Sunday, 7 March 2010

Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men.

So the intention started off with me thinking that I would write about all the goings on after each of my drive sessions and technically I’m keeping to that bar the days off this last week. I have quickly come to realize that this is going to be somewhat insufficient as so much happens and I could possibly blog forever about a single drive let alone a days drives. I can hear the voice of The Chad: “You are young grasshopper, but you will learn”. So the revised intention is to now try and keep up with things and write every 3 – 4 days when I’m on drive.

Where to begin, it’s been an incredible three weeks and it’s hard to pick an individual favorite, think personally my highlight must go to Rockfig Jnr and her cubs! As mentioned in the previous blog she had not yet introduced us to them, and as if she had heard about it she promptly indulged our wants giving us a sneak preview at first, followed by a full feature on more than one occasion.
The setting on most occasions has been in a dry riverbed behind Entrance Dam, with mom and cubs often found lying on the cool sand in the shade of the surrounding vegetation. On the morning that we first saw them we were fighting Murphy’s Law. It all started with following up on very fresh tracks for a female leopard that shook us by entering an area that we where not able to access, Leopards 1 – Murphy & Jacky 0. While following up the female’s tracks we picked up on a male’s tracks that we then decided we would also try follow up on, with not much more success, we did however manage to get a glimpse of him before he ran off in to the bushes, skittish to say the least so we’ll have to call that, Leopards 2 – Murphy & Jacky 0. Not long after we found drag marks across the road down into the vegetation alongside the Machatan River, Jacky followed up on foot and returned to guide us with the car to a fresh Impala carcass but no Leopard, obviously we had interrupted breakfast and it was a little shy. Remembering the location we would return later but that made us, Leopards 3 – Murphy & Jacky 0, ever positive, we where having a better a day than the Impala. Then came the call we all had been waiting a long time for, Rockfig Jnr and her cubs had been sighted near Entrance Dam, without hesitation I made my response and headed into the area. As we made our approach things started to sound ominous they had lost visual and where trying to relocate in very thick vegetation, we joined the search and double backed to check the area she had moved from, LADUMA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (means goal in Zulu) We found her and her two precious cubs, admittedly in thick cover but you didn’t seem to notice anything else but the cubs and mom, only in the pics after do you realize that we where in