The Myriad Moments of Wild Magic at Camp Jabulani

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Time spent in the presence of Africa’s wild animals changes you with each sighting. While witnessing the bonds within a herd, pack or pride, a wobbly elephant nuzzling its mother, a rhino offering its horn to scratch the itch of a brother, wild dogs curled up together, nose to rear, like a patchwork quilt… While watching the human condition applied to the animal kingdom; the same urges and needs playing out across the wilderness. Anger, love, hunger, thirst, jealousy, desire…

Every new sniff, sound and sight opens the world up to you a little more. You poke your little pangolin head out of its burrow and the world looks brighter and more alive.


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But I’m not sure we’d be able to make much sense of it all without some kind of guide. The kind of guide known as the Ranger. The star maps to our day and night skies. While time spent with wild animals changes us as people, I have found my time beside the trackers and rangers of the bush just as vital to my growth, as both human and safarigoer.

One such ranger, Ruan Roos, inspires us not only on the ground (or in the game vehicle) at Camp Jabulani, but also through his photography, through his talent for capturing the myriad moments of wild magic in the Kapama Private Game Reserve of South Africa.


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Through the lens of his Canon 7D Mark II lens, he reveals a love not only for the Big 5, but also the smaller, curiouser characters. Below is a glimpse into the world of Ruan Roos, South African, Field Guide, Conservationist, Amateur Photographer (his description… we think you’ll agree amateur isn’t quite the right word.)


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Elephants utilizing the last light of the day.

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When the light touches your face and you feel its warm embrace.

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End of a glorious day in the lowveld.

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Rain rolling in over the lowveld.

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In An Octopus’ Garden With You

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I have spent my life living beside the sea. With its coastal winds calling me out of the house, on whichever side of the city of Cape Town I have been at the time. Sometimes it’s the Atlantic calling, sometimes the Indian. I blame the ocean for my restlessness as much as my restfulness, because it, like me, is a contradiction, a changing animal that one day dances wildly with the shoreline, and the next refuses to get out of bed, lying still, peacefully, blissfully, luring us to curl up with it.

I grew up not only with the sea but the songs of The Beatles and Ringo Star’s Octopus Garden… sending me back out into the water…. to “our little hideaway beneath the waves,” where “we would sing and dance around / Because we know we can’t be found.”

Beneath the water or beside it on the shore, the Indian Ocean’s call, in particular, reaches its neighbours, like a me and maybe a you, but also homes far away, homes inland, homes under rainclouds, homes of travellers aching for the touch of warm sun on their backs, cool water lapping their toes… and for an octopus’ garden in the shade.

We would be so happy you and me
No one there to tell us what to do
I’d like to be under the sea
In an octopus’ garden with you.

To remind you of that touch, of the sea’s sights and sounds and smells, of the happiness of ocean days and island life, here are a few photographs from our seaside wanderings in the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius.

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Where To Stay

20° Sud Boutique Hotel, set in a coconut grove at the water’s edge, in the heart of a quiet area of ​​the north coast, a few minutes by ferry from the lively town centre of Grand Baie. The ubiquitous ocean gives a glimpse of three islands in the distance, a row of dots between you and the horizon.

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Read more about Mauritius in our blogs:

IN THE COMPANY OF AMAZONICAS AND ALDABRAS
THE PERKS OF PARADISE
THE ODD MOMENTS THEORY OF FATHERHOOD

For the Love of the Otter at Londolozi

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Above: The fantastic view Chris had of the otter from the Granite Camp deck. This photograph was actually taken by a guest staying in the camp at the time.

Otters are known for their elusive behaviour and can have you in a tizz trying to glimpse and photograph them. It can take a lifetime or one lucky second. Discover the allure of the otter in this story, Otter Joy, written by Amy Attenborough, as played out at Londolozi Private Game Reserve.

