Black Mambas #8 – 3 out of the Big 5!
It’s been an epic few days living the life of a Black Mamba.
This night patrol was beyond exciting! I wasn’t sure what to expect and what I would see. It didn’t disappoint. There were two black mambas, Leytah and Belinda, Charlie and myself. Our vehicle, known as “Dave” had two seats in the cab and two elevated seats on the back. Leytah and I sat on the back, in the open air.
Within the first five minutes, we saw four young male lions. They looked mischievous and stared intensely at Leytah and I. One was laid down by the passenger’s side, the other two in the bushes and the fourth one walked slowly round the back of the vehicle. Charlie’s vocal cues were similar to how I would speak to my Jack Russell. “I’m watching you…don’t even think about it..”. Well if he was thinking about dinner, I didn’t want to stick around to find out! A few photos later and we were off. Lions strategically work together, so being surrounded didn’t put me at ease.
The air felt fresh on my face, the bush felt peaceful but very much alive.
I filmed Leytah as the spotlight darted over her face, revealing her bright red lipstick. These ladies may have an element of glamour but boy, they mean business.
Our second sighting was spectacular. A White Rhino. He is known for his risky antics. He strolled pass the front of the vehicle, cool, calm and collected. It was made all the more dramatic by the emotion Leytah displayed, barely able to contain her excitement and wonderment. This really reinforced the geneuine passion she has for the work she does. As the tank like form was partially revealed by the spotlight, he varnished almost immediately after entering the dense bush. We waited there for over an hour on our ‘OP’, also know as Observational Post. We didn’t see him again.
As I sat in the stationary vehicle, I admired the moonlight and the beauty of the scene. It felt magical, a bit mythical and definitely surreal being out on night patrol with the Black Mambas. I pinched myself. Having spent the best part of 1.5 years advocating their work and raising money for them, it was the best reward to be out in the wilderness with them and observing their work.
Our next treat came with the sound of elephants breaking branches close by. We couldn’t see them and we couldn’t hear them moving, just twigs and sticks breaking on the ground. It is incredible how quietly such giants move and also how quickly they move. One minute we would here a stick break behind us and the next sound a few hundred feet away.
Leytah suggested we moved to the watering hole as she believed they were heading that way. She was right. When we arrived, it was one of the most spectacular sights. There were close to 30 elephants bathing near or in the water. The moonlight partially revealed them. It was a breath taking sight and one I will never forget. As I looked up from my camera, it was astonishing to see that all the elephants had moved away and varnished like ghosts.
It intrigues me how they communicate with one another. Does the matriarch signal to the others that it’s time to leave? What does that signal look or sound like? There is so much we don’t know about this wonderful and intelligent creatures.
As we drove back along the road, we spotted two big elephants blocking our path. We used the spotlight to try and move them off the road but one of them decided he was more than happy to stay put. We waited a further 20 minutes, inching slowly forward in the vehicle. In the end, we heard “Go Go Go” coming from the cab as we raced past the beast at high speed. I could have given him a high five on the way pass it was that close. The elephant was just as startled as I was but luckily he didn’t chase after us! Phew!
As the night chilled, so did we. Leytah had a blanket and luckily I had my down jacket and a beanie. We arrived back at the picket at 11.30pm and settled down for the night with a cup of tea! Perfect choice!
Leytah casually informed me there was a rat in the room. As somebody that is scared witless of rats, this was not the most relaxing piece of information before I went to sleep. Fortunately I was out as soon as my head hit the pillow. The following morning I saw an apple in my back has been delicately nibbled. We drew the conclusion it was mice in the room, not rats!
I felt so privileged to see three of the big five in one night. The mambas told me I must have brought good luck with me as this was not the norm.