This post shows some of the images taken on the second day of our Timbavati trip with Pat Donaldson showing us around. The routine in the camp was reveillie at 5h45, coffee at 6h15 and out of the camp at 6h30 before sunrise. Of course photographers wanted to get the sunrise. It was freezing cold first thing in the morning and even colder on a moving open vehicle!!!
“Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.”
– Arthur Ashe
As you drive out of Walker’s River Camp there is a very narrow concrete causeway called “one beer” bridge, for obvious reasons. The evening before the staff in the camp said they had seen a Cheetah in the river bed in front of the camp, when we were out on our game drive. We did not expect the Cheetah to stay close by during the night, but were surprised to see this female Cheetah on the camp side of the Klaserie river as we drove out of the camp the next morning at around 6h30. She was relaxed and had the fullest belly I have ever seen on a Cheetah, and no she was not pregnant.
It was very cold due to the temperature inversion in the riverbed, nevertheless we sat and watched this female Cheetah for about 20 minutes. She was looking around and smelling various marked areas but eventually crossed “one beer” bridge and walked along the riverbank until she found a suitable spot to drink. I am always amazed that the wildlife and birds are able to control their temperature because in this area they would have to tolerate plus 40 degrees centrigrade temperatures in summer and freezing in winter.
Cheetahs are runners not fighters so she was very wary and kept looking up to check there were no surprises.
Having sated her early morning thirst she wandered up onto higher ground possibly because it was warmer and eventually lay down under a small bush. With a belly that full, we figured she would probably lie around that area all day, unless disturbed.
A little while later, once the sun had risen, we came upon this Fish Eagle on the ground next to a waterhole. Perhaps it was fishing for catfish but it had not caught anything by the time we arrived. The Fish Eagle did not like our presence and flew up into a dead tree overlooking the waterhole. It sat basking in the early morning sun for a while before deciding to fly off to a place with fewer eyes.
The Timbavati has a wonderful diversity of animals, birds and flora. The next image is of a wet Burchell’s Coucal which had fluffed itself up to keep warm and dry out. I am fascinated by these birds because that have wonderful colouring, a “liquid gold” call which is so distinctive and they are also serious predators.
We were driving along enjoying the warmth of the winter morning sun when Pat suddenly stopped. Across the road , hardly discernible, was a thin line of what looked like spider’s thread. This was the clue Pat needed to look for a particular caterpillar. Sure enough he found the a small group of Processionary Caterpillars on the trunk of a Marula tree. Convoys of these caterpillars are sometimes seen crossing roads and pathways in a single line, each caterpillar following another in a head-to-tail procession. Some of these processions can be 600 caterpillars long!
A while later with the sun higher in the sky, we found a small breeding herd of Elephant. They were browsing in reasonably thick bush so we parked some distance up wind. Slowly but surely they made the way towards us. The breeding herd had calves but the mothers were relaxed as they were progressing towards us not the other way around.
One little youngster could not resist hiding in a a low Mopani bush and peeking at us, as if we could not see it..
On our way back to the camp for breakfast, we stopped to photograph a band of Dwarf Mongooses which had hidden in an abandoned anthill. The scouts in the group were wary, but inquisitive.
You do not often get a chance to photograph these little Mongooses, as they usually quickly run off into the undergrowth.
Being a keen bird phtographer, I always want to try to get a reasonable image of the birds we see. This was a Southern White-crowned Shrike which was very obliging and posed for a few seconds before flying off.
This is what remained of a Rhino courtesy of poachers!!!!!!!!!
“Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul.”
Further on we stopped at “hide” waterhole to see if anything had begun to feed on the submerged Wildebeest. Not even this crocodile had managed to get into it.
Just before we got back to the camp, we found our full bellied female Cheetah. She was just relaxing in the shade of a bush, very close to were we had left her some hours before. With her tummy that full she was not going anywhere.
The afternoon game drive was relatively quiet so we stopped before the sunset to have a sundowner. This is a time of the day, even in winter, when it is still relatively warm and the colours in the sky start to come alive. The dryness of winter produces more dust in the air which can result in spectacular sunsets. In the distance you can see Mariepskop, which is the northern most part of the Drakensberg range of mountains.
Sunsets in this part of the world are often at their best around 20 to 30 minutes after the sun has set. That is the time when the colours become really saturated and the sky is ablaze with reds, oranges, purples and blues. I always fell like I need to pinch myself when the sky is ablaze with colour like this because it seems so dream-like.
Pat turned on the lights of the game vehicle to signal to the photographers that it was time to go.
The sun set on another magic day in the bush.
“What I see everywhere in the world are ordinary people willing to confront despair, power, and incalculable odds in order to restore some semblance of grace, justice, and beauty to this world.”
– Paul Hawken
Explore, seek to understand, marvel at its interconnectedness and let it be.
Your last image said it all Mike – a magical day in the bush! Love the Mongoose and cheetah always special!
Thanks Elana, I am trying to maximise my photographic capture from each trip. I hope you like the Leopards in next week’s blog. I am watching your blog (http://www.elanaerasmus.co.za/) blossom with great interest!!