Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Karula's family are all well.

Yesterday morning Pieter found Karula and both of her cubs just outside room 4 at Vuyatela lodge. She apparently had a kill in a large Jackalberry tree, which was stolen by a lioness that climbed into the tree before the WE camera vehicle arrived.

WE now believe that she has one male and one female cub. The male cub seems a lot more confident around the vehicles than his sister, who has a tendency to hide away, which is why WE thought that she may have been killed. She now appears to be becoming a lot more relaxed.

A leopard's spot pattern is as unique as a human fingerprint. The 'necklace' around Karula's neck is one of her most noticeable markings. Next time you see her on the drive make a point of spotting her necklace. Over time WE will identify markings on the two cubs and as they get old enough to move off on their own, they will be getting names. Its always interesting to see how leopards get their names in the Sabi Sands. Each area has a different way of naming these amazing cats and the style of the names can often give some hint as to what part of the Sabi Sands the leopard comes from.

Monday, 30 July 2007

Nick and Helen have gone!

Well Nick and Helen have gone. WE will miss them immensely. They have played such a big part in our lives and the early part of WildEarth's life.
They can leave secure in the knowledge that they helped create something very important and made a big difference in the lives of so many around the world.
Good luck with everything that the two of you take on in the future ... and remember there is always a place at WildEarth for you ... its in your nature.

A last goodbye from Nick and Helen.

Nick and Helen's final drive.

Thursday, 26 July 2007

A big welcome to Rob the new WE cameraman.

Born and bred in Cape Town, this surfer boy loves nothing more than weilding a camera and riding the waves. He was an outdoorsy child, playing any sport he could. His magic footie skills will keep the rest of the team on their toes......literally. Nowdays, he prefers to spend his time surfing and of course playing with cameras. Having spent four years learning the ins and outs of film making, this top notch camera man has made his mark on the industry. From kite surfing competetions to MTV reality shows this gifted photographer loves nothing more than holding your eye. With his infectious laugh Rob is slipping effortlessly into the WE team and looks like he has a chance of filling Helen's big boots.
Likes: Surfing and girls
Dislikes: Trance music and eating meat.

Monday, 23 July 2007

How the drive works.

Some of you may be wondering why WE don't visit everything that WE hear on the radio ... or even what is being said on the radio. So WE thought a little bit of behind the scenes info would help.
Generally there are 5 game drive vehicles out on each safari from the three Djuma lodges twice per day, plus the WildEarth vehicle. They all communicate on a single radio channel, which WE monitor as well as the final control channel. The Djuma vehicles drive (traverse) over 8,000 hectares (20,000 acres) of the Sabi Sands, but WE traverse over about 1,000 hectares (2,500 acres). The reason for this is that WE simply cannot get our video and audio back to our final control from all of Djuma's land.
It is the responsibility of each guide, including our presenters, to call in sightings (particularly of the Big 5) whenever they find them. The Djuma vehicles then have the right to go to any sighting and should they wish to come to a sighting that our vehicle found or are at, WE must move on to make way for the lodge guests. This is all about bush etiquette. WE also do not film any of the guests as WE would need their permission and WE do not have the time or need to ask for it.
Sometimes you will hear a sighting called in on the radio, like: "ingwe" (leopard), "ngala" (lion), "ndlovu" (elephant), "nyati" (buffalo), "skankaan" (cheetah), and yet our vehicle will not go there. Usually this is because the sighting is in an area that WE cannot reach with our transmission equipment.
On another note, Nick and Helen just caught up with Karula and one of her cubs having a drink down in a drainage line ... where is the other cub?

Friday, 20 July 2007

No cubs yet! Helen and Nick are leaving WE!

Nobody has seen Karula's cubs since Tyson stole her duiker kill. This morning Nick found the tracks of a single leopard cub not far from our camp. Although WE have no actual information everyone in camp is very positive that they will be seen soon. There is a great deal of leopard activity at Djuma at the moment and it is definitely a dangerous time for Karula and her little family.

Nick and Helen are leaving WildEarth. Nick is immigrating to Canada with Helen for whom it will be going home. They have worked for many many years in the bush and the time has come to go and start a new life in the big city. They will miss the bush and WE will all miss them terribly. WE are having a big farewell party for them on Friday the 27th July at Djuma and their final drive will be on the Saturday afternoon of the 28th July. Maybe when they come back to visit, WE will be able to convince them to do a nostalgic drive ...

