Child friendly safaris!
We spent the morning travelling to Djuma – a road that we are all too familiar with.
Those with children will know how bored young children get on long trips and our Zaneerah was no different. I set up a nice little area for her near her seat where she could play with Lego’s eat her fruit and drink her milkshake. She was all too excited to be going back to Djuma and to go onto the safari vehicle – a trait she’s inherited from both her dad and I!
We reached the lodge at midday in the scorching heat of the day and settled ourselves in the beautiful Tumbeta house. It was straight to the pool for zaneerah followed by some lovely lunch of the famous “Kruger park chicken” – a chicken dish made with tomato sauce and worstershire sauce.
The afternoon was spent resting and getting ready for evening drive which we left for at 4:30pm
Our guests are avid Kruger goers and this is their first time in Djuma. Naturally we wanted to give them the full Djuma experience, and that is exactly what they got.
The radio this afternoon was extremely quiet with not many sightings being reported at all. Zali and I were worried. We really wanted to give our guests the full Zali experience. Having zaneerah on drive with us as well was not easy, we had to entertain her constantly and as toddlers usually are, was constantly asking for a snack!
We stopped for some lovely giraffe, a couple of day old impala lambs and tiny warthog piglets where zaneerah could use her “camera” to shoot.
We had one lone elephant bull who wasn’t interested in us and rudely walked away and we made our way to where William and Phunati knew that the lions were.
We found the Talamati pride with Avoca dark mane just as the sun was setting.
The other Djuma vehicle decided to leave the sighting for sundowners not long after we got there and we chose to wait, after all we had been snacking all drive!
We were so glad that we had waited as these lions all started to get up and slowly walk past the vehicle one by one.
Each of the females got up and followed each other in a single file. The males were taking their time and the young ones were so playful, what a sighting to see. We watched them and followed them for an entire hour in which we just enjoyed watching their behaviour listening to them.
Having a toddler on the vehicle at a sighting can become difficult but Zaneerah was a champ, she enjoyed watching the lions and eating her biltong! We watched them stalk one another and come from behind bushes outa nowhere and at the same time I tried to get some photography in. Since this isn’t a photographic safari and more a child friendly one I wasn’t too worried about what photos I was taking rather letting Zaneerah experience the bush and explain to her what the lions were doing. The knowledge that she will impart with from each of the trips she joins us on over the years will be valuable. Education important in all our children’s lives but practical experiences are ones that stay with us forever, which is why I choose to give my little ones the knowledge and An appreciation of the bush.
There’s always an opportunity to learn in anything you do in life!
At one point one of the youngsters came and sat right next to the tyre of the vehicle and refused to move. Looking directly into the eyes of a lion is a feeling that sends shivers down your spine. It’s so intense and so exhilarating but it’s the feeling that brings us bush addicts back time and time again.
By the time the sun set we had a very hungry and tired toddler and since there had been no sightings over the radio we made our way back to camp for a delicious braai of flame-grilled prawns sided with rice and chips.
It was off to bed for our little zaneerah before 8 so that she’s well rested for the morning drive!
We headed out this morning at 5am.
We all were fully awake and optimistic that today’s drive would action packed. After some coffee tea and Rice Krispies for Zaneerah we were off in search of some epic game viewing.
As the sun rose in front of us the air was crisp and cold and if you’re anything like me, carrying an extra jacket is a must!
We headed north towards Khaya Manzi and as we stopped to photograph an impala lamb on the road and heard the call of a jackal. William had seen tracks of wild dog just as we had stopped so we assumed that the jackals were calling because of the dogs. We rushed in that direction, found the jackals but didn’t find anything else. Since the jackals were looking into manyaleti we did a quick search and made our way back to where we had first seen the tracks in hope of finding them. After some time we picked up more tracks on the road and Phunati and William decided it was best to jump of the vehicle and track on foot.
After a couple of minutes Phunati and William were running back to the truck!
They had found the dogs and they were heading in our direction.
The dogs had full bellies and the adults had blood on their faces which led us to assume that they had made a kill.
Zaneerah was oh so quick to take out her camera and shoot! Our mini photographer ?
The dogs came and sat on the road for a bit and the adults saw some impala in the distance. As they watched the impala a hyena came out of nowhere and ran towards the impala. Suddenly the impala scattered and from behind them came. Zebra and wildebeest at full force towards the impala chasing them. The dogs seemed totally confused as did we. There was Game in all directions and one of us even spotted a warthog running around in the mix.
