Sunday, 29 March 2009

Nice Leopard Sightings Today

Another slightly chilly start to the day, but it warmed to about 33 degess Celcius by midday!

The morning started off with 2 elephant bulls feeding a few hundred meters from camp in the early morning light, they were quite relaxed and approached the vehicle within a few meters. A bit further down the road we heard some impala alarm calling, and picked up tracks for a female leopard, but we had no luck finding anything further. While on route to help track Mbali female leopard, Godfrey called to tell me he had found Rockfig and Nkateko while he was busy watching a hyena. I was on the opposite end of the reserve, but knew it was worth the trip to see these leopards. Godfrey's guests commented that it was the best leopard sighting they had had in many years of visiting the Kruger and other game lodges.

I arrived later in the morning after the two leopards had moved down into a drainage line, and with the thick vegetation i wasnt expecting much of a sighting down there - luckily i was wrong as we got to spend just short of an hour watching Nkateko. She first lay in an open patch of sand grooming, then started moving around, and came right past the vehicle. She went into a really thick clump of bush, so we decided to drive a bit further and see if we could find Rockfig. We had no luck, but as we drove out we spotted Nkateko in a cluster of spike thorn trees no more than 3m from us - she was motionless, clearly stalking something. We turned off and waited, and she pounced - i expected to hear the frantic clucking of a francolin, so when a sharp growl eminated from the bushes about 3m away from us, we all got quite a surprise! Nkateko had been stalking her mom, Rockfig!!!

We headed home after that excitement and got a few more elephants near camp. There were two giraffes and an elephant that spent much of the day in front of the lodge before afternoon drive.

Godfrey headed south and picked up that herd of buffalo once more, he also got to see Mtenga-tenga male rhino in the same area I saw him yesterday. I managed a sighting of a bull elephant, a lone bull buffalo sleeping in one of the waterholes, and some nice quality time with a herd of elephants with some babies. After a pleasent sundowner, i was making my way back home when Godfrey called to say that he had found Mangadjane male leopard. Godfrey was watching a pack of six hyenas when he heard the male leopard roaring close by, and within minutes had found him walking down the road!

I was really keen to respond, as some of my guests had seen Mangadjane on their last visit to Motswari and wanted to see him again. I turned around and headed over to the area, but unfortunately the leopard moved into some thick bush and his visual was lost. I still thought i should go look around and see if i could get lucky. I found one hyena walking down the road and right past us, and not 100m further my tracker picked up the eyes of a leopard with his spotlight! We had found our own leopard! Nkateko was just lazing on a termite mound, and we spent some good time with her as she tried to catch a moth, jumped up and posed on a fallen dead tree, and eventually treated us to the sight of her climbing up a large apple-leaf tree with amazing ease and grace! We left her sleeping in the tree and tried for Mangadjane again. We came across the pack of hyena's, with two cubs trying to suckle from mom, but while we were watching them we heard some impala's alarm call and then the unmistakable rasping, sawing roar of a leopard - he had clearly just failed a hunt, and was not far away! We tried our best ut came up empty handed - still, the sighting of Nkateko and the hyenas was worth turning around for!

During dinner we joined Earth Hour and turned off all the electricity in camp, the stunning array of stars keeping us company instead!

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