By: Isaiah Banda – Head Guide @ Ka’ingo Private Game Reserve
In the bush, each day promises a new and exciting adventure. As the sun rises, we wake up and gather ourselves for safari.
We do not know what animals have moved during the night or where they have gone but we’re excited by the prospects of what there is to find, of the unknown and we trust that the journey will be a fun adventure, whatever it is that awaits us. It is as if the slate is wiped clean at night and as we set off on the morning safari, the tracks tell of the next chapter of the story.
Many Ka’ingo stories have served as a reminder that it’s not only the mornings that are a fresh and clean start though; new beginnings are forever around us.
A few weeks of good quality soaking rain has also drastically rejuvenated the bush. A layer of green grass has sprung up, small creatures like dung beetles have become active once again and batches of winged disperser termites have emerged, hoping to find mates and establish new colonies.
In all seriousness I’m thrilled the drought has broken. Life is burgeoning once more and the bush is looking fantastic. The aesthetic appeal of the Bushveld at this time of year cannot be overstated, and over the next month I’m sure you’ll see a marked difference in the colour and vibrancy of the photos featured on our guide’s news.
Thankfully, late February to early March, we were blessed with a number of downpours that transformed the bleak landscape we had gotten so used to into the verdant green that we generally associate with this time of the year.
Everyone was happy, the general game flocked back in to take advantage of the lush new grazing, and photographs that previously had been dominated by dull browns and sparse, sandy vistas now had a whole kaleidoscope of greens and colour in them.
We could still do with some more rain to push us into the real dry season, so let’s see what happens over the next few weeks…
Take a second to think about how visual our daily lives have become. How much do we rely on our sight to perceive what is around us? All too often, natural sounds pass us by because we are always too plugged in to allow them in. Inevitably, we miss out on a great deal that we simply cannot see.
After consciously taking the time to do so, I slowly learned how to connect with my surroundings using a sense that we all seem to have lost touch with.
The one that I am referring to is the ability to really stop and listen. Elephants have an extraordinary ability to communicate via trumpets and rumbling sounds, but most of their communication is done through infrasound that humans simply cannot hear.
The rumbling sound that is used to call the calf is the audible component of the subsonic communication. To hear sounds, elephants make use of small bones inside their eardrums to “hear” in the traditional sense, but also detect vibrations through a sensory pathway not connected to the ear, and sometimes both.
The physiology of seismic communication in elephants is far beyond the scope, but it has been suggested that elephants could detect subsonic sounds through their feet and trunk, which possess specialised cells that are extremely sensitive to touch.
Elephants can detect sounds as low as 12 hertz (humans hear as low as 20 hertz) and can hear these low rumbles for as far as 10 km away. To put this into perspective, the average human can hear another person talk normally from no further than approximately 25 m away. Whales use similar subsonic communication to elephants at a very similar frequency and it may be possible that the elephants and whales were tapping into the same frequency.
I was once asked; “what is your favourite sound in the bush?”, and I had to rather bashfully admit that I didn’t quite know. This inspired me to go out in search for it.
I spent hours out in the field listening to the early dawn cacophony of crested francolins, woodland kingfishers, the cry of the African fish eagle and a variety of other bird calls. I also listened to impalas snorting, lions roaring, baboons barking and squirrels chirping. Amid all of this, a family group of elephants slowly ambled across an open clearing and the deep rumbling sounds emitted by the matriarch immediately caught my attention. As she rumbled, a young calf came running out of the tree line to assume its usual position at its mother’s feet and the herd moved off into the distance.
Rain has been falling further to the south of us, and the river level has been fluctuating over the past couple of weeks. The water has been flowing through a couple of clearly defined channels, not yet at a high enough level to spill out and cover the grassy verges. Will it reach high enough level this season?
Doubtful, but as I mentioned earlier, this is not a disaster. It is change. Whilst vegetation cover elsewhere is reduced as a result of the drought, it is flourishing in the riverbed, where access to underground water provides a more fertile environment.
The Mokolo River has always been one of the lifeblood’s of the Ka’ingo Private Reserve, and it seems certain that it will continue to be one as we go forward into the winter, albeit at a far more extreme level.
It reminded me that although the coming months may be difficult for some species, it is also going to show up some really interesting, unseen behaviour and sightings and that it will encourage us to look at life from some new and different perspectives.
Without a strong family bond, we would be nothing. And, just as service is in our blood, so too does the bond of family run thickly through our veins. We relish weekend like Easter where we can come together as one large family of Ka’ingo Staff and Guests to celebrate important days like Easter.
So, as the sun begins to set on another magical day in Africa, from all of us at Ka’ingo, we hope that wherever you are, you enjoyed a day full of festivities, food, family and lots of fun.
Happy Easter to you all!
That’s all for this month
Isaiah Banda and Ka’ingo Team