They have been an incredible team and have been with us from before the beginning. They were there when WE first began trenching and building masts and helped WildEarth create its personality ... they will always be in our nature. WE will never forget their dedication, commitment and talent. They will always have the honour of the first LIVE Big 5 drive.

WE will enjoy their last week in the bush together.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Battle of the leopards!

What an exciting 24 hours. Yesterday evening Nick and Helen caught up with Karula moments after she had killed a duiker and WE watched as she quickly hauled the carcass up into a tree before a hungry hyena could steal it.

This morning when the team got to the same place to check up on the scene, they discovered a big male leopard. His name is Tyson and he is so big that initially Nick thought that he was a lioness. He was there to steal Karula's kill. He chased her away several times until she eventually got the message. Very exciting ... and a little scary.

WE are now worried because nobody has seen the cubs since yesterday. Tyson is not the father of the cubs, WE think that the Jordaan Male is their daddy. It is quite common for male leopards to kill cubs if they are not the father. They do this in order that they can mate with the female when she comes into oestrus again. WE are concerned that he may have killed the cubs and this afternoon Nick and Helen will be on a mission to see if they can find them. Hopefully Karula had them well hidden and Tyson was more concerned with stealing her kill than killing her cubs.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

WE are back on the road again!!

... after a very difficult few days, WE, or at least Jan, managed to finally get the starter motor installed in the game drive vehicle. It was a real challenge that took him hours and hours. Poor Jan worked until 3:30 in the morning and then started again early this morning. In any event its in and working.

Nick and Helen are out again and on the hunt for all those 'critters' you love to watch.

WE are very sorry that you had to miss some drives, lets hope that it doesn't happen again. WE are expecting a cold front to pass through Djuma, and the whole of South Africa, in the next day or two. The team feel fairly confident that WE are ready for the weather ... maybe we will be lucky ... its in our nature.

(Photo Note: Jan and James on their way in the 'Bubaloo' to fix something ... or maybe just to visit the neighbours.)

Monday, 16 July 2007

WE have found a new starter motor.

... after phoning all around the Lowveld WE finally sourced a new starter motor this morning in Nelspruit. Pieter and Hayley are currently making the 3 hour journey there to collect the motor and will then drive back to Djuma. WE really appreciate them doing this even though they are actually on holiday.

When they get the new starter motor back to camp, Jan will be standing by to install it and then Nick and Helen will take the vehicle out on drive. If WE are really lucky there will be a drive this afternoon ... the whole team is focused on getting back on track. Lets see how the day unfolds.

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Game drive vehicle trouble!!

On yesterdays drive while we were off road a very large crack developed in the starter motor. As a result the gears and bushes in the motor were severely damaged. Jan is attempting to repair the starter by temporarily welding it back together again, but WE don't think this will work.

Because it is Sunday and we are far from a big city where WE can easily replace the motor there is a very real chance that WE are going to miss a few drives. Tomorrow morning WE will go into Hoedspruit and see if there is a motor in town that we can buy. WE are so sorry that you may miss a few drives and promise to work as hard as possible to get the vehicle back out there.

Pieter and Hayley are now on leave for two weeks, they have worked very hard for the past 6 weeks and WE all hope they have a good restful break.

WE have nothing new to report about the CDN, but both Telkom Media and WildEarth are working to put this in place. Unfortunatley there is a great deal of paperwork and issues to resolve in order to bring our dream to reality, WE do assure you that it will be worth the wait.

WE understand your frustrations and ask that you remain patient.

Friday, 13 July 2007

Final Control ...

Well WE are very happy to report that our new Final Control Centre (FCC) is working very nicely indeed ... touch wood. All the effort of the past few months has definitely paid off and most, if not all, systems have bedded in well. The fact that WE are now running almost exclusively on fibre optic networks as well as the completion of our power upgrades with 2 standby diesel generators, makes us confident that WE are ready for the big electrical storms that will be coming in summer.
The WE team continue to amaze us all with their incredible dedication and perseverance. WE would like to thank them for not only always 'making a plan', but also managing to provide some of the best sightings ever broadcast LIVE on the Internet.
Pieter, Hayley, Jan, Nick, Helen, Simphiwe, Lizbeth and December you are all stars and very appreciated, keep up the good work.

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Awesome leopard sightings!

