Sunday, 2 August 2009

01st August – Big 5 Afternoon Drive!

The month started off on a good note, with a two great drives on Saturday. Friday finished off the last month on a fairly good note, the guys had a herd of buffalo and a herd of elephant south of Tamboti pan, and the skinniest of the three Sohebele young male lions was found sleeping west of Scholtz big dam, but he wasn’t in a great condition, looking thin, and it was not encouraging to learn that he was on his own.

Saturday morning was quite a good one. Godfrey and Marka tracked and found the three Mahlathini male lions, and the good news was that they had yet another buffalo kill, and are proving themselves to be pretty efficient buffalo hunters; the Sohebele males need to take a leaf out of their book! The bad news is that the kill was probably 2 days old, as most of the meat was finished, and they must have killed a male from the herd that had been at Mbali dam on Thursday evening. The three lions were looking fat and well fed, and they seem to be getting bigger and bigger as the months go by. Rockfig female leopard was also found down south, south of Double Highway with a young bushbuck kill that Andrew went to have a look at; she had stashed it up a small Jackalberry tree, and was sleeping in the Machaton riverbed nearby. There were also two separate breeding herds of buffalo this morning, one at Entrance dam in the south, and one opposite Karans camp in the north. There were also some nice elephant about in the morning.

I was back on drive in the afternoon, and I always look forward to it when there is no pressure to find lions and leopards, especially when, like this afternoon, I was just driving guests for one drive! You can thus imagine both my guests and my own delight when we had ticked off impala, kudu, baboons, hippos, steenbok, duiker, hyena, buffalo, elephant, lions, leopard and rhino by the time we arrived back at camp!

I checked the north to see if I could get any leopards before heading all the way down south, and while I came up empty handed there, I did come across a small breeding herd of elephant east of Peru dam. While watching them, Kuhanya female leopard was found not 500m from my position, so after viewing the elephants, I went and had a look at Kuhanya, and man, she is turning into a fine young leopard! She is looking like a ‘young lady’ now, and no longer a sub-adult! She is an extremely beautiful cat, and has a glorious golden glow to her coat, and her relaxed disposition makes her a star! I watched as she nonchalantly walked under the trackers feet as he sat on the front of the land rover! The golden light of the late afternoon made it all the more special. We had to leave her as she headed down to the river north of Peru dam, but Palence later saw her again in the same area before she got chased off by a baboon!

Palence had earlier found a white rhino near Voël dam, and I naturally assumed it was our long-lost Argyle male rhino. Godfrey relocated, and I approached cautiously, thinking he might be a bit nervous considering we haven’t been seeing him much lately; but this rhino was unperturbed by our presence, and I only later realized why…it was Nhlangula male rhino, and he was much further north than I have ever seen him!

After some nice sundowners with the hippos and baboons at Mbali dam, I went to have a quick look at the Mahlathini male lions that were busy feeding on their buffalo kill. It seems that just after dark is the perfect time to view these lions; not only are they much more relaxed and didn’t react to us at al this evening, but it also appears to be the time when they are most likely to be feeding. We got to see all three males feeding on what little remained of the carcass, and although we couldn’t spend a great deal of time with them, it was still a great sighting, and very encouraging to see them relaxing nicely!

Heading back to camp, we also found the fifth and final member of the big five…or a least a complete one; and that was buffalo! The breeding herd of buffalo that had been seen earlier in the afternoon were settling down for the night east of Broken dam.

Down south, Andrew had been to see Rockfig female leopard again, and she was still sleeping near her bushbuck kill where hopefully it will remain until tomorrow! I also saw two young hyenas at the camps Trade entrance pan upon my return to camp, and thus it rounded off a great afternoon of game viewing, and resulted in some very happy guests, especially considering they saw all of that in just one drive!
Let us hope that this is a sign of things to come for the rest of the month – I recall the excellent game viewing that we were blessed with at the beginning of August last year (one morning drive featured three leopards, two of which had impala kills, three different groups of lions within 1km of one another and two of the groups had their own buffalo kills, a herd of 600 odd buffalo chasing the lions off their one buffalo calf kill, and plenty of elephant about!).

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