The first good news of the day was that Mbali female leopard had managed to avoid the attention of the hyenas during the course of the night, and as a result was found sleeping next to her impala kill, which was still lying on the ground. All of the Motswari guides got to have a look at her over the course of the morning, but she was largely inactive, and just slept next to the carcass; she hadn’t even appeared to have eaten anything during the night – no doubt a consequence of feeding so well yesterday!
Prior to the leopard sighting, we watched a breeding herd of about twenty elephants feeding near Madash dam, but they soon got a bee in their bonnet and became highly mobile in a south-westerly direction towards Mbali dam. We followed the herd for a while and had them cross the road right in front of us several times before leaving them to it.
I dropped my tracker off on some tracks for two lions and went to have a cup of coffee at Mbali dam, hoping the elephants would arrive to drink, but sadly they never. The trackers followed the lion spoor for some time but luckily another guide bumped into the two Sohebele lions (one of the young males and the adult lioness) not far from where the trackers were busy following up. I arrived and followed the lions for a while as they headed towards Sohebele dam, where they eventually settled on the bank of the dry dam.
I left them with Andrew and Johannes came to join him, and they then had a fantastic sighting as a warthog appeared and the lions entered stalk mode! The lioness circled around the warthogs while the young male waited in the long grass. The guests sat patiently waiting, and eventually the lioness chased the warthogs straight towards the young male. The guests waited with baited breathe as the warthog ran straight towards the young male who by all accounts got hold of the warthog, but didn’t manage to keep his grip and the fortunate hog got away! Johannes said he could see tracks for the warthog still running over a mile from where the attempted hunt took place! I was upset for two reasons; one that I missed this sighting, and secondly, I really wanted the two lions to get some food!
I tried to console myself by going to have a look at a leopard, but Mbali was fast asleep, only glancing up at some passing vultures. Then I decided to go and have a look at the three Mahlathini male lions that had been found south of Voël dam. I arrived as they settled in a Mopane thicket (what’s new!), but they soon got up and carried on to the north. I followed them for a while, although it was tricky vegetation to navigate through, but two of the lions soon turned around and headed back in the direction they had come from. I was about to leave them, but saw they were walking along the road, so followed for a while, and soon realized that they were indeed actually stalking an unknown animal, so I turned off and waited. I could hear the oxpeckers ahead, so suspected a buffalo, and knowing how much these lions like buffalo, I decided to wait and see what happened. Soon the buffalo got wind of the lions and started snorting, and seconds later appeared coming towards the lions! My heart started to speed up as I anticipated the possibility of witnessing a kill. Two of the lions were now crouched in the grass as the buffalo came aggressively towards them, and as they waited for their brother to arrive to help them. As the buffalo went to chase off one of the males, a second male closed in from behind, just what was needed….but sadly the young male lion in the firing line lost his nerve and jumped out the way, and the buffalo kept on running, and didn’t give the second lion a chance to jump on his back.
So the buffalo was running. The only problem was that it was running straight towards us, hotly pursued by two of the lions! It was an amazing scene, but neither myself, nor any of my guests picked up a camera to take a photo of the scene, instead we sat spell bound by the raw African scene unfolding in front of us. Unfortunately the gap was too big and after a short chase, the lions gave up and the buffalo carried on. We left the lions lying down still watching the buffalo while he in turn watched the lions; a veritable stalemate, but the lions had lost the element of surprise and probably lost interest after we left, as they were found in the same area in the afternoon.
Other sightings of the morning included a breeding herd of buffalo that Johaness and Herald saw, a bachelor herd of elephant near the camp, and two different bachelor herds of buffalo. Kudu, waterbuck, impala, and zebra were ticked off, but alarmingly, there were almost no signs of giraffe. There was a report of four rhino’s near Voël dam too this morning, but they moved off the property before any of the Motswari vehicles managed to see them. Some elephant bulls visited the camp waterhole during the afternoon for a drink.
The afternoon was also very good, even if it lacked the excitement of the hunts of the morning. Not five minutes from camp, we were sitting watching the two Sohebele lions that had ended up resting on the eastern bank of the Sohebele riverbed, just north of Argyle dam wall. Although it wasn’t particularly hot, the two lions were just resting as it was too early in the afternoon for them to be active.
I left the lions and went to go and have a look at a leopard that had been found sleeping on Vyboom dam wall. It turned out to be Shongile’s brother, a young male leopard we have dubbed the Buffalo pan young male, of 5:4 male (based on his spot pattern above his whiskers). While he is very relaxed at night (as I saw last week when he had a kill near Motswari camp), he is not as confident during the day, and we had to keep our distance to about 20m. He between some rocks for a while, then moved a few meters and lay down again, but after a minute or two, he got up and moved out of the Nhlarulumi riverbed to the west, and we followed behind him for a while until he crossed a steep drainage line, and we decided to leave him to it.
Some of the guides went to see Mbali female leopard again, and she had eaten some more during the afternoon, but was now just resting next to the kill, which she still refused to take up a tree for safe keeping.
I went to have a look at the large pod of hippos in Peru dam, and they snorted and called for us as they all started curiously at these bipedal animals watching them! On the way, we had a nice sighting of two buffalo bulls coming down to drink below concrete crossing while a bull elephant fed in the reeds below Peru dam wall on the opposite side of the causeway. From the hippos I decided to go and have a look at the three Mahlathini male lions that were now awake and mobile towards our northern boundary. I arrived just in time; one of the males had already crossed the Timbavati access road into the neighbouring reserve, but the other two were resting 50m from the boundary. They lay around for a couple of minutes but soon followed their brother across the road and we watched them disappearing into the bush.
Heading home, we spotted a few bull elephants near Argyle dam and at the camp itself. A large herd of buffalo had also been to our Trade Entrance dam to have a drink, but had moved off before we returned to camp. Herald had earlier seen them on Sean’s clearing just south of Motswari. On the nocturnal front, we saw a single civet on the way back to camp.
So, with nineteen sightings of four members of the big 5 today, we had a rather productive day, and what made it even better was that all of the action was up in the northern sections. Hopefully this good run of game viewing continues for the next few weeks.