Klipspringer Lodge, Selati

Along with a group of fellow amateur wildlife photographers, I visited Klipspringer Lodge in Selati Game Reserve in September 2021 with CNP Safaris. Selati Game Reserve had, until recently, been a private game reserve which only the land owners could access.

“A man practices the art of adventure when he breaks the chain of routine and renews his life through reading new books, traveling to new places, making new friends, taking up new hobbies and adopting new viewpoints.” ~ Wilfred Peterson

Selati Game Reserve comprises a group of like-minded conservation oriented land owners who took down the internal fences to allow the free movement of wildlife within the reserve. The reserve now has only an external fence. Selati Game Reserve is located west of Kruger National Park between Gravelotte and Mica in the Limpopo Province.

Source: tembalodges.co.uk

Selati Game Reserve comprises an area of around 30 000 hectares and has the Ga-Selati river flowing from west to east through the reserve.

“You must go on adventures to find out where you truly belong” ~ Sue Fitzmaurice

Recently several landowners in Selati decided to open up their lodges to commercial operation creating the opportunity for us to be able to visit the game reserve. Klipspringer Lodge is beautifully located against a granite outcrop which is home to a family of Klipspringers. The lodge is well appointed with a verdant oasis in the bushveld.

Below the Klipspringer Lodge, the owners have built a photographic hide. CNP teamed up with the lodge owners to provide night lights and camera supports to be able to photograph wildlife day and night from the hide.

Up at 5h30 on our first morning we were keen to see what would come to the waterhole in the early morning. We were fortunate enough to have three Spotted hyaenas visit. The sun had not yet risen and their stay was brief. In fact the sun did not show its face much as the weather was generally overcast during our stay at Klipspringer.

Although there are lions and leopards in Selati Nature Reserve we did not get to hear them or see them during our stay. Presumably there were other water sources which they found more compelling.

I had never seen an adult hyaena get down on its foreleg knees to drink water. All the while they were very alert and stopped drinking to listen at any slight sound.

Several Grey duiker came down to drink at the waterhole night and day. Duiker are generally nocturnal and quite shy. There seemed to be a pair of Grey duikers around the waterhole with several individuals coming in to drink early in the morning and at night. Only the male has horns but the female is larger than the male.

On the odd occasion when the sun showed its face the drinkers were beautifully reflected in the still water. The duiker feeds mainly on leaves, but is one of the few antelope known to eat carrion and insects.

There are 21 species of duiker and the Grey duiker is one of the largest. Duikers in the genus Cephalophus have the same distinctive body type, although the different species vary in size. They have low-slung bodies on slender legs, wedge-shaped heads topped by a crest of long hair, and relatively large eyes. Environment and habitat influence the overall body shape and colouration of animals. As a consequence, duiker living in an open habitat are longer-legged, less hunchbacked, and lighter in color (tawny or grey) than the species that inhabit dense, dark forests.

Moderate sized impala herds frequently came to drink at the waterhole. They were quite skittish and tended to easily scare each other. There are two types of impala, the Common and Black-faced. Only the Common was abundant in the woodlands of Selati.

When viewing an impala from the side you will notice a marked difference in the shading pattern on the back of the animal, which becomes increasing lighter towards the underside. This biological camouflage serves to break up the 3-dimensional form of the animal, aiding in background matching with their environment. Impala are the only antelope species to have metatarsal glands above the hoof of the hind legs. It has thought that the scent released from this gland may act as a chemical cue for other herd members to follow during a chase.

Impala tend to be most active during the day. They congregate in three distinct social groups from territorial males with their harem of females to bachelor herds and female herds. Most of the time we saw herds of females interspersed with juvenile males. There was no snorting or fighting by rutting males which is so evident during the rutting period in April and May.

The kudu found in southern Africa are Greater kudu. Lesser kudu are found in central and the drier regions of north eastern Africa. Greater kudu live in clans which are social groups of about seven to ten individuals. These clans consist of adult females, juveniles, and adult males less than two years old.

A beautiful female kudu at the waterhole – constantly alert. I have never found out why several African antelope have white lips such as the Kudu, Eland, Impala, Water buck, Reedbuck, Roan and Sable antelope. Mother nature always has a reason, I just have not found it yet.

Kudu, like Nyala, are sexually dimorphic meaning the male and female of the same species are different in physical appearance. The Kudu male has horns and the female does not have horns. The Kudu female is generally larger than a Nyala female and greyer in colour. They both have white stripes down their sides but the Nyala’s stripes are more numerous and distinct and the Nyala female does not have a ridge of white hair along her spine and a brown mane along her neck.

A Nyala bull has corkscrew horns with a yellow tip. It has a thick dark brown coat. Both male and female Nyala have white spots on their checks below their eyes. The white chevron marking between the male’s eyes is thought to be for camouflage purposes breaking up the shape of the face in the light and dark areas of a woodland thicket.

