The bush surrounding Mantobeni was drab, with shades of yellow and grey, dotted by some occasional resilient green trees. With dusty roads and bright orange sunsets being the norm, our guides had their work cut out to find some of the flagship animals for our guests. Then, the first rains came and within two weeks the bush was a completely different scene! Lush green growth popped up as if overnight and the transformation of the seasons had begun!
Not all was lost before this happened, for even though the Herbivores (plant eaters) where having a hard time finding sustenance, our predator sightings where spectacular! Leopards, wild dogs, cheetah, lions and even the smaller, more difficult predators such as caracal and honey badgers where seen on a regular basis! The dry times also saw more glimpses of the rare sable antelopes, seen only a few times each year as they pop into our side from Kruger National Park.
With the rains there was water in abundance and the evening chorus of frogs and crickets of all shapes and colours where in stark contrast to the quiet nights of winter. Sounds of hyenas, and the distant roars of lions patrolling their territories under the African stars filled the night, making for some interesting stories around the camp fires! Scorpio was battling to remain center stage in the night sky, as Orion was rising earlier and earlier, and more and more cloudy, evenings, with the already forgotten sound of thunder and flashes in the distance bringing hope of more, much needed rain!
The days are not only getting longer, but hotter too, and our safari times have changed slightly as by 6am it is already light with all the interesting safari action happening during these crisp, cool mornings even before the sun warms up the veldt, allowing our guests to fully utilize the cool swimming pools providing of course the elephants had not beat them to it.
Safaris are hugely successful, with huge amounts of antelope, buffalo and all sorts returning for the greenery, making for some great chances to witness the predators in their elements, with Lions, cheetah and even Wild dogs on regularly found on kills, and even in a few odd occasions we got to see the whole hunt from start to finish!
Then came well known interior designer Kim Hutton’s huge birthday bash! What an event! With glamorous décor and loads of extras the camp was a different place for the weekend! Shiny silver everywhere was a surprising compliment to the Hemmingway feel, added to that the lush bouquets of proteas and other ornaments had even the animals wondering what’s happening!
Bush dinner was a bash, with Kim receiving many toasts and rather un-contemporary “late birthday prezzies”. All the while a large male leopard was calling in the background, probably feeling a little left out that the attention was not on him for a change! After a hearty dinner the lead singer of Watershed played a few good old songs on his acoustic guitar, which seemed to fuse and complement the vibe of the African surroundings well into the early morning hours! The morning drive saw only the strongest and most determined brave the early wake up drums and head out on safari! Lions, buffalo and much more were seen, although the male leopard had decided to spite us and elude us completely on that morning drive!
He only appeared after the last Hutton party guest had left … ah, the luck of the bush!
So with all the new greenery, and all the animals in abundance we have been so privileged to be having the most amazing sightings not only on Safari, but also back at camp! Our resident African Honey Badger has been at his antics again, making it his evening mission to get into the kitchen and bins, making for interesting times, alongside a small group of bull elephants that have “checked in” and play at causing mayhem with the house keepers! The civet’s tracks can be seen every morning as it patrols the pathways at night and even the odd hyena makes the rounds, all while our guests are blissfully asleep in their warm, cozy tents!
Except one evening! Lions had dined on a buffalo kill right across the small waterhole in front of our camp one night, only about fifty meters from tent four (which overlooks the waterhole) where the ever patient Richard was trying to sleep! The following morning we met up with the weary eyed man, who had slept not a wink due to the huge commotions (Lions had been fighting off a large clan of hyena right in front of his tent!!) with the sounds of jackal, hyenas, and very hungry lions it was an experience he would never forget! “trapped” within the confines of his bed, he was pondering the urgent need to go to the bathroom, the disadvantages of having automated lighting according to him was that as soon as he entered; the lights went on, and his first thoughts where “now EVERYTHING knows I am here!”
Back in his bed the sounds through the crisp night where exaggerated by the darkness and inability to actually see what was going on! After a good laugh at the morning breakfast table, Richard got to catch up on his sleep at least and all was back to normal! The lions had stayed a few more days in the area which afforded us an unusual treat of being able to sit on the deck and watch them lazing in the open clearing on the other side of the waterhole!
So in short it has been an amazing spring so far, and getting better by the day! Soon the Impalas will start having their lambs, as will the Wildebeest and many other animals, this time of abundance, and as always, we will be there in the front row seats ! In the last few months we have been posting sightings and news to our Honeyguide Facebook page together with some special offers available to returning guests, and friends of our page. Please check in and like our page and follow our progress at Honeyguide from time to time.
Warmest regards The Honeyguide Team – Spring 2012