Skip to main content
Category

Uncategorised

Guest Experience Highlight: Alison Langevad

By Game Drive, Rhino River Lodge, Safaris, Sightings, Uncategorised

Recently photographer, Alison Langevad paid us a visit at Rhino River Lodge. Here she shares with us some of the stunning photos that she captured during her stay with us.

We asked Alison to tell us a little bit about her photography:
“I enjoy both sport and wildlife photography. I first became interested in wildlife photography in 1995 while visiting Africa. My husband and I traveled extensively through Kenya, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Uganda. We were fortunate enough to spend time with the Mountain Gorillas in Zaire, and so my passion for African Wildlife and its conservation began. We have since enjoyed the splendours of Botswana, Namibia and most recently South Africa. For me, Africa has a way of reaching deep into my soul and through photography I hope to share this. I sell stunning images on my website www.alisonlangevad.com and have a Facebook page Alison Langevad Photography so people can indulge themselves a little each day.”

Alison found Rhino River Lodge through the recommendation of a friend, “I connected through social media with a local photographer.  After a trip last year where we spent a short amount of time in KwaZulu Natal then left for Kenya and Tanzania, he wrote me this most amazing long email of all the reasons we should of stayed longer in South Africa. He described all the wonderful places close by we could of explored and suggested them for the future. It’s people who are passionate about where they live that do the best promoting. Word of mouth is invaluable and now after such a wonderful stay at Rhino River, we can do the same.”

 

We asked Alison to share her favourite memory from her stay at Rhino River Lodge, “My favourite memory would be the look on ranger Ryan Andraos’ face when we found the elephants. He was such a fantastic guide. They hadn’t been seen for a long time and we found them on his birthday. It was a great, light-hearted afternoon.”

 

We asked Alison if she had a favorite safari subject to photograph, “I don’t actually have a favourite animal to photograph. I enjoy moments rather than things in particular. This makes every day on safari a good day because I’m never disappointed.”

 

 

Alison shared her advice for taking great photographs on safari, “The best thing you can do to get great shots while on safari is give yourself time. It’s not about the equipment because it is quite easy to get up close.  It’s about having enough days to discover these wonderful creatures and then allowing the extra time to watch things unfold. We have learnt over the years to stop dashing around and spend longer in each place. We had enough nights at Rhino River Lodge to enjoy amazing sighting and indulge in our guides deep pit of knowledge, and could of easily stayed longer.”

Thanks very much to Alison for sharing her experiences and gorgeous shots. Make sure to check out her website and facebook page for more of her photos.

A new Guest in Camp

By Uncategorised

Every so often we get an unusual visitor in the camp. Our camp has an electric strand that encircles the camp at about eye-level to keep the big animals out, but that means it can let the little animals in too…

We have had all kinds of animals that have popped in during the night. There has been buffalo dung left on our front lawn, Nyala’s regularly make an appearance, Warthogs are frequently spotted each evening keeping the grass short and very occasionally we find quills along the well used staff pathways.

The quills belong to someone, and that someone has decided to make himself known. One evening on my way up to the staff accomodation, I heard a scuffling in the bushes right next to me and out pops a very prickly porcupine! He was obviously in a very grumpy mood because his quills were sticking up (as they do when they’re defending themselves) and it was making a very curious “huffing” sound as he crossed the road ahead of me. They odour was very strong and musky too!

Since that evening a few months ago, this procupine has been showing up all over the camp. One hot summers evening, Douglas who is our groundsman decided to sleep outside to escape the sweltering heat from indoors. He was awoken in the early hours of the morning by shuffling and snorting nearby. He sat up just in time to catch the porcupine carrying one of his shoes off! After a brief chase Douglas managed to retrieve his shoe and the following morning we all had a good giggle after hearing about the previous nights adventures.

