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Magical Madikwe - A safari with the parents


LarsS
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So, it's been a while since I last visited this forum and now I’m catching up with some great trip reports. The past year I've been on a few trips myself, so I've started editting some videos and want contribute by posting my trip reports. I won’t be starting with the one @safarigirl.se might have been hoping for as Botswana will have to wait for now. Let me start with a trip to Madikwe Game Reserve in October 2018.

 

Taking my parents on their first safari

Our safari to Madikwe was a very special trip. It was not only my wife and I, we also invited my parents to join us. We actually asked if they would like to go on a safari in 2019, but they were so excited that we decided to book it as soon as possible. They’ve never been on safari before or even been outside of Europe except one week in Morocco. So this might have been a once in a lifetime experience for them. They don’t feel comfortable going on a trip like this by themself.

My wife and I did all the planning and wanted it to be a destination with a real wilderness vibe, an unfenced camp, not too many guests and enough diversity in wildlife for a first time safari. Keeping in mind budget, we decided to head for Madikwe Game Reserve.


Itinerary

We spent one week with my parents in SA, also spending some time in Jo'burg for some sightseeing, Apartheidsmuseum and a Soweto tour. Oh, and souvenirs. Souvenirs my parents said they didn't really need or want as they didn't like it so much. Well, I've never seen anybody buy so many souvenirs on one trip!

 

October 12 Arrival in Jo’burg

October 13 Soweto Tour

October 14-18 Madikwe, stay at Buffalo Ridge Safari Lodge

October 19 Jo’burg sightseeing


Looking back

First, tt was really special to share this safari experience with them. Because of their enthusiasm about everything, I relived a bit what it was like to go on my first safari. Even now, my parents are still over the moon when they see a picture or somebody asks them about their trip. I really think it’s the trip of their lifetime.

 

Personally, I must admit I was a bit occupied in my mind if we planned the best itinerary possible. That’s why I felt a little bit disappointed when we found out that:

1. There weren’t any hippos (it said ‘common’ on safaribookings, but apparantly they have never been there).

2. Leopard weren’t seen for a few days as they move in and out of the reserve and weren't present during our stay.

3. The good wild dog sightings are a thing of the past as the population had been reduced from 3 to 1 pack due to disease outbreak.

 

Ofcourse, I know no sighting is guaranteed, but I thought it was important for my parents. Looking back, it didn’t matter a thing we didn’t spot these animals. It was just in my mind and my parents didn’t miss them at all. With the sightings we did have, they were thrilled and couldn’t believe how close we were to the animals. The overall experience was absolutely superb, from the treatment by the staff, the guide on the drives, the food, the rooms and a few surprises I’m not going to tell you yet as it’s in my last video.

 

I hope you enjoy this TR.

 

Let me start with this picture of the four of us at a morning break during the gamedrive. The first time we got out of the car, my parents couldn't believe you could do that. They were the last ones who got out of the car :)

 

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The first video, I have four in total. Three of them are already online, so I'll post them all now. I used the same style as last time for the Kafue Experience. Although I had done it before, it felt a bit harder as I was also looking after my parents and at home I found out that I still need to work a bit on sharp images using manual focus.

 

That been said: the first day started great as we did found cheetahs. I hadn't seen them for a few years, so I was very happy to find them.

 

 

 

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The second day we found other cats: lions! But the cutest of all was without doubt the baby elephant.

 

 

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On the third day, wildlife was a bit quiet, but the rhino was a great sighting. We had a real good time in the car with the four of us and our guide Eliot. Sometimes it's just enough to be out there in the bush. Today was a bit the calm before the storm as our last full day turned out to be a perfect day on safari.

 

 

 

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@LarsS Thank-you for posting this. I'm glad your parents had a good time and as you say it does serve as an atidote for the times when we more seasoned travellers may take it all for granted. Interesting observations about the wildlife. I think Leopard are pretty scarce in the Madikwe based on my two trips and the wild dogs are clearly struggling (I was told on both my trips that they were 'in the hills'. The cheetahs are only a very small group and I understand that they have been under pressure from the lion population and also a tendency to reject any attempt to introduce newcomers. I was told that lions and elephants are doing very well but possibly too well for a closed and fairly small eco-system?

