Monday, 14 September 2009

13th September – Sohebele Lions in Camp!

The 13th proved to be lucky for us at Motswari, as we had a visit from the Sohebele lions, right in the camp!

The day started off with us going to check on the three Mahlathini male lions, but they had sadly left their kill and moved off the property. The vultures were starting to feed on the carcass, and when Andrew went to see the carcassa bit later, there were five hyenas feeding on it.

I was going to go and see a small herd of zebras just south of camp, and on the way there, my tracker spotted tracks of a pride of lions heading wast to the dry Xinatsi dam. I was more interested in finding the Zebras and perhaps a rhino than the lions, but thought I would follow up on the tracks for twenty minutes or so to see if I could get lucky. The tracks moved off the road, past the dam and to the south-east, then the returned to the road, but they were heading north. I told the guests the lions were a bit confused, and Petros jumped off the tracker seat to go and have a look which way the tracks went. He got to the back of the vehicle and I heard a branch break just behind us, and looked around and there was the Sohebele pride of lions, all five of them! They had been sleeping no more than 20m off the road, but in the dry winter grass, they had blended in perfectly!

It was really good to see all of the pride members together again, and they were all looking in a fair condition, at least by Sohebele pride standards. The three youngsters had walked very far during the night and weren’t too active, most lay with their heads up, but soon dozed off again. Giyani later followed them as they attempted to stalk an impala and a warthog, and as the game drives were returning back to camp, the lions arrived at Trade Entrance dam, but went to sleep about 50m away from the water. After the game drives, we took some of the staff members to see the lions; it was nice to show them some of what the guests get to see everyday!

After the lions I headed down towards Jaydee area where there was a rhino sighting. General game was a bit quiet, but around Makulu dam there was a nice herd of nyala, waterbuck, hippos and a few crocodiles. Nhlangula male rhino had finished his grazing for the morning and had gone to sleep, just resting under a bush for some shade. Herald got to see him when he woke up and wandered off to the west, but more than likely just to find a better resting spot. Herald also saw a herd of elephant nearby, but besides that and two buffalo, the morning was a bit quiet. I did see a distant giraffe heading back to camp.

In the afternoon, the five Sohebele lions were found sleeping about 50m from the last room in camp, and soon got mobile down towards the camp waterhole, they had a drink and then lay down in the riverbed next to the waterhole. It was a great scene having the Motswari landrover’s, lions and the camp (with the staff members now gathering on the breakfast verandah to enjoy the show!), and one I hope the lions decided to spoil us with again soon!

They soon got mobile to the north, apparently on the scent trail of the dead buffalo (the lioness had spent the morning watching the vultures circling above the carcass about 2km to the north) so I went towards the buffalo carcass, seeing a hyena running towards a small waterhole for a cooling bath, then another two young hyenas milling around west of the carcass, a fourth hyena a bit further on and a fifth hyena feeding on the carcass.

En route to the buffalo carcass, there was a nice breeding herd of elephant feeding along the banks of the Sohebele riverbed, but I chose to wait at the carcass. As it was just me on my own (I had no guests), I spent almost two hours waiting for the lions to arrive, and was sure they would. Not only was the carcass smelling nice and ripe, but the clan of about ten hyenas that were taking turns feeding on the carcass and then coming to sniff my vehicle were relatively vocal, and this is the surest way to draw in the lions, but sadly they didn’t arrive, I got tired and headed back to camp. Still it was a wonderful experience sitting in just the starlight listening to the sounds of feeding hyenas and watching them, barely visible, as they approached within 1m of my bonnet (on which I was sitting!) to investigate what I was – a truly African experience!

Elliot headed down south to go and have a look at Nkateko female leopard who had been found near Hide dam. This gorgeous young leopard then wandered over to the dam and had a drink in front of our guests before she was left to continue her night’s adventure. There were also some elephant and kudu that visited the camp waterhole in the afternoon, so it was another great day at Motswari!

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