This particular porcupine seems quite relaxed around people and doesn’t seem to be put off by the chatting and general noise made by both our staff and guests. A few of us were sitting outside the staff accomodation one evening, when it casually sauntered past without a second glance at us. The climax was a couple of evenings ago when Anand our ranger was busy with dinner service for our guests, when the porcupine ambled along and walked in through our main lodge! He came in and wandered around the boma area, but after deciding that the food smelt much better inside, wandered through the lodge and out onto the deck area where plenty of pictures were taken. The animal got a little defensive when it couldn’t remember it’s way out again, so clever thinking Anand closed the doors to the deck and let it be while it found it’s co-ordination again. 

Such excitement! Porcupines are the second largest rodent species in the world, with the largest being the Capybara which is found in South America. Porcupine are also covered with thick quills that grow out of hair follicles in the porcupines skin, the same has hair. Contrary to popular belief, porcupine do not shoot their quills out at a threat, but rather shake them to cause a loud rattling sound (as the quills are hollow) as a first means of defense. If the predator or threat does not heed the first warning, the porcupine will walk backwards and even jump towards the predator in order to for the quills to penetrate the predators skin. The quills are lineated and they are not very clean, so predators will often run the very serious risk of infection following the infliction from a quill. These guys are not to be messed with! The quills will grow back exactly the same as hair.
Baby porcupine are born hairless, and will grow their quills during their first few weeks of life.

Rhino Notching!

By Uncategorised

There were still dew crystals scattered on the long blades on grass and the fresh winter chill was keeping us awake, when we headed off early one morning on what we thought was a regular morning drive. I had a small group of people with me who all got along famously and I was thoroughly enjoying their company – our drives were filled with laughter!

After about an hour of driving and not seeing anything too exciting, my radio came alive and my call sign was called. I responded and the reserve manager Dale wanted to know where I was and if my guests would like to join them in darting a rhino. How very exciting! I tried to keep my cool as much as possible as I nonchalantly relayed the message to my guests.  Well, my vehicle came alive and everyone suddenly woke up. I warned my guests to hang on as I reached the speed limit of 40km an hour on the bumpy dusty road. We needed to meet the team before any of the action started and as we weren’t quite sure when that would be, we needed to put foot.

We found the darting team and another lodge from the Zululand Rhino Reserve who had also bought their guests along for the experience. The excitement was palpable and everyone got chatting and the reserve ecologist briefed us all on what would be happening and why.

As part of rhino conservation, nearly all rhinos in Kwa-Zulu Natal and even South Africa are notched. Notching is a way of identifying each individual animal. A small triangle of skin is removed from the rhinos ears and depending on where the notch is removed from it has a corresponding numerical value. So each animal is given a numerical “name”. The skin that is removed is also used for genetic analysis in order to monitor breeding.  Along with the notching, the animal has a microchip inserted into its horn where a drill is used to create a little hole that is later filled up again, and another one inserted under its skin with a simple injection. This is completely noninvasive and the animal cannot feel it at all as their horns are made up of similar proteins as our finger nails and hair.  These microchips correspond with each other so that if we come across the horn we can relate it to the animal and the reserve it came from. With poaching being so rife, it is so important that we keep tabs on all our rhinos. Both black rhino and white rhino. This method id the best way forward and the entire process takes less than 15 minutes. 

The small triangles of skin removed from the ears for notching

 
 After enjoying a hot cup of coffee and a good chat while waiting to get news on the rhino, we got the message that it had been darted and we needed to move in fast!
Off we went crashing through the trees so that we could get there in time to watch the animal go down. It had been darted from another vehicle by the vet and now we were off to join them.
The rhino went down in a nice open space and we all circled around to watch the process taking place. Someone was asked to volunteer to remove some ticks for scientific research and not many hands came up for that one!
After getting up close and personal, seeing smelling and touching her, we took photos for our guests and then loaded back into the vehicles to watch her getting woken up with the reversal drug. This is always the scariest part as we’re not sure what mood they’re going to be in. Quite often a little grumpy! After ensuring everyone was at a safe distance the reversal drug was administered and the big animal got up a little drunkenly. Off she tottered back to her companion who had been waiting not too far off.

