NAME: Adrian Bantich
DIARY ENTRIES: 11
PHOTOS UPLOADED: 5
VIDEOS UPLOADED: 0
CURRENT COMPANY: Tswalu
I wrote this some time ago and even to date I feel that this entry pretty much somes up what it is that we guides do, everyday, seven days a week...for 6 to 8 weeks and sometimes up to 12 at a time.
The story also involves a very close and special friend of mine, Mose Dolf (in the photos)...a true tracker of the old school...another legend of the Kalahari
Photos courtesy of Wander Bester
04:00- The Alarm blares… the snooze button is instinctively pressed. I shouldn’t have played poker with the lads till 1am...big regrets, luckily I won some money last night.
04:05- Kid rock starts blaring All Summer along again from my phone…mental note: I seriously have to change this terrible alarm tone! I amble to the bathroom and, without thinking, glug a few vitamins and Ginseng tablets down with a copious amount of tap water… there is a lime build up in the water again…I should look at getting a filter sometime soon. I have a shower after sorting out the coffee machine. It is time to suit up and kit out for the day. I check the weather…it rained last night…pretty hard…I didn’t even hear the storm…but the sky is semi-clear apart from a thick film of cloud cover to the south-east. Flashback: The guests are super keen to find lions this morning…frustration…the rain has wiped any tracks clean of the roads from the night before… and the sand this morning will look like a new blank canvass while I drive over the red sand and paint it with my thick tread tyre tracks. Hopefully the northern pride have made some movements after the storm, it should give Moses and I something to work with.
04:40- The vitamins and two cups of staunch filter coffee kick in. I start the vehicle and fill in my log book…wow I travelled just under one hundred kilometres yesterday. That equates to around three game drives in the good old Manyeleti Game Reserve…this reserve is seriously one enormous place! It is still dark…I notice that the dawn is starting to sleep in a little later these days. I head to Moses’ house and pick him up. “More More! (morning morning), hoe gaan dit vandag? (how’s it going today)” “Stil en rustig pappa (relaxed and rested buddy)”. “Its going to be a hot day today hey Moses?” “Altyd is dit ‘n warm dag in die Kalahari (its always hot in the Kalahari).” I knowingly chuckle to my rhetorical question.
04:45- We head off to Main Lodge… as I drive the light starts to push through remnants of the dark blue cumulus clouds. En route I pass the North Western plains between the lagging Korraneberg mountains. The lush Bushman’s grass waves its silver inflorescence as a gentle breeze momentarily passes through it. The sky is purple and red between the rocky outcrops. A thought flashes through my mind as I think back to what a guest had said to me some two years ago, “Red sky in the morning, Shepherd’s warning Adrian”. I still can’t understand the saying, but I do know that by 07:30 the Kalahari sun is going to be frying us, maybe that is what it means, redness in the sky, red sunburn later. I say to Moses, “Ons soek die leeu’s vandag boetie (we need to find lion’s today brother)”. He shakes his head…I giggle to myself…easier said than done after a storm like that…I know that Moses is thinking the same thing.
04:58- I park in front of the Guides’ office. Jo is already there. He taunts me, I taunt him back…the usual morning exchange between us, all in good faith of course…I pick up a stick that has a lump of tyre rubber wrapped around it. Time to do wake ups.
05:00- I head down to room 4 and take the rubber/stick contraption and tap on the door…tap tap tap tap… “Good Morning!”... No response. I wait for few seconds and then hammer at the door. Shuffles and movement… “Morning…”. Room 4 does not sound impressed. I wouldn’t be either. I head back to the office, clock-in…fill in rifle register…take the rifle out of the safe and tuck her away in the rifle bag… I help Moses put the cooler box on the back of the vehicle…get on the PC and mess around on Facebook and g-mail for a few minutes.
05:20- I make my way to the front of the lodge and grab some coffee. Three cups already this morning I think to myself…I have to cut down. The guests venture through. “Morning guys! Sleep well? Have a good dinner?” The ceremonious morning exchanges are met with pleasant answers and everyone seems jovial, albeit half-asleep. Morning coffees and teas get quickly glugged, a rusk and some biscuits are chewed.
05:40- We set out to the Lekgaba area, a fifteen-minute drive east of the main lodge. The sun rises over the northern Korraneberg tip. I can never get tired of this. Moses sees fresh tracks on the road; it looks the eight Northern pride sub adults. They are not keen to walk through the tall, wet yellow grass and so cleverly strut along rusty red open road. They are moving straight towards Skilpad (Tortoise) waterhole, a waterhole some 800m away from us. Moses reckons that we should get to Skilpad quickly, I concur.
6:15- Skilpad waterhole is quiet and there are no lion tracks to be seen. Maybe the sub-adults cut along the south eastern area towards Helderberg flats? If so it is going to be a long morning of tracking, and in the next hour or so sweat will uncomfortably drench my uniform. No, Moses said that the tracks were fresh… “Vars, baie baie vars!” The last time Moses said this we were on foot tracking a lioness. Some five minutes after his comment Moses almost stepped on the her tail. I opt to wait at the waterhole for a few minutes. We sit quietly and enjoy the tranquillity of the coolish morning. A few Sandgrouse are basking in and drinking at the waterhole. I start to tell the guests how the bird can travel a few kilometres when they have chicks to soak up the water within their plumage in order to fly back the nest site and give their chicks wat….The conversation ends abruptly. In a perfect line the sub-adults pop out of the dense black thorn thickets and proceed towards the rim of the waterhole. Success (and a bit of luck)! The guests are excited. This is the first time that they have ever seen a lion in the wild. I think back to the thoughts and feelings that I experienced when I had my first lion sighting…it was epic. I wonder what is going through their minds.
As if perfectly arranged, am I am not exaggerating as this is how it went, the sunrise climbs over a small hill to the east of us and immediately lights up Skilpad waterhole like a spotlight to a stage. The eight sub-adults perform for us as the water slowly and methodically moves upwards from their wet tongues to their dry pallets. I don’t have to call this on the radio this morning as I am the only guide on out Game Drive…I have just over 100 000 hectares all to myself this morning…I have this incredible sighting all to myself and my guests this morning…I am privileged.