The BIG cats

On Wednesday we spent a good part of the day in the air…..looking for lions and cheetahs!!

The lions are part of a reintroduction project from 2018 where 24 lions were moved into Zambeze Delta Safari. They have done well and now, 5 years later, there are over 80 lions in the area.

Michael and I climbed into the back seat of a tiny helicopter, with the front occupied by our pilot, Mark Haldane, and the “lion whisperer” Willem Briers-Louw. Willem had looked at the satellite data early that morning and had a pretty good idea of where we would find the pride.

Mark lifted off and, after a few minutes of hovering to ensure the balance of the aircraft, he took off skimming across the landing strip and heading for the trees. That initial forward thrust is THE most exciting part of the trip!!

We skimmed across the trees…..

As we neared the map coordinates for the pride, Mark slowed the copter and Willem started working with the antenna that would help him find the exact area…..

When Mark and Willem spied a Warthog kill, they knew that the lions were VERY close.

Then there was the cry….”THERE THEY ARE!!!”…..

It was a magical experience to watch the lionesses move around in their natural habitat, with the cubs close by their sides!!

The cubs were so cute, all covered in mud…..

WOW….what a morning!!

But that wasn’t the end of the fun!!

In the afternoon, we were in the air again, this time with Mark at the controls and Tamar Kendon on the tracking antenna…..

Searching for the cheetahs was much harder than the lions because they are more solitary cats and don’t spend time in large groups. Thus we were looking for AN individual rather than a big group!!

Also, the cheetahs tend to stay under the tree canopy so you have to “encourage” them to show themselves. Unfortunately, photographing them was almost impossible as they didn’t stay in the clearing for very long! And, Mark and Tamar didn’t want to stress them out so we didn’t hover and circle the way that we did for the lions.

Our first sighting was a Mama with two cubs. We saw one of the cubs but the other one never came out.

We headed for the next set of coordinates (about 13 kilometers away) and this time I was the one to cry “There She IS”. It was thrilling to see this gorgeous female gliding thru the long grass and that view is forever etched in my memory.

Our final conquest was to find a big male. We again traveled for about 15 minutes before sighting the big guy. By this stage, I had given up on trying to photograph the cats, but Michael suggested that I try one more time. Unfortunately, we were starting to move away from the cat so I just pointed the phone in the general direction and clicked away.

I GOT him, but just barely…..

Sighting the lions and cheetahs was one of the main purposes of this trip so it was great to do both in one day. It is very encouraging to know that both of these re-introductions are doing so well!

As for the helicopter flights…..they were exciting. All of the doors were off and this was my view as we hovered….

Also, with the doors off, there was lots of wind and it was pretty chilly, and my new hairdo was interesting…..

but… was WELL worth it!!

While I enjoy all aspects of the wonderful art of quilting, I equally enjoy presenting inspirations and stories from around the world. To make sure that you don’t miss a single one, be sure to subscribe to this blog!!

Taking the pangolin for a walk

First of all….what is a pangolin?

A pangolin is a spiny anteater that is native to Asia and Africa. It looks like this…..

Unfortunately, they have the dubious trait of being the most trafficked animal, surpassing elephants and rhinos.

Why are they so valuable?
The animals are trafficked mainly for their scales, which are believed to treat a variety of health conditions in traditional Chinese medicine, and as a luxury food in Vietnam and China. In Africa, pangolins are sold as a form of bushmeat, for ritual or spiritual purposes, and used in traditional African medicine.

The Mozambique government is cracking down on the trafficking but they needed someplace to send the pangolins that were discovered.

Enter Mark Haldane and Zambeze Delta Safaris!!

They agreed to helicopter to the areas where the animals were found and bring them back to the Delta.

When we were visiting, they had received one smaller pangolin and were rehabbing it and waiting for it to gain a bit of weight before it was released.

Since they are nocturnal animals, they sleep during the day and scavage for ants/termites during the evening. Since the researchers don’t want to lose the animal as it feeds, they take it for a 3-hour “walk” each evening!!

Michael helped to lift it out of the cage and place it on the ground. It reacts similarly to an armadillo in that it curls into a ball to protect itself. In this photo, it is slowly uncurling…..

For the next hour, we followed along behind the little guy as he foraged his way thru the brush….