And what happened to the hyena? He just disappeared without a trace! For next 20minutes or so the zebra chased off the wild dogs into all different directions. We were in the midst of all the commotion and there were other vehicles waiting to come into the sighting and so we chose to leave the sighting. We made our way back to torchwood where we assisted Rex who had found tracks of Thandi and cub. We stopped for some coffee while the guides went off on foot to track them.
We jumped back on the vehicle and we went to look in the direction in which we knew thandi and cub are usually. Once again we switched off and let Phunati and William to what they do best and they tried really hard to track them but it seems like the cub heard them coming and he was running off.
It was now getting hot and were tired being 4 hours on the vehicle and made our way back to camp for a scrumptious breakfast.
The elusiveness of the leopard..
Over the years of coming to the bush there is one thing I have learnt about these spotted beauties, they will not be seen if they don’t want to be seen. Period. Nothing you can do will make them come out of their hiding place for you to view them.
This afternoons drive was extremely frustrating. Our guides hadn’t seen leopards for 3 days and once again the comms were extremely quiet. We followed tracks up and down triple M for the female leopard Sibuye for most of the afternoon and ignored the radio when we heard that there were 4 lions at cruise camp drinking, choosing the leopard over lions.
We met another guide from another lodge who informed us that Sibuye had crossed over into a property that we couldn’t traverse in.
Already half way into the drive and feeling very frustrated due to not only seeing no leopard but no other general game as well, we headed north in hope of seeing something good.
Towards the end of the drive as we headed back towards camp we made a decision to stop for drinks and a short break. After chatting with us Phunati made the decision to not go to the lions at cruise and make our way back to camp still in search of leopard.
On the way back we bumped into a honey badger on the road. A lovely rare sighting!
Alas the drive didn’t produce much Game but this is proof that there is no guarantee in the bush. The truth is that there are drives that are quiet and you might drive and see no game but you also never know what’s behind the next corner or what the next morning will bring. That’s just how unpredictable the bush is.
When travelling with a toddler it’s no secret that on a drive like today they will be restless and frustrated and want to jump all over the show as there aren’t any animals to take their attention away from their busy minds.
Be prepared to take something to keep them occupied with and for me my salvation lay in the Hands of the new Omar and hana app. Zaneerah was able to freely watch videos and do as she pleased on the app which kept her busy.
After a delicious braai – no bush trip is complete without it, it was time for bed for Zaneerah who will be fresh and ready for the drive that awaits us in the morning!
The day of the cats
Despite the disappointment we felt the night before we woke up with a tinge of hopefulness that today being our last full day on safari it would be a good day.
We started off the drive with 2 hyenas with bloody faces. We tried to find where they had come from but didn’t pick up anything.
There were tracks upon tracks of various different kinds of leopards all over the show and all the vehicles were desperate for leopard as not a single vehicle within Djuma had seen any leopard for the last 3 drives.
Finally the call came in from Rex that he had found Tlalamba in a drainage line. Finally the streak of no leopard was broken!
We made our way to her and found her mobile where she sat down in a drainage line in front of our vehicle providing Us with a great view and some epic photos.
We spent some time with her and eventually lost her location in the bush and chose to head off in search of something else.
We made our way towards torchwood where Rex had picked up tracks of another leopard to assist him in trying to track.
As we were driving we drove past one of the roads going to the right and suddenly saw the golden flick of a tail under the tree on the side of the road.
It was Nsele female leopard. What a spotting of the spotted cat!
She gave us quite a show and we called in the sighting which brought in other vehicles and so we pulled out of the sighting after a little while. As always, first in is always first out!
We made our way back to the airstrip where we stopped under a marula tree for some coffee.
Stomachs full and satisfied with our leopard sightings we returned back to camp for a scrumptious omelette breakfast.
After breakfast we put Zaneerah down for what we thought was a short nap, but being so exhausted ourselves and as always with a toddler, it’s impossible to stay awake when you have to lay down with them for a nap!
We awake at 3pm having missed lunch but feeling well rested.
After a quick lunch, dip in the pool to cool off and a shower we jumped on the vehicle ready for what the afternoon would bring.
This afternoons drive can be described as you get you wish for. It was as if the heavens were listening to us. We started off with phunati saying that we hadn’t seen rhino and within a few seconds we climbed over a hill onto the dam wall and lo and behold there were 2 rhinos wallowing in the mud.
