Day six of my bush adventure at nThambo Tree Camp started as usual with the 5:30 am wake up, but there was a special urgency to get out quickly as word had come to Luan and Issack that we had a “Surprise” awaiting us. A fast drive away from camp, which we called the “Ferrari Safari” brought us to a true highlight of the trip. In the overnight, a leopard had made a kill of a male kudu not far from a waterhole.
As is often the case in the bush, possession is NOT 9/10 of the law when hyenas are around. After a tussle, the hyenas took control of the kill and fed on it for a while until the two Breakaway Ross Pride lionesses arrived to take it away from the hyenas.
We arrived in time to see the lionesses working the last parts of the kill and were honored to spend an hour watching these lionesses finish off the carcass before wandering off to rest and get a drink at the waterhole.
As if that was not enough excitement, news broke that there was another very special surprise brewing. Word came over the radio that a wild dog den had just been discovered on the far side of the reserve. Time for another Ferrari Safari! After a fast and bumpy (but fun!) ride, we went off road and worked our way over hills and through brush and found the wild dog pack in an appropriately dense area of mopane trees and grasses – perfect for keeping their den well hidden. We did not see the pups, but many of the pack members were wandering around for us to see. Wild dogs are the second most endangered predator in Africa after the Ethiopian Wolf, estimates have less than 6000 of these amazing creatures left in the wild. They are endangered due to ongoing habitat fragmentation, conflict with humans, and infectious diseases.
We enjoyed getting such a special treat, but knew that wild dogs will move their dens if they attract too much attention. This is a bad thing for the survival of the pups, so we left them alone and on our way back to camp plans were already in the works to limit visits to the den by the safari camps in the Klaserie so that the dogs would not relocate the den. It was encouraging to see such care for these amazing carnivores!
Only moments before arriving back at nThambo, we were treated to yet another unexpected treat when we came across a tree with a pair of Tawny Eagles (Aquila rapax) in it!
They were wonderfully patient models and even gave a show when they took off and the female revealed the scrub hare in her talons. A fantastic end to a legendary morning!