Guests from both lodges behind the sedated white rhino      
The team from Zululand Rhino Reserve and the rangers

What a great and exciting morning! It’s always great to be able to give our guests a hands on experience as to why rhino conservation is so important, and being a part of the process that will hopefully drive the message home. 




 

The Lions are coming!

By Uncategorised

Wow, it has been a while since our last blog post…but we’ve got some great news!

Zululand Rhino Reserve, the reserve that Rhino River Lodge is situated in, has finally procured a small pride of Lions. We’ve been planning and arranging for nearly a year for the introduction of the “King of the Jungle” and the perfect pride has now been found. The introduction is planned for the end of March 2011.

                                                                                  

Historically, lions were found here and over 100 years ago the last lion was shot. The game that we keep here on the reserve are all animals that are indigenous to the area, or were once indigenous but because of man have been eradicated from the area. The lion introduction goes according to the plan of restocking game species that were once found in the area. 

The lions will be released into a boma where the aim will be for them to bond and form a cohesive pride, before being let out after approximately 6 weeks. The pride we’re getting consists of 5 animals altogether: 2 males who have bonded and have a good solid hunting coalition and 3 females who are unrelated. The boma period for them will mean that the females will get to know each other and the males will get to know the females. It also gives us time to access the animals for any illness or disease that they might have contracted. 
They will also be fitted with collars for a short period of time in order for us to locate the animals and track their movements while they get used to the reserve and find their way around. 
The lions will also be able to assist in keeping our game numbers down. Normally we would have to take off animals in live sales in order to protect our vegetation from over-grazing and soil erosion, but now with a big predator like lion, this will be taken care of and a natural balance can be once again restored.

Very exciting times here at Rhino River, where we can officially be known as a Big 5 reserve!

Another very unusual happening here at in the reserve, is the precautions we are all taking against the outbreak of Foot-and mouth disease in northern KZN. Whilst we have not been directly affected, this disease is so highly contagious that we need to do everything we can in order to keep our animals safe. The disease affects cloven-hoofed animals like Buffalo, antelope and occasionally animals like elephants can be infected too. The disease consists of blisters which form on the mouth and feet which can cause lameness. This disease is completely harmless to humans, although we are a carrier for the virus to spread.
Control measures that we’ve put in place are security stations at the reserve entrance, where the guards will simply spray your vehicles tyres with disinfectant, and you will be asked to step on a damp mat with your shoes. Nothing to be alarmed about and a little on the exciting side too! 
All our guests have been fantastic with their co-operation!

Just a reminder about Earth Hour on the 26th of March 2011 

Go to: http://www.earthhour.org/ to find out more about this great way to unite against climate change, and in recognition for all those who were affected in Japan by the earthquake.
It will be happening at 20:30pm, and all that you have to do is turn off all your lights for an hour.

 

 

Unlucky Reedbuck….Lucky us!

By Uncategorised

The day was a dreary, misty foggy day. The expectations for any great sightings were pretty low but we decided to head out any way in search of the elusive Giraffe. We headed out to the open plains of Zen Zulu with a light drizzle slowly coating us all with a sticky moisture. From a vantage point up on the ridge I spotted a lone dagga boy buffalo along the lip of the fever tree forest, slowly making his way deeper into the vegetation. We headed out towards him and had a really good comparative sighting of the buffalo in amongst a herd of Wildebeest. These guys are often confused with each other although close up the differences are unmistakable. Just next to the buffalo, we heard a loud branch snap, and standing just next to the road, beneath a fever tree was an elephant bull. He was feeding quite calmly and never even noticed us drive up. After sitting with him for about 2 minutes, I looked to my right where the fever tree forest ends, and the open plains of Zen Zulu begin, and walking along were the two Cheetah! 

