Monday, 29 June 2009

27th June – Winter is Here!

Today was the first really cold morning that we have had, with the mercury dropping to 3°C shortly after sunrise! The cold morning didn’t encourage much activity from animals, and the first half of the drive was rather quiet, even impala were seemingly hard to come by! What was nice was seeing a pod of hippos outside of the water at Mbali dam, the cold water had driven six hippos onto the bank where they were standing in an attempt to warm up. It was also great to see one of the really small calves out of the water and dwarfed by its large mother! Luckily, things did improve, and Godfrey found Mbali female leopard resting on a termite mound up north, west of the Nhlarulumi riverbed. I responded later in the morning, but she was still fast asleep a few hundred meters south of her original position. After about 20 minutes or so, she finally woke up and started wandering around, showing interest in something that we could not see, but we eventually left her to her own devices.
Herald found one of the Sohebele sub adult male lions on Java airstrip, but no luck was had finding the rest of the pride in the morning, nor the three Mahlathini males that had, according to the tracks, been chasing them around all night. The lion tracks were going up and down, north then south, east then west, and left us all with a big headache. Closer to camp, the elephants were a bit more in evidence, and besides the odd bulls, a small breeding herd was seen during Andrew’s bush walk, and later came and drank at the lodges waterhole, as did five large bulls just before lunch.

In the afternoon, we tried again to find the Sohebele pride, and eventually started making sense of the tracks. We had no sooner dropped the trackers off to follow the tracks when a ranger from a neighbouring lodge bumped into the pride of lions sleeping in the Nhlarulumi, just below Leopard Rock Hide. The lions were in the company of a herd of more than 30 elephants that were slowly feeding along the banks of the Nhlarulumi, but passed by without noticing the lions. Two male giraffe were also in the immediate area, no more than 40m away, and the Sohebele female showed some interest, but their slightly bulging bellies showed that they had eaten during the night, and they were in no mood to go after the giraffe. Other general game included waterbuck, kudu cows and bulls, as well as a male nyala.

Heading back to camp, we ticked off a hyena, as well as some entertaining bushbabies bouncing around the acacia and Mopane trees in the south.

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