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On 1/8/2019 at 1:13 PM, pomkiwi said:

@LarsS Thank-you for posting this. I'm glad your parents had a good time and as you say it does serve as an atidote for the times when we more seasoned travellers may take it all for granted. Interesting observations about the wildlife. I think Leopard are pretty scarce in the Madikwe based on my two trips and the wild dogs are clearly struggling (I was told on both my trips that they were 'in the hills'. The cheetahs are only a very small group and I understand that they have been under pressure from the lion population and also a tendency to reject any attempt to introduce newcomers. I was told that lions and elephants are doing very well but possibly too well for a closed and fairly small eco-system?

 

Yes, I wasn't expecting leopard, but when you're there, you're really hoping to show it all. In the end, it really didn't matter. With lions and cheetahs we had two of the cats, with the lions on several occassions which made it more interesting. The cheetahs were for me a personal highlight, I believe I hadn't seen a cheetah since late 2013 and I have been a quite a few safaris since then.

 

The eco-system is indeed fairly small. The guide told us the cheetahs usually are on the boundaries of the park to stay away from the lions. Elephant populations are good, but there were signs that it's maybe a little too good as in one area all the trees we're having a real hard time.

 

The guide also talked a bit about linking Madikwe with Pilanesberg, which would make it a lot bigger area for wildlife to roam. But there's a lot of land in between, so I don't know how realistic those ideas are. Neither do I know if this is really a plan some organizations are working on or that it's more talking about an idea.

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One thing about the lodge that I found interesting, is that Buffalo Ridge Safari Lodge is owned and operated by a local community. Just outside Madikwe Game Reserve lives the Balete community. The Balete rent the property and have a lease contract for 45 years. It's a partnership with North-West Parks and The Nature Workshop. This gives them the opportunity to make a profit and all kinds of benefits (like jobs, education) for the community. I was told the lease they have to pay is a fair amount, not too high/low.

 

It's the first time I've heard of a concept like this and feel very positive about it. Ofcourse, most lodges have staff that's from communities in the area, but this puts them in control with more responsibilities. Not really sure, but if I understood right, they did have to give up some land to establish Madikwe as a game reserve. But still, this makes them benefit more than 'just a few jobs'.

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All the elephants were very relaxed and they just continued their business when we stopped to watch them. And when they're relaxed, they have such a happy face.

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The zebras weren't very skittish easy. This one is acting cool, chewing on a straw.1599358763_Zuid-Afrikaoktober2018(116).JPG.0a6f58865ff76b313511bfa72a84e3a5.JPG

 

 

As I sad, I was very excited to spot cheetahs on the first drive. We drove in the same area in the following days, but they were seen only once. So very lucky to find them. They looked well-fed, so probably had a recent kill. They were just relaxing and sleeping, only sometimes raising their head to check the surroundings.

 

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A small herd of buffalo crossed the road just before we arrived. From a little distance they just watched us watching them.

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Later in the afternoon the light is so beautiful in Madikwe. The red sand gets a really nice color and wildlife as well. We we're standing still when this ellie approached us. So peaceful and quietly walking towards us, a breathtaking moment with these colors.

 

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The afternoon drives were most interesting during the daylight. No big mammals seen when it got dark. But we did had a few sightings you can only have in the dark. Like this owl for example.

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Enjoyed watching your videos. It brings back memories as to our first safari, in that we photographed everything with legs that moved, and we always waited for the guide to say it was safe to get out of the vehicle. Hopefully your parents will want to go on safari again many many times. 

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Thanks @CDL111 The more often you go on a safari, the more comfortable you feel, I guess. I can recall my first gamedrive in an open car and we found lions within 5 mins. One walked straight at me and that made me really aware that there was no protection at all.

