A Surprise in my Office - 18 October 2016
Addo Elephant National Park - Always ready to surprise
I am sometimes asked when out on tour “if I get bored with my job” while guiding folks through some of the most picturesque and beautiful wilderness and natural areas on the planet, entertaining and being entertained by a host of interesting people from around the world where my answer is of course a resounding NO! Each tour, each moment of each tour is a unique experience in its own right something that is entirely different from the previous tour and will be completely unique from the next one.
The reason for the uniqueness is multifaceted. Firstly, because the people are so different, the expectations completely different, their life’s experiences so different, their backgrounds so completely different and finally their personalities are unique to themselves and that is the differences only on the inside of the vehicle.
On the outside, in "the system" in which those that are being sought after and viewed, the creatures so many have come to search for and observe are each in a different place at a different time, in a different season at a different age. The weather is different, the dust tastes different the air is different, the wind, the sunlight or lack thereof. The rainfall, the storms, the cold, the heat, the healthy, the injured, the death and the dying are all completely different on any given day.
How can I or anyone be bored in the bush I ask myself?
Then there are the expectations. So many expectations by so many people are so different, some folks are expecting to see a Lion which always feature large on the expectation list, under every tree, some a Leopard lying laconically over the branches of a tree, in the sub-tropical thicket? I don't think so! Others are simply happy to drive slowly around the park enjoying anything and everything we chance upon, it is these simply, happy folk that will usually be treated to the most unusual and gratifying sightings, that is simply the way of the universe.
All of the above and the list is far from complete, all contribute to a stimulating and interesting day at the office for me but there some days where I am just blown out of the water, when something happens that creates the spark, that ignites the excitement and energy. It might be the sighting of a rare bird, rounding a corner to find two huge male Lions performing the coup de grace on a bull Buffalo, any number of different things could and do happen on a totally random basis to such a degree that one is always anticipating the unusual without expecting it.
On this particular day I was traveling through the southern portion of the park when just such a sighting tingled all of the collective nerve endings sending the synapses into a cacophony of messages through my nervous system.
Having just left a waterhole where a large bull Elephant was busy slacking his thirst, I caught the far off glimpse of a momentary moving patch of chocolate coloured something. Alert, major alert! I had no way of identifying anything before the movement disappeared far too briefly and distant to positively identify anything in particular. I stopped with my rather noisy but happy group from Israel. Reversed the Land cruiser, took out the glasses and watched a space where I anticipated the movement of the mobile chocolate to re-emerge if it kept on the trajectory I had first seen it on.
It did and when it emerged I immediately recognised the robust fore quarters and head, the reduced hindquarter and the incredibly long, flowing dark brown coat of an adult Brown Hyena. Hallelujah guys it’s a Brown hyena. Ha ha! Ok I get in return. Guys it’s a Brown Hyena, Ok! With a touch of impatience I again get in return. This is the first Brown Hyena I've ever seen in Addo!! Now it starts to dawn on the more vocal members especially when I tell them to tone their volume down. Note I don't ask them to tone it down. Sometimes it is necessary to enunciate ones words a bit.
I reverse the cruiser (No, not the Landy that's for land rovers) back down the hillside close to the waterhole where slowly but surely the Hyena comes coursing its way, drifting slowly closer to the waterhole. Surprisingly the Hyena doesn't go to the water itself but passes onto a small shrub where after some sniffing around it locates what has probably induced this shy but confident and solitary scavenger to make its way down the hillside to pick up a large bone or series of bones in the form of a fore leg of a Bushbuck or Warthog size prey item where with this valuable resource in its powerful jaws it carries the leg and shoulder bone with the residual meat still attached to it, back up the far side of the hill to disappear with its meal, not changing its gait or apparently feeling the weight of the food in its jaws.
A beautiful sight, a rare sight one that you will seldom get the privilege to see out in the open at 10 am in the morning as these secretive and rare creatures are crepuscular in their movements, preferring to move around undercover of the approaching night or in the gloom of the birth of a new day.
How can one ever be bored with life itself?
Words and photographs by Alan Fogarty