Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Hluhluwe mammals

We spent two full days in and around Hluhluwe Game Reserve. It was our first safari experience with the kids, so on their behalf we got very excited about each and every individual animal. To be honest, there aren't huge numbers of common mammals in Hluhluwe, partly because of the thick bush that covers much of the reserve. Yet this was a good introduction to safari mammaling and birding in South Africa.
As I have mentioned previously, my biggest highlight of Hluhluwe, and in fact of the whole trip, was the encounter with a pack of seven Wild Dogs on our first afternoon. This beautiful animal has eluded me on my previous visits to Africa, and I was getting desperate to see them. That was the main reason we chose Hluhluwe - possibly the best place to see them in this part of Africa. We spotted them first sitting around in the tall grass, and my heart skipped a beat. After years of searching, at last - here they were. I think my kids have never seen my so genuinely excited before. We watched them playing and lazing around in the bush for a while. Then they started walking on, and posed on the road in the warm early evening light for several minutes. I was somewhat limited from a photography point of view. On the one hand, we found them so our vehicle was in the prime front position, which I did not want to give up. However, with my 500 mm I was a bit too close and just barely managed to get full frames of the animals. Still, I guess I can't complain.

Three of the dogs had radio collars on, part of research carried out by the Hluhluwe Wild Dog Project. I must admit the collars are pretty massive, reminding me of a St. Bernards with a brandy barrel. But they seem to be doing alright with the collars on.

After a while they walked off, I think they were on the hunt for some impala nearby. It was amazing to see them transform from playful puppies on the road to killing machines. In a flash the pack split into two groups - one group ran directly towards the impala, while the others made a long detour, downwind from the impala, keeping very low and quiet. We lost them in the tall grass and bush and couldn't witness the outcome of the hunt, also because the reserve was closing down. But the thrill was very high. Breathtaking.
They are such beautiful animals. Check the variation in coat patterns and colours. I can't wait to the next encounter with them. Thank you, Wild Dogs.

Mammaling in Hluhluwe was all about quality, not quantity. More or less the first mammal we encountered in the reserve was a male Lion sleeping just by the road. He looked pretty skinny and exhausted, but maybe it was just the heat. Later on was saw another young male not far away.

We saw our first African Elephants there too, coated in the beautiful African red soil.

Hluhluwe holds an important population of White Rhinos. We saw two individuals. So sad to think of how many have lost their lives because of this damned horn.

Each rhino is like a mini ecosystem - check the insects and Red-billed Oxpeckers:

It was so hot - I felt like doing exactly the same:

Another member of the big five was Buffalo - we had a large herd and several others. Some bulls were playing around a bit.

Our first Giraffe. We found them in the few grassy bits of the reserve, e.g. by the airstrip.

How can one shoot and kill such a beautiful, delicate animal is something I fail to comprehend.

Several giraffe were drinking in a waterhole. They are very funny when they drink, but it was too close for a proper photo of that. Because of their vulnerability when they drink, they take a big sip and lift their head up very quickly, splashing lots of water:

Hluhluwe holds some Zebras - lovely animals

Scrub Hare - I can fly!

Not quite a mammal - Nile Monitor:

Next episode - birds!

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