Good day and welcome to a long overdue newsletter.
I hope you are well and the year is progressing smoothly and your past visit/s to the beautiful African bush are still a fond memory.
I have been looking into the whole structure of my website, brochures and business cards, there have been a few nifty inclusions to the website and some general improvements.
There will also be a change in structure to the newsletter which I think will streamline the news. The basis of it will be to share experiences and animal sightings that made the trips so enjoyable.
This year has been one of varying experiences. In the early months of the 2018, I did a fair amount of traveling to various game reserves.
One trip that stands out for me was in the Pilanesberg National Park where I had the opportunity to photograph some young lion cubs in what is known as photographers light.
This light occurs in the first few and last few hours of each day. In this case with the lion cubs, there was a pinky orange light cast onto their faces by the early morning sun. They posed so nicely and not far from the vehicle (+/- 10m away). The mother lion was so calm and allowed the cubs to stalk the vehicles which was enjoyed by everyone. Other sightings included leopard x2, cheetah, lion, elephant, buffalo, wild dog (hunting and catching a warthog meters from the vehicle) and white and black rhino. These 7 animals make up what is known as the Magnificent 7. Other animals included jackal, brown hyena, caracal and a few beautiful bird species.
The next trip was to the Black Rhino Private Game Reserve (Buffalo Thorn Lodge). I have always enjoyed working at this lodge, for the opportunity to view animals without the multitude of other vehicles swarming the sightings. Sightings included eland, elephant, cheetah, lion, buffalo, caracal and brown hyena.
In February, I assisted a good friend Mike Condy from Mike Condy Tours and Safaris in guiding some of his guests around the Pilanesberg for the day. They were from the UK we had a great day. We enjoyed watching 4 large male lions walking in single file down the road towards us, a leopard meters from us in the middle of the road and totally unfazed with out presence. At Mokorwane dam, we viewed a mother hippo with 2 young claves, one of which must have been only days old. This is one animal the guests were hoping to see and what a treat it was. On the way out, we came a cross a coalition of cheetah and a few elephant.
March was my first trip with my own guests who were from Sweden. The trip was for a weekend to Graskop and Kruger National Park. We started off with a tour of the escarpment taking in the sights and sounds of God’s Window, Wonder View, The Bourke’s Luck Potholes, Mac Mac Falls and Blyde River Canyon. The Blyde River Canyon is the 3rd largest canyon in the world and is lush in vegetation.
Kruger National Park proved a treat with an up close and personal encounter with a pack of wild dog (probably 20 strong), an encounter with a breeding herd of elephant, buffalo and rhino.
The next trip was with a family from Germany. It started off in Johannesburg and we drove to Malalane Gate in the southern part of Kruger. Upon entering, we had a wonderful sighting, of an interaction with 2 rhino and a bull elephant at a small waterhole. Naturally the larger of the 2 ended up keeping the waterhole, but just witnessing the action was enjoyable. Further down the road, we viewed a pack of wild dog resting in the shade of a Marula tree. The accommodation was at a guest unit on the banks of the Sabie River – very comfortable and tranquil. Sightings included buffalo, elephant, jackal, a few reptiles and birds.
Overall a great experience.
Next was a trip with my parents and a good friend to Olifants Camp in the Kruger National Park. This trip was the first with family since graduating as a backup trails and field guide from Eco Training.
We stayed for 3 nights in the park, had a close encounter with a baboon which stole the cereal from the table, cheetah in the distance. We tasted the leaf of a Silver Cluster Leaf tree and learned how it defends itself from browsers. It produces a tannin that dries out the mouth, forcing animals to look for water. This discourages the animals from eating the leaves.
Morning coffee was enjoyed with breathtaking sunrises over the Olifant River on the high water bridge. Post morning coffee, we came across a coalition of male cheetah, 2 majestic male lions, one of which walked so close to the vehicle that the top of its head brushed the underside of the vehicle’s wing mirror. I have never been that close to a male lion and the memory will last forever.
In June, a friend, mentor and past instructor Rhodes Bezuidenhout had me working as his backup guide on a backpacking walking trail in the beautiful Makuleke Concession of Kruger National Park. What an experience this was! We were a group of 4 walkers, sleeping out under the stars and doing our duty as night watch around the fire. One night, there was an astrological event when a meteor flew through the solar system in the clear star filled skies.
Sightings on trail included 5 separate buffalo sightings, 1 bull elephant in the largest Fever Tree forest in the world and the calls of hyena at night. An experience like this is a definite recommendation to anyone who wishes to escape technology and phone calls and get back to nature.
Mike Condy (mentioned earlier) and I went on an educational site inspection trip to the Klaserie Private Game Reserve and Maseke/Olifants Game Reserve. The accommodation was comfortable in all lodges, the staff were friendly and we had good game viewing. At Africa On Foot and nThambo and Chacma one can follow the animals through the bush and not just on the road.
We witnessed a shy male leopard with an impala in the tree nearby, trailed lion though the bush at 10pm and saw wild dog running in front of us for a good hour the following morning. We viewed buffalo up close, rhino and elephant and enjoyed a special treat known as the Bush Bar in the middle of the bush on one of the nights. After this experience, I would highly recommend these lodges to anyone looking for a true bush experience at reasonable prices.
So after all of the above, I do hope that I can assist you one day with an experience to remember for a long time. I have acquired
rates for the various lodges and walking safaris and am more than willing to put a package together for you, not just the bush but anywhere in Southern Africa.
With regards to my website as earlier mentioned, the website is now live and looking great. There is a “translate” button at the bottom left corner of the screen. There are options to browse the site in Dutch, French, German and English. Pictures will be uploaded periodically. There is also a Facebook page and Instagram page for Chris Bates Safaris and if I may ask, please can you “like” and share these pages with your friends.
Chris Bates Safaris has a new logo too which will start to appear on my emails, and magnetic signs on the vehicle.
For my fiends in South Africa, keep warm as this winter chill sets in and those lucky enough to be in summer now, enjoy the warm days.
Chris Bates Safaris