We had 6 students on the course in the end which was pleasing as we had nearly had to cancel it due to lack of numbers but then we got some late bookings. All the students were male and they were an exceptionally pleasant group of guys who all gelled together and made for a very memorable course. The ages varied from 19 to 50-something. Sadly one of the guys didn’t make it and I put this down mainly to his lack of English skills prior to coming on the course as well as a difficulty in grasping some of the more technical terms required to understand the syllabus fully.
Sightings were good initially with several elephant sightings. During the first 2-3 days we walked into groups of elephant on many occasions and even got quite close on one occasion. Fortunately we had no major incidents and everyone enjoyed the moment. We had several memorable sightings of these wonderful animals drinking at the waterhole. In fact on one morning we had to postpone the walk by about 45 minutes as we had elephant in every direction but they gave us a great show feeding and drinking close to us without any care in the world about their human spectators.
We were given the pleasure on a couple of occasions of viewing a 1-month old giraffe calf. This was even more pleasing when you consider we had witnessed the previous calf born on the reserve being consumed by a lioness only a few months ago. The impala had dropped their lambs as well by the time the course finished allowing the students a chance to witness the growing numbers of animals. We were also fortunate to see many wildebeest and zebra young during our time in the Kruger Park.
The bird life was also good with most of the migrating birds back and the students will never forget the call of the Woodlands Kingfishers. The arrive back from east Africa in the early part of November each year and once they get back their recognizable call continues all day every day until they depart in about April.
The Mopane Worms suddenly appeared about 10 days before the end of the course and the students were amazed at how quickly they grew and how many there were. It would appear that this year has been a great year for them and the trees were stripped bare of their leaves in no time at all. The students even ventured to gather a few themselves and tried their luck at cleaning them out and drying them. Sadly they didn’t prepare them quite right and the exercise didn’t work as they had hoped. Fortunately Mel had been able to get hold of a few prepared worms and the students were all asked to sample this tasty traditional delicacy.
The Kruger Park trip was good fun but cut short due to inclement weather. The rain came down and continued to do so for the entire time we were in the park, although we did manage to avoid it on some occasions. We decided in the end to cut the trip short by one day and head home so they could spend an extra day studying for their important FGASA exam. We had some great sightings. We had lion sightings every day (including a mating pair of lions and a small pride on a buffalo carcass), several hyena sightings and even a cheetah sighting with a freshly killed impala lamb on the final morning. The bird sightings were very good considering the rain and we managed 142 species in total. The elephant sightings were not great but then we had been spoilt on Grietjie earlier during the course. Sadly we didn’t get to see any rhino or leopard.
All in all the course was a great success and I will be sad to see this group of students move on to greener pastures as we got on really well as a group. Talking of greener pastures, the bush has made a remarkable recovery and is looking very lush and verdant at present. We have recorded our wettest December for over 8 years and we are only just over half way through the month. This is hopefully a good omen for a great year for the animals.
2007 has turned out to be a great year for Antares in the end despite having various setbacks earlier in the year. Lets hope that we have an even better 2008.