Dulini – January 2006

Ranger: Brett; Tracker: Isaac

Both of them were really good at imitating bird calls. They were so good that sometimes the one would call back thinking he was calling in a bird, not realising that it was his colleague who had made the call!

21 January – Evening Drive

We were the only people in camp and therefore the only two guests on our vehicle. Our first sighting was a pride of lion with 1 male. We then saw a male kudu, a Steppe eagle (L) and rhino. We made our way down to a dam and there we found hippo. On further investigation there was also a water thick-knee lying in the sand. We then happened upon a male leopard, the Wallingford male, generally known as Wally. We were the only vehicle in the area so we were able to spend some time with him. While we were enjoying the sighting, a radio call came in asking if it was okay if another vehicle could join us. The vehicle came in and it was Richard Branson and a driver. While we recognised him, he obviously did not recognise us. But he was very polite and thanked us for allowing him to join us! We were very controlled and kept the camera firmly aimed at Wally. When he wandered off, we decided to leave him to his own devices and continued on our way. 

Our luck was holding out as we came across a lioness with her kill. She had killed an impala ram but in chasing it down had moved out of her own territory. So she was dragging the kill to a safer area where she could settle down and have a meal. We could see that the kill was really heavy – her muscles were bunched, she panted lots and she rested frequently. Once she moved into deeper cover we moved on too so that we did not put her and her meal at risk.

22 January – Morning Drive

We found Makabela, a female leopard, drinking at a waterhole. Not too far away, we found a baby wildebeest carcass hanging in a tree. So the obvious conclusion was that this was her kill and that she had been feeding on it. As we drove further we were treated to the beautiful picture of an impala ram standing up on a hillock. We then saw elephant. Then we came across a cheetah going down to drink at a small pool of water in a grassy riverbed.

22 January – Evening Drive

As we drove out of camp we found a leopard in a tree not far from the gate. It was Makwela, who was really relaxed. She even stood up and repositioned herself to get comfortable as we watched. We then moved on to a dam where we watch hippo playing in the water. From there we made our way to where the rangers expected to find the Ximungwe pride of lions. Both Brett and Isaac got off the vehicle to track the pride. While they were “tracking”, the pride walked right past the vehicle! It was huge, +/- 26 lions in total! There were a lot of cubs of different ages. On our way back to camp we saw a spotted eagle owl.

23 January – Morning Drive

We started the day with a grey tree frog. We then followed this up with another pride of lion. We also saw carmine bee-eaters, pygmy kingfishers and giant plated lizards.

23 January – Evening Drive

We started with giant plated lizards, before moving on to see some giraffe. We also saw a large breeding herd of elephants. The one calf had an abscess on its side.

24 January – Morning Drive

Makwela was back in the tree outside camp again as we came out in the morning. There were also some hyenas that were checking whether she had any food. An anti-poaching unit on bicycles and both the leopard and hyenas reacted to their presence, with the hyena eventually moving off out of sight.

24 January – Evening Drive

We came across a sub adult bateleur. We then found a pride of lion resting. An unusual sight after this was 2 yellow-billed hornbills having a sand bath. The one was using a millipede as a “cleaning agent”! We then found a male lion, followed by a male leopard!

25 January – Morning Drive

We left earlier in the morning in order to drive down to the river to watch and photograph the sunrise. As the sun rose, we heard a lion roaring so we decided to follow it up. We found the pride of lion with a kill. There are some real politics among the rangers and Brett was in trouble as the River Lodge rangers believed that he should have called the roaring in and left it to them to look for the lions. So, we actually gave way to the first vehicle that arrived, in order not to cause any problems. We watched a purple-crested turaco with the sun reflecting off its feathers. It looked really beautiful. We saw dwarf mongoose and a fish eagle. We had our morning drinks in a hide on a dam and could use our binoculars to look at the bats roosting under the thatch.

25 January – Evening Drive

We started the day with African hawk eagles who were very interested in some guineafowl. We then saw a big herd of impala as well as a herd of wildebeest with young. The latter is not something we get to see often in this part of the reserve. We then had a sighting of a leopard and another one of some hyena.

26 January – Morning Drive

Our first sighting was of a black-bellied korhaan. This was followed by some rhino. We then had a look at a nest in a bush that had 2 baby birds. The parents were nowhere to be seen so it was difficult to determine exactly what kind of birds they were. We found some more rhino. We then came across the Sand River pride of lions in a river bed. They were feeding on a buffalo carcass that was in a really bad condition. The smell was horrific. 

This was our first trip to Dulini and we fell in love with the camp. The only other guests there at the same time as us was a doctor and his family who had immigrated to Australia and were back in South Africa on holiday. His eldest daughter was a singer and she was convinced to sing for us the one evening when we had dinner on the balcony. She sang beautifully. The rest of the time it was just us, so we could spend a lot of time driving around enjoying the scenery and doing some birding.

The one noticeable absence from all of our sightings on this trip is zebra. They are even scarcer than the wildebeest!

Lifers – African cuckoo, Retz’s helmet-shrike, red-faced cisticola and dusky indigobird