After absolutely no argument, we decided to follow the cheetah and see if we could get a better sighting of them. Coincidentally enough, there was a track running along the path the the cheetah were following. They slowed their pace down a bit, so I parked my vehicle and we watched them walk directly in front of us, not even 30 metres away. All of a sudden the lead cheetah picked up his pace and began a swift jog with the second cheetah following behind. We held our breath as he picked up speed, and an invisible reedbuck popped up from it’s cosy nest in the long grass. The reedbuck had no chance of escape as the cheetah were too near and the reedbuck was too late to make a run for it. The cheetah neared the reedbuck and it flicked out its front paw knocking the reedbuck off balance and bringing it to the ground. The lead cheetah quickly clamped its jaws down on the reedbucks throat, closing of the windpipe and suffocating it. The second cheetah had caught up by that stage and was using it’s body to hold the reedbuck down until it had been killed. 
All this was happening not even 30 metres in front of us! We were very lucky to have the sighting all to ourselves and enjoy the moment until the other vehicles appeared. The precision of the cheetahs kill and the swiftness made the whole thing very mechanical and was not as gruesome as I imagined witnessing a kill would be. It was over in a matter of minutes and the cheetah started feeding. By that stage a vehicle from Leopard Mountain and a vehicle from Bayete Zulu had joined us and we all sat in awe as we watched these amazing animals devour the reedbuck, with my guests and I still wiping away the emotional tears that were shed at watching such an incredible thing. While we wee sitting there facing the Cheetah, the lone buffalo made its way over to see what was going on. This is when my guests and I decided the day could not get any better and we moved off. 

On our way off the plains, we found crash of rhino comprising of 2 males, a young female calf and an older mature female who was obviously in oestrus as the males were fighting for her attention while she was trying to fight them off! We parked the vehicle and just absorbed the sights and sounds around us when it appeared that the rhino had completely forgotten we were there and decided to walk next to us in the vehicle. I read their body language and decided that they were pretty relaxed, and showing no curiosity towards us at all. I drew an imaginary line in the road and decided that if they crossed that line they would be in our comfort zone and I would then move the vehicle out of the space. These guys came up right next to us, and stood about 2 metres away smelling the air towards us and having a good look! My guests and I were dead quiet but I decided that if I were to switch on the ignition, they would get a huge fright and might charge the vehicle, so I started talking to them just to let them know we were there and they needed to move off. You can imagine me sitting there with two foreign guests who were turning blue, too scared to exhale saying “you’re too close guys, you need to move off…” over and over until the rhinos curiosity was fulfilled.

What a special day that was and what great guests I had to share it with…

Apologies for such erratic posts, but with the holiday season being so busy there just wasn’t time. I have saved up all our great sightings and will hopefully be posting more regularly. 

From all of us at Rhino River Lodge, we hope that 2011 will be a good year for everyone, including our Rhino’s which are being poached at such a merciless rate. 
We urge you that if on one of your safaris in South Africa, if you do come across any suspicious behaviour or people, please let someone know. You could be saving a rhinos life. 

Please see the link below for more information on the new Rhino Poaching Hotline number
You can report suspicious behaviour on the new Rhino hotline number: 082 404 2128

http://bushwarriors.wordpress.com/2010/08/06/south-africa-rhino-poaching-hotline-now-open-082-404-2128/

Little Leopard and Cheetah Spots

By Uncategorised

There is a beautiful little Leopard that we have been very lucky to see every now and then. I have mentioned a great sighting we had of it in a previous post, but we have been seeing the little thing a bit more frequently since then.

Dale had a great sighting of her right on the main road one night on his way home, and Isaac managed to find her one night on a game drive.
Isaac left camp one chilly evening at around 8pm with just two guests. They set out and about 2 hours later Isaac radio’d me back at camp to say that he’d found the Leopard. We had a few other people in camp so I loaded everyone up and out we headed to see if we could maybe find it. Unfortunately, the Little Leopard had moved on by the time we got to the place it had been spotted but Isaac said he was really lucky as the guest had found it’s eyes with the spotlight and they’d managed to sit with her for about 15 minutes while she relaxed under a tree!

