June 2021

Safari Life

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Safari Life

Marc Eschenlor
By Marc Eschenlor
Senior Field Guide

Hukumuri female taking a well-deserved break before heading back to her two cubs. Photo from April 2018.

“There is something about safari life that makes you forget all of your sorrows and feel as if you had just drunk half a bottle of champagne—bubbling over with heartfelt gratitude for being alive” - Karen Blixen

One the most satisfying feelings of a safari, apart from being out in Nature, enjoying the smells, sounds and beauty all around, is the element of surprise that the wilderness provides. 

The anticipation of our guests, energy and excitement is always something special, whether it’s their first safari or not. I remember vividly how I felt during my first safari, with my parents and sisters, when we visited le Parc National du Niokolo Koba, in Senegal, in the early 80’s. Now I love spending time with Musa, who is a great friend and tracker - when he spots an animal there is a sense of pure joy and excitement. We get to spend more time together during our six weeks work cycle than our respective better halves! 

Depending on where we head out on our drives or walks we normally have a good idea of what species we could expect to find depending on the habitat, but there is always a part of luck and, as mentioned before, the element of surprise - good or bad depending of the day. I recall Musa getting a proper fright when he spotted a three metre black mamba basking on the side of the track recently. That can definitely spike the adrenalin levels in your bloodstream!

There are a number of animals, some territorial and others with distinctive features, that we get to recognize and, like an old friend, give us joy and happiness when we meet again. 

This is a collection of photographs depicting some unmistakable animals:

This male kudu was very easy to recognize with only one horn. I’ll never forget the day we saw him during a Super Blue Moon in Jan 2018, close to Boulders Lodge. He would often be seen along the Sand River close to Ebony and Boulders Lodges. Sadly he was killed by the Othawa Pride earlier this year.

When we first saw this female ostrich she was north of the Sand River and Mishack jumped out of the tracker seat to have a look at her tracks. He hadn’t seen an ostrich in the Sabi Sand in over 15 years! She was on her own for many years and would often walk up to us, in the southern parts of the reserve which has ideal habitat for ostriches. More recently she met a mate and her family has grown which makes it hard to identify her unless she comes up to the vehicle for a close inspection. 

This is the typical colouration of a wild dog tail (left), but the male in the photo (right) has a very distinctive tail that makes him stand out and be easily recognizable. Instead of the white tip of the tail notice the prominent black patch – a unique and easy was to recognize him. 

The Othawa pack during the summer of 2020, having a face-off with a zebra. The Othawa pack are currently denning some distance away after losing the alpha female in December 2020 to lions. 

The black tail-tip male regurgitating and greeting pups at a den-site, Aug 2019.

A unique and very distinctive feature on this adult elephant cow. She was first seen further north of the Sabi Sand and vets believe it’s a congenital condition. She has been treated in the past as the cavity had got infected. We have seen her often this year on Singita, and she has been seen suckling both her calves of different ages.

We have a number of distinctives elephants that we view during the year. They do wander off for a good couple of months, sometimes towards the Kruger National Park.

This female has lost the end of her trunk, a definite handicap as she is missing the two prehensile tips that would allow her to be much more efficient during feeding. But she seems to have managed and overcome! She also has a unique way of drinking where she will squirt water that she has sucked up into her mouth. We can also recognize her as she has two different shaped tusks.

This female has no tusks even though she is fully grown - not common in our region.

The Hukumuri leopard and her female cub on 22 May 2020. We haven’t seen either of them since December 2020. The mother could have moved further northeast which would explain why we don’t see her anymore.