Saturday, 9 October 2010

Safari Day 2. Bongani Mountain Lodge

Our wake-up call came through at 5.15am. We were dressed, drowned in Mosquito repellent and up to the main lodge for 5:45, where we had a lovely hot chocolate or cup of coffee and some biscuits before heading off on the morning game drive at 6am.
Mary decided to sleep in. Having had a house in the bush (and lots of amazing stories to go along with this), she was happy to ‘miss’ this early drive in favour of 3 hours more sleep.

As would occur each drive, we would cruise around and spot a great number of different species of animals, birds and plants.

6am drive
Animals we saw included.

White Rhino (a crash of Rhino's)
It takes 3-5 years for horn to grow. There has been a huge problem with poaching of the White Rhino.  On the black market a Rhino Horn can sell for 145,000.  There was a huge story in the media earlier this year where a large poaching ring involving rangers and professionals.  Bongani have decided to dehorn their White Rhinos in the hope this will deter the poachers to kill the entire animal just for its horn. Here is an old news article that explains it a bit more. 
Tree Squirrel (a dray of squirrels)
Cameron took this photo...even though it's blurry,
I think it's a great shot. They are quick when they run!
Marula Tree - Nicole's new favourite tree. 
It flavours Amarula liquer, traditional beer, jams and jellies.
The fruit ½ ripens on the tree, then falls off and finishes ripening on the ground.

Other animals we saw but were not close enough to get a photo were:
Blue Wax Bills (birds)
Kingfishers (birds)
Battaliers (birds)
Kudu (photo in previous posting)

After the morning drive, we relaxed back at the lodge. We had a fantastic viewing deck just down from our room (a set of stairs led down to a deck and a pool, which sat on top of a great rock ledge which dropped about 200 metres to the valley below. This became one of our favourite places to rest up between drives. The boys loved the freezing pool, and from the deck we had a great view that allowed us to see animals as they moved around the valley. We often saw giraffe (they seemed to travel in threes), and over the days many other great animal sightings. The first day was a bit grey and cold, so the boys were in and out of the pool very quickly.
It's a fairly steep drop off from the pool decking, but allows for fantastic views.
A group of 3 giraffes was a regular sighting from the deck.
Cameron roamed around and put together a collection of sticks, leaves, pods and flowers from most of the species of plants and trees growing around the lodge.
Lunch was served in the main lodge – and then it was back to relaxing before the evening drive. During the afternoon the very quiet camp became loud and vibrant, as about 30 University students arrived to spend a night at the lodge. They had been doing a ‘leadership challenge’ at one of the local communities, where one of the game rangers lived. As a special reward for all their hard work (talking to them, they did heaps of great things including tree planting, working in the crèche and pre-school, and other projects around town). Nelson (one of the rangers) organised for them to spend the night in the lodge as a ‘reward’, and they had a great time.

Afternoon drive

On the afternoon drive, we were slowly making our way around with our ranger Steve and tracker, Aaron. As we broke into a clearing, we could see Nelson’s truck. It was very quickly referred to as ‘Nelson’s Chick Mobile’ – he was busy driving around, telling jokes to a truck full of young female uni students, seeing an animal every now and again. They were actually really fortunate, and we had some great sightings that evening. With the noise they were making, it was lucky the animals hadn’t cleared off long before they arrived – either that or they hadn’t heard Nelson’s jokes!

We saw our first elephants tonight...they were incredible. 
(herd of elephants)
They are so quiet as they move. Elephants have 100,000 muscles in their trunk, the baby elephants have little control over their trunks when they are born, so cute to watch them. Once it was dark, we watched a herd of 14-15 elephants at a watering hole, it was amazing to watch. 
A crash a rhinos
Cameleon. (how Aaron spotted this on the tree, in the dark while driving 30 kilometres an hour is beyond our comprehension, we thought perhaps it was a fake one that he had planted earlier!)

We also saw
Fork Tail Drongo (birds)
Crested Turaco (birds)

Spotted Eagle Owl
Fiery Neck Nightjar (birds)

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