Geiger’s Camp Drive
Welcome to the first of 2019’s Bush blogs from the team at Motswari. We chose a great day to start the 2019 journey with you; here’s how it all panned out.
There’s a sense of joy and relief when you wake up to a cooler day in comparison to the past few days of intense heat. The question by our guide was whether the change in temperature would impact the events of the bush. Well, it most certainly did. With guide, Victoria Burman in the driving seat, four guests from the Netherlands in tow, excitement for what lay ahead was palpable.
Not far from Geiger’s Camp, we came across a very relaxed herd of kudu, grazing nonchalantly and only lifting their heads to observe their onlookers. Then suddenly, grazing stops and the whole herd look in a single direction on high alert. As we all direct our gaze towards the area the kudus are keenly watching, we see a slanted back with rough sandy fur skulking through the thickets. A heavily pregnant spotted hyena emerges looking at the kudu and eagerly smelling the damp air surrounding us. The kudu watch closely while the hyena circles them; she’s not really showing intent but definitely interested in something. Whatever the hyena is waiting for is clearly not imminent as she finds a cool resting spot to close her eyes and nap.
Drizzle starts to fall as we leave the hyena and find two giraffe near a waterhole, the first sighting of these extraordinary giants for two of our guests. As we are all learning fascinating facts about their tongue and vertebrae the rain starts to fall heavily so we retreat to don our ponchos and get prepared for some wet weather. As we head off, the haunting sound of the spotted hyenas contact calling echoes in the air. Our tracker, Jacky, says that the riverbed is the place to go to see what’s happening and he was right. We soon found another pair of spotted hyenas resting in the cool sand. Victoria says that it’s strange that these members of the clan have not regrouped after their nocturnal adventures, it’s almost as if they’re waiting for something she thinks.
A call comes in about a special sighting, Victoria tells everyone “there’s something we want to see and we need to get there now, hold onto your cameras”. We approach an open expanse where the private airstrip is situated and on the horizon we can see small dark dots moving, still some distance away. As we approach closer, everyone gasps in excitement, it’s a pack of wild dogs. At first we see only four, but they just keep coming out of the thickets and by the time the whole pack has emerged we are looking at fifteen in total, all heading in the same direction and clearly on a mission. Jacky is getting excited
and points out that they are heading directly towards the bachelor herd of impala that we had driven past that morning and they’re looking hungry!
Victoria moves us around superbly and we find ourselves in a melee of activity, wild dogs and impalas running in all directions around us, nobody knows where to look as animals are darting out from every bush. Then it all goes quiet for a minute. We reposition and find ourselves looking over the riverbed where some of the pack is tearing pieces off their prized meal, but only three of them. One by one others join in the frenzy, all desperate to get a piece of the action. A tawny eagle swoops in to attempt to pick up scraps being splayed all over the place by the dogs, not uncommon to see as raptors often follow dogs in the hope that they can scrounge a quick meal. The carcass is devoured in a matter of minutes, and the dogs cross back over the river to join the rest of the pack. A few carry titbits in their mouths as they run, much to the chagrin of some of the pack members who clearly feel they haven’t had their share yet, fighting and squealing in the hope of stealing another morsel. As they settle down again, a spotted hyena tries to infiltrate the party, being rather opportunist, but soon gets chased off. A solitary hyena can’t compete against fifteen wild dogs, it needs to wait for back up, so retreats to a safe distance for the moment.
Having seen the wild dog activity, all the other bush happenings that morning made sense to our guide. We learned it’s common for hyenas to follow wild dogs, again in the hope of scoring a cheap and quick meal. It makes you realise that nature knows a lot more about what’s going on before its even happened, whilst we are just the bystanders trying to work it all out and be in the right place at the right time. Perfectly achieved on this occasion!
As if the morning’s adventures hadn’t been exciting enough, our last sighting was a beauty. Having hardly had time to overcome the magic of the wild dog hunting experience it was a little bewildering to then come across a majestic male leopard, who we identified as Xiviti, on the prowl. With careful footwork and crouched frame, this beautiful cat was clearly on the hunt. His eyes were like laser beams directed at a noise in front of us, impala grazing. Watching him stalk, the silence and precision with which he moved was quite mesmerising. This was the first ever sighting of a leopard for one of our guests, spellbound and transfixed is the only way to describe her reaction. We had some quality time observing the hunting behaviour before his hunt took him to an impenetrable area. We wished him luck and returned to Geiger’s Camp for a sumptuous breakfast and reflection on what was a totally incredible morning at Motswari.