Over the last few days WE have been privileged to spend a lot of time with Karula and her two cubs. On Monday Karula killed an impala and her two young cubs had a great meal. She is a very relaxed leopard and really doesn't mind us hanging around with her family.
Yesterday morning WE all watched as a pregnant Hyena came upon the kill and treed the cubs. This is a scary moment for a leopard mom as a hyena will happily kill her cubs both for food and in order to reduce future competition. Anyway both cubs survived the encounter and WE all look forward to seeing a lot more of them over the coming years. There is no doubt that Djuma Game Reserve is one of the best, if not the best, place in the world to view leopards in the wild.
To all of those of you that have been posting video clips that you have recorded from our game drives onto You Tube ... a big "thank you". They are really beautiful and all those people that cannot get onto the drive really appreciate your efforts.

Monday, 9 July 2007

Drives that break ... and WOW!

WE have had a series of technical difficulties over the weekend with our game drive vehicle. Problems with the fuel line and bad power connections on the encoder, but all is well now.
This morning, and last night, WE had great drives. With a beautiful pride of lions including 4 cubs, Karula with her cub on an impala kill and three rhino ... as well as elephant, Nick then went on a mission to find buffalo so that he got all the Big 5 on one drive. He did it! So WE officially had our first Big 5 drive. Well done Nick!!

Friday, 6 July 2007

A big thank you to Reckson Ntimane.

A great big "thank you" to Reckson and Djuma for his guest appearance on the game drive today.

WE all thought he was great and especially enjoyed his insight into Djuma from the perspective of having worked here for so many years and having lived in the area all his life. WE loved hearing about the Shangaan traditions and Reckson's own special brand of 'reading' the bush.

Hopefully that is not the last WE will see of him, but he is not currently scheduled to do anymore drives soon.

WE are sure that you enjoyed today's extra drive. This afternoons drive will be going out 30 minutes late, due to all the extra work preparing for a 3 drive day. Pieter will be driving and Jan will be on camera ... enjoy ... its in your nature.

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Our Eye at Vuyatela is working again.

Well eventually the camera system at Gowrie dam in front of Vuyatela lodge is up and running again. Jan and Pieter found our ongoing gremlin. It turned out to be a very old electrical connection that had filled up with water and was causing that particular power circuit to trip.

The other good news is that through all the chaos we managed to sort out the audio from Buffelshoek dam (although there is still a little interference).

More good news! Tomorrow at 12h00 CAT WE will be having a third midday game drive ... with a server 'dump'. This drive will be presented by Reckson , a guide from Djuma Game Reserve. WE are very excited to be having a guest guide and the whole WildEarth team hope you enjoy this extra game drive.

Lions and cameras.

Well once again it has been a tough few days as WE have had a camera failure again. As a result we missed two drives while we arranged for the newly repaired and modified HD camera to be flown into Djuma from Johannesburg.

While all this was going on a pride of lion had killed a buffalo very close to the Gowrie dam just in front of Vuyatela lodge and as a result we have had a lot of lion action around.

This has made it very difficult for Jan to repair a phantom fault on the Gowrie Cam ... because there are lion all around. He is planning to get to the camera this morning so that WE can figure out what is going on with this normally very reliable camera.

Many of you, our viewers, have been asking for an update on the increased size of the Landy/Jeep (more stream slots) and unfortunately we can't yet report that we are ready to implement the new plan. However WE can assure you all, that the strategy is being worked upon vigorously and you will see the results shortly. There are some very exciting developments being discussed at the moment.

WE are also well aware that our Infra Red camera at the waterhole at night is not very exciting and again we assure you that WE can do a lot better. However the main problem is not the camera or lights, but rather the lack of being able to operate the camera through the night. For a variety of reasons including a lack of accommodation and budget WE are unable to resolve this right now. In time our nocturnal viewing has the potential to be exceptional and WE will not miss the opportunity to WOW you .... its in our nature.

Sunday, 1 July 2007

Comings and goings.

Nick and Helen are back from their leave and James and Rodney have left us. Rodney returns to Cape Town to complete his studies and James to surf the big waves. However there is little doubt that WE will see them both again one day.

Over the past few days we have been experiencing some further difficulty with the data line between Djuma and Pretoria and that has resulted in periods of the dreaded 'apology screen'. It seems now that the problem is subsiding, but this evening's game drive was cut short because of a fault on the game drive vehicle. Jan reports that the problem is repaired and so hopefully it will be all back to normal from tomorrow morning.