Sunday, October 16, 2016

Wild Thing!

If I were to list my favourite things the top ten would contain nature, animals sunshine, flowers, birdsong, photography and last weekend I experienced all of this together with good food, good company and good fun.  A while back I saw an advert - I think in the Go magazine - for Pangolin Photographic Tours when I was planning my Chobe trip and I inquired but the dates didn't work for me. However I kept in touch and when I saw that they had a similar trip planned for Pumba, I thought that I just had to go. I thought hard because its not cheap, but I had wanted to go to Namibia this year and Vs illness prevented that so that is how I justified it to myself. So from Thursday to Sunday I was in for a treat!
Pumba is only an hour away and its easy to get there. We were accommodated at Gameston Lodge in the reserve which is very comfortable and perfect for our small group. We gathered on the deck at lunchtime - six of us and enjoyed our lunch and some polite conversation before our host/teacher/ranger/wildlife photographer took us through the basics. We were issued with a Canon 7D camera and a very powerful lens and, as we were all used to SLR cameras, we just needed to familiarize ourselves with the features of this newer model. Our first game drive and the fun began!!
What can you say about the special privilege of being in this game reserve - wall to wall buck, wildebeest, zebra and their signature warthogs - aka Pumba - from the Lion King! On that first drive we also saw a family of rhino - all fully horned and looking really healthy - in fact all Pumba's animals do! Elephants were feeding right next to us including the herd's latest addition - a three week old baby running in between the legs of his mom as her family closed in protectively. Driving back at sunset we caught the golden glow behind the crest of the hill and I took some wonderful silhouettes.
What a great start! We all excitedly up-loaded our photos compared and celebrated our best before tucking into supper.
The next two days were filled with photographic tips, lessons and Q&A sessions, game drives, shared travel experiences, warm beanies and liquor filled coffee! We had many close encounters but the most special were the ones with the white lion. We found them on the morning drive of day two - a proud male and two females but the following afternoon that we heard that one of the younger females had strayed away from the pride and was alone, hungry and distressed - we set off in the direction of her calls and there she was quite restless and calling to the wild in the hope of being heard by her family. I have seldom heard such a pitiful call and she looked so sad. We hung around a while taking photos and hoping that we would see her reunited with her brother and sister when the radio crackled and we were told that there was another lion in the area heading towards her. We waited.......eventually he came into sight - not who she was hoping for - it was a male from another pride - her uncle, but at least she wasn't alone now and we were reassured that the group would follow and she would at least get to eat soon (she was too young to hunt alone).  We started the return to base happy and excited with our days 'takings'. A glass of warming red wide and the coals were ready for the braai when we got back but later in bed I couldn't help but think of that lonely lioness our there and I hoped that she had also feasted that night.  The next morning we were off again and heard that she had in fact been reunited with the rest of her group and they had hunted down a red hartebeest - they were still busy breakfasting when we found them - a happy ending after all.
In addition to our lion sightings, we were treated to an hour watching the cheetahs play - they like to hang around the west boundary of the property and I was surprised to hear that they use the boundary fence when chasing down their prey. We saw numerous black backed jackal lone creatures - and they didn't hang around to make friends - they were up and off as soon as they caught wind of us. We crept up on the hippo on the banks of the river where they fed for a while before sliding off making their deep guttural grunts before submerging.
 The bird life was amazing too - I am not at all good at remembering their names or identifying their calls but I recognised the kingfisher and managed to get some good pics of him.
So all in all a great experience and worth every cent - I haven't had enough spare time to really go through all of my photos but I will spend a day doing just that soon.

Thanks Pumba, Thanks Pangolin and Thanks to Neale Howarth our teacher and ranger!

Ps - this is the official record of my weekend which was not without special "Sue" moments - I will write of those this coming week :-)

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