Saturday, December 30, 2017
To beat the heat, we started this morning’s game drive really, really early – 5:15am. We were rewarded with a beautiful sunrise. The terrain is very different from the game preserve at MalaMala. There is a lot more greenery here, with lovely yellow flowers everywhere, the thorn flower.
The trees are mostly quite short because they are constantly being eaten by elephants. The Mashatu tree is an exception. Many are quite old, tall with very thick trunks. Many of these majestic trees grow in termite mounds. Baboons eat the fruit of the Mashatu, then sit on termite mounds to defecate, thus releasing the seeds. The Mashatu tree, also called the Nyala tree, takes moisture and nutrients from the termite mound. The Mashatu tree can live for up to 600 years, and attain a girth of nearly 100 feet.
When crossing a dry river bed, we saw some lion prints, large ones from a male. While hunting for the lion, we saw a few ostriches, and a group of female elephants with young ones. The oldest elephant in this group might be 40-50, while the youngest is only two months old. They were somewhat skittish and we learned later that a very young elephant had died the day before. We did see it later and it did not appear to have been killed, but rather had died of natural causes. It may have been injured and was unable to nurse, and then succumbed to yesterday’s heat.
We found two lions resting by some bushes nearby. These two are sisters, about ten years old. We didn’t find the male that’s with them.
We were fortunate enough to see elands, jackals, warthogs, more zebras and giraffes, impalas and wildebeest as we drove along.
There were a few white storks, as well as kori bustards, the largest flying bird at almost 40 pounds.
Today, we found a mother leopard and her cub (about 8 months old) resting in the riverbed under the shade of a Mashatu tree. All of a sudden, the mother got up and the cub scampered up higher to safety. The mother had sighted a baby impala on the other side of the riverbed, and she went to get it. She was successful. It’s hard to see the babies get killed, but that’s simply part of life here.