We had elected to spend 4 nights at Letaba because it was Helen and my favourite camp. You might notice I used the past tense in that sentence. While Letaba remains one of our favourite camps, Helen and I think Shingwedzi has now clearly surpassed it. One of the reasons is that the game viewing has not been great. We have had 2 full days in which we did not see any of the big 5 – not even one elephant. For those of you who have been to Letaba you might know that the area is known for its large tuskers but they were nowhere to be seen. The whole of Monday and Tuesday was pretty much limited to birding. Helen said yesterday evening “I’ve given up looking for game, I’m now only looking for birds”. The birding has been excellent though. We are now up to 149 birds for the trip and we added another lifer today – Long-crested Eagle – which takes my lifers to 437.
The other reason that Letaba has gone down on our list is the quantity of insects we seem to attract especially at night when we are eating. The light on the balcony seems to pull them in and by the end of the evening the floor is crawling with them. We moved the table last night to try to mitigate against the insects – it did help but still not enough.
We did finally have a good sighting of a cheetah this morning. It walked along the road for almost a kilometer. It was marking out its territory as it stopped on a no-entry sign and urinated against that and then it crossed the road and headed off into the bush. We got some good shots with my proper camera so the one you see here was just a quick iPhone snap.
It has been a relaxing time though at Letaba. We have generally done a morning drive and then a short evening drive. Today though we decided to skip the evening drive as we have a long-drive tomorrow. The evening drives have also generally been less fruitful as it is quite hot still. For instance at the moment it is still well over 30 degrees and it is 5:45pm.
Today is actually a special day for us though the children all seem to have forgotten that they might not have been in existence if it hadn’t been for this day 26 years ago. I’ve spent the afternoon revising my will and watching cricket.
Helen and I have remarked on how many bushbuck there are in the Letaba camp. The place is almost overrun with them. I actually said that they surely need to remove some of them as there is over-population happening. Then this afternoon, sure enough the rangers are around darting the bushbuck and loading them into the back of the bakkie. The tranquilizer takes about 10 minutes to take full effect. The ranger said if he shot one of us with it, it would be fatal. He said it would be seconds before we were out and we would die shortly afterwards … reminder not to stand near the bushbuck in the camp when they’re darting them! The ranger said that there isn’t actually enough food in the camp for them and one was in very poor condition so they had to put it down. They take them and release them far from the camp. Helen asked whether they could adapt being out of the safety of the camp and he said their instincts were undiminished. They only removed ones that weren’t suckling young. They were very gentle with the buck and held their heads up to ensure they didn’t damage themselves in any way before putting them into the bakkie. It was quite an interesting discussion and thing to watch.
P & H