A more typical bull

Remember Steve the super-chilled out elephant? Well, while we were in Makalali we met a more typical musth-y bull. 

We saw him several times over our 3 days. The first time he was still pretty relaxed and just kept eating. The only way we knew he was in musth was the distinct smell. 

The next time we saw him, still no big deal. Loderick explained that the rest of the elephants were in the south of the reserve, so unless this bull started walking he was going to stay lonely. 

But the third time we saw him he was starting to get cranky. He was eating some trees and then huffed with his trunk, did a 180, and then glared at us. And then started walking straight towards our vehicle. 

Loderick simply backed out of the way and all was well, but it was definitely a different experience than watching Steve. 

When a bull gets fully into musth he actually starts to swagger, leaning side to side as he walks and draping his trunk over his tusks. This bull wasn’t quite there yet but give him a few days and he’ll be full on. 

Food chain

Kaizer and Loderick tracked down a pride of 10 lions that were enjoying a post-meal snooze. They perked up when we arrived.

That’s a subadult male in front. His mane is still growing in, he’s about 3 or 4 years old. One of the females was prowling around while everyone else lounged. 

The reason? A couple of spotted hyena were circling the lions’ kill. The lioness eventually settled down for a nap, which meant the hyenas could grab a snack. 

When I was hanging out with the hyena specialist at Phinda, I asked if hyenas are predators or scavengers. He very pointedly said they are hunters who are willing to scavenge. These two were definitely up for scavenging. While keeping an eye out for lions. 

And then the jackals showed up to finish the carcass. I’m always surprised at how small and cute jackals are. I couldn’t get a good pic on my phone but here’s one from the interwebs, with a lion for scale:

Pretty cool to see the food chain in action!

Giraffe spitting

Last night at dinner our guide, Loderick, challenged Grimbil to a game of giraffe spitting. We weren’t sure if he was joking. Turns out he wasn’t. 

You’re probably wondering how one spits a giraffe. Turns out it’s the giraffe scat that one spits. As herbivores, it’s completely safe to handle giraffe poop. Case in point:

Loderick kindly went first to show us how it’s done. You pop the scat in your mouth, take a running start, and then fire away. 

Grimbil’s turn. Evidently the wind up is key. Ready, aim…


If you look at the top left in the pic above you can see the “giraffe” flying. We have the feeling Loderick was holding back and politely allowed Grimbil to win (though Grimbil did get good distance). Either way, to the victor goes the spoils. Loderick made this bracelet as a prize:

Mane event

We’ve been trying to see some lions in Makalali but they had proven elusive. Thankfully we’ve had some awesome rhino and elephant sightings in the meantime. 

But the lions made it worth the wait (and an awesome first lion sighting for Grimbil). It’s only the second time I’ve seen a full adult male. Check out the mane:

He was with a female from another pride (very Romeo and Juliet), and our guide said they are a breeding pair. 

They make a lovely couple. 

After a while they seemed to get bored/annoyed with our paparazzi act. They definitely looked like they were over the attention:

Eventually they got up and looked for some privacy. Still, an awesome sighting!

On the other side

Now that my time at Phinda is finished, I’m switching gears and experiencing South Africa as a tourist. Even better, Grimbil has arrived to join in the fun. 

As you can see from the pic above, one of the perks of being a guest rather than a volunteer is a definite upgrade in accommodation. 

We are staying at Garonga Safari Camp in the Greater Makalali Reserve. Makalali is quite similar to Phinda. They are both managed, private reserves (as opposed to open national parks like Kruger). They are about the same size and have mostly the same animals. Makalali even has a monitoring and volunteer program like what I was doing at Phinda.

The difference for me (apart from the swankiness) is although my time is more limited to see things, as guests we get priority at sightings. That definitely appeals to my inner princess. 

Case in point: remember that leopard sighting I had at Phinda? Today we saw a leopard and this time I had a front row seat. 

This leopard was incredibly chill and came straight up to the vehicle. Usually most leopard sightings are more like this (just the tail):

Perhaps Grimbil is good luck!