We got up early as usual, and made a bee-line for the insect traps that we had set up the previous night. Sadly, most contained only moths. We had one lone butterfly to look at. Although the results were a little disappointing, setting up for the experiment was fun.
The morning activity sent us looking for wildflowers and grasses. These needed to be identified and added to the existing collection for drying and pressing. They will be put together into a display at a later date.
In the afternoon, Dave took one group to the second waterhole on the road to Mathathane. We spent an amazing hour and a half watching two teenage elephants in a delightful display of affection, with more serious intentions from the male partner. Every time we thought the scenario was over, another enticement was attempted with a slight variation of moves for the captive audience. Our eventual departure in no way disrupted the ongoing activity. We witnessed some fanciful antics!
Suzanne Labreche, 67 years old, French Canada, 1 month stay
This morning, I was woken up by Sam at 3am. We were at Mamatumi for a sleep out and it was Harriet and my turn to stay awake, and with the spotlight, see if any animals would come down to the waterhole to drink. It was a bit windy and cold, so it was nice to have our sleeping bags. At around 530am, we saw a hyena that came to drink. Everyone woke up to see it, and then afterwards, we drove back to the camp for breakfast and a morning nap. We had the morning off, while the others went on a flower identification activity with Tess. I had a long and lovely nap, and I helped Jane to peel potatoes for the fries tonight. When the others got back, Jane served her amazing pizza which she had prepared on the fire.
In the afternoon, we were divided into 3 groups. One group did Baobab repair with Sakaeo, Suzanne and Chloe did camera traps with Dave, and my group did an elephant identification drive with Tess. We drove to a waterhole on the way to Mathathane, and here we did a mammal and bird census. There were a lot of different birds and some zebra but we were very lucky, because an elephant bull came to drink and swim in the water. It was amazing to see him and he really enjoyed himself!
We filled out an identification sheet of how his tusks looked and if he had any markings on his ears and body. This is so Tess and the others can make a collection of all the adult elephants and herds using the reserve. She gives them names and when the project is finished, it will be possible to recognize individuals and know who is who.
We drove back to camp in the beautiful sunset and as we approached, we could smell dinner. Jane spoiled us with burgers and fries and fruit salad and jelly for dessert. With happy and full tummies, we could go to bed after a good day! ...
This morning, my group did a bird census with Dave. During this activity, we have to walk along the Limpopo river and to sit down at three locations, forty minutes at each, and make a record of each bird we see or hear. This is to make a census of the bird population along the Limpopo river for their conservation.
This afternoon, we did a Baobab census, also with Dave. We walk quietly and follow Dave through the bush to find Baobabs and to measure them. We measure their height, diameter, height of the lowest branch, and the extent of damage to their trunk. This is to follow their growth as elephants damage them a lot: they like to eat them! During the census we have seen two hyena, relaxing on the rocks. The second one wasn’t afraid at all, so we could see her very well and take some beautiful pictures. To try and attract the hyena’s attention, Dave lay down in the grass and crawled closer to her, making a horrible noise of an injured animal. She didn’t seem to be interested in him though, nor convinced of his near death. She moved away from us and we continued on the census. We were also observed and examined by a big troupe of baboons, sitting on top of a kopje. We enjoyed the beautiful view from the kopje out over the bush.
In the evening, I left the camp for a sleepout at Mamatumi, with Sakaeo and 7 other volunteers. It’s a night census, where we have to stay awake for two hour shifts in pairs, and keep watch over the waterhole to see which animals come to drink there during the night. We saw one hyena drinking just before the daybreak.
Lauriane Bitton, 23 years old, France, 1 month stay
Brian had been hoping that on his trip to Africa he would see and get to photograph some elephants. He probably didn’t expect to see them so up close and personal! It was lovely to wake up to the elephant munching the grass around Brian’s tent this morning, a welcome sight for an early breakfast.
Today, we were split into two groups. One group went to do alien plant removal and the other (my group) went to do spoor identification with Tess. Tess drove us to a part of the reserve that I had not been to before, near the gorge. The Limpopo river opens out at this point and is really beautiful. We saw spoor from impala, brown and spotted hyena, leopard, kudu, wildebeest, as well as otter scat, the first time this has been recorded on spoor identification! We also spent some time with our feet in the Limpopo (no crocodiles). Jasmin ended up being the wettest, with Tess and Brian close behind.
The afternoon was spent on either crocodile census or vegetation census. We saw three crocodiles along the Limpopo, and when we arrived back at Koro, we found three more! A huge one and a baby right opposite the camp.
Harriet Newton, 40 years old, United Kingdom, 5 week stay
“Brian, Lukas, wake up! It’s your turn!” At 1am under the clear African skies at Mamatumi hide, we got our wake up call. With a high powered spotlight and 8 softly snoring volunteers to accompany us, it was our turn to keep watch during the hide sleepout. Two hours of keeping watchful attention over the Botswanan bush lay before us. The highlight of the two hours was most certainly the unexpected transit of a Cape porcupine through our watch area! Eventually we got to tuck in again at 3am, and staring up at the spectacular starry sky I was quickly lulled to sleep until about 530am, when the sound of 3 spotted hyena splashing around in the pools in front of the hide, awoke the entire group and signaled it was time to head back to camp.
The plan for Friday involved a trip across the border to Louis Trichardt and the Madi-a-Thava mountain lodge for some relaxation and recharging after a busy week’s work. On what should have been an uneventful trip to Louis Trichardt, highlights include Matt being abandoned in jest at Platjan and having to walk across the border into South Africa, at least two hours of hunting for Sakaeo and his car of volunteers after a wrong turning was taken, trying to lure traffic cops into a game of rugby at the crossroads in Vivo and Lukas giving away second hand pizza in the town.
We finally reached Madi-a-Thava in one piece, and what a spectacular slice of heaven lay in store! Nestled in a mountain valley, the stunning scenery from the lodge was breathtaking to behold. The group was treated to excellent hospitality from our hosts, Art and Marcelle, who provided a delicious meal before we retired to some drinks by the pool.
The volunteers really got to know each other well over those few beers, with some earth (en-ware) ...
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