Saturday, 19 September 2009

16th September – Mahlathini Males Return, & Rockfig Jnr Leopard!

Wednesday proved to be a good day for game viewing, with my guests seeing three different leopards, as well as the Big 5 in the north during the afternoon game drive!

The morning drive drew me down south in the hope of finding a rhino and Nkateko female leopard, if she was still on her duiker kill. There were a number of tracks for rhino around the south, some near Hide dam, others near Entrance dam, and tracks for two rhino near Java camp. Sadly all of the tracks were followed across our boundary, but that didn’t detract from another good morning of game viewing. Just past Java camp, we had a nice sighting of a breeding herd of elephant with a number of youngsters amongst them.

I left the elephant herd feeding on the banks of the Machaton riverbed and moved a few hundred meters south to where a large herd of 250-300 buffalo were having a drink at Vielmetter trough. The herd didn’t waste time finishing the water that had been pumped into the waterhole, and soon started moving off towards Back 9’s and Entrance dam.

I moved from the buffalo five minutes down the road to where Nkateko female leopard had been relocated sleeping up a knobthorn tree. She had finished her kill during the night, but hadn’t moved off very far, and lay resting in the tree, full bellied, but still eyeing out some impala grazing in the distance.

I was about to stop for a cup of coffee when another leopard sighting was radioed in near Entrance dam; it was Rockfig female’s previous daughter, Rockfig Jnr female leopard. This four year old leopard is territorial in the far south, and her northern boundary is just south of Double Highway, so we don’t often get to see her, and especially not so far north of her regular core. I have only seen this leopard once before, so I was very keen to respond, and did so, but she was moving in some difficult terrain, criss-crossing a small drainage line amongst a magic guarri thicket. I just got a visual of her when I tried to go through a little drainage line, but as I tried to go up the other side my vehicle stopped. Oops. I was stuck, and there was a leopard next to us. Luckily she moved off and Elliot continued to follow her, and it allowed me to make a plan to get my vehicle out of the stubborn position it had found itself in. As I was about to give up and call for help I managed to get free and then rejoined Elliot, and it worked out for the best, because as I arrived, she was walking through a rather open area south of Entrance dam, and we ended up having a really nice sighting of this large female leopard, before we left her heading back south towards Double highway.

Heading back home we by-passed a small herd of elephant west of Vielmeter camp, and along with another herd of elephant the Herald had seen near Peter Pan, and two bull elephants up in the north, they ensured that there is currently no shortage of elephant sightings.

Andrew stayed up north and got to see two buffalo bulls, as well as the three Mahlathini male lions that had returned from their excursion to the north. They were found sleeping on the eastern bank of the Nhlarulumi riverbed, at the southern end of Peru dam.

The afternoon was an equally good one, and I managed to see all of the Big 5 without much effort. As we left camp, we heard that some of the guides had already found leopard and lion near Mvubu crossing, but I was taking it easy, so just bumbled around on my way to the sightings. Not far west of camp, we found something I wasn’t expecting to see in the area, a male white rhino! It is clearly the same individual whose tracks we keep seeing around the camp, but he is sadly not a very relaxed individual and he stood with his head held high looking our way until eventually trotting off in the opposite direction. We didn’t pursue him through the bush. As we drew closer to Vyboom dam, we came across two buffalo bulls in the riverbed below the dam wall, and in the distance we could also see two elephants feeding in the sedge along the riverbed.

After some waterbuck, bushbuck, impala, duiker and kudu, we saw another two separate elephant bulls near Peru dam wall, and then slowly made our way to go and see Mbali female leopard who was resting just east of the old Mbali camp. She was rather inactive when I was watching her, choosing instead to rest in the shade following a hot afternoon. Later when Elliot went to see her, she got mobile to the south, an area that used to form the core of her territory until she gave birth to Kuhanya almost two years ago. Elliot also spotted a skittish but large male leopard that moved into the sedge thicket west of Mbali dam.

I literally drove straight from Mbali into a sighting of the three Mahlathini male lions. As the sun set, these young male lions got active and slowly moved down along the riverbed towards Mvubu crossing. They had a drink and then moved towards the western side of the crossing where they lay down again. One of the males walked to within 10m of the vehicle without any concern for our presence, and that was once again a very encouraging sign. I left the three lions resting and went to have a drink, but in hind sight, I made a mistake! Giyani took over the sighting, and not long afterwards, they lions moved off in the direction of two buffalo bulls, which they proceeded to try and hunt. From all accounts, they came close to catching one of the buffalos, but these tough bovids managed to flee from the lions across the riverbed to the east, and the lions gave up. The lions were still looking well fed, and perhaps lacked a bit of motivation for another meal.

I headed home and saw a genet, thousands of stars on a wonderfully clear night, as well as a picture perfect scene of some fire flies flying over the water at Concrete crossing. I did hear the Argyle male leopard roaring near Vyboom dam, but he was calling from just north of our boundary; hopefully he returns south soon, as we have not seen him for some time now!


  1. Grant told me so much about the leopard you could just about tickle its tummy! WOW! What awesome sightings you had! Will have to come visit! Inge*

  2. Thanks inge*!!!

    yeah, Mbali is an awesome cat...nut we have a lot of great leopards here, and the last few days have been great for leopard; my guests have seen 6 different leopards in the last three drives, including three different ones tonight!!!

    Regards to Grant, hope he enjoyed his stay!