August 7-9: The Camera-Less Days…

I haven’t actually taken any photos for days now…

…So here’s a random photo I took months and months ago when everything was still warm and the plants were all green and alive. Good times.

Rainbow Buggie

August 7: How to be Really Warm on a Really Cold Game Drive

While the rest of South Africa advertised to the rest of South Africa that they’d had some degree of snowfall today, the Kalahari froze. We didn’t get snow. It just froze. Earlier in the day I said goodbye to my special little Kalahari house and moved to a whole new one. I was delighted to find a cozy corner of the new garden shielded from the icy wind and bathed in hot hot sunlight.  So proud was I of my little patch of summer that I sat there and allowed myself to cook for very many hours.

The resulting sunburn on my face meant that while my poor guests froze tonight, I was very hot. So hot that I spent much of the drive fantasizing about putting my face into a bowl of snow. If only we had snow. But we didn’t.

Sunset Drive Sightings:

Eland
African Wild Cat
Springhare
Scrubhare
Steenbok
Springbok
Wildebeest
Gemsbok
Giant Eagle Owl
Spotted Eagle Owl
Kori Bustard
Dikkop
Gabar Goshawk
Pale Chanting Goshawk
Red Necked Falcon
Tawny Eagle

August 8: Welcome to LOGFAAN

So much positive energy flowing tonight! Guiding people on safari is a two-way thing. A game drive can only be as good as a guests attitude. The people I took out on this evening’s sunset drive would have made it magical if we’d seen nothing more than 23 specks of dust and a Camel Thorn pod.

But good things often come to good people and our sightings tonight were wonderful. We managed to see ‘Oscar’ the leopard again, but he was far far away. This didn’t matter to my guests, who’d seen their very first leopard. And with that, they joined the exclusive ‘LOGFAAN’ society reserved only for those who’ve see a leopard-on-ground-far-away-at-night.

While pulled over watching the stars, we got talking about Men in Black (the movie, not some people wearing black) and there’s a cat in the movie with a entire universe contained in its collar. But it’s entirely plausible. We and everything we know could be stuck in a cat’s collar. Love.

Sunset Drive Sightings:

Porcupine
Leopard
Eland
Jackal
Cape Fox
Bat Eared Fox
African Wild Cat
Scrub Hare
Springhare
Wildebeest
Springbok
Gemsbok
Spotted Eagle Owl
Giant Eagle Owl

August 9: Springhares Might be Robots

It was a night for the little things… and there were so many of them… including two separate Polecat sightings!

Sunset Drive Sightings:

Polecat
Small Spotted Genet
Eland
African Wild Cat
Cape Fox
Bat Eared Fox
Black Backed Jackal
Steenbok
Springbok
Springhare
Scrubhare
Wildebeest
Ostrich
Gemsbok
Pale Chanting Goshawk
Giant Eagle Owl
Spotted Eagle Owl

The night drive was considerably colder and after the first half and hour, we saw nothing but Springhares. Springhares don’t seem to be affected by the cold. I have many theories for this, but i’m leaning towards the one where all springhares are actually little robots. Have you ever noticed how there’s never anything going on behind a Springhare’s eyes? Robots. Must be. I’ll look into it.

Night Drive Sightings:

Spotted Hyena
Cape Fox
Springhare
Springbok
Spotted Eagle Owl
Gemsbok

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August 4: “AAAAAAAAARDWOOOOOOOLF!” *deep breath* “AAAAAAAARDWOOOOOLF!”

I try as often as possible to tell people on my drives that aardwolf’s eat 300,000 termites each night. Because I never see aardwolfs, I have to find other ways to sneak in the little fact I love so dearly…

…“Bat Eared Foxes eat termites, but not as many as an Aarwolf does! An aardwolf eats 300,000 in one night”…

… “See this Brown Hyena? It’s kind of like a big Aardwolf, except it’s not at all and Brown Hyenas don’t eat termites, but Aardwolfs will eat 300,000 in one night!”

…“The African Wild Cat has distinctive stripes on it’s legs. You know what else is stripey? An Aardwolf. And Aardwolfs will eat 300,000 termites in one night!”…

Tonight, I got to tell my guests that “Aardwolfs will eat 300,000 termites in one night!”, except this time, an actual Aardwolf heard me say it. Cool? Very.

