This is a postscript from our weekend in Mashatu in mid-April. You might remember that it was very wet and overcast but we had two bright spots on the Sunday and Monday morning. Many of the animal and bird images I have included show off the garden of flowers which bloomed after the rain.
“Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention to arrive safely in a pretty and well preserved body; but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow! What a ride!”
Dawn with the sun rising behind a low hill.
Early on the Sunday morning just as the sun was starting to illuminate the mist down on the northern side of the Majale river.
This sleepy Black-backed Jackal was warming up lying in among the flowers early on the Sunday morning. His coat was luxuriant which I take to be a sign of excellent health and good feeding conditions.
This White-backed Vulture was one of a group of five which were also warming themselves in the early morning sun while waiting for the Lioness to leave the kill scene.
It was unusual to see two Kori Bustards so close together, so I presumed that the one on the left was a juvenile and the female was on the right. The males are not monogamous and leave the female with the task of raising the young.
“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste it, to experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”
Here is one more image of the Martial Eagle which had caught a Guineafowl and was busy killing it at the top of the tree. The Martial’s wings were open to balance itself as the Guineafowl was still wriggling around. That savage look implied that we should not be there – go!!
On the Monday morning, the last game drive of our weekend, we saw this herd of Elephants making its way down to the river. It was an spectacular sighting of a breeding herd of Elephant walking through the trees towards us in park like conditions with yellow flowers everywhere.
“There are many paths through the Ring of Life. They are a constant movement toward self-fulfillment through growth of your mind, expansion of your experiences, widening of your senses and growing your spirit. It’s ceaseless and constant throughout one’s life.”
Along the Majale river we found a flock of about 30 White-fronted Bee-eaters busy digging their nesting holes in the river bank.
“Let me, O let me bathe my soul in colours; let me swallow the sunset and drink the rainbow.”
― Kahlil Gibran
There was a distinct pairing and each member of a pair would take a turn to dig.
I always thought they used old holes in the river bank but this group were digging new holes. They use their beak in a similar way to a Woodpecker.
It was early on the Sunday morning and the sun was out for a while. The soft early morning light really contrasted their stunning colouring against the river bank.
We can only marvel at the colours which nature displays.
On our travels around the park we came across two pairs of Southern Ground Hornbills. This pair was close to the game lodge on a stoney ridge above the Majale river. The male Southern Ground Hornbill has a bulbous red wattle (throat pouch). When calling, this wattle inflates helping to generate a “lion-like” sound which carries quite a distance and can sometimes heard as a duet in the early morning.
These Ground Hornbills are very wary and will not let you get close. They were patrolling the stoney ridge and, being omnivorous, eat any reptiles, frogs, birds, snakes and large insects they can find, using their sharp bills to stab their quarry.
The female ground Hornbill is slightly smaller, and her throat sac under her beak is a bluey-purple and she has a number of white primary wing feathers.
These Hornbills have one of the slowest reproductive rates in the bird kingdom, producing only one chick approximately every nine years. They are co-operative breeders, with just one dominant breeding pair in a social group, and the rest of the group being helpers. Ground Hornbills are the only birds in the Hornbill family which do not seal the entrances of their nests when eggs are laid.
It is impossible not to photograph a Lilac-breasted Roller, this beautiful, emblazened, resting acrobat.
An Impala ram eating the Yellow Devil thorn flowers.
A lone Eland bull browsing on Mopani leaves. This was a middle aged male as his dewlap was not yet fully developed and his hide was still a relatively light colour. I did not hear the tenon clicking, so typical of large heavy males.
Eland are wary of the game vehicles and usually do not let you get close. This character was relaxed and did not run away from us. Eland males can grow to a shoulder height of 1.7 metres and weight 900 kilograms, so they are huge. Surprisingly, they are also excellent high jumpers. I have seen a large Eland jump over a two metre high Mopani bush, with ease, which was in its flight path.
A large mature male Warthog grazing on the lush wet grass. This large male had huge tusks and large facial warts. These “warts” give Warthogs their name but are actually protective bumps. They store fat and help protect Warthogs during fights. Sometimes, males will fight for mates, and the protective “warts” help to cushion blows during these battles.
Warthogs have the peculiar habit of kneeling on the front knees while feeding and foraging in a localised area. They shelter in burrows at night, which they enter tail first. Boars play no part in rearing piglets and seldom associate with sows outside the mating process.
Warthogs can frequently be found at waterholes where they dig in the marsh and wallow in the mud with obvious enthusiasm.
Close up of a Zebra stallion.
This stallion stayed behind allowing his harem to move away.
A spotted Hyaena walking through the yellow flower garden probably returning to her den after a night’s hunting.
A Little Banded Mongoose standing as sentry outside the anthill which the Mongoose family had taken over. The rest of the family were down inside the old ant nest.
The next image was taken on our way out of the park. This was the stoney ridge where we saw the Ground Hornbills and we were looking south down onto the Majale river. Of course, there was beautiful sunshine on our last morning!!!
It was amazing to see how quickly the Limpopo river had subsided. At lunchtime on the Saturday, the river was deep and flowing strongly.
By the following Monday midday, the river had drained to the point where we could easily cross by vehicle. You can see how much water had drained because the water level was around five metres below the wire catenary on Saturday and way below on Monday.
“Plunge boldly into the thick of life, and seize it where you will, it is always interesting.”
A big thank you to Peter Bale and his team at Mashatu main camp for the wonderful luxury in the bush and great hospitality. Also to Eric Maripane, our guide for the weekend together with tracker Albert, you guys are very knowledgeable, have unbelievable eyesight and were great company – thank you so much.
Explore, seek to understand, marvel at its inter-connectedness and let it be.