 

Pretty sure my parents want to go again. Actually, I'm hoping to do a safari in a couple of years with not only my parents, but also my brother's family (his kids are too young now). Not sure if they want it too, but I think it would be really special and one nephew is really into animals. He corrected my parents when they mixed a cheetah with a leopard. Pretty good for a 3 year old :)

Edited by LarsS
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The last day of our stay at Buffalo Ridge Safari Lodge in Madikwe was probably the most special one. Despite the whole trip being one big highlight, this was a perfect day on safari and the perfect ending of our stay.

 

 

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On 1/8/2019 at 10:55 AM, LarsS said:

3. The good wild dog sightings are a thing of the past as the population had been reduced from 3 to 1 pack due to disease outbreak.

 

 

 

An update on the wild dog situation in Madikwe. This morning Madikwe Game Reserve shared an update on their facebook page. An new pack of 4 males and 5 females is introduced in Madikwe.


Full update:

 

Wildlife ACT - Focused Conservation 14 januari om 12:14


NEWS UPDATE: Painted Wolves get relocated from Zululand to Madikwe Game Reserve!

 

Another collaborative effort took place recently to relocate #PaintedWolves (also known as African Wild Dogs) from Zululand through to the North West Province. Such relocations across protected areas in southern Africa are a fundamental part of the effective meta-population management of the species.
 

Four male dogs were sedated by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife veterinarian Dr Gabor Lukacs and local veterinarian Dr Mike Toft in the late afternoon and loaded into crates. These crates were then packed onto a trailer attached to Wildlife ACT’s latest addition to our vehicle fleet; the Ford Ranger double cab that has been sponsored by Bidvest Car Rental.
 

Senior monitor PJ Roberts and Dr Gabor Lukacs then drove these four males 11 hours through the night from Zululand through to their new home in Madikwe Game Reserve, where the team was met by North West Parks staff, Endangered Wildlife Trust staff and a local veterinarian. Following the sedation of five females in the Madikwe Game Reserve boma, the nine dogs were bonded together and allowed to wake up next to each other.
 

Following this move, the Zululand team were hosted by Madikwe Game Reserve for two nights to allow for intensive boma monitoring to ensure the newly formed pack had successfully bonded. It is with great pleasure that we can confirm that the signs look positive between the males and females, and Madikwe will have a second genetically-strong pack roaming the reserve soon!

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The morning drive on our second day started with a lot of giraffes. First we spotted a few giraffes close to the road. For example these two brothers. They put up a little performance showing us their battle skills. Everytime I see giraffes I have a hard time believing they can put up a horrific fight. Even when they were practising it, it looked beautiful and not an act that can lead to death.

 

 

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A little further we found this beauty, posing in the morning sun.

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Beautiful eyes!

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The pictures don't really tell the complete story. As I said, we saw a lot of giraffes. Not all were close to the road. But when we stopped for the first two, there were so many giraffes in the surroundings. Looking around, I counted over 30 giraffes spread out in the area. Not something you can really capture in a picture, very nice to see so many of them around.

 

 

Driving around the reserve, we found one lioness walking in the bush by herself. So we decided to follow her and see if she was going to lead us to a pride.

 

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Walking through the bush she sometimes stopped, clearly looking for the other lions and continuing her journey after deciding in what direction to go.

 

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After about 15 minutes, she had caught up with what 2 other lionesses. The sun was getting to hot for them, so they just relaxed in the shade of the bushes for the time we spent with them.

 

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Slowly driving back to camp we found some more animals, with elephants the most interesting ones. Especially this cute little ellie.

 

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Ellies were also the animals we found in the afternoon gamedrive. Covered in red sand, this giant led us the way into the bush.

 

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Later we found another herd with more baby ellie cuteness.

 

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There were reports that lions were heard around the headquarters of Madikwe. Driving around in that area soon led to another episode of 'following the lion'. We found one male on the move, that was soon accompanied by his brother. They made our guide work hard to follow them. They went into a real rocky area, so it was a bumpy ride and the guide was constantly finding a way to follow them. Because all the bumps no pictures, but it was awesome to follow two big males through the bush and see them walk with a determination to go somewhere.