There has also been great excitement on the Cheetah front. I had them up on a ridge, right next to the vehicle where we watched them for a good hour while they marked their territory and lazed around in the sun. It was a coalition of one older male, and one younger male who always hang out together.  They were pretty relaxed and completely unfazed at us being there, so we followed them as they meandered up the ridge, stopping every so often to gaze intently at a nearby Warthog or Impala, but neither one making any serious moves to start stalking. It was such an insanely special sighting that we all had goosebumps on our arms, and I conferred on numerous occassions with my guests about how lucky we were to get the sighting all to ourselves, and have the big cats choose to come so close to the vehicle and allowing us inside their comfort zone! That day for me will never be forgotten, and I hope the guests that shared the experience feel the same.
After 2 days, I came across a dead reedbuck about 2 metres from the road. I stepped out of the vehicle after looking around for a few minutes and was trying to figure out how the animal had died. I couldn’t see any flesh wounds and I suspected that the animal had died from natural causes. As I walked over to the carcass, I looked up and not even 3 metres behind the carcass I saw movement in the grass. A Cheetah lifted it’s head, and all the hairs down the animals back were raised. A sure sign that this animal was not too happy! I stopped dead in my tracks, and started backing up slowly towards the vehicle. All I kept thinking was how embarrassed I’d be if I were charged by a Cheetah infront of a vehicle full of guests! I turned back to my guests and told them that the Cheetah was nearby but they obvioulsy misheard me as they all started agreeing that yes, the Cheetah killed the Reedbuck. I pointed in the direction of the Cheetah and then all the pieces of the puzzle fell into place for the guests and I heard a unanimous whisper of “There’s the Cheetah!”
This time, we presume I had bumped into a lone female who is not in our area too often which makes it a little more special to see…

Rangers Report – October 2010

By Uncategorised

There must be a very tired Stork somewhere after delivering a few special parcels with us at Rhino River. The babies we have wondering around now include a few new Giraffe, some very little Nyala lambs and a brand new baby White Rhino!

On a game drive recently, I took a route that is not often used and we came across the female white rhino with her new little calf. Very cute little thing, although we are not too sure of its sex yet. It was bouncing around trying to dislodge the Oxpeckers that had taken up residence on its face.
After leaving them, and rounding a corner, one of the guests said that she could see a little something in the bushes next to the vehicle. After catching a glance at the movement under the bush, I realised we were actually watching two young Black Backed Jackal pups and they were just outside their den! Adorable little guys…
Another great sighting was on a routine maintenance drive when I heard something scurrying next to the road. I stopped the vehicle to discover two tiny newborn baby Warthogs that had obviously made their way out of the burrow and couldn’t find their way back in. They were a fair distance from an obviously occupied burrow as there were flies circling the entrance way, I couldn’t leave these little guys to the elements and I decided to intervene. I contacted Dale via radio and he warned me that if the piglets screamed, the mother would not be very happy with me! Warthogs can be quite dangerous and they actually enter their burrows backwards in order to be facing any intruders that might make their way into the burrows. After deliberating for a while I left them to carry on with my work and decided to stop by on my way home again. An hour later, I made my way back to the burrow to discover only one Piglet out in the sun, curled up in a ball. I prodded the little guy to check if it would squeal and after making sure it was relaxed, I picked him up and took him over to the burrow where I gently (and very quietly!) pushed him back in. Unfortunately after searching the bushes quite thoroughly for the second piglet, I had to trust that it had found his own way back in or that Mamma Warthog had come out to get it.

Oh, and the Cheetah and Leopard have been around…but I wouldn’t want to bore you with that, so I’ll leave it for another post… 🙂

I have also decided that because we have so many great experiences and sightings and stories to tell, I will be updating the blog more regularly.
Signing off…