We spent a good amount of time with them and got a call that Nsele had made a kill and was sleeping in the same area that we had seen her earlier. We decided that we would wait until later to make our way towards her and decided to go towards the lioness that was sighted near cruise camp as she was mobile.
On route there we sighted some elephants, a big herd of buffalo and other game.
As the orange setting sun as our backdrop we were spoiled with the sighting of the lioness in the open.
We heard the other vehicles were leaving the leopard sighting and opted to go back to see Nsele who now had a full tummy. We got her mobile with the last little bit of light and as the Princess of darkness stalked to try and catch some impala if the opportunity arose, we chose to leave her to hunt in the midst of darkness.
We just left her when suddenly William spotted another spotted cat. One that hasn’t seen before in the wild – a serval! A rare sighting once again!
As it ran off into the bush we went on and not far from there William spotted an African Wild cat! By now we were in awe. 2 rare sightings in one drive. We had already sighted the big 5 on one drive today and were were happy to have not seen more.
The last sighting of the night was a spotted genet and finally after all the action made our way back to camp for a steak dinner.
Tomorrow being the last drive we’re really hoping for Thandi and cub, but who knows what the bush will bring.
Day 4 Morning
The last Drive
Being the last morning we awoke tired from all the bundu bashing from the last few days and all the late nights. Our little Zaneerah refused to wake up but I knew how upset she would be if we didn’t take her with on the truck. So it was a morning where we had to be flexible and that meant changing her in her sleep and wrapping her up in a blanket and taking her with us on drive. Brushing teeth would have to wait until after drive.
We had a sighting of 3 Bateleur on a dead lead wood tree against a backdrop of the perfect sunrise with the rays penetrating through the clouds.
I remembered that I had seen the owlet on Safari Live last week and asked the guides if we could go there and see if the owlet was still around. We made our way there and the owlet was sleeping with mum in a nest which was nicely hidden in the bank of the empty riverbed.
It was incredibly cute!
We came out of the riverbed and bumped into a rhino which we chose not to stay with because this was the last drive and we were adamant that this was the drive we would look for Thandi.
As we were looking for tracks we heard the alarm call of a squirrel. We switched off the vehicle and suddenly heard the heartbreaking scream of an antelope in distress. Out of nowhere we saw the scuffle between hyena and cheetah and the hyena stole the alive grey duiker right out of the cheetahs clutches. There was a snap of bone followed by a chilling silence. The hyena killed the duiker right in front of us and began ripping it to pieces within seconds.
Suddenly behind us we heard a tiny voice at the back of the vehicle “I need my camera!”
Even Zaneerah knows when’s the right time to wake up and what’s important – photographing the perfect moment, just like her Dad!
We watched all the gruesomeness of the hyena eating away with fresh warm blood all over his face and watched the cheetah in the distance sitting under a tree obviously shaken by the presence of the hyena stealing his kill.
We tried to go nearer to the hyena for better photographs but the poor guy thought we were going to steal his prize and ran off into the bushes with it. The hyena left behind the fetus of the duiker, a heartbreakingly painful moment as we sat there watching this tiny unborn animal gasping for air not understanding what had just happened. As a mother I sat there itching to jump off the truck and assist this tiny animal that was still lying in its amniotic sac. It was incredibly hard to witness so We then went in search of the cheetahs but they were so restless after the incident that we lost their location very quickly. We decided to drive around trying to track them.
While still recovering from all the adrenaline that had been pumping through our blood we were talking amongst ourselves while the guides tried to find the cheetahs. Zaheer joked that we could get something to eat and I bent down to get the cooler box from under my seat and took my eyes off the road for a second when William shouted out LEOPARD!
I got up quickly and looked straight into the face of Thandi who was sitting on the side of the road looking directly at me.
The sighting was amazing. We spent the rest of the drive with her which was about 2 hours long! She allowed us to follow her as she went from termite mound to termite mound and watched as she stalked impala. We spent a great deal of time with her with no pressure at all to leave the sighting. but sadly all good things must come to an end and our time was up. we had to leave the sighting as it was time for us to head back to pack up and get ready for check out.
Once again Djuma has left us wanting for more and each time we come it becomes harder and harder to leave.
We really enjoyed the educational part of the safari and having Zaneerah with us was difficult but oh so rewarding. She had a ball of a time and was so good on the drives. Mind you she has been coming to Djuma since I was pregnant with her!
A dose of calpol for her and Panados for me, we headed back on the familiar road home.
Looking forward to being back in Djuma on Friday with another set of guests!