The drive hadn’t gone tremendously well to that point. While we’d seen a huge variety of nocturnal goodies (see epic list below), we’d also driven far afield in search of lions who weren’t there and my guests had disagreed with me at a Wild Cat sighting, insisting it was rather a leopard. They’re still convinced.

As I was starting to let my mind wander to the peanut butter cookies in my kitchen, I casually glanced to my right. And there was an aardwolf. Right there. Just meters from the truck, and staring back at me with a face i’ve only ever seen in mammal books.

I won’t go into my exact reaction. It involved a lot of gasping and squeaking. I told my guests that this was my first ever Aarwolf sighting and that they were lucky enough to see one of Africa’s lesser-seen safari stars. And of course I told them about the 300,000 termites. There were smiles all around, but I suspect they were more in response to my reaction, which progressed from gasping and squeaking to hand clapping and jumping up and down in my seat as the reality of the situation sunk in.

Seeing something new is always such a rush. Technically speaking, i’ve had two aardwolf sightings before this one. My most recent was by the side of the road as the truck I was in sped by at 140km/h, leaving me thinking, “goodness me, was that an aardwolf?”. My first sighting was on my field guiding course. I remember feeling like my life was complete, that I could die now that i’d seen an aardwolf. Perhaps a tad dramatic, but the feeling was indescribable. Only when we got back to camp did our photos prove the ‘aardwolf’ was in fact a Bat Eared Fox. But never mind, i’d still had the experience of seeing an aardwolf.

So tonight was extra special. You never even hear about aardwolf sightings in this part of the Kalahari. Everyone knows they’re here, but they’re a little like pangolins and black-footed cats– kind of mythical.

An unforgettable night.

Did I photograph tonight’s aardwolf? Noooo… but I do have a grainy 3 second video of a blurry blob moving up a sand dune. I did photograph this Spotted Hyena half an hour later, another animal I hardly ever get to see in the Kalahari.

Sunset Drive Sightings:

Aardwolf
Spotted Hyena
Eland
Small Spotted Genet
African WIld Cat
Cape Fox
Bat Eared Fox
Black Backed Jackal
Springhare
Scrubhare
Steenbok
Springbok
Wildbeest
Gemsbok
Ostrich
Verreaux’s Eagle Owl
Spotted Eagle Owl
Tawny Eagle
Pale Chanting Goshawk
Kori Bustard

The night drive was rather more sedate with less squeaking and hand clapping. The highlight of the drive was a Spotted Hyena just as we came in through the gate. Love that feeling of hopping back into the truck after locking the gate behind me, only to find that a large predator had been watching all along.

Night Drive Sightings:

Spotted Hyena
Eland
African Wild Cat
Bat Eared Fox
Cape Fox
Black Backed Jackal
Springhare
Scrubhare
Steenbok
Gemsbok
Spotted Eagle Owl

July 18: The Super-Jackals are Making Shoes Now…

Before the night drive, the camp was buzzing with news of four cheetahs who’d just tried to bring down a wildebeest at the hide.  Later when I went down to see if they were still around, the hide was packed, but no cheetahs. I decided to walk along the perimeter fence to see if I could find them elsewhere. And it worked! Their presence given away by a Tawny Eagle rudely staring directly at them. The four cheetahs were perched on a dune crest.  It’s always so fun to have great sightings right in camp!

Tonight there was a night drive and it started with one guest getting a glimpse of one of the  four cheetahs just outside the camp’s gate. The tracks in the road confirmed what she saw. But of ten people on the drive, just one can add ‘cheetah’ to their list.

Tonight we were tracking lions all over the place. Over the course of the night we followed six different sets of tracks- all of which were extra crispy and fresh.  I love the feeling of following fresh tracks!

Have I ever mentioned how smart Jackals are? They’re smart. They’ve even been coined ‘Super-Jackals’ by the farming community because of their ability to avoid traps and problem solve. And I think that the jackals have started walking around wearing little ‘lion shoes’ to throw us all off. Despite all of the tracks, there were no lions anywhere. But lots of jackals.

Sightings:

Cheetah (for one of us)
Brown Hyena
Eland
African Wild Cat
Gemsbok
Springbok
Wildbeest
Springhare
Bat Eared Fox
Black Backed Jackal
Cape Fox
Spotted Eagle Owl
Barn Owl

July 11 Night Drive: Spread Cookies, not Eeyore Clouds

I’ve always been so saddened by people who come on safari and are determined not to enjoy themselves. I make it my mission to try and leave these people smiling because I can’t bear the thought that they might get home from their safari and be hit with the sudden realization that they travelled all that way just to upset the people around them. Sometimes I don’t succeed. The Kalahari is a place to spread joy, good karma and cookies, not dark Eeyore clouds.

