Monday, 13 July 2009

11th & 12th July – Machaton Pride’s Cubs!

The weekend was pretty good from a game viewing point of view here at Motswari, despite Saturday morning starting off extremely quietly from a ‘big game’ point of view. The morning drive only produced sightings of the elephant herds that seem to be hanging around the southern Vielmetter property, and there were no cats found. I was only on a short morning drive, but besides a good number of impala and waterbuck herds, things were pretty quiet. There were five nice sized elephant bulls feeding on the Mopane trees in camp when we returned to camp!

The afternoon picked up, and Andrew and Herald had a distant visual of a young male leopard on the far side of Mbali dam, but he wasn’t seen at close range in the afternoon. Elliot found a large herd of buffalo moving away from Voël dam as he headed south to go and see the Machaton pride of lions that had killed a buffalo late in the morning. This pride of lions has been spending all of their time in the extreme south due to the fact that they have three cubs of about two and a half months old, and this is limiting their movements somewhat. The guys had to travel far to the south to see these three wonderful additions, but it was worth the long trip! The guests got to see these extremely cute cubs around the buffalo carcass, and while Johannes was there, a herd of buffalos arrived to chase the three adult lionesses and the cubs away before again leaving them in peace to feed on their meal! Down south, Giyani found Nthombi female leopard coming into the Timbavati, and was surprised when she was soon followed by a male leopard and they proceeded to mate in front of him! It is about time that we got to see this beauty showing signs of sexual maturity! Unfortunately though, she was found late in the evening and it was too far for the vehicles from the main lodge to go and see her, but with a bit of luck we might find the pair again over the next few days. Other sightings on Saturday afternoon included some lone buffalo bulls, breeding herds of elephant, giraffe, waterbuck, impala, kudu, and a surprisingly large number of scrub hares.
Sunday morning was a great drive and a real treat for my birthday! I decided to make the long trip down south to go and see these Machaton lions for myself. Heading down south, I saw some elephant bulls just outside of camp, some nice waterbuck including a young calf, a herd of elephant on Mbali, steenbok, impala, duiker, then another herd of elephants and a large herd of buffalo heading towards Machaton dam, so we went ahead and waited for the herd to arrive and have a drink, which they did in their hundreds! We left the buffalo and made our way towards the lions that had moved away from the buffalo carcass as one of the pride males, the Timbavati male had arrived to feed. As I was approaching the area, we found the seven lions walking towards us. The three females and the three small cubs up front, and the young Machaton male lion trailing behind! They crossed the road in front of us and rested every now and then, but already the cubs were showing no sign of any fear for the vehicles, and they must have learnt it from their mum, as she walked within 1m of the front of the vehicle! We followed the lions for a while, but they crossed the Nhlarulumi riverbed and headed straight for a waterhole in front of one of the lodges, so we could not follow them any further, instead we went to watch the Timbavati male at the buffalo kill. He had been feeding earlier, but was just lying next to the carcass watching the vultures when I arrived. Heading home, we saw another two breeding herds of elephant, some elephant bulls, and passed on a sighting of Mbali female leopard near Madash dam, but Elliot, Johannes and Andrew got to see her in the morning. The last of the big 5 was also seen this morning, and that was in the form of the Nhlangula male rhino that was found feeding nears Coles Plains in the south. Andrew and Herald went to have a look at him.

In the afternoon, Mbali was still around with a baboon kill that she fed on for a while before taking up a marula tree to keep it safe from the hyenas. Once it was safely stored, she returned to the ground to have a cat nap, and we left her like that after dark. Elliot went south to track the male rhino from the morning, and succeeded in finding him north of Impala dam, and Elliot also found a large herd of buffalo crossing into the Timbavati while on his way home. There was fair general game about, but our attempts at tracking the Sohebele pride up north near Vyboom dam and Buffalo pan were unsuccessful. Nocturnal game included hyena, civet, genet and a honey badger, and these added some nice finishing touches to a great day of game viewing! Lets hope it continues for the rest of the week!

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