Lions Make Another Successful Kill

 Posted by Cindy Gibson at 11:38 pm  South Africa Wildlife  Comments Off on Lions Make Another Successful Kill
Jun 252014

Mt last morning game drive in Karongwe was pretty special! Since the  big male leopard had not been seen for a few days we decided to look for him and also for the male cheetahs.   We didn’t get signal for either right away, but did get a report of a female lion walking along the road then into the bush. We went to check it out and found the two female lions and all four cubs on a fresh wildebeest kill.  Having seen them two days ago in the exact same spot eating a zebra, I was fascinated to watch identical behavior. They ate for a bit, turned the animal over, ate some more and then one pulled it about 15 yards away. The other female then scraped dirt all over the area to cover the remains of the kill spot. This helps to cover the smell and delay hyenas coming to the area. The others continued to eat until it looked like they would pop. Lots of resting and sleeping for the rest of the day I bet! As these cubs continue to grow so will their appetites. The two females are going to have to hunt more often and hunt successfully to feed these growing cubs.

We drove further south on the reserve and got signal for the two male cheetahs. We walked into the bush to see the cheetahs resting. We almost passed them up as they are almost impossible to see when they are lying down in the grass. I’m still amazed at how calm they are and how close they allow us to get to them.

Finally we located Tsavo, the big male leopard. He is elusive and likes to stay hidden but we got signal and tracked him to a dry river bed lying in the shade. Unlike the cheetahs, he gives us about 10 minutes then gets up a strolls away. He walked silently and slowly into the tall green grass along the bank before looking back to give us the familiar Tsavo smirk!


 Posted by Cindy Gibson at 12:13 am  South Africa Wildlife  Comments Off on TIA
Jun 252014

TIA is used a lot around here! It means “This Is Africa” and is the phrase used whenever things don’t go as planned, break, don’t work, etc. You must learn to go with the flow because TIA.  After another breakdown with the generator we seem to have it going today. It’s a big deal as Karongwe needs the power to run the computers for the data, charge radios and charge phones.  Anyway, we are back in power for now. Had a great weekend with a camp out under the African stars. Wow! Amazing sight for sure. Add a few hyenas whooping outside the camp circle and it was a fun night. A bitter cold night but fun. Sunday is a off day in Karongwe so a few of us rented a car and drove over to the mountains. It was nice to see the northwest area of South Africa. Very vast area with few towns or homes.  Saw several waterfalls too.

Monday I had base duty in camp which means I was cooking and cleaning. I don’t mind it, but hate that I miss a game drive.  Tuesday some of us went into town to grab some food for game drive snacks, have lunch and sadly say goodbye to one of the other volunteers who was going to Kruger Natuonal Park for another conservation project. We did get back in time tho, to hop on the afternoon game drive. Glad I did as we found the cheetahs and walked back to see them again.  Never tire of the cheetahs sharing their space with me! Such a thrill.  My morning drive today started with the cheetah boys again, but ended with another special time watching the female lions with the four cubs. The cubs are getting so big and now that they are eating meat, they seem to be getting bigger and bigger each day. The two females are going to be forced to hunt more often for bigger prey just to feed theif growing cubs!

Lion But No Tsavo

 Posted by Cindy Gibson at 11:59 pm  South Africa Wildlife  Comments Off on Lion But No Tsavo
Jun 192014

It’s been a bit quiet the past couple of days on the reserve. The cats and other animals have been out of site – perhaps that is why we seem to be seeing so many impala! Last night we did find the male lion and had a fantastic sighting. He was sitting on top of a rock outcrop called Sunday’s Rock. He sat there all proud and regal with the sun setting and the wind blowing his mane. He looked beautiful but he made me laugh as he suddenly reminded me of a male model in a Fabio like way! The staff think he is a whimp for a lion so maybe I had the right image!

The big male leopard, Tsavo, is the sneaky one that I’ve taken on as my personal challenge to find! He is no whimp!  He has an implant that allows us to use radio signals to find him. However, the reserve has lots of nooks and ravines that can block signals.  Plus, he will sit and hide, wait for us to pass then trot behind us and look back with a little smirk!  I’ve learned to find him, pass him up, then look back!  He may be on to me now tho as it’s been two days and no Tsavo!   Back out tonight to find him. He’s a sight to see. He is huge for a male leopard and has the most amazing eyes.   He rules the leopard territory in Karongwe.  When he took over he ran out the other male and then proceeded to kill all the leopard cubs (big cats do this so the females will only have cubs that belong to the alpha male).  His quick and efficient elimination of the cubs earned him his name, Tsavo, which means the butcher.   I never tire of watching him walk through the tall grass. He is sleek and just blends in as he moves low to the ground.  Hoping to change our luck and find the big guy tonight!

Walking with Cheetahs

 Posted by Cindy Gibson at 10:44 pm  South Africa Wildlife  Comments Off on Walking with Cheetahs
Jun 172014

Part of the research work happening here is keeping close tabs on the very endangered cheetahs. Karongwe has two male cheetahs on the reserve and it is important to monitor them on a daily basis.  Sometimes we find them near the road, but most days they are in the bush out of sight. So, to actually get a visual you have to walk into the dense bush and find them. Using the telemetry tracking signals we can get a general area, and then on lucky days, you can walk back to them. I got to do this again, only this time we got a great sighting of the pair….from about 10 yards away! They just sat there looking at us, then laying down flicking their tails. Beautiful eyes and beautiful spotted coats.   No words to describe how incredible it is to be allowed to share their world and their space so peacefully.   Good news was they had a “full rating” of about a 3 on a 5 point scale, so they were not hungry!