Sightings:

Striped Polecat (36 days)
Black Backed Jackal (60 days)
Cape Fox
Springhare
Scrubhare
Steenbok
Springbok
Wildebeest
Gemsbok
Spotted Eagle Owl

July 9: A Wintery Night Drive

Ooh we’re getting colder! I’m not so thrilled when people remark that ‘winter is on the way’. I like to think it’s already here and it’s very much ‘on its way out’ .

Tonight I was asked about gestation periods, so it does happen. As guides we should, in theory, know the gestation periods for all of the mammals in our area. Fortunately, I happened to know the three I was asked about tonight- the Steenbok (7 months), the Springbok (5 and a half months) and the Oryx (9 months).  

We often joke that nobody will ever ask us about gestation periods, but they do! Although while watching a Scrub Hare through binoculars, the last thing i’d expect my guests to be wondering is, ‘Hmmm… but how long is it pregnant for?’ But i’ve decided i’m going to learn them all. A Scrub Hare is 42 days. I do hope your life is greatly enriched by this great sharing of knowledge.

Oddly, no foxes tonight, not even fake impostor foxes.

 

Sightings:

Eland

Small Spotted Genet

African Wild Cat

Black Backed Jackal

Steenbok

Springbok

Scrub Hare

Spotted Eagle Owl

Gemsbok 

Wildebeest

June 29: Not-a-Fox Facts

Both a sunset and a night drive in the Kalahari tonight. I shall be economical with my word count, as my fingers are too cold to type. I really shouldn’t have written all of that if I was trying to be economical. Or this. I should stop now. Or while i’m on a roll, here are some Bat Eared Fox Facts along with a photo of tonight’s star- a Bat Eared Fox.

Photobucket

Not a Fox.

Did you know…

A Bat Eared Fox can hear insects crawling around as deep as 30 centimeters below the surface? That’s why they have crazy-big ears.  Also, they’re primarily insectivores, rarely eating other mammals like mice. That said, I once explained this to guests on a night drive and a moment later, a Bat Eared Fox appears in the road carrying a big fat rat. Guide fail.

Oh, and a Bat Eared Fox isn’t actually a fox.

Sunset Drive sightings:

Small Spotted Genet
African Wild Cat
Cape Fox
Black Backed Jackal
ScrubHare
SpringHare
Springbok
Gemsbok
Wildebeest
Ostrich
Steenbok
Striped Mouse
Northern Black Korhaan
Barn Owl
Verreaux’s Eagle Owl
Spotted Eagle Owl
Kori Bustard

Night Drive sightings:

Small Spotted Genet
Bat Eared Fox
African Wild Cat
Black Backed Jackal
Cape Fox
ScrubHare
Springhare
Springbok
Steenbok
Gemsbok
Wildebeest
Spotted Eagle Owl
Verreaux’s Eagle Owl

June 25: Kudus are Kudutastic

Last night I was asked what the Verreaux’s Eagle Owl’s wingspan was. Oddly, none of my three bird books list it, so in this case I had to say I didn’t know. Today i’ve looked it up, and if anyone is curious, their wingspan averages about 55 inches. Which is massive.

So tonight we had the first night drive we’ve had in a while. I think this cold spell is putting people off coming out on night drives, but it shouldn’t because it doesn’t put the animals off in the slightest. Once again we saw so much tonight!

Today’s highlight- a KUDU! Yay! Only the second i’ve seen on a game drive here.  When we first spotted it, it had its head in a bush, but after some backing and forthing we managed to get the view that confirmed its kuduness. The Kalahari isn’t exactly Kudu Central and they don’t much like our environment, but a few brave ones live here quite happily. Fortunately for them, if they want to leave they can do so at any time. No game fence can contain a Kudu. They’re totally invincible.

Very excited about the Kudu…

Sightings:

Kudu
Small Spotted Genet
Pygmy Mouse
African Wild Cat
Jackal
Bat Eared Fox
Cape Fox
Springhare
Scrubhare
Springbok
Steenbok
Wildebeest
Gemsbok
Verreaux’s Eagle Owl
Spotted Eagle Owl
Barn Owl