Monday, 30 November 2009

23rd & 24th November – No Longer Raining Cats and Dogs!

…but we certainly wish it would! The last two days have been extremely frustrating for us due to the lack of lions at the moment; the end of Wednesday concluded the fifth consecutive day without any recorded sightings of lions – the longest period of “lionless” viewing I have experienced in almost three years!
Monday morning saw us starting off the drive with three giraffes near the airstrip before we headed west in the hope of finding some signs of our lions returning to the area. En route, we did make a stop off at Kuhanya female leopard to see what she was up to and found lying near the kill, but we had no sooner arrived when she got up and moved to the kill to commence her feeding yet again! It is quite miraculous that she has managed to keep the kill for so long without needing to take it up a tree to avoid the hyenas. There is not a great deal of meat left on the carcass, but the leopard was feeding on it for a good part of the morning.
A small herd of buffalos was found in the west, slowly heading towards Voël dam, so I headed into that area and waited for them to come and drink, being the predictable animals they are. The herd approached as I had anticipated, but then simply walked past the water, over the dam wall and started to feed on the green grass on the other side! It was not a very big herd of buffalo, with probably only 60-70 individuals in it.
I headed down to Nkombi pan for some coffee, but sadly found no signs of any rhino, so I proceeded up to Makulu dam, finding another four buffalo bulls along the way. There was not a great deal of game about, but we saw some kudu, waterbuck, several hippos and a nice large crocodile at the dam, and then came across two elephant bulls pushing over some knobthorn trees on the banks of the Nhlarulumi, at Elephant Crossing. Herald had also found a small baby impala hanging in a marula tree near Mbali dam, but I went to check on it a bit later in the morning and found no sign of the leopard that had put it there; the leopard had not even taken a single bite out of it, so we headed for home.
In the afternoon, I decided to go and check on the baby impala kill again, but found that it was still untouched and the leopard had clearly not returned, so I didn’t bother spending much time around the area. I headed down to Vielmeter hoping to find some different leopards, but came across an old drag mark from a hyena dragging a carcass, and realised that the hyena would be dragging the kill back to the new den site, so asked my tracker to follow up on foot. It was not easy after the rain, and the fact that the hyena would lift the whole kill off the ground at times didn’t make it any easier, but Petros kept trying. I carried on and saw some baboons, more impala, a couple of giraffe, waterbuck and a small group of zebras in the area, and I was just about to call Petros to tell him to leave the tracks if he was struggling when he told me that he had found the new hyena den site!

I met him on the road and he guided me into the area of the den, a large termite mound alongside a drainage line just south of Java airstrip. At first we could only see one adult hyena lying 30m from the den, and then we moved around to the eastern side and found the mother hyena and her two cubs playing around outside the den! We spent the next half an hour watching these extremely cute characters as they played with a piece of left-over impala and annoying mom and aunty hyena! It is great to know that we again have some good hyena sightings lined up for the next while!
After a great sunset overlooking the vast African bush and the distant Drakensberg mountains, I went to check on the baby impala kill, but for the third time found it unmoved, so I gave up on seeing that leopard and headed back to camp, but not before stopping for a special ‘bush braai’ where the guests enjoyed a dinner in the bush. The only other noteworthy sightings of the afternoon were a breeding herd of elephants that Herald found, but they were some distance from the road in an area that was still too wet to go off-roading after, so they were left on their own. Then Andrew had a sighting of Kuhanya female leopard, but not at the spot she had bee for the last few days, instead she had gone for a drink at Peru dam and found the carcass of a dead impala on the eastern bank, she dragged it under a large weeping boer-bean tree, but didn’t actually eat anything, instead she just lay and rested nearby.
Tuesday morning started off with us going to check on a large impala carcass that Kuhanya had found, but she was not there, nor had she actually eaten anything, so we left the area and went to try the western sector hoping to find any signs of lions, but none were forthcoming. Andrew drove past the area of Kuhanya female leopards previous kill and found her wandering around in the open not too far away, so he followed her as she made her way back to the kill site where there were still a few bones lying around, but she didn’t do much and went and rested in the shade of a low bush a bit further north. After finding a few herds of impala, a small zebra herd and some waterbuck grazing together, as well as a pair of entertaining guineafowl running after each other, I went to have a look at Kuhanya, and found her resting in the same area. She was extremely fat after four days of feeding and slowly moved to an even shadier spot before settling down for the morning, so we left her to it.
Besides that the morning was quiet, no elephants were around, and although we saw some kudu and bushbuck, even the general game was a bit quiet. Some of the smaller animals did draw our attention, with more tortoises and terrapins being found out and about, as well as some vultures sitting in a dead tree waiting to go and feed on yet another dead impala.
That ended my two-week stint of driving, and I didn’t drive guests in the afternoon, instead I went out with the film-crew to see if we could have any luck finding the white lions that they are filming, and ended up traversing the land a few kilometres north of Motswari; it was nice to see some different areas that I had never seen before. Although we went looking for white lions, the only white thing we found was a lone white rhino bull! He was relaxed and sauntered off into the bush and we left him. There was a small breeding herd of elephants around, and a few elephant bulls, but sadly the lions eluded us; although the film crew had found another pride of five lions in the morning that they have been hanging around for the last while; it sounds like a young pride and it will be interesting to see if they ever venture further south onto our land now that there is a large gap left from the demise of the Sohebele pride. Interesting times ahead we hope…but as long as we get to see some lions, any lions, soon!


  1. Hi Chad
    I knew that the hyena cubs were still alive. Told you so. I only wish we found them 2 days earlier. Hope "our" baby Impala is still alive too. Enjoy your last two weeks. Say hi to everybody.

  2. thanks gaby!

    yeah, was nice to find their new home...the baby impala's are still being born, but the predators are also taking a few of them....will post an update later about an amazing sighting we had of Nkateko leopardess playing with a baby impala for an hour and a half before killing it....was amazing to watch!

    also just heard the sohebele lions ahve found a dead giraffe, so going to check it out now that the rain has stopped!

    keep well


  3. Hi Chad,
    I knew it too, Im so glad the Hyena cubs are still alive, shame we didnt see them but yours and Gabys photos are great. Sorry to hear you had alot of rain, hope the next two weeks are fruitful....something else to tick off your list perhaps.
    Were missing Motswari and all the animals.
    Im addicted..our time with you was perfect.

    Take good Care.
    Karen (and Les) x

  4. Saw Brian's Ntsiri pics of the raging rivers. Jeez you've had enough rain while I was parched in the Kgalagadi!!
    A strong case of effects of climate change and global warming : west to get drier and east to get wetter. . . . is very evident to me now.