 

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It took over half an hour driving offroad before we reached their destination. Somewhere far away from the roads, they made a kill and other members of the pride were still resting after a good meal. The two males joined them and soon they were all relaxing and enjoying themselfs.

 

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To finish it of: a nice big yawn of this female. Just now I realise she's missing one of her upper teeth.

 

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~ @LarsS

 

Wow! What intimate lion images.

 

A couple of your photos provide a veterinary dentist's view of their mouths.

 

Very nice!

 

Tom K.

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A post about some birds. Some of you might appreciate these more than I do. I'm not really a birder and can only name a few birds by name. Mostly the bigger ones. Nonetheless, I really do enjoy spotting birds you don't see at home.

 

 

First my 'designated favourite bird' since my trip to Zimbabwe. The guide asked me what my favourite bird was. I didn't have one, so he decided the lilac breasted roller should be my favourite bird. I'm happy with his choice for this colourful bird :)

 

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Then there's the flying banana, better known as yellow billed hornbill, having a breakfast in the morning sun.

 

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Now I few more birds of which I don't know the name or how special/common they are.

 

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And there was this bird that looks quite pretty. Unfortunately it was very shy as he didn't turn his towards the camera. Only very briefly and directly looking into the other direction again. No chance for a good picture.

 

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The lat photo is not the best in terms of quality, but I think it was an interesting sighting. This group of guinea fowls was flying into the tree for the night. I had only see them on the ground and had no idea they spend the night in trees. It makes sense ofcourse to be high above the ground for safety reasons. They flew in the tree one by one and they just kept on coming. I think in the end there were more than 20 in that tree.

 

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Edited by LarsS
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If you are interested Lars, your first unidentified bird is the Blue Waxbill. A very common little bird.

Second is it's cousin the Violet-eared Waxbill. A very pretty little bird which is quite seldom seen.

 

Third is a Purple Roller, cousin to the Lilac-breasted. Again, quite a scarce bird in these parts.

 

Some really nice shots and sightings.

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On 1/24/2019 at 6:21 PM, Peter Connan said:

If you are interested Lars, your first unidentified bird is the Blue Waxbill. A very common little bird.

Second is it's cousin the Violet-eared Waxbill. A very pretty little bird which is quite seldom seen.

 

Third is a Purple Roller, cousin to the Lilac-breasted. Again, quite a scarce bird in these parts.

 

Some really nice shots and sightings.

 

Thanks @Peter Connan for naming and explaining the birds. I do enjoy seeing these birds, whether they are common or not. It adds more diversity and a makes the whole experience richer. Nice to know a bit more how common or rare they are. Because we don't know a lot about birds, we often joke it might feel very special for us, but that the birds might turn out to be the local 'house sparrow' (which at least is very common here in Holland).

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Awesome report @LarsS - i just come back from South Africa with my family where I had 9 days in Kruger with my father in law and I took my wife and kids to Madikwe for 3 nights where we also stayed at Buffalo ridge lodge which was fantastic with excellent service and food, we also had an amazing guide in Elliot.

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On 1/31/2019 at 10:21 AM, Hads said:

Awesome report @LarsS - i just come back from South Africa with my family where I had 9 days in Kruger with my father in law and I took my wife and kids to Madikwe for 3 nights where we also stayed at Buffalo ridge lodge which was fantastic with excellent service and food, we also had an amazing guide in Elliot.

 

Sounds like you had a great trip in SA! What a coincidence you stayed at the same lodge and had the same guide as well :)  Did you also meet Penelope? She was the waitress during our stay. We had a great time with her.

 

Are you going to write a TR? If so, I'm looking forward to read more of your stories.

Just out of curiosity: in which room did you stay? My wife and I in room 8, the last one in the row. My parents in nr 7.

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Time to another update to this TR. We're coming close to the end of our stay, but for who has seen the videos, a lot of exciting things happened on the last day.

