Saturday, December 24, 2016

#SafariLive at Wild Earth. An afternoon game drive...with a difference

The Wild Earth and #SafariLive camp is not really designed to host visitors
or members of the public.
That being said, I was lucky enough to be an "embedded journalist"
with the team for four days.
It turned out to be an experience that I will never forget.
I was "warned" when the arrangements for my visit were being finalized,
that I would be staying in a research camp,
and that the game drive would be different
from those that I have been used to at regular lodges.
The accommodation was more than adequate,
the food was delicious and the crew were most welcoming.
Sitting on the back of a vehicle that is NOT designed to take anyone
other than a cameraman did pose a challenge,
but the cameramen that I rode with
 ( David Eastaugh and Wium Dornbrack )
were most accommodating in allowing me to share their space.

Because the game drives are broadcast live,
via You Tube,
each is a bush lesson for what seems to be a predominantly
International audience.
Questions are being asked constantly of the ranger
and their answers have to be correct in every detail...
I will talk in more detail about this later.
This lioness was part of a pride that consisted of females and cubs.
Hidden in foliage, they were difficult to photograph,
but this image sort of summed up their attitude towards us.

One of the cubs, trying to enter into a staring competition with me.

Cleaning time for junior...
whether she wanted it or not.

Mom makes a great pillow!
Lions will spend up to 20 hours a day sleeping.

This reserve is THE place to come if you are looking for leopards.
This youngster, named Vutomi, was playing
with this Speke's hinge-back Tortoise.

My guide on the drive, Brent Leo-Smith named it Tony Two-step,
and gave a running commentary to the viewing audience as it "escaped"
UNHARMED from the clutches of the young leopard.

Mom was off hunting and had left him to fend for himself.
Because of the way that the TV show works,
Brent decided to spend the majority of the drive with him
as "teenage boys can get into all sorts of trouble"... 

Luckily, he did not get into ANY trouble while we were with him.
He did move around quite a bit before having a drink.

He then found this disused termite mound,
which gave him a better view of the surroundings
and it was here that he remained for the rest of the time that we enjoyed with him

The leopard cub mortality rate in Sabi Sand Reserve is 70%,
meaning that only 3 out of every 10 cubs survive for more than a year.

The majority of the cubs that die are killed by dominant male leopards,
who often see the youngsters as a threat.

One they have survived their first year they are named.
And the names reflect aspects of their personality
or the hardships they had to endure to get to their 1st birthday.

Put your paw up if you are older than a year?
"I am"!
My name, Vutomi, means "Life" in Tsonga.

Brent Leo-Smith, is without a doubt, the most knowledgeable
 and entertaining guide I have every shared a drive with.
His bush craft covers every aspect of the bush
 and its inhabitants.
At the end of our time with the leopard,
it was up to him to collect some of the leopard scat for research purposes.

This is that fresh scat...
very smelly as a result of in ingested protein content.

One our way back to camp,
we came across one of the Birmingham Boys.
A coalition of several lions that see this area as their territory

A Shiny Burrowing Scorpion.
I am told that these can dig up to 1.5m.
It did not dig when we approached it,
but it put up quite a defensive display.
They are not toxic to humans and their sting is more of an irritant
than deadly to us.

There HAS to be a butt shot on every drive,
on this particular drive a giraffe obliged.

At the end of the drive, I headed back to the Final Control studio for two reasons
1] It was air-conditioned
2] I was able to start editing images before heading off to dinner/bed

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