So I started on drive for the first time since leave the end of last week, and wow what a four days, as I mentioned previously I could fill a blog per drive, actually, I would go as far as to say per sighting. Leopards again take the number one spot with seven being seen in six drives and that does not include Rockfig Jnr and her two cubs. The limelight this week definitely belongs to the boys with a sighting Johannes found on Nharalumi access, not even a kilometer from camp. Don’t think I’ll ever know how he found them, he is a master when it comes to tracking. The scene came straight out of National Geographic. Picture a rocky drainage line, lined on both sides with thick purple pod cluster leaf trees and grass that towered to mid door level. Driving in, one could only wonder of the quality of the sighting, but as if someone read our minds a clearing appeared with a lone Marula tree. It was here that we were to find Argyle male feeding on part of a young kudu below the tree, while the rest of the carcass hung in a fork in the tree. After positioning ourselves and switching off Jacky pointed out another leopard in the background, skulking around some bushes. You could see from his behavior what his intentions were and as if on cue he made a run from cover and climbed the tree to the kill.
This did not phase Argyle male in the least and we sat there watching him feed below while this younger male fed directly above him. After a short while and not wanting to push his luck this youngster broke off a piece of the carcass and scurried down the tree to feed on it a short distance away, again amazingly enough, no reaction from Argyle male. Witnessing this interaction and behavior unfold in front of us was something special and I can only think that Argyle male did not react as the young male is one of his offspring, which one is still a mystery. I have chatted with "The Chad"and by the sounds of the behavior of the younger leopard it could possibly be the Vyboom Dam Male or there is also the chance that it is Argyle Young Male, the jury is still out.
You find when you start off with such an epic drive that invariably the next drive is bit of a wet blanket in comparison and the following drive started off in that direction in more ways than one. On setting out we were caught in a cloud burst that drenched us, we were to find out later that it was very isolated, as passing other game vehicles we were getting very strange looks, like "Why on earth would they be wearing ponchos?". Their question was quickly answered as the cloud seemed to be following us around, and as if not to want to share in Murphy’s Law we found ourselves alone once again. I believe in wildlife tax, and in periods that are quiet and I’m not seeing much or being rained on is another good example, I believe that I’m paying those taxes and that something special is in store for later. Lucky enough we did not have to pay much and we were soon rewarded with a Maglatine male lion and three Klaserie females sitting in the open at Voeldam.
It was very nice to see how relaxed this male was with the females and maybe they have changed their ways, well at least one of them maybe has. It could be that as he was alone he was relaxed and that when the three of them are together they become very aggressive and take it out on the females. It appears that the Maglatines are setting up home in the North, as we have only seen them on the odd occasion. It is always nice to see these males, but on the other hand it is good news for our White Lions, who can hopefully settle down peacefully in our area without having to worry about the Maglatine Males.
The wet blanket was drying fast, and was made warm and cozy by our next sighting later that morning. We were approaching a herd of buffalo in some pretty thick bush when we came across some very peculiar behaviour of a group of buffalo that crowded around a very young buffalo, must only be a couple days old, licking it and almost encouraging it. During all this commotion, Jacky again asked if we would like to see a leopard, to which all the guests replied disbelievengly they would but were somewhat skeptical as we were in the midst of a big herd of buffalo. Again Jacky worked his magic and pointed out a male leopard in a tree on the outskirts of the herd. On seeing us the leopard climbed down and speedily made a retreat but not before attempting to catch a steenbok that he had flushed on his way down, leopards are ever the opportunists. Leopards have been known to take baby buffalo amongst a herd and climb directly up a tree before the herd has time to react. Maybe this was a failed attempt that had unfolded moments before our arrival, one can only assume, but it remains a mystery, you have to love nature! Heading back to Motswari for brunch a call came in that they had found the White Lions. Having a particular soft spot for them, a minor detour was in order, ok, maybe it was not such a minor detour, having to go half way across the reserve, but they are white lions after all! On arriving they had made themselves comfortable in the middle of the Nharalumi river, which wouldn’t have been a bad thing if they were lying out in the open sandy section but they had chosen the thickest bunch of reeds one could find, go figure! Well at least we got a glimpse of them and it would require a revisit that afternoon to get a better look.
The following days adventure was to follow up on the White Lions see if we could get a better look see! Setting off earlier than usual it was not long before we got a call from Lianne saying she had tracks along the Nharalumi river, as we were in the area we joined forces in tracking them down. True to form, they were playing a good game of hide and seek and had us going in every direction. Slowly and steadily we started to close in, the advantage of working as a team you get to close the gap quicker and make up the lost ground from the night before. Once we established we had them in a block, the trackers went in to locate their exact position. We did not have to wait long when we got the call they had been found; driving in we found them resting in the shade after what was a very long nights walk. They tend to move these great distances and in every direction when they are on the hunt, what amazes me is how the cubs not only keep up but also endure the long distances. During our adventures we also were very fortunate enough to come across a Serval, my first in the Timbavati, unfortunately I was unable to get any pics, if you thought leopard were elusive, these guys take the cake, but we did get a nice visual nonetheless!
The herd itself seems to be a mixture of young and old, male and female, with one particular male standing out due to the length of his horns. From not having seen them before we were privileged enough to get to see them again the following day, again late afternoon a little south from the day before. Lets hope they continue to visit and become more relaxed around the vehicles, it is something special and very impressive to see!
I thought I would try my luck with the crash of rhinos next and headed off to the south. Unfortunately this time it seems that I would be paying wildlife tax again and came up empty handed, fortunately others seemed up to date with their taxes and called in a pride of lions at Voeldam. On arriving at the sighting we came across two females and a young male, not a hundred percent sure of who they were, but an educated guess is that they were more than likely members of the Voeldam Pride. We sat with them a while as they were hunting Impala, they got themselves into a good position but unfortunately one of the females broke a little soon and the distance was too great to close, we left them regrouping and heading to the South.
We arrived just as Rockfig Jnr chased off a hyena that had had a go at one of the cubs, which were now sitting in the upper branches of a tree beside the road. As if nothing had happened mom settled nonchalantly next to the road, on seeing this the cubs gained confidence and quickly joined her.
These are only some of the highlights of what occurred in what amounts to five nights worth of driving, with many more that could keep me going a lifetime. I did not even get the chance to mention the many elephant herds and the impressive buffalo herds that are in the area at the moment. Not to mention the great birding and all the little things that we get to see daily, so I have added a few images that hopefully tell the story!