I started driving again on Wednesday afternoon, but it followed a relatively quiet morning, with just a herd of buffalo and a couple of herds of elephant about. Johannes also found a young female leopard, Shongile, not far north of Motswari camp, but there was not much other news on our animals. It clearly didn’t matter, as Wednesday afternoon was a pretty good drive!
I managed to tick off steenbok, impala, a herd of about eight kudu bulls, and giraffe before I got to Argyle dam, and then I heard of a rhino sighting in the south, near Sweetwater pan. As my guests had asked for rhino, I decided to head that way, but not before seeing some waterbuck, hippo and a small breeding herd of elephant near Mbali dam. Heading along the Timbavati access road, we came across another herd of kudu and two very relaxed zebras right on the side of the road. We proceeded and found a group of eight buffalo bulls and another herd of zebra, but it was getting dark, so we left them to go and see Nhlangula male white rhino. He wasn’t far from Sweetwater pan, so we followed him until he went and quenched his thirst there, as the light slowly faded around him. We left him in peace, but then moved towards Makulu dam where the three Sohebele young male lions were resting. I unfortunately got there a bit late, and two of the lions had moved to the waters edge, while the third just rested in the grass, quite inactive as they had been most of the afternoon. There were four buffalo bulls waiting for us at the camp when we returned.
Thursday morning was also a bit quiet, but Andrew found a large herd of buffalo on Java airstrip as they fed in a northerly direction towards Mbali dam. There was also a herd of elephant feeding in the mopane’s near Elephant Crossing, and a good number of giraffe all along Giraffe Kill rd, including several very dark males. As I drove past Mbali dam on the way back to camp, the buffalo herd were approaching the water, so together with Herald we watched as they rushed to the water to quench their thirst. Other general game included vervet monkeys, impala, kudu, a number of warthogs and he ever present steenbok and duikers.
In the afternoon, we were all keen for some leopard, and our guides managed to get lucky and find two! After some zebra on the airstrip, and the usual impala, kudu and waterbuck, I got a call telling me that Mbali female leopard was near Mbali dam, so I headed straight over there. I arrived as she moved into the thickets on the riverbank, but got to see the herd of buffalo and a herd of elephant on the opposite bank. Mbali eventually went over the dam wall and into the thickets near Mvubu crossing. We soon found out why when two bushbuck came running out of the thickets! Mbali appeared a minute or two later and wandered right past us and carried on along the eastern bank of Peru dam to the north, we left her to it and made our way south. Johannes stayed up north and after viewing Mbali, found where some hyenas had chased Kuhanya female leopard up a tree, not too far away from Mbali. Andrew went to have a look at her, but I resisted the urge and carried on to the south where the three Timbavati male lions had been found near the confluence of the Zebenine and Nhlarulumi riverbeds.
After seeing another herd of elephants and having a drink I went to go and see the lions, that had gotten active since Godfrey left them. I arrived and relocated them as they were moving through the bush, seemingly intent on following a herd of buffalo that had been in the area, but they soon lay down, and we left them as they got up and carried on moving to the west. I also saw a white-tailed mongoose last night.
Friday morning was my last drive for a few days, and it ended off my guests stay perfectly! A couple that I was driving had seen a female cheetah when they were driving in to Motswari on Wednesday, and despite her tracks being seen on Thursday morning, she was not found in the area of Voël dam. But we got lucky on Friday, and as we knew she had a cub (from the tracks), we knew that she wouldn’t go far. I was planning to go and check the area a bit later, but a guide from the neighbouring lodge called me just before 7am to tell me that he had found the female cheetah and her cub. I hurried over and got greeted with the sight of a small cheetah cub sitting on a termite mound, and the mother not too far off! It was the first cheetah cub I have ever seen in the wild, so it was as special a moment for me as it was for the guests! Unfortunately the mother and cub were not sticking to ‘typical’ cheetah habitat, and walked through a Mopane woodland, but they would rest every now and then and we got to take some pictures! The mother spotted some impala, but didn’t give chase. A little later, a hyena came wandering over to them and the cheetahs trotted off, but we relocated, and they were followed most of the morning until they crossed the Timbavati access road and into the Klaserie. What was interesting to note was that the female cheetah was fitted with a radio collar, but I am not aware of any cheetah research going on in the Timbavati, so she must have come from outside; and that is the beauty of having an open system with the neighbouring reserves and the Kruger, you just don’t know what you will find! I will keep you updated if we see her again, but is till treasured only my second cheetah sighting in over 2 years, especially considering that there are only an estimated 200 left in the Kruger park!
After that excitement (and all the other Motswari vehicles got to see them before they crossed off our property), we took it easy, and managed to find some baboons that the guests wanted to see, a crocodile at Concrete Crossing, some nice birds, a hippo’s nostrils at Vyboom dam, impala, a nice herd of zebra in the company of three male giraffes and kudu. A female leopard was seen heading east away from Klipdrift crossing, but when Herald and I drove around the area, all we found were waterbuck, kudu and impala, but had no luck finding the leopard, maybe the guys will have some luck in the afternoon. Earlier in the morning Herald had found a herd of buffalo on Western cut line, and Palence saw some elephant.
So, with the Big 5 and cheetah being seen over the last few days, things are hopefully looking good for the month ahead!