Monday, 10 August 2009

08th & 09th August – Great Lion Sightings Continue!

It has been some time since our lion sightings have been consistently as good as they have been for the last two weeks. The last two days were no exception, and included sightings of the three Sohebele males, the three Mahlathini males, the Machaton male lion and the Timbavati males with the Machaton pride. Together with plenty of elephant and buffalo, they combined to make the last two days pretty special once again at Motswari Private Game Lodge.

Saturday morning saw us finding the one young Sohebele male lion resting near Peru dam wall, but there was no sign of the other two lions. The young male lay with his head up watching a herd of impala on the far side of the dam, but soon went to sleep again. The troop of baboons from that area sat in the trees watching the lion, but soon realized he was no threat and moved off.

The large breeding herd of buffalo from yesterday afternoon was found again south of Voël dam, and it was great to sit in the middle of them as they fed all around my vehicle.

The main purpose of my drive was to go south to see the Machaton pride that had been found once again. Apparently, the three Timbavati males were having a fight with the big Machaton male outside a neighbouring lodge during the night, but surprisingly he fought back and sent the three large male lions running! There was no sign of the Machaton male I the morning, but two of the Timbavati male lions were found in the company of the lioness and her two four-month old cubs. Although it was late in the morning, the one cub was a bit active playing with and biting a twig, the two males showed a bit of affection towards one another as one moved off, but later returned, and the lioness just lay there watching her cubs. It is good to see this pride looking so good and healthy; their bellies still fat from a large kill they made in Klaserie a few days back.

While down south, Herald and Andrew got to see one of our lesser seen leopards, the beautiful and relaxed Rockfig Jnr female leopard; Rockfig’s previous daughter. She lives far south, but was in the northern reaches of her territory just south of double highway. Unfortunately it was a bit too late in the morning for me to go and see her.

In the afternoon, Johannes found the young Shongile female leopard up a tree, after presumably having just finished her meal of a red-crested korhaan! She definitely seems to have a taste for birds! We followed her for a while as she stalked after some guineafowl, but soon went to rest east of Francolin pan.

Not far off there was a nice herd of elephant having a drink below Mbali dam wall, inside mvubu crossing, and the herd of buffalo had ended up at Mbali dam, right on the western end of the dam. It was glorious to watch them drinking and wallowing in the mud, and many of the young male buffalo were engaging in some play fighting, which added to a great scene.

A little further down the road, the two other young Sohebele male lions had been found sleeping at Giraffe Kill Lookout, and while we were watching them, the herd of buffalo walked past below them in the Nhlaralumi riverbed. These inexperienced buffalo hunters didn’t even bother following, and simply watched as the buffalo herd moved past. The two Sohebele lionesses had also been found in the morning at Tamboti pan, and were still there in the afternoon, but none of the Motswari vehicles went to see them.

Sunday morning was a partly cloudy one, but the skies soon cleared and the warm weather we have been experiencing continued. Herald found the large Machaton male lion resting in the Nhlaralumi riverbed near Makulu dam, but he was his usual sleepy self. There were also some nice breeding herds of elephant below Makulu and a bit further north too. In addition, there were also two buffalo bulls found near Tamboti wallow, and I got lucky enough to see a large hippo walking about outside of the water at Mvubu crossing. The general game was also nice, a giraffe and calf near camp, several more giraffe scattered around the area, a nice herd of zebra, and the usual kudu, waterbuck and impala.

In the afternoon, there was an extremely large herd of elephant scattered between Peru dam and Concrete crossing, most of them feeding in the riverbed north of Concrete crossing. While sitting with them, Kuhanya female leopard was found near Mvubu crossing, so I took a slow drive into the area, seeing some kudu, waterbuck, impala and duiker. Kuhanya moved onto Mbali dam wall and watched some impala at the waterhole while a large waterbuck bull also quenched his thirst. Kuhanya then changed direction and moved north once again, but on the western side of the riverbed. I never fail to be amazed at how extremely relaxed this amazing leopard is, and she spoilt us once again with a great up-close sighting!

From there, I headed down to the south towards Makulu dam to go and see the Machaton male lion that was still sleeping in the riverbed. He lay with his head up for a while, but soon flopped over into a deep sleep. In the mean time, the three Mahlathini male lions were found not far away on Jaydee airstrip, and Elliot managed to get a sighting of them as they wandered through the mopanes east of Lily pan.

There were also signs that the Sohebele males had reunited with the two Sohebele lionesses, and our night watchman reported seeing four lions walk past the camp at about 20h30 in the evening. We shall have to see if we can find these lions in the morning.

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