When Chris Goodman, Londolozi’s Habitat Manager, was a little boy, he went on a fishing trip to Mafikeng with his father. In the middle of the night they woke up to the sound of dogs barking. Shining a spotlight towards their keep net revealed three sets of eyes. Chris’ dad told him they were otters! Knowing they were there but not really being able to see them created instant intrigue for Chris and fuelled his desire to see one in the wild from very early on in his life. Little did he know that the knowledge they were there but not really seeing them would be a lasting trend for many years to come.

As a young adult, Chris travelled to the United Kingdom. There he caught a glimpse of an otter but it was hardly a great sighting and they weren’t the same species of African/Cape Clawless Otter that we get here in South Africa. So when Chris arrived at Londolozi almost a decade ago and was told that otters are virtually crawling all over the river, he set his heart on finding one.

Being shy creatures, otters often stick to the dense reeds in the river. If spotted, they will disappear below the surface, using the current to wash downstream and pop up further along the river to avoid being detected.

Late one night, at one of the crossing points in the river, Chris saw movement, the water rippling and some eyes glancing back at him in the spotlight. The next day he returned to check and sure enough, there were otter tracks right where he had seen the eyes. Once again he had missed a proper view. Because he had become so desperate to see one, it became a bit of a running joke in the lodge. People would be standing on one of the camp decks overlooking the river and someone would shout “otter!”. Chris would almost twist his head off trying to see where the spotter was looking, only for everyone to collapse in a heap of laughter.


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Tracks of a Cape Clawless Otter. Although these can be found all over the river, the animal that leaves them is not as prolific.

It got so bad that when one of the brand new trainees, who had only been at Londolozi for a few days, legitimately saw one, he radioed Chris, who almost tore a hamstring on his rush down to the deck; sure enough, just a few seconds before he got there, the otter vanished, leaving the trainee sweating and desperately trying to convince Chris (then Head Ranger) that he hadn’t been having him on.

So when Chris got a radio call just a few days ago to say that an otter had been seen from Varty Camp, it comes as no surprise that he was fairly sceptical. Having nothing to lose though, he shot down to the camp and as he stepped foot onto the deck, the team that had gathered groaned in unison. “Ahh, it’s just disappeared”.

Chris grabbed a pair of binoculars and frantically began scanning the river. After a few tense moments, through a tiny gap in the reeds, he saw it. As Chris describes it, “the otter was rummaging around in the mud.” Rubbing it’s fore-feet around in the shallows it was trying to disturb fish and crabs, which it could then snap up to eat. Chris grabbed the opportunity and shot across to Granite Camp, which is further west along the river and closer to where the otter was feeding. As he got to the deck, he caught the otter unawares where it was out in the open, on the rocks just to the east of the main deck. “It did this crazy inchworm-like manoeuvre away from me and dived into the water. The whole sighting must have lasted all of three seconds”.


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Otters feed on animals such as crabs, fish, frogs and worms. They dive after prey to catch it, then swim to shore again, where they eat. Their fore paws come in handy as searching devices and are great tools for digging on the muddy bottoms of ponds and rivers, picking up rocks and looking under logs. Extremely sensitive whiskers called vibrissae are used as sensors in the water to pick up the movements of potential prey.

“What I was shocked by was how much white they have underneath their chin and chest. It’s like a crazy bright angora white, it’s really beautiful. The other thing that struck me was how big they are. It was virtually the size of a labrador.”


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The inchworm manouevre Chris was describing as the otter heads back to the main stream.

“The epic thing about this sighting for me was that in order to see one you have to be in the right place at the right time. They’re not an animal that you can just track and find – it requires chance and so I feel kind of blessed. It was such a great sighting and I had it all to myself. It felt like nature threw me a bone after having been hard on me with the otter one for so long.”

Chatting to Chris, it seems what it’s shown him is that out here you’ve never seen it all. These otters, the size of labradors (we’re skeptical about this claim of Chris’), have been in and around the front of his house for the last ten years and yet they had managed to elude him until now. “That is the real joy of living out here for me,” he says, “you can never know when it is that something new will surprise you.”

Photographs by Granite Camp guest, William Ferre.