Mabula Game Lodge. The morning game drives. Limpopo Province

Early morning at Mabula Game Lodge.
You can just make out a group of Rangers on the right
planning their route for the morning game drive.
Mornings at this time of the year are not too chilly,
until the vehicle starts to move.
Luckily, unlike a recent bush visit, I remembered my gloves, beanie and Buff!
These will now become a standard part of my “bush kit”,
no matter what season it is.
Post full moon.
And the sun has yet to make an appearance…
This is how every game drive starts.
Nothing like a strong cup of coffee to wake you for what might lie ahead.
To the best of my knowledge,
rusks are a very South African “thing”.
(I believe that are are found in Britain as well)
International guests sometimes are uncertain of how to eat them.
Or even IF they should try them
The staging point for all the vehicles.
Mabula has a fleet of about 20 vehicles, and they can accommodate about 200 guests.
That being said, strict control is maintained at sightings.
This means that the animals are not stressed
and guests are able to enjoy sightings where the animals are in a relaxed state.
My wife on a short morning bush walk.
With her is Isaiah Banda, head ranger at Mabula.
He is definitely one of the TOP 5 rangers I have spent time with.
He was the top national guide in 2015, he was runner up in 2016
and he is currently the 2017 Best guide in Limpopo.
It was a privilege to spend time with him.
To misquote the title of a Johnny Clegg song…
These are the “Scatterings of Africa”.
The quad bikes are only allowed on a certain section of the reserve,
and the rides are strictly controlled with the safety of both
 the riders and the animals in mind.
When there are no animals to photograph…
We were awaiting our turn to enter a lion sighting,
and while we stopped, I took the opportunity to shoot this
This is what we were waiting to see.
The light drizzle did not dampen my excitement.
Neither did it stop this trio of lionesses from grooming.
Or perhaps the moisture on their coats allowed them to hydrate
without having to go and look for water.
Eventually they headed off…
To go and look for a snack perhaps.


I was SO focussed on the females that I failed to notice these two
who were lying no more that 5m away.
After the lionesses left, these two stepped up to see if any of them were in oestrous.
This is called a  Flehmen response and the female scent is drawn over the Jacobson’s organ,
found at the base of the nasal cavity.
The information gathered in this fashion
 informs the males if they are worth pursuing for procreation.
Isaiah and I stop for a cup of coffee and a cookie.
A stark reminder that this area once used to be farm land.
Could you imagine what would happen if humans could walk and poop at the same time?
It must be very liberating…or this giraffe thinks so.
A Fork Tailed Drongo trying not to get too wet.
This is how my final morning game drive commenced!
Two of four cheetah (mom and three cubs) that I spent about 15 minutes observing.

Much like I had missed the two lions on an earlier drive,
on this drive it was Isaiah’s turn to not see this youngster in the tree.

This White Rhino bull was headed for a nearby water source…
Or so we thought.
He trundled straight past it, crossed the road and vanished into the bush.

And finally…
A Brown Snake Eagle poses as we stop to have a closer look.


(This is a sculpture of a Ground Hornbill that can be found in Lodge reception)
My last stop before leaving the reserve was a visit to the
Mabula Ground Hornbill Project that is situated nearby.
I was given an interesting overview of the project,
by an enthusiastic and passoinate Natasha Nel.
However the *STARS* were nowhere to be seen.
Find out more about this national project:
Isaiah Banda, the Head Ranger at Mabula Game Lodge.
He has been working in this reserve for the past 11 years.
Quite a record as most rangers move on after 2-3 years.
Two weeks prior to my visit here,
 I had the worst guide ever on a vehicle in a different reserve.
Now I had the best!
I learned so much from him in the 3 drives that we did together.
I just hope that I can remember SOME of the information he shared.
Hear what Operations Manager Arno has to say about
his work at the lodge and his responsibilities
 to all the other properties within the group:
To find out more about what Mabula has to offer,
visit their website:
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