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Mala Mala Minute by Minute


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During our midday break I was determined to get a photo of me and the warthog statue that was artistically placed in a decorative pond. There was no foot traffic so I didn’t have people around that I could ask to photograph me. That’s ok, that’s why there’s the timer feature and using it would be more of a challenge anyway. I set up the timer and placed the camera on one side of the pond, then I raced to the opposite side in my allotted 10 seconds to pose with the warthog statues.


The first few takes I was either absent from the photo altogether or just my foot or arm would jut out from the photo’s edge. So I knew I had to speed up my sprint to the warthogs. The next attempts I at least made it into the photo, but in weird, awkward poses. I had to move faster yet. All this running was making me hot. Though the temperature was still cool, I was removing a layer of clothing every few photo takes. I had read that Mala Mala advises “dressing to strip” to remain comfortable throughout the day, but I bet they never dreamed it would apply to stripping for the warthogs.


Now my joints were warmed up, my muscles loose and I was sure the next photo would be a winner. Timer on, run around the pond, reach the warthog before the light flashes. I thought I got it until I looked at the result. I reached only the back end of the warthog and it looked like I was trying to mate. And I was assuming the male position! Although I’ve never seen warthogs mate, it is what I envision the male position to be. Not that I spend time envisioning mating warthogs!


At last, stripped down to my T-shirt and sweating like a. . . warthog, the timer snapped a suitable photo. Exhausted, I retreated back to my room to recover from my grueling ordeal and to immediately delete that embarrassing photo. What happens in the warthog statue pond stays in the warthog statue pond.



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26th pm

3:05 Nyala, bushbuck, kudu all before we left the confines of Main Camp


3:10-3:45 watched a one-tusked bull ele browse, reaching way up for the best leaves—I took a side shot of him so his lack of a second tusk was not evident in the photo.


3:55-4:00 tree full of baboons and surprisingly they stayed in the tree eating and grooming and did not run out of it as is their custom—Baboons run out of the tree and vervets run into the tree when the motor stops. Either way photos are often foiled.


4:00 Buffalo herd in thicket


4:05 Elephant herd in thicket


4:15 Gray duiker


4:20 Bateleur Eagle flying right over our heads with rodent-like prey in its talons. Glad it maintained a good grip.


4:40-5:15 The Newington male leopard was back on the ground underneath his treed impala, relaxing. The odor wafting from the tree had gotten worse. A mongoose had been alerted to the smell and approached the carcass. Then we lost track of the mongoose and the leopard never seemed to notice or care. But he did take notice of his hyena neighbor, just like the previous night. Only this time as the hyena approached the leopard was more aggressive. He shrunk into a crouched position and hissed menacingly at the hyena. Both circled each other warily in an uneasy truce. Eventually the leopard climbed to safety in the tree and returned to the impala carcass in the middle of the tree, out of view.




5:20-5:30 We had just reached a water filled pan with another vehicle present. We saw Bruce pump his fist into the air as we approached. All three of us thought the other vehicle had gotten to this sundowner spot first and Bruce was feigning exaggerated anger at the other ranger because he wanted to claim the spot too. Wrong. There was a pair of rhino, drinking at the pan, with a beautiful reflection in the water. That’s what the other vehicle was looking at. The fist in the air was his Bruce’s enthusiastic response to finding us one more rhino sighting because we had one member in the vehicle who had been lamenting the fact we had not seen any rhino that day—and we had not yet gone a day without rhino. That spontaneous gesture showed how Bruce really took our wishes to heart. I found his reaction to be so genuine, even cute. It was getting late for decent pictures, but the rhino scene was a beautiful sight.


5:30-5:35 Sundowners were at the pan after the rhino had trotted off. We were aware of another vehicle that was positioned in the direction the rhino had run. Bruce told us that it was not good for the other vehicle to hear any voices during their sighting, so we whispered during our sundowner until that vehicle drove off. It was ok for us to hear them because we were just having sundowners and not viewing animals. I was impressed with this policy that enhances the experience for everyone.


We saw some Sand Grouse at the water’s edge and learned that they were wetting their wings to bring a drink to their chicks back at the nest. Similar to the wild dog regurgitation, but for beverages. Night drive began.


