With only one guest in camp last night, it was quite quiet out on the reserve. Although I wasnt driving for the lodge, I was out helping the film crew (based near Motswari, and here to film the lions and leopards of the Timbavati), and as always, lions and leopards were the order of the day.
It started out quietly, and then we found the fresh tracks of a male leopard walking down one of the roads that run parallel to the Sharalumi River. We did our best to follow them - they left the road, they came back onto the road etc., but without a tracker we weren't holding much faith. Lianne thought she saw leopard tracks coming back onto the road, so we jumped off and walked around, deciding that they were old tracks and not from the same male we were looking for. We walked back to the car and drove no more than 50m and there lying next to the road was a pride of lions! It would have been interesting if we had walked just a bit further looking for those leopard tracks!
We alerted Godfrey as to what we had found; all seven members of the Sohebele pride once again re-united, and in fact the first time we had seen them since Sunday. The two adult females and one or two of the youngsters looked well fed, but unfortunately the skinny young male was looking even worse now than he did a week ago; he surely cant go on much longer, something has to give, and at this stage things aren't looking good at all for him (although I recall saying the same thing three weeks ago and he is still here).
The one adult female walked down into the riverbed, and by the size of her belly, it can't be long before she gives birth. If the mating that took place in the first two weeks of the new year were successful, then the birth of the cubs should be any day now. As one of the other vehicles approached the sighting, I heard the tracker say 'Ingwe!' (the local word for leopard) he pointed just ahead. There, no more than 50m from the lions was a leopard wandering past - the same one we had been looking for!
It was none other than the impressive Mangadjane male out on his territorial patrol. Luckily for the leopard, the sleepy lions were unaware of his presence, and just as well - in November 2008 the same lions had chased the same leopard up a tree in almost exactly the same spot! So lighting didnt strike twice, and Godfrey got to go straight from a lion sighting to a leopard sighting and followed Mangadjane for a while until he went and perched himself nicely on top of a rocky outcrop adjacent to the riverbed and have a rest in the shade.
As the sun got warmer, the five young Sohebele lions decided to follow their two mothers down into the riverbed, although judging by the contact calls, they weren't too sure where the adults had gone! Luckily they picked up their scent trail and followed it in the right direction.
We then went and watched Mangadjane atop his post as he posed like a real king on his castle before we headed back towards the lodge for a well deserved breakfast!