On the roads again. Game drives from Mhondoro Safari Lodge & Villa, Welgevonden

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Animals are not property or "things" but rather living organisms, subjects of a life, who are worthy of our compassion, respect, friendship, and support. Marc Bekoff, Minding Animals

 

The sun was just showing over the tops of the distant mountain range as we set off from Mhondoro Safari Lodge & Villa on an early morning game drive. This posting is a compilation of some of the sightings that were enjoyed by those on the vehicle as we drove around the Southern section of Welgevonden Game Reserve.

 

Even though the the sun was rising, the last full moon of the Southern Hemisphere summer clung tenaciously to its corner of the sky. Inevitably it was a battle that it was doomed to lose, and it was slowly overpowered as the sky brightened. A great start to just another day in Africa?

 

Daniel, our field guide, searching the horizon for a cheetah mom and cubs that had eluded us to this point. And continued to do so for the duration of this particular drive. Given the flat, open terrain, one would think that she and her family might be easier to spot. But that was not the case and I left the reserve without a sighting.

 

Welgevonden has one of the largest Black-backed Jackal populations I have experienced in a while. This one cast a wary eye in our direction as is hunkered down in the open to catch some warmth from the early morning sun.

 

This impressive Eland bull had only one thing on his mind as he followed this cow up hill and down dale. Although she did seem receptive, there was no actual ‘action’ while we, as well as the rest of the herd, looked on.

 

I am often asked if I go on game drives with any expectations. The short answer is “no” as that would place undue pressure on both myself and the guide who was driving. What I hope for though, is something new/different on every outing. I was not to be disappointed on this particular drive. I have seen other Bustards before, but not a Denham’s Bustard, a first for me…

 

Back-lit in the early morning sunlight, these grasses added to the overall experience of a drive. Often visitors are SO focussed on ticking off the BIG 5 that they forget to enjoy the vast variety of experiences that nature has to offer.

 

The answer to the unasked question is “YES”. There has to be at least one butt shot in a game drive posting…and this impressive-looking White Rhino rear end is it.

 

This was as much as I got to see of a local leopard that had taken up residence not to far from Mhondoro. We arrived just a few minutes after it had killed a warthog and dragged it off into the thick brush at the base of a rocky outcrop. Dinner, as well as breakfast, was sorted for this predator.

 

This warthog survived the attack but hung around for quite a while after the dust had settled and the squealing had subsided post the kill. We were uncertain as to the relationship between this warthog and the one that the leopard was feasting one, but what was VERY clear is that there was a bond of some sort. The death of its companion DID cause it some stress as we witnessed in its behaviour for quite a while. It ran back and forth at a distance from where the leopard was, vocalizing and in a state of distress. It got to a point where I could see that it became aware of the fact that the separation was permanent and it trotted off, tail held high.

Did you know: For humans, there are 5 stages of grief? Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. Given the behaviour of the warthog I was watching, it ‘skipped’ at least 4 of the 5 and went straight to acceptance, even though that took a while. But looking on, I realized how we underestimate the ‘feelings’ that animals exhibit in circumstances like this. Another bush-lesson learned.

 

A sundowner stop of note. With Isaac Monageng and Rachel Simba in charge, I expected nothing less. The staff and management team at Mhonodoro are part of what makes the lodge so special and they will be a part of memories that you take away when you leave.

 

For the most part, the male Waterbuck that we came across were all carrying rather impressive horns. This particular one ‘posed’ for the longest time until I eventually did take a picture…and we could both get on with our day!

FYI: Do you know the difference between horns and antlers? Antlers are not a permanent part of an animal and are shed every year. Horns, on the other hand, are a structural part of an antelope and are not shed (This includes domestic animals like goats and cows).

 

I am very impressed by how eco-aware Mhondoro Safari Lodge & Villa is. They currently have an array of 200 solar panels, with almost 300 more on order. Add to that their own vegetable garden and a recently purchased farm that supplies (amongst other things) the eggs that I enjoyed for my breakfasts. The Chef proudly produced this basket full to prove that point and she took the opportunity to tell me about the farm and the plans that the owners have for it.

 

What better way to end off a game drive/ begin the day. I have FINALLY discovered a Chef that can ACTUALLY produce PROPER crispy bacon. And who believes that 3 rashers are NOT a portion. My compliments to ALL the kitchen staff who produced consistently delicious and beautifully plated meals.

 

 

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