6:00 Civet


6:35 We were right in front of the lodge gate when John spotted a chameleon in the middle of a bushy tree. A chameleon, champion of camouflage, at night! I asked if he had spotted its eye or its body. The answer was body. Bruce joked, “This is just John showing off.” He certainly earned his nickname of Gah Mah (rhyming with llama) which means Martial Eagle

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27th am

7:15 bushbuck


7:25 baboon family grooming


7:30 Burchell’s Coucal fluffed up, fluffed up impala herd, (fluffing to combat the cold) juvenile Bateleur Eagle


7:45 herd of buffalo--We were planning on sitting with the herd until a call came in that a leopard had been spotted.


8:05-9:00 A baby nyala had been killed most likely by the Kapen Female Leopard. When we arrived we found the son (year and a half I believe) of the Kapen female dragging the nyala carcass along the ground. A hyena was not far away.


Early in the trip I had asked Bruce about a nyala photo. These circumstances were not what I had expected, but here was my chance for that photo.




We followed the leopard son through the brush until he disappeared briefly. We caught up with him again in a tree where he was practicing his technique for wedging the carcass between limbs. He was obviously just learning because he almost dropped his meal several times. It was like watching a high wire act and we all were gasping at his near misses.






We weren’t the only ones observing his progress. All of a sudden the mother appeared in the grass but then disappeared just as quickly. No photos of her.


Eventually he decided to grab the nyala by the neck, descend the first tree and find a different tree. The two leopards both disappeared into deep grass. I hope they enjoyed their meal.




I remarked that we had seen bushbuck, impala, and nyala--all as leopard prey. Bruce stated was 3 of the Little 5, which would also include duiker and steenbok. Instead of seeking the Big 5, frequent visitors could seek the Little 5 as prey. But not only is that a little macabre, how you would score that on the chalkboard roster of sightings at the bar?


9:25-9:45 returned to the buffalo herd and joined them


9:45-9:50 lone male elephant--This bull was huge and we could tell he was in musth. Bruce immediately mentioned the potential danger of the situation and rightfully kept his distance. The keen photographer with us really wanted some shots of this big guy and made that request known. I was impressed with how Bruce accommodated his wishes as best he could, yet put safety first in keeping many meters between us, not upsetting this bull, and maintaining an escape route at all times. I took a couple of photos too and ironically because there is no real reference point beyond vegetation, the massive size of this elephant is not that evident.


9:50 couple of bushbuck


9:55 bachelor herd of impala that gave us some views before darting off


9:55-10:15 We stretched our legs and walked up to a kopje with a nice lookout. It was peaceful and relaxing, a nice way to end.

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Game Warden

The images accompanying the report are really bringing it to life, thankyou.



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A delayed departure flight meant we could enjoy one last lunch. My safari-mates and I agreed that the apple cobbler dessert was the best one yet. Would have been a pity to miss that. An elephant could be seen in front of the lodge and a woodpecker of some kind (my bird book was packed) was knocking about in the trees above our heads as we waited. Bruce was conscientious in keeping us informed of our altered schedule. An attentive ranger right up until the end.


Our departure plane, which also had incoming guests, landed. We said heartfelt goodbyes and gazed with envy at those coming off the plane. But at the same time we felt fortunate for the amazing sightings Mala Mala had provided us.


I noticed one of the new arrivals was being closely guided and carefully helped off the plane. He had a cane, the kind with a red tip. He was tapping it urgently in an arc in front of himself as he hesitantly moved forward. His wife grasped his elbow and provided the direction he obviously needed. That put feeling fortunate and amazing sightings in a whole new light.


The End


Photo link http://www.kodakgallery.com/I.jsp?c=k8fpf0...=0&y=xaqwzq

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  • 5 years later...

@@Atravelynn I know this trip was in 2008 but as a newbie I enjoy reading old TRs, and find I cannot pass this one without a mention. I absolutely love the wild dogs with those tiny pups. That is such a special scene. A once in a lifetime moment.

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@@Atravelynn I know this trip was in 2008 but as a newbie I enjoy reading old TRs, and find I cannot pass this one without a mention. I absolutely love the wild dogs with those tiny pups. That is such a special scene. A once in a lifetime moment.

Thank you for checking this one out, Sharifa. The wild dog pups was very special indeed and as it turned out so typical of Africa. The two trips prior to this I had laboriously researched and planned itineraries to maximize the odds of seeing wild dog pups. One of those two trips did have me in the right place at the right time for pups, a little older than these. Then I head off to Mala Mala and dogs were the last thing I had hoped to see. And what is the big sighting, attracting photographers who were flying in from all over? Wild dog pups the end of June.

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