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At the Swamp

Volunteer Trip South Africa
Tembe Elephant Park

Thursday 5th January, 4 AM

The weather has cleared up a bit, not sunny, but no rain either, probably around 26ºC.

Today we’re heading to the swamp, which has been dry for the last year. On our way there we got greeted again by our lovely giraffes and some zebras who were hanging about in the same area.

Arriving at the swamp area, we detected that there was water for the 1st time in a year and a big herd of impalas were grazing happily. In the distance we saw a male nyala as well. It’s a lovely open area. We went for our coffee break to a lodge on the other side of the swamp, very civilised as normally we just open the back of the truck in the middle of the reserve. I was spoiled as well with a real toilet, I’m getting used to use the outdoors.

the swamp - Tembe Elephant Park
the swamp - Tembe Elephant Park
the swamp - Tembe Elephant Park

In the cabin, were a couple of skeleton parts of an elephant. Lovely look-out point over the swamp, listening to the different calls of the birds and seeing some animals coming out.

at the swamp lodge - Tembe Elephant Park
at the swamp lodge - Tembe Elephant Park
Elephants Tembe

When we set off in the morning, we saw some fresh lion tracks, which we followed as far as we could and then tried to track him down, it was a male lion, M25 as he’s identified. He hasn’t been seen for a while, ever since they moved his brother to another reserve. There were 2 prides on this reserve, 2 brothers and some lionesses, after a while the prides got too big and they started inbreeding. They then decided to move the males to a new reserve and they’ll put 3 new males in the reserve to create new blood. When they caught M25’s brother, he moved out of his normal area, so they’ve been trying to track him for a while. He’s very good avoiding detection.

We also saw some nests of poisonous ants, more zebras,  a grey duiker who are difficult to spot as they are so quick and the grass is taller than them in most places and a beautiful bird whose name I forgot.

Zebras - Tembe Elephant Park
Grey Duiker - Tembe Elephant Park
Tembe elephant park - bird

We went to a high beacon to see if we could find a signal of him and some other lions. We got some signals, however not from M25. On our way towards one of the lions, we got stopped by a big male elephant, he was literally beside us. Damn he was big. After some ear flapping, he turned around and we could pass by.

scanning the area - Tembe Elephant Park
Big male elephant - Tembe Elephant Park
Big male elephant - Tembe Elephant Park

In the afternoon, before heading deep in the reserve, we had to check out the manager’s lodge as he had a sighting of some leopard cubs. Apparently the leopard drops off her cubs for the night and retrieves them in the morning. We didn’t see anything, but we got the camera traps to check later. Leopards are a rare sighting, they are there, but won’t show themselves very often.

The rest of the day we checked out a camera trap, changed the memory card to check what animals passed by. We saw more impalas, nyalas, a buzzard, a kudu family and the sunset was beautiful.

camera trap - Tembe Elephant Park
Buzzard - Tembe Elephant Park
Kudu - Tembe Elephant Park

On our way to camp, we had to stop all of a sudden as a herd of female elephants were passing the track, 30-40 meters in front of us. They had a little baby elephant with them, so it could be it was the same herd we saw the day before. We shut off the lights and one of the elephants was definitely not pleased that we were interrupting them, and made it clear with a lot of noise. We drove carefully back to give them more space and waited until we heard them moving on. That’s what I meant before, in my previous blog post, that you need to show them respect. It’s their territory, and we need to respect that.

Just before heading camp, we saw a very rare kind of antelope, one of the smallest breeds in existence, a Suni. Did I say I wanted to take the impala home? Well add the Suni, she was so cute, standing 30 cm tall, that’s all and she had a little baby with her. Apparently that’s something very few people get to see. To make my day completely, I actually managed to get a half-decent picture of her too as it was already dark, my nifty camera exceeded its expectations. Baby Suni was hiding in the bushes, but mum was very happy to gaze us out.

We might have not seen any lions yet, but the adorable Suni made my day.

Tembe Elephant Park
Tembe Elephant Park sunset
Tembe Elephant Park - Suni

About The Author


Hi everyone, I'm Dagmar and I'm born in Belgium, at 27 I moved to the south coast of Spain, initially just for 6 months, however 22 years later, I'm still here. I have a big passion for animal welfare. I have 3 dogs and a cat, all rescues. In September 2015, I turned vegetarian and over the course of that year, I have leant more and more towards veganism. My aim is to eat as 'clean' as possible.

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