DOG DAYS ARE OVER

Rise And shine bright and early for our first morning here at Somkhanda game reserve . After a good nights rest in the tranquillity of the African bush , alarms begin to go off around 5am as the sun has already risen and beginning to shine over the rolling hills . Quick showers are had by most to conserve water because of the seriousness of the drought that is affecting the area at the minute before heading down to the main lodge for a light breakfast .

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Because the daylight hours are soo long here we will always begin our activities early morning and today our day began at 6am and we head out on our first African Game drive and we can’t express our excitement !!

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The first ten minutes or so didn’t look very promising at all because it had already started to get very warm which meant most of the animals would either be heading for water or shade .. just as our spirits began to dampen slightly we turn the corner and spot 3 .. yes 3 Black Backed Jackals !!! These animals are normally solitary so to see 3 altogether is unheard of and they have only introduced them onto the reserve in the last few weeks or so .

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Not 5 minutes later we spot the Wild Dog trackers sat up on top of the hill by the Boma ( which is like a quarantine enclosure for newly acquired game in which the new female Wild Dog is being held at the minute ) . But as we reached the brow of the hill we looked to our right and saw one of the 2 male Wild Dogs just playing on his own for a few minutes before wandering off . We drove around the Boma to see if we could spot the female and what do we see coming up on the outside of the fence line .. all 5 of the Wild Dog pups !!!! WOW !! We sat for a little while watching these amazing canines .

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Ben explains to us just how lucky we have been in such a short space of time as he has been here 3 or 4 times before and never seen either of these animals and yet we have sighted both of them within the first 20 minutes of our very first drive , Maybe luck is on our side !!

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We couldn’t stay for ever watching the dogs so we use our time wisely and carry on to see what else we spot around the park . Along the way we spot a Dazzle of Zebra and some female Nyalas . Oomps wanted to make an unscheduled stop at the Vulture Restaurant to see what was there .. this area is used as a kind of graveyard for any dead animals they find around the reserve as the vultures will pick away at them and clear it up .

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First thing we noticed was the smell of a recently deceased Zebra .. jassis .. this think stank !! It was repugnant !! After getting over the initial shock of the smell we got a little closer to investigate and see what smaller creatures were making use of the carcass .. mainly ants , other small insects and Dung Beetles . It was interesting to watch the beetles begin to make and roll around their dung balls with the eggs inside .. they are surprisingly very strong !! We also saw some of the Black Backed Jackal tracks from earlier and learned a few of the other tracks of the more frequent animals .

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Jumping back on the game viewer and heading down the road Ben points out Giraffe in the bush !! This morning is just getting better and better .. it looks like it might almost get to a point where we’ll see everything In one day and be left with nothing to spot the rest of the week :/ lol . They are soo strange and yet soo very majestic at the same time .. Oomps and Ben explain a little about them before we depart to try and find the Rhinos !!

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Along the road to the side we spot something very strange just hanging in the tree.. Oomps walked over to investigate followed by Ben . Turns out there was 2 balaclavas hanging in the tree which have obviously been left by poachers !! We were close to the community fence line so they knew poachers operated in the area but why leave these hanging in the tree so blatantly ??!! We don’t know whether they were using them as a marker or just forgot them .. but APU ( Anti-poaching Unit ) were notified and an eye will be kept on the area as it is close to Full Moon which is when they will be able to operate without torch light .. so we may have just stopped some poacher activity as well !!! Go Team .

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On the way back we saw more Giraffe , a few Warthogs and a few of the smaller bird species .. White-Fronted Bee Eater and Brown Hooded Kingfisher . Arriving back at the lodge Geremy found 2 Hinged Tortoises wandering around in the lodge “ cave “ area and they seemed pretty relaxed so a few of us got the chance to handle them .

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After a nice hot breakfast of bacon , eggs , vege sausages and fruit etc Ben and Bertie had a challenge for us .. last night they struggled to put up their stretcher beds in their tents so have decided that now we must all line up and see who can put their stretcher bed together the fastest as they knew it was going to be tricky .. sneaky buggers !! haha

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We must say it was a little challenging to begin with working out the order in which to put it together but then a few of us began to get the hang of it … Ali stormed ahead and took the title ( apparently being a vegan is also great for the brain !! ) Michala took 2nd place with Nicole grabbing 3rd spot . Where were the guys ??!! Looks like the girls have got the brain power in this group .. gradually everyone got the hang of it so at least we don’t have to sleep on mattress on the floor tonight :p .

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The rest of the morning was spent just relaxing in the heat of the day mainly playing Mafia which is a great murder mystery card game which also helped us learn everyone elses names .. lunch was then served and we relaxed again until 3 when our afternoon activities began .

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Before heading out for our afternoon activities Ben had another little team building exercise in store for us , he walked us down to the fire pit area where the concrete braai is and looked at it and said right .. on top of that we are going to do a trust fall .. umm excuse me ?!! haha it was pretty high lol but he explained how we were going to do it so while one of us was stood on top the other 10 would stand 5 opposite 5 in a line with their arms intertwined to catch each of us .. still a bit sceptical we thought we would give it a shot .

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He asked each of us before turning around and falling backwards to say our name , where we are from and to tell the rest of us one of our fears so that we open up a little to everyone else in the group .. it worked really well and we had some great laughs while doing it and no injuries to our surprise lol .. we really must trust each other haha .

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As 4 o’clock rolled round it was time to begin our last activity for the day our bush walk . We split into 2 groups of 6 listened to Keith ( one of our guides ) about how to behave and how to act if we encounter any of the bigger animals before making our way out into the reserve .

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In the first group led by Keith we had Sarah , Annabelle , Merinda , Leanna , Michala and Ben .. Keith was very knowledgeable and we stopped a few times just to discuss certain things whether it be tracks of different game , how their faeces differ and we also had a very in depth discussion about Elephants within South Africa mainly about their social traits but also about how their over population is starting to become a problem and ways kin which this can be rectified . Although we didn’t have many actual game sightings it was interesting to learn about the smaller things and behind the scenes aspects game reserves .

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The second group which consisted of guide Sibusiso , Hamish , Bert , Geremy , Nicole , Ali and Sarah had much better luck . On their trip they came across , Impala , Kudu , Nyala , Warthog and the Wild Dogs again as they passed by the Boma again .. they also learnt about different tree species , basic tracks of certain animals and also how to differentiate between their faeces . Having a Zulu guide also came in handy as he also taught them some of the Zulu names of some of the animals .

It was such a different experience being on foot going through the game park as you feel incorporated with everything that’s going on around you and the fact that you could walk up on anything adds an excitement factor to the whole experience . The 4 of us who are going on the Track and Trail program cannot wait .

Today has been amazing with some great sightings but now it’s time for dinner and time to wind down and have some fun playing games :p ..
See we told you that you should keep up to date with us everyday as we have an even bigger surprise for you all tomorrow !!

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