Sunday, 16 August 2009

15th August – Shongile Steps up to the Plate!

Over the last few days I have been driving around three French photographers, and it had been great spending all morning out in the bush with them, no need to rush around. While we have been having good sightings, we have just not been lucky enough to get ‘the’ shot. We really need some cooperative subjects today, and we got them, in particular Shongile female leopard that gave us almost two hours of good photographic opportunities!

I once again went to the area to see if the mating Mahlathini lions were around, but their tracks crossed into the Klaserie. While in that area, a call came through that some lions had killed a buffalo east of Scholtz camp, so we immediately headed into that area to follow up. Giyani arrived first and found one of the young Sohebele male lions feeding on a few bones, but the camp attendant that called us said there had been two bigger males around. While heading to the area, we had seen tracks for two of the Mahlathini males heading straight to that area, so we were pretty sure it was them, although I was hoping that it might have been members of the pride of lions to the south, especially as they are reported to have white lions amongst them! As it turned out, that was just a dream, and one of the Mahlathini male lions was found not 60m from where the young Sohebele lion was eating on the bones! Both were aware of one another’s presence, but neither seemed concerned, and the Mahlathini male moved off in the opposite direction and found a bone of his own to chew on! I am assuming it was a baby buffalo that had been killed, as there was no sign of whatever had been killed, and indeed who had killed it! The young Sohebele male then went to drink at the waterhole in front of the camp, and Elliot had earlier seen the Sohebele lioness moving away from the waterhole to the east. After watching the lion quench his thirst and call for his pride mates, I went to watch the Mahlathini male eating on his bones.

While watching him, a second young Sohebele male lion came wandering into the area from the opposite direction, and strangely, the Mahlathini male got up and started walking away, clearly picking up the presence of the approaching lion. The Sohebele lion didn’t have the same perceptive nature, and it took him a few moments to spot the larger Mahlathini male that had now stopped and was eyeing out the young lion. The Mahlathini male then moved towards the Sohebele youngster and charged in, sending the smaller lion running for it, but after a few hundred meters the Mahlathini male gave up. We relocated him and followed him for the next hour or so as he wandered around following the scent trail of his brother, calling softly ever so often to try and assist him, but to no avail. We left the lion resting on the airstrip, but still looking for his partner. It was really good to spend time following this lion, and he has relaxed so much since his arrival in the reserve, a bit more ‘work’ and he will be totally habituated to the vehicles, just like the Sohebele pride.

After that we found a large herd of buffalo resting just west of the Sohebele riverbed, not far from where all the lion activity was centered this morning. After checking Karan’s big dam we headed back home. We also saw some nice baboons, hippo, zebra, two buffalo and good giraffe in the morning.

The afternoon was a good one in the north, and I was lucky enough to spend almost 2.5 hours photographing leopards with my guests! Despite the lions being everywhere this morning, only two Machaton females were found at Entrance dam this afternoon, but none of the Motswari vehicles went down to see them. I was checking up north, and was in the mood for some leopard. After waterbuck and impala, and more giraffe, I found the young Sohebele lioness sleeping, alone, on the eastern side of Vyboom dam. We had seen her tracks far away on Scholtz this morning, but she must have been chased by the Mahlathini males, and for some reason ended up on our northern boundary. We left her sleeping, and Elliot then called me to tell me that he had found Mbali female leopard for the second afternoon in a row! I was close by, so responded to see her at Concrete crossing. She was rather active, looking a bit lean, and clearly in the mood to hunt. She spotted a bushbuck, a duiker and some kudu, but didn’t have any luck with any of them. I left her with the other Motswari guides, and she was followed until she went down towards the thick banks along the edge of Peru dam. With some luck she will get a meal tonight.

There were a number of giraffe scattered all over the north of the reserve, especially around Concrete crossing, also the local troop of baboons, the hippos in Peru dam, a large bull elephant feeding in the area (in addition to other bull elephants and a breeding herd of elephants on western cutline), and some fair general game. While watching the hippos, I heard a leopard calling to the north, so went to see if we could find him, but had no luck. I was checking up towards Buffalo pan when another guide radioed to ask me if I had seen the leopard in the tree 30m from the lioness that I had found earlier at Vyboom dam! I responded in the negative, and he told me that Shongile female leopard was sleeping in a thick Leadwood tree not far from the lioness! I was only 5 minutes away and arrived to see this beautiful young leopard perched in the branches among the leaves – I hadn’t seen a thing earlier!

We then spent the rest of the drive watching and photographing her, as she slowly built up the courage to jump down from the tree, despite the lioness sleeping nearby. She climbed down, and wandered towards the waters edge where she found an old head of a catfish! She the picked it up and climbed another leadwood tree and began to chew on the now hardened fish! The young Sohebele lioness became interested, and wandered over to the first tree that the leopard was in, sniffed around, moved closer to the tree she was now in and gave her a glance. She scratched her claws on a nearby tree and then wandered off in the opposite direction, across the dam wall and towards Ingwelala. We stayed with Shongile for while, she eventually dropped the fish’s head and lost interest in it and started grooming! She later climbed a bit lower in the tree, watched us for a while, but she seemed reluctant to descend any further, so we left her sitting in the lowest fork of the tree and headed back to camp, happy that we had eventually found an obliging photographic subject!

Not to be outdone, we then found a hyena on our airstrip that wandered over to the vehicle, stood less than 1m away watching us, and then followed her nose in a different direction! A great ending to another great day at Motswari Game Lodge!


  1. I love night shots of the leopards, i look forward to being there late august 2010.i love photography so i envy the opportunities you have and marvel at the photos you. keep up the great work (the word "work" i use lightly)LOL.
    regards Shane

  2. thanks so much for taking the time to look and comment on the blog, and appreciate the compliments; i am just glad that i love my job and can share a bit of what i do and see every day with those not fortunate enough to live in such a special place as i do!

    look forward to your vist next year, and keep on reading the blog!


    Motswari Guide