 

A few shy kudu's were hiding in the bushes. Such a pretty animal with their impressive ears and nice white stripe between their eyes.

 

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This warthog probably found an interesting spot as he was very relaxed and had no intent to run away from the car.

 

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And ofcourse we've found a herd of elephants. One of them was checking us out all the time, pointing her trunk in our direction.

 

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Some were very shy and tried to hide from us. Unsuccessfully though.

 

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This small baby was very well protected by her mother.

 

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Although it was our fourth day, Elliott took us to an area of Madikwe we hadn't been yet. Most of Madikwe was pretty dry, but this area had a nice patch of green grass. It looked a little 'swampy', probably a place where water dries out late. I think Elliott expected a bit more animals in this area, we 'only' found two jackals. A very nice sighting as we hadn't seen them yet, so another species added to the list.

 

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We also drove past a couple of lone bull elephants. This one was very relaxed about us and just continued his business.

 

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But when we drove next to this bull, he wasn't very happy with us. He gave us a few annoyed looks and started trumpeting. Very impressive, but also time to leave him alone. With him being within 10 meters of the car, it was an impression especially my parents won't forget anytime soon. We left him alone quickly.

 

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When the night fell, this little fellow was spotted by our guide. I just don't understand you can spot this in the dark, while driving, keeping an eye on the road and using a torch. Not ideal circumstances for a picture, but nonetheless here's a chameleon:

 

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For those who watched my videos, you might noticed I left something out. Bush lunch and lions will follow soon :)

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Hi @LarsS,we stayed in rooms 3 & 4. Yes I remember Penelope and all the staff very well (Amanda, Jeff, Priscilla to name a few more) they were all fantastic.

I am sorting out my photo's and will get to my Trip reports in the coming weeks, hopefully sooner.

Elliot was fantastic, we enjoyed his company alot.

 

Great trip report thanks.

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4 hours ago, Hads said:

Hi @LarsS,we stayed in rooms 3 & 4. Yes I remember Penelope and all the staff very well (Amanda, Jeff, Priscilla to name a few more) they were all fantastic.

I am sorting out my photo's and will get to my Trip reports in the coming weeks, hopefully sooner.

Elliot was fantastic, we enjoyed his company alot.

 

Great trip report thanks.

 

Yes, all the staff were very friendly. I still can hear Elliott's relaxed voice saying "I'm super good, hmmm" :)

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Having seen lions on a few occassions, the sighting on the last day was the most special one. A pride of lions were having breakfast. In the night or early morning they managed to kill a wildebeest. The pride consisted of one adult male, 4 lionesses and a few cubs. A dedicated post about this sighting. I think we spent half an hour with them, watching them from about 5 meters.

 

This proud male lion made sure his offspring could eat as much as they liked.

 

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The cub walking around clearly enjoyed the meal as his/her whole head is coloured red.

 

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The lionesses had to wait their turn.

 

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The male not only watched the surroundings, but also kept an eye out for lionesses wanting to join dinner before the cubs had finished. He didn't let them near the wildebeest despite a few efforts.

 

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Imagine having breakfast in front of you and you're only allowed to watch others eat it.

 

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A taste of the food by licking her cubs mouth probably made her appetite bigger.

 

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Luckily some snacks were provided to have something to chew on.

 

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A few bites for the lionesses made life more relaxing for the male. He treated the wildebeest more like a stuffed animal than food.

 

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But one cub didn't like his dad fell asleep with his head on the breakfast plate.

 

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The cubs are lucky growing up in a good pride as this one, as all the lions looked very healthy and capable of providing enough food for all of them.

 

The cubs really enjoyed their meal.

 

1928790335_Zuid-Afrikaoktober2018(450).JPG.8550b87d576e75e22fe2199d0529cb5c.JPG

 

This part of the wildebeest was probably the most tasty as they all wanted to have a piece of that.

 

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Ever wondered how cubs like their steak? It appears to be rare.

 

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