Welcome to my 3rd newsletter. As the months tick by, the lure of the bushveld seems to be getting that much more appealing and the ability to deal with busy shopping malls (such as the Christmas shopping trip) is less than appealing and can be overwhelming at times!
Since writing the last newsletter, my freelance work has taken me to some of the same lodges I’ve guided at, but also to a new lodge.
As always, the guiding industry is about the people you meet along the way and the friendships built. It is also about the animals, environment, biotic (living) and abiotic (non living) elements that shape the workplace (my bushveld office). Without the people who visit these reserves, I wouldn’t be doing what I am passionate about.
Most recently, I spent 11 days at the Black Rhino Game Reserve in the northern Pilanesberg National Park, after 10 wonderful days at Tshukudu Bush Lodge. What an experience it was! One of the highlights of my time there was having a pride of lion all around the vehicle at close quarters. For some of the guests, this was their first sighting of these majestic beasts and hopefully the memories will last a life time. In this particular pride, there were 2 lionesses, 3 sub adult males and 1 big dominant black maned lion.
Another interesting experience was driving though the wilderness section (the buffer between Pilanesberg National Park and Black Rhino Game Reserve). As the game vehicle slowly but steadily weaved between the large Shepherds and Tamboti trees and dongas, we found ourselves in front of a breeding herd of elephant strolling down the road.
At this point, our best action to avoid any confrontation was to turn off the engine, sit and wait for them to pass us by. The elephant were very calm, some needed some soothing words which I uttered – “it’s ok”, “remain calm”, trying to stay calm myself for the benefit of the slightly nervous guests. This helped, but the vehicle did get a good sniff by one young female who proceeded to pass by less than a meter away. Looking back at the guests, there was an air of excitement and many smiles.
The next day, the 3 cheetah brothers were found at the north western corner of the fence line. These cats are regal in appearance, calm and very sociable creatures. They spent most of the time bonding by rubbing heads or grooming each other.
Following this, was a magnificent buffalo sighting. There were approximately 50 to 60 in the herd, just meters off the road. Unfortunately, it seems that only the guests in the Black Rhino Reserve get to see these massive animals as they often move from the busy Pilanesberg Reserve to the wilderness area throughout the summer. Only in the winter months do they venture into the Pilanesberg National Park.
November had its own excitement too. I took part in a mentored walk with some of the Honorary Rangers and park officials of Kruger National Park. The trail (3 nights, 4 days) is designed to get up close encounters (closer than you’d take guests) with the Big 5 and accumulate walking hours towards a lead rifle qualification. The purpose of the closer than normal encounters, is to get one into a situation where action is needed. Through this, we learn what to do and what not to do.
The encounters we enjoyed ranged from black rhino wallowing in the mud and charging relatively close to escape, white rhino in thick bush, buffalo staring us down, general game, hyena prowling around while we sat in the grass and an adrenaline pumping leopard sighting at close quarters.
The campsite is in one of the southern blocks south of Skukuza, frequented by park officials. It is unfenced, has no electricity and just a small solar shower which wasn’t working all that well, but after a hot day, a cold shower is most welcome.
I’ll be doing another mentored walk at the end of January, hopefully this time with my Kruger National Park/SANPARKS ARH (advanced rifle handling) and rifle proficiency qualifications. I do have my FGASA ARH, but this Kruger one is specific to Kruger guides.
I have also been guiding at Tshukudu Bush Lodge in the Pilanesberg almost every month, which is always exciting as I get to meet new friends, old friends and brings back fond memories. I’ll be back there from 10 January till 18 January before heading to Kruger.
As for Chris Bates Safaris, I am still building a brand and I know in due course it will be a successful venture. I have a few meetings planned for the upcoming months and am hoping to make contact with a few guest houses and hotels. I will endeavour to do regular updates on the Face Book page and the website – www.chrisbatessafaris.com.
The current brochure is going to have a flyer added with pricing options for basic through to luxury accommodation.
For those who love to do geo-tagging, I’d encourage you to try Mike Condy’s Geo Safaris – www.mikecondygeosafaris.com. He will take you to various game reserves/places of interest and in so doing put you in areas where geo tagging occurs. I had a guest last month who follows this activity and getting him to a geo-tagging spot in Pilanesberg National Park was one of the highlights of his trip.