Tuesday, 11 August 2009

10th August – Sohebele pride Reunited, then Split Again…

Despite Monday being a public holiday in South Africa, we were lucky that our animals didn’t take the day off ‘work’!

The morning drive was not too bad, but we had no luck finding any signs of the lions that had apparently walked past camp the night before. There was an extremely fat spotted hyena sleeping next to the road near Motswari’s reception, and we followed her to Trade entrance dam where she had a drink before wandering off. On Motswari wedge, we did find a couple of groups of large bull elephants feeding in the early morning sun. From there, I came across four buffalo bulls feeding west of the Sohebele riverbed, and then I slowly made my way towards two of the Sohebele lions that had been found near Klipdrift crossing. The two lions were one of the young males, and the small female, and this meant that the pride had at some stage over the last two days been reunited, but also had managed to become separated once more. The young lioness lay on a termite mound watching some distant impala, while the young male lay a bit further off in the shade. Soon the lioness went and joined him and settled down for the day. Later on in the morning, Andrew found a third Sohebele lion, one of the young Sohebele males, walking around in the riverbed below Vyboom dam wall. The fact that there were tracks for the three Mahlathini male lions following the tracks of a buffalo herd in a similar area to where we found the Sohebele lions, probably means that these lions crossed paths at some stage during the night and led to the Sohebele lions fleeing and in the process becoming separated once more.

The large Machaton male lion was found near Makulu dam again this morning, and Elliot and Johannes went to have a look at him. We also found that very large herd of elephants feeding east of Peru dam. Other general game included giraffe, a herd of zebra, impala, kudu, waterbuck and hippo.

In the afternoon, there were four large bull elephants drinking at the camp waterhole during lunch, and entertaining all the guests as they ripped up our water pipe in order to drink the fresh water! On drive, the lone Sohebele young male lion had moved to Vyboom dam, and was found sleeping on the eastern bank, and while watching him, we also got to see four crocodiles resting on the rocks and logs adjacent to the water. One croc in particular was an extremely large brute, but he moved into the water as we approached.

A white rhino was found at Sweetwater pan in the south, so I decided to head down that way. There were a couple of bull elephants, as well as an exceptionally large bachelor group of buffalo bulls on the way. These grumpy old men tend to live in small groups of 2-10 individuals, but this group of males was close to thirty in number! We left them feeding and went to watch Nhlangula male rhino that had eventually woken up after resting in the mud for most of the afternoon, and then entertained us as he tried to scratch the hard to reach places! It was one of the most entertaining rhino sightings I have had for a while! Shortly after leaving the rhino, I had a very brief sighting of an elusive serval, a secretive cat that is highly nocturnal, but showed itself momentarily in the last light of day. Although a quick sighting, it was still special to see one of these cats, especially considering it is only the second one I have seen all year! Giyani also commented that he had seen one three days back, only his third ever serval – so my two serval sightings this week were very lucky indeed!

After a nice drink at Makulu dam, I headed home, but made a de tour past a sighting of a leopard to complete the Big 5 for my afternoon drive. Andrew had found Mbali female leopard wandering around about 2.5km west of the Nhlarulumi riverbed, and she was clearly on a mission, and clearly coming back into estrus. She paraded around scent marking and scratching all the shrubs and trees she could find, as well as scratching in the road, just so that any male leopard in the area will pick up on her estrus scent, follow the trail and find her. If we are lucky, we might get to see mating leopards again soon! Unfortunately Mbali’s high degree of activity, and the thick bush she was walking in made it a bit of tricky sighting to keep up with her, but when she came onto the road, it was really great. We left her to it, and will wait and see if the Argyle male leopard can find her soon, or if there is another male that thinks he can be a perfect mate!

Herald saw one possible option, an unidentified young male leopard near the southern end of Mbali dam, but he was quite nervous and moved into the riverbed and wasn’t pursued. Andrew got to see a herd of about 100-150 buffalo having a drink at Entrance dam, and Elliot saw a large herd of elephant this afternoon too. Heading back to camp there were a few more elephant bulls seen.

These sightings rounded off a pleasant public holiday, and we are glad the animals didn’t take the day off!

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