January 26, 2012


It’s been a week since the big rains in the greater Hoedspruit area in Limpopo, where our Selati and Karongwe wilderness camps lie, created havoc. The effects of all that water are still visible and for the year group that just started their professional field guide course at Selati, it literally got them stuck in a very precarious situation. Claire, wife of lead instructor Wouter, shares their adventure:

Saturday morning half the camp along with Wouter and I, headed out for an earlier than usual game drive in a bid to track some lionesses.  I should probably preface this story by saying that we've had rain here this week, as you're well aware.

We set out at 3am and saw the odd genet and a jackal once dawn broke. After coffee and a rusk, we set out to find the lionesses. We eventually found the two of them in a clearing and made our way over for a closer look. After some photo opportunities we manoeuvred the vehicle to get a better look at the second lioness.  

As we did so, we noticed the first lioness coming over and positioning herself some 15 metres in front of the vehicle, just watching us. Wouter commented on how strange it was that she sat point blank in front of the vehicle, staring at us. It was then we glanced to the left of the vehicle and noticed their fresh kill, a young wildebeest, lying in a small bush.

Being an ethical guide and true conservationist, Wouter decided to back up and give the girls a little more space. It was then that the wheels decided to do their own thing, spinning in all directions. We didn’t get very far before we simply sank, still within a stone’s through of the ever watchful lionesses.

After a couple of attempts to get free, it was clear that we were going nowhere in a hurry. Fortunately, we noticed the LEO workers (Limpopo Eco Operations Africa, doing predator research in Selati) passing by. We started waving with a little more enthusiasm than one would for a general greeting.

Adam and his assistant attempted to tow us out but became temporarily bogged down themselves. It was at this point that we realised that this was going to be an all-out effort to free the vehicle. With an audience of two interested lionesses some 40 metres away, who could ask for more adventure and excitement?

So, we all piled out the vehicle, albeit some more slowly than others, and the digging commenced. I don't think I took my eyes off those two felines for a moment, ok, maybe then for a couple of seconds to take these pictures.  

Much digging and three failed attempts later, we finally got ourselves free and very great fully thanked LEO. We bid farewell to the lionesses, leaving them to enjoy the rest of their meal.

I bet nobody could’ve predicted the day we ended up having, especially after dragging our tired bodies out of bed in the wee hours of the morning. Great excitement and a real sense of teamwork are all part and parcel of an EcoTraining day!

(Thanks Claire for the photos!)
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