Pangolin Walking

In one sense, it was akin to “watching paint dry” but there were other compensations….

We were in the Mozambique bush and the sky was magnificent…..

It had been a full day and we were treated to an amazing appetizer at dinner….

The presentation was gorgeous with the fried noodles and vegetable relish. The chunks are bit of fresh fish that had been flown in that morning……YUM!!

It had been a busy day, with airplane and helicopter flights, Cheetah feeding and Pangolin walking…..what a life!!

While I enjoy all aspects of the wonderful art of quilting, I equally enjoy presenting inspirations and stories from around the world. To make sure that you don’t miss a single one, be sure to subscribe to this blog!!

Cheetah dinner

I am THRILLED that we have decent internet in camp this year which means that I can post while we are here!!

We flew out of Johannesburg and headed to Beira Mozambique. The flight was easy with gorgeous cloud views….

We were met at the Beira airport by our helicopter pilot, Heather…..

and after a 1-hour flight…..

We arrived at Coutada 11 and immediately went to work (if you can call it work!!)

There is a long story about the re-development of the ecosystem in Coutada 11 (Coutada is the Portuguese word for hunting concession). If you are interested in the full story, check out this post, but I will warn you that you may have to think about things in a different way…..

The posts that come after this one tell more about all of the good work that Mark Haldane and his crew have accomplished over the last two decades.

They are in the process of re-introducing Cheetahs to the area and we were here in 2021 when the original 12 were brought in. Unfortunately, one of the male Cheetahs had broken his foot and has now had surgery and is living in a Bouma (natural pen) for a couple of months. Fortunately for us, he has to be fed and we got to be there for the feeding time!!

Tamar is the scientist who is the “keeper of the cheetahs”……

As we drove up in her vehicle, the male immediately rose up out of the grass and bounded to the fence, knowing that food was coming…..

He made a crying noise, indicating that he was VERY frustrated that it was taking so long!!!

When Tamar pulled out the first hunk of Reed Buck, the cat tensed and got ready to catch it when it flew over the fence….

Once he had “captured” his prey, he ran off to eat in peace…..

While he was engaged, Tamar entered the pen and put out two more meat chunks.

He finished one and then stealthily approached to capture the next one….

Once he had finished “din-din’s” we headed back to camp for the next part of our day…

Stay tuned!!! The next post contains Pangolins!!!

IF you have come to the post via a facebook group, you might consider subscribing to the blog so that you get future posts. Since they aren’t about quilting, I won’t cross-post them in the future.

A Walk in the Garden

Our first morning in the bush, we ended up in a garden area…but probably NOT the kind of garden that you are imagining!!

In previous years, the villagers were not in a centralized area but lived in small family groups.  The village consisted of a few huts and maybe a pen for chickens or animals.  Each small village would create a “garden” area near their houses.   This garden would have a few acres for millet or sorghum and maybe a few banana or cassava trees.

Unfortunately, they would clear large sections of the forest for these gardens using a technique called slash and burn……

After the field was used for a few years and its agricultural effectiveness had passed, they would move on to another spot and do it all again!!!

NOW….the villagers have moved (with the help of Zambeze Delta Safaris) to a central area where they have agricultural fields that are well maintained and can produce two crops a year.

That is a long backstory, but here we go…..

The garden that we were strolling thru had been slashed and burned but the villagers had moved on before it could be developed.  It was a sad sight…..

BUT, there were a lot of things to see in this area.

I have always loved fungi and these orange ones just lit up in the sunlight….

These rice-looking granules appeared on many of the burnt-out logs…..

….and this green one was really cool……

We passed tobacco plants…..

….and Dylan (our guide) told us that the seeds would drop from the villager’s cigarettes while they were clearing the area!!

I kept seeing this weed……

….being careful to avoid it at all costs!!!

There was evidence that the area was well visited by the local large animals…..

 ….and the insects were out in force.

Dylan told us that this is a biscuit spider…..

It was interesting to look at and we figure that all of the other spiders make fun of him!!

I know that I am weird, but I love to watch dung beetles……

….and especially as this one attempted to move a ball of Wart Hog dung that was FAR bigger than he was!!!

There was also some other interesting flora.   

I loved this flower…..

…..and these leaves were cool……

It was a good start to our time in the bush!!!

Come back next week for the next two installments!!