The week started off a bit quietly, and our Monday morning drive didn’t produce too many Big 5 sightings, but the general game was quite good. We did see a nice herd of elephants feeding along the banks of the Nhlarulumi, as well as some old buffalo bulls. Zebra, giraffe, kudu, waterbuck and a hippo walking about outside of the water all contributed to a pleasant morning drive.
Monday afternoon was a better drive; although we frustratingly didn’t manage to locate two of the Sohebele lions that had been seen during the middle of the day – we started tracking just before sunset, and it soon got too dark to pursue the tracks any further. The reason for starting to track them so late was that Kuhanya female leopard had been found with a fresh impala kill! It was the first big kill we have seen her with since she left her mother last month, and proof that she is now a fully fledged and proficient huntress of the northern Timbavati! It was a sizeable catch for a small leopard, and in a rather open area too, during the day, so she did us proud! She had dragged it onto a termite mound at the base of a small leadwood, and started feeding, but we all knew that it would inevitably be stolen by hyenas during the windy night. We didn’t get to see Kuhanya feed, instead she lat in the grass a few meters from the kill and posed for some shots; she was, for a change, a bit aggressive, and no doubt being defensive of her kill, so we gave her the space she wanted and she seemed happy enough.
Tuesday morning arrived, and started out with two hyenas being found eating on large kudu bull just near the Peru dam wall. It is not clear how the kudu had died, or if the hyenas had killed it, but when Palence went to see them, they had eaten their share and were resting nearby.
We were getting desperate for lions, and there were reports of lions roaring around the central parts of the reserve, so I headed into the area to check it out. Giyani said the lions had been at Java camp, and were calling to the south. Herald was checking to see if the Sohebele lions had moved from the area they were yesterday and soon had a stroke of luck when two young Sohebele male lions crossed the road in front of him, just south of Kudu pan! As we were doing a shortened drive, I abandoned my search for the other lions and moved to the eastern section to see them. The overcast morning wasn’t overly productive for me, although I did find a small breeding herd of elephants. I arrived, but the lions had given up their morning exercise and were now fast asleep, but most the guests had seen them up and about. Sadly however, the two young males were looking very, very thin, and are in desperate need of a kill – I just hope they can get some food soon. The other guides had slightly more productive mornings than I did. Herald found three hyenas resting near a termite mound, but they soon moved off, and on closer inspection, it looked as though the mound might actually be a den site; we will check it out again to see if it is the case, but that particular clan of hyenas is rather weary of the vehicles. Godfrey saw the hyenas near the kudu, some zebra, giraffe, and other nice general game, and he also found Shongile female leopard with a steenbok kill just north of Vyboom dam! Back at camp, there were four buffalos drinking at the waterhole. Other good news was that Kuhanya female leopard had managed to salvage at least some of her kill from the hyenas, and was still in the same place with a few small pieces of meat!
Tuesday afternoon was thus set up nicely, and proved to be a good one. Sadly though, the steenbok kill was finished, as it appears that Shongile’s brothers were also there, and they made short work of the small antelope, and were not found. It didn’t matter a great deal as Kuhanya female leopard was still sleeping near her kill. The vultures had finished off the entire kudu carcass, and only some bones and a seriously injured white-backed vulture were seen in the area. I am not sure what had attacked the vulture, but it was not in a good way. Palence headed south after seeing the leopard, and he managed to see the Nhlangula male rhino who had been picked up south of Nkombi pan. There was also a large breeding herd of buffalo moving south away from Sweetwater that Palence saw. The two Sohebele lions had moved to Karans big dam, but no Motswari guides went to see them.
I stayed up north with my new guests, and they had come to Motswari in the hope of photographing some leopards; something they hadn’t had any luck with whilst visiting Namibia and the Kruger National Park. They weren’t to be disappointed.
I headed straight over to Kuhanya with her kill, and she was lying in the open, but soon got up and found a morsel of meat, lay down and started feeding on it for us! She is such a beautiful cat, and her relaxed disposition immediately endeared her to the guests. What made the sighting interesting was that Kuhanya’s mother, Mbali female leopard, had been found not 300m from where Kuhanya was feeding and was heading straight towards her. I could see the vehicle approaching, but at about 100m away, Mbali stopped, stared in the direction of Kuhanya (who was none the wiser), but soon sauntered off in the opposite direction.
After watching Kuhanya for some time, we moved on to go and see Mbali who was resting on a small grassy mound. She soon got up as the sun was setting and wandered off to the north, we followed her for a while, but soon left her to her own thing.
There was also a breeding herd of elephants not 300m west of the leopard, so we went and watched the herd as the twilight set in, but the herd was clearly on a mission and moved with pace to the north and towards our boundary, but they eventually settled to feed on the mopanes, just on the Timbavati’s western boundary.
Back at camp, we had yet another leopard come to visit us; this time the leopard was seen wandering around behind the boma and kitchen!
Wednesday was another good day. The big news of the morning was finding four males lions with a freshly killed giraffe near Mangwa clearing! I had been on a coffee stop while my tracker was on foot tracking Shongile female leopard, and when I finished I heard this news on the radio. At first I thought the guy was pulling my leg, but then realized it was true. I was puzzled as to which lions they could be, but went to have a look myself. The large giraffe lay in a nice area, stomach content spread everywhere, and still plenty of meat on it. The first lion I saw was relaxed, and looked at first glance like one of the Timbavati males; but so far north, surely not? I then went to see one of the younger males, thinking that it might be the three Timbavati males and the young Machaton male, but the young male was not totally relaxed as we approached, and soon got up and moved to join the other two same-aged males; these were the Mahlathini males, but they had a bigger male in attendance, and from earlier reports, their interactions were not hostile. I left the four lions sleeping in the bush around the kill, and after seeing a herd of elephants near Mbali dam I headed back to camp. I went and compared my photos with the other lions, and confirmed that it was indeed one of the Timbavati males that had wandered way north from his normal territory and found the three Mahlathini males with their giraffe kill; and he decided it was good idea not to pass up on a free meal! Down in the south Palence found a large breeding herd of elephants near Entrance dam.
In the afternoon, all four lions were still there on the giraffe kill, and Elliot was lucky enough to see the three Mahlathini male lions approach the lone Timbavati male lion and got to seem them have a bit of a fight, but the much bigger Timbavati male dealt with the three Mahlathini males with no problems! I went to the sighting after dark hoping to see some action myself, but all I got was fat, sleepy lions! The Mahlathini males seemed a bit edgy, possibly after their brief altercation.
Other than the lions, we also had a couple of sightings of male buffalos reported, I saw two large breeding herds of elephants, both feeding in the sedges growing along the course of the Nhlarulumi riverbed, and Mbali female leopard was also found at Mvubu crossing. She perched herself up on a rock for a while, but then moved off back towards the banks of Peru dam; I arrived as she was resting in a small clearing, but after a while she got up and moved off down towards the riverbank, so I left her to it. Johannes also saw a herd of buffalo near Nkombi pan, but they were crossing into Klaserie when he left them.
And that was the story of our last few days! The lions are back and will be for the next few days as they feed on their giraffe, and it seems as though the elephants have returned to the area, so things are looking up for the next few days, lets hope they will be good ones!