A life defining experience from inside Umgede Hide

A life defining experience from inside Umgede Hide

It has been an exceptionally busy and exhilarating time since the last blog was published, including one life defining moment for 3 of our guests.

We have had 4 or 5 groups of guests during that time, been busy with various maintenance issues and had some memorable sightings from inside the hide as well as on game drives.

Some of you may recall my blog from last year when I tried to chase an elephant out of the camp with a hosepipe.

You can watch that video on this link.

Well, the same chap has been back again and been hanging around the camp for a while and has been up to his old antics once more. Twice in one week I had to repair or replace the copper piping in the outside shower of room 2.

He then decided to give himself a good body scratch against the shower wall. Thankfully there was no damage done but a decision was quickly made that we needed to erect some electric fencing at the front of the lodge to reduce the risk in future. Typically as Armstrong and I were busy with that, our friend was around the other side breaking through the fence to access the mother-in-law’s tongue plants by the pool! It was only when JC and Elisabeth came to visit the hide for their 7th day-visit that we bothered to try and identify the individual. Sure enough it was the same one that JC had filmed of me chasing out the camp last year.

The August winds arrived late and we have had a few windy days in early September instead but with it also came the hot weather. Some days this last week the mercury has reached almost 38C. This is typically how the summers start here in the lowveld with the hot dry weather building and building, while we all desperately wait for the first summer rains. At this stage there is no sign of those and the animals are spending more and more time close to the permanent waterholes quenching their thirst.

Elephants have been gathering in large numbers across the reserve and Umgede Hide has had its fair share of them, along with large herds of Impala and various other animals too. The elephants don’t just come in for a drink but frequently spend a great deal of time throwing mud and water over their bodies to try and keep cool, even submerging their whole bodies from time to time. Each time they enter the waterhole en-masse, we wait anxiously to see whether the resulting tsunami might come in through the open shutters but so far we have avoided that.

Birds at the camp and hide

Towards the end of August we were thrilled to record a group of Ground Hornbills at the waterhole. Although we had recorded them once before they had never come down to the waters edge. The adult pair and their juvenile offspring spent almost an hour searching for frogs and other tasty items. Unfortunately the one grey tree frog who had been hibernating safely (or so he/she thought) on top of the one motion camera all winter, was spotted and in a flash the adult had grabbed it and fed it to the youngster with much squeaking from the frog. Although we enjoyed watching them, ground hornbills are very territorial and are well known for breaking glass windows when they see their reflection. The side window of the hide was duly smashed and needed to be replaced. They also smashed the glass on the front of the camera but amazingly the lens escaped any damage and it was only the glass covering the light sensors that got damaged. A little bit of silicone to the rescue and we are good to go again.

Predators at the camp and hide

Predators have been in abundance this last month at the hide as well as across the reserve. Our main lion pride now numbering up to 25 individuals, not including the pride males. We returned from game drive one evening to be told there was a leopard at the water so we drove around to look but found nothing. On driving back out to the camp we found her at the entrance to the laundry/workshop. I was super excited to see that it was Minona and it appeared as though she was lactating, so we look forward to seeing her more frequently with her cubs. The last time we saw her was when our guest Michael Chiang got a photo of her and her previous cubs 2 years ago on his birthday. She is a typically elusive female leopard and she doesn’t show herself too easily to game drive vehicles.

She recently appeared on the camera in the middle of the day and then disappeared below my house somewhere so I suspect her cubs are somewhere in the valley below the house. Unfortunately the terrain and lack of roads there make it impossible to access and maybe she knows that, which is why she has chosen that as a safe place.

The hyenas have been past a number of time especially in the early hours of the morning between 2am and 3am typically. They usually wander past as individuals or maybe a couple of them.

This past week though created the biggest show of the month when having been on drive to view the big pride of lions just down the road (16 animals in total) we were on our way back to camp when we found a further 4 lions who started heading down the hill towards the camp. We raced ahead to allow everyone to get into the hide and set up and hope that our predictions would be right. A 15-minute wait resulted in the three females eventually coming in for a drink and a bunch of very happy guests with some great reflection photos in their library seemed to have set the tone. However, 10 minutes later the male eventually turned up but didn’t drink as he was trying to catch up to the females who had by now left him behind. Over the next 2 hours he circled the camp calling and trying to link up. All that did though was call in the “eternal enemies”, the hyenas. Greg was up on hornbill deck trying to enjoy the opening game of the Rugby World Cup (he is a Kiwi, so maybe the result wasn’t what he hoped for!) when all of a sudden the greatest boxing match of the season started between the male lion and about 11-14 hyena. A great deal of twisting, turning, growling and roaring took place in the shadows in the clearing by the rain gauge, before the lion made a dash for it and retreated behind the hide. Behind the hide for him was in front of the hide for 3 guests inside and he ran along between the open shutters and the water before spinning round and sitting down to face any possible hyena that chose to follow him. In the process his tail ended up inside the hide next to Chris who was understandably frozen to the seat. A quick sprint away from the hide with some of the hyena in hot pursuit gave the girls their chance to drop the shutters back down before he came running back towards them. Thankfully he went past and hid in the bushes behind the hide this time.

A very scary moment for everyone involved but also a moment that will be remembered for ever and spoken about with grandchildren around the fireplace in years to come.

If you want to watch the video follow the link to our YouTube channel,

Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram @Antaresbushcamp to keep up to date with daily posts and reels from camera sightings.