The male Nyala’s legs are particularly colourful being dark brown on his thighs, black knees and ochre coloured calves with black fetlocks and hooves. A male Nyala horns are around 70cm in length and have one to two spirals depending on its age.

A male Nyala can be particularly aggressive. Their threatening posture is to arch their back, fluff up their tails and and raise their dorsal manes. I have even seen a male Nyala threaten a Sable bull with this dominance posture.

The Nyala female has a distinctive chestnut pelage with many more white body strips than a Kudu and white spots on its belly and upper thighs.

“The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for a newer and richer experience.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Any antelope smaller than a Nyala male is a ram and larger is a bull. A similar idea applies to a Nyala female where any antelope smaller is a ewe and any antelope larger is a cow.

Although a giraffe has seven vertebra in its neck, the same as a human, each vertebra is around 25cm long. Even with its exceptionally long neck and a tongue around 46 cm in length, it is too short to reach the ground to drink of water, so the giraffe has to spread its legs and bend down in an awkward position that makes it vulnerable to predators. Giraffe do not need to drink water every day as they get most of their water from the leaves they feed on.

Looks can be deceiving. Looking at the front legs, a giraffe’s elbow (joint between humerus and ulna) is the top joint and what looks to be the elbow is in fact its wrist ( joint between the ulna and metacarpus).

Pelage patterns are important in distinguishing giraffe sub-species. The pelage is medium-to-reddish brown, broken into splotches by buff-colored borders. Blotches of some individuals (particularly males) tend to darken with age. Every giraffe has a unique pelage pattern much like a human fingerprint and does not change with age.

“The things you are passionate about are not random, they are your calling.” ~ Anonymous

Until recently, it was widely recognised that there was only one species of giraffe, and nine subspecies. New genetic research, conducted by Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF) and partners, has shown that there are in fact four distinct species of giraffe, and five subspecies. All four giraffe species and their subspecies live in geographically distinct areas throughout. Source: giraffeconservation.org

The South African giraffe has star-shaped patches in various shades of brown, surrounded by a light tan colour. Their lower legs are randomly speckled with uneven spots.

Giraffe are always very cautious when approaching a waterhole. They can stand and watch wait and listen for many minutes before they are satisfied it is safe to approach the water. Male giraffe tend to be taller than females and a female’s ossicones are normally smaller than a males and tuffed with hair. This group looked to be females.

An adult bull Kudu has two complete spirals with a striking ridge on each horn. Dominance ranking between males is based on age; males emphasise their size by hunching their backs and raising their manes, but posturing usually sorts out the dominance ranking. They will only start sparring if they are equal size.

You can tell a Kudu’s age by the direction of the tips of the horns: If the tips point back and out, for instance, the male is about 3 three years old. The number of twists in its spiral horns signal its age with a fully mature male having two and a half to three full twists. The horns do not begin to grow until the bull reaches 6–12 months, twisting once at around two-years-of-age and not reaching the full two-and-a-half twists until the age of six.

Kudus have excellent vision and hearing. They communicate mostly through sight and sound. They follow each others’ scent trails. Body signals, such as flashing the white undersides of their tails, are used to indicate the movements and presence of predators. Kudus have a loud bark to warn others of danger and this can be heard for quite a distance through the thick fauna of the bushveld.

The Eland were very wary during the day and preferred to visit the waterhole at night. This appeared to be a young male judging from the stout spiral horns and emerging hair on his forehead and growing dewlap. Unfortunately he did not stay long and never came in to drink at the waterhole during the day.

It is only the young warthogs that have hair on their bodies which they lose as they get older. There mane grows down their neck and along their spine. Females can produce up to eight piglets. These piglets are favourite snacks for lions and leopards. Piglets are weaned around four months and mature around 20 months.

A male warthog with a few followers. This character has five Red-billed oxpeckers enjoying the ride. This male had particularly long tusks making him a formidable prey for any lion or leopard. The not so attractive warts on his face have an important protection role when he is fighting. Common warthogs have two upper and four to six lower incisors.

The hide turned out to be a superb place from which to observe and photograph wildlife during the day and at night. The mirrorless cameras, on silent mode, are ideal and providing photographers are not talking or rustling bags or papers, the wildlife takes no notice of them in the hide.

“The biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dreams.” ~ Oprah Winfrey

A big advantage of the hide is repeat business. If you are getting to grips with a new camera as I was with my Olympus OMD-E M1X, and missed the shot or needed to refine settings, there would always be another opportunity in the next few days. The hide is a wonderful place to put your new ideas or settings into practice.

“I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.” ~ Eric Roth

There was a plethora of wildlife during the day and at night with a huge diversity of mammals and birds. The lighting conditions varied enormously during the day due to the cloudy weather with intermittent patches of sunshine. The night lights created constant light at a constant colour.

“The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.” ~ John Muir

My next blog is about the numerous sable antelope which are a feature of Selati Game Reserve.

Explore, seek to understand, marvel at its interconnectedness and let it be.

Have fun,

Mike

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