It has been a good week for wildlife here at Lajuma. I finally got to see the kudu! I was hiking, listening out for the baboons, when three kudu bounded across the road about 5m in front of me. They are the size of small horses, with huge spiral horns. There were a few more off in the bushes but I couldn't see them very well. They really are majestic and you can hear the hoofbeats when they run. I have also seen a mother warthog with three little wart-piglets. The baboons were trying to play with one of the piglets and it was running away squeaking with a sound like one of those squeaky toys you give to dogs. One of the advantages of being with the baboons is that you see more other wildlife. Other animals are less vigilant because they assume that the baboons will give alarm calls if they see anything dangerous. The baboons are habituated and don't really react to us, so I often see bushbuck or duiker or warthogs looking confused because they see scary humans and the baboons are not running away. I also saw the vervet monkeys, which are not habituated so they are less often seen than the baboons and samangoes.
The rainy season has brought out less desirable wildlife as well, like rain spiders and mosquitoes. There are tiny black ants everywhere. They don't bite people but they crawl on me all the time, and get into any food that is not sealed up. My boots were infested one morning, and there were so many in the kitchen light fixture that it stopped working. They are mighty predators in their tiny insect world: a group of ants will surround and kill much larger moths and beetles and spiders. The geckoes help a bit, sitting on a wall next to a line of ants and picking out the biggest ones with a lightning-fast tongue. Most people have geckoes in their rooms now. My biggest one is about three inches long, plus as much again for the tail. Its name is Howard, I forget why. Pete has a huge one named Godzilla, and the one at the bush camp is Klaus. There are also lots of tiny ones but they don't have names. They look like mini dragons.
The barn, where I'm staying, has plenty of fauna, but bush camp has even more. They don't have a cat, and they have hollow bamboo walls that provide safe little highways for enormous mice, which then attract predators. They had a bit of a surprise the other day. It turned up late at night so I only heard about it the next morning, when they drove up with a box in the back of the truck. There was a big sign taped to the box "Danger: Black Mamba! DO NOT OPEN!" They caught it with a net, and I don't know how they got it into the box without being bitten. They were on the way to take it to Obrecht, the property manager. He is amazingly knowlegable about wildlife and pretty much everything else in southern Africa, and he got his special snake stick, opened the box very carefully, and showed us the snake. It really was a black mamba, a small one less than a metre long. It was remarkably agile and strong, much more active than the garter snakes I play with at home, and a matte greenish black colour. Snakes try to avoid biting people because they need their venom to kill prey. A snake is likely to starve if it wastes all its venom biting a person, not that that's much of a consolation. I see snakes occasionally but I watch out for them and stay far away and they have never bothered me so far. Oh, and at the party at bush camp last night I noticed they have the warning sign taped to the fridge now. That ought to freak out the next bunch of new people staying there.
Tomorrow I leave on a trip to Kruger and Imfuluzi National Parks and Swaziland. I might have a chance to post something and maybe upload photos at some point, but don't count on it. I will be back at Lajuma on the 16th and should be able to write then.