Wednesday, 1 April 2009

31st March – Two Lion Prides and Three Leopards Today

I am starting to sound like a broken down record talking about our great sightings, but we really have been spoilt at Motswari over the last few weeks.

Today was no exception. The slightly windy drive started out with five giraffe just outside camp, and continued with the usual impala sightings. Things were a bit quiet until I screamed like a girl at the sight of a huge black mamba on the road! It raised its head but luckily made its way into the bush and my tracker could breathe again! Minutes later I approached a small dam in an area frequented by Mbali, and whenever I drive past there, I almost expect to see her lying on the dam wall. Today was no different, except that she was lying on the dam wall! I spotted something through the trees as we approached the dam, and just knew it was her!

We were doubly rewarded when we spotted her 17-month old daughter, Kuhanya, behind her. We hadn’t seen the two of them for a week and a half, so were really pleased to have found them. Strangely Kuhanya seemed uncharacteristically nervous of the vehicle and was running away; a behaviour that is still confusing, as she is probably the most relaxed sub-adult leopard around – not so long ago she enjoyed crawling underneath the Land Rovers!

We followed the two leopards, and it wasn’t long before Kuhanya settled down and returned to her usual demeanor. We then spent the next 45-minutes watching her and Mbali interacting, Kuhanya repeatedly ambushing her mom and then pouncing on her! As they walked, they came across a herd of six giraffe, and this gave Kuhanya more opportunities to have some fun as she stalked and chased them! She soon lost interest and returned to pestering her mom.

While watching them, one of the southern stations found Rockfig female leopard wandering around on our Java property, and out trackers managed to locate the whole Sohebele pride, not too far from where they had been the day before.

They were all sleeping in the Sharalumi riverbed again, but this time we could access the sighting, and got to see the seven lions sleeping off what appeared to be fat bellies. They had clearly had a meal, and were looking in good enough shape – at least considering their condition over the last month.
Giyani managed to see them again in the afternoon, not too far from where they were found in the morning. He also got to see a couple of breeding herds of elephants. Up north, Johannes also relocated Kuhanya along the banks of the Sharalumi river.

In the afternoon, Herald and I decided to go down south to see the Machaton pride of lions that had been found in the morning with a buffalo kill. The general game down south was not too bad, we saw some zebra and giraffe, a very large herd of buffalo, probably well over 300 individuals, grazing in the late afternoon, and some very large herds of impala all over the show.

The main event of the afternoon was the lion sighting. The numerous vultures perched in the dead acacia trees gave the guests an indication of what they were about to see, and the smell confirmed it! The two female lions were busy feeding on the carcass when we arrived, and one of the Timbavati male lions were passed out, ready to explode from eating too much, not too far from the carcass. The buffalo kill was probably a day or two old, and still had quite a bit of meat left on it. The old female had eaten enough, and then headed to a nearby waterhole to quench her thirst. We jumped ahead and waited at the waters edge for her to arrive. She drank for several minutes before moving to the dam wall to rest, with a magical sunset in the background made for another truly African scene. After some rather late drinks we headed back for camp. On the main Timbavati access road, we could see a large predator walking towards us, at first I though it a hyena, but as we drew closer its cat-like appearance became more obvious. Based on size I was suspecting a lion, so was pleasantly surprised to see that it was a large male leopard! Unfortunately he was very nervous and didn’t hang around very long, bounding off to the west, and into the Klaserie.

Heading back to camp, we came across three hippos at Peru concrete crossing, and one of them was the youngest hippo baby I have ever seen – it could not have been more than a couple of weeks old (his tiny foot prints were no bigger than a lions paw marks!). We also found an elephant on the airstrip, and a buffalo at the camp waterhole.

That rounded up yet another great day at Motswari!

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