"Its gonna take a lot to drag me away from you"
Life & Adventures in the South African Bush
Later, I jumped at the opportunity to go out with one of the bosses for the mid-day check on the other pride across the road. Upon entering the enclosure we discovered a fault in the electric fence and set off to locate the problem. Likely due to the lions chasing a wildebeest into the fence, we found a large segment that was partially down. I was given the duty of standing by the Truck with the telemetry GPS tracker, while the two men got to work. As I watched them make their way further and further down the fence focused on the job at hand I realized I was standing there listening to the faint but clear beep indicating the proximity of one of the dominant brothers of this feline foursome. We weren’t in any immediate danger, but I still got a surge of surreal excitement at the thought of me standing there inside the territory of the two Brothers and two Golden Girls (tawny females) listening carefully for any fluctuation in beeping pitch and watching the radio’s screen for a spike in bars indicating that we had company! The guys worked quickly and within ten minutes there were on their way back to the car. As they approached I was excited to report that an additional bar had popped up on the screen but other than that there was no desperate dash back to the truck or anything exciting to report (Don’t worry Mom!!). We eventually tracked down the Brothers resting in a thicket like a couple of very lazy and very content cats (one of them grooming away). I got the chance to try my hand at taking down the data on the boys, which was fairly gratifying after being on the other end earlier doing the tedious data entry and even more because this was the boss guilty of the challenging handwriting!
We left the boys to their napping and set out to see if we could catch a glimpse of the Golden Girls, who are a pair of completely wild sisters brought in to form a pride with the white Brothers. True to their wild background, they eluded us even with a full signal on the radio for quite a while until the guys spotted a butt through the thicket from probably 50m away. A few moments later after.. “see that tree (!?!?).. now look a bit to the left where there is that dark area.. now over.. down.. THERE!!” “Umm, yeah guys I see it” I lied initially. It took the female to stand up a few moments later for me (staring at the “there” location) to finally distinguish a hind leg! I guess that kind of vision comes with 30 years in the bush, which is precisely how long my boss has been doing this kind of thing. No sooner did I catch a glimpse of her did she, and her sister presumably, disappear into the brush! I took down what data I could and, content with seeing a leg and knowing that I had 11 more weeks to get acquainted with the Golden Girls, figured we were heading for home… but my boss was determined to provide me with a proper introduction to his ladies. Again, with a full taunting signal blaring at us over the radio, we had to make several loops around the vicinity. Our labors were not in vain and the next thing I knew we had rolled right up next to one of the females. We quickly realized that she and her sister were mid-hunt when we noticed a group of wildebeest ahead of us through the thicket about 45m. Her sister was undoubtedly positioned somewhere on the opposite side of the herd lying in wait. We sat there I silence hoping in some small way it would make up for the fact that we had just startled the stalking cat as well as blown her cover. A few minutes later the wildebeest took off and our girl slowly and fluidly rose from the grasses and silently pursued them into the thicket to reposition for an ambush. We left with the faith that on tomorrow’s check we would find some fat and happy cats.
We had been traversing the enclosure for a few hours and the sun was setting as we wound our way around the dirt roads in the direction of the gate to the main road that separates the two enclosures (our camp is located within the Royal’s enclosure). With the tangled thicket and acacia bushes creating walls of seemingly impenetrable thorns around us, I looked to the sky. Above the harsh horizon floated a smattering of flawlessly billowing clouds stained shades of pink, crimson, periwinkle and deep plum that seamlessly melted together. By the time we reached the camp gates a fiery pink full moon hung just above the horizon amidst a cloudless dull steel blue sky. Lets just say it warranted us stopping the truck and backing up beyond edge of the camp fence for another glance. The land and animals may be harsh and wild but the spirit of this place below such a sky will fill anyone’s heart with the warmth of home.