Cracking and Crunching and Elephants in Camp!

 Posted by Cindy Gibson at 10:16 pm  South Africa Wildlife  Comments Off on Cracking and Crunching and Elephants in Camp!
Jun 152014

Saturday night we had a nice camp fire and cookout featuring impala potjie (a South African fav kinda like stew). I was on base duty that day taking my turn at cleaning and cooking so I got to make the potjie. We started the fire in the fire pit outside early as the potjie cooks in a heavy caldron over the fire. As we were getting all ready, we heard cracking and crunching near by -Elephants! They slowly munched their way towards us.  A couple hours later they were still close eating away, but once dark they got closer and closer. Only a few of us were in camp as the others were still out on game drives so it was us and the elephants. We took a flashlight out front to see one that was close, but she didn’t really like that and let us know it by trumpeting loudly and flapping her ears! We moved back inside!  Then we heard lots of cracking in the back.  It was one of the big males moving through the yard. He looked like a huge gray shadow, but you could see his big tusks in the moonlight. He decided to check out the clothesline (no real damage tho) but we thought he might end up with some of our underwear on his tusks! The herd moved along slowly eating and knocking over trees. Very cool!  Exciting stuff until the next day when we discovered they also wanted to try our water and took out some pipes to the well. Without water for a bit, but repaired now. Ahhhh… in Africa! Sunday was another fun day. Some of us took advantage of our day off and drove over to Kruger National Park. Great animal sightings that began with a male lion about [click here to read more]

And then we got hot water!

 Posted by Cindy Gibson at 10:15 pm  South Africa Wildlife  Comments Off on And then we got hot water!
Jun 122014

Big excitement at camp as the water heater part needed was identified and installed. You never saw such a frenzy as everyone was lining up for their first HOT shower in 2weeks!  Elephants are still in area near camp. I never tire of hearing the grumbles and rumbles they make to communicate with each other.  A real treat yesterday  as I got to see the 9 month old female cheetah cub in the protective area. She’s still anxious-looking left and right constantly. She’s had a rough month having witnessed her mother killed by lions and then losing her brother due to stress.   A noisy night as the camp dog, Zuri, was working hard to keep the hyenas away. Unfortunately, her very persistent barking also kept us awake! Ha!  Great drive this morning learning about tracking, the plants and trees and the land. The reserve is on former cattle farms so the land has been really destroyed. Now the conservation efforts are in place to help the land recover. Hope to find the big male leopard tonight as I haven’t seen him in over a week.  Hard not to look  for the lion cubs though. So interesting to see them use play to learn their survival skills. Can’t believe I’m at the halfway point of the project! Still loving the experience…..especially now with hot water!

Conservation Work & Unhappy Elephants

 Posted by Cindy Gibson at 10:21 pm  South Africa Wildlife  Comments Off on Conservation Work & Unhappy Elephants
Jun 092014

Experienced a different kind of conservation work yesterday on afternoon game drive. Not all work is with the animals. Seems there is always a list of road repairs needed so we drove to one spot and removed a fallen tree from the road. Fortunately it wasn’t too big and was quickly sawed down a pulled to the side. The next task was a little touchy though. Removing invasive prickly pear catus requires heavy gloves and big tongs! This morning I was back on game drive and had a great few hours in the bush. We tracked the male lion and saw him up close again. He even treated us to a few magnificent roars! NOTHING better than a lion’s roar!  As we were looking for the cheetahs, we heard very loud trumpeting from the elephants. They were not happy for some reason. A couple male elephants were near, but we made our way away from them. As we were driving down the road a large, unhappy female elephant charged from the front left side. We stopped, she stopped and eventually backed off. So, let me just say….that will get your heart pumping! Needless to say, a great day in Karongwe!

Life in Karongwe

 Posted by Cindy Gibson at 11:08 pm  South Africa Wildlife  Comments Off on Life in Karongwe
Jun 082014

I’m settling into life in Karongwe. It’s beautiful in South Africa in winter but it is a bit cold in the mornings and evenings, I had to go into town to buy a warm jacket! the base camp is an old farm house and is very basic. Ok, really basic, but comfortable. Sharing this experience with people from all over-England, Switzerland, Germany, Australia and a couple other Americans.  Awesome!  I’ve learned so much already about the predators and the other animals in the area. My first week was filled with classes and a few game drives. I passed the test on Saturday, so today, I was assigned one of the various duties for the game drive. I’m already tracking lions, leopards and cheetahs with the telemetry radio!  The lion pride has 4 cubs, so that’s fun watching the young ones! Walked into the bush to find the cheetahs which was really neat seeing them close from ground level!  Saw some elephants, rhinos, and lots of herbivores-impala, nyalas, waterbucks, kudu etc.Only seen one hyena from a distance, but hear them around camp and see the eyes!  Hope to post pictures soon!

I’m in Africa

 Posted by Cindy Gibson at 5:46 am  South Africa Wildlife  Comments Off on I’m in Africa
May 302014

Arrived in Johannesburg, South Africa late today (Friday, May 30) after long hours of travel.  I’m in familiar jaunts as I’m staying the night at the same hotel near the airport I did a couple years ago when I went to Botswana.  It’s winter here so people are all bundled up even though it’s 50 degrees out. My porter was concerned I wasn’t wearing a coat!  Decided to have a quick bite in my room so the ostrich burger and a fruit salad fit the bill. Now I’m regrouping with my mind racing. I’m so anxious to begin! Watched a video on the plane about lions and when I heard their roars and huffs…well it brought a big smile to my heart!  So tomorrow is another day of travel-about 6 hours north to the reserve and then it’s time to get this thing started!

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