badger! We have not seen a honey badger yet!” You already know the result, don’t you? Five minutes later Eckson said “Honey badger!”. I think I started to have an overdose of endorphin :). What a day! Unfortunately, I don’t have a photo proof for the honey badger as it was dark and the honey badger ran away pretty quickly. But honey badger and pangolin on the same drive … I don’t know if something will be able to bit it … ever.

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Great detail on the pangolin. I was getting excited by proxy as you ramped up to these photos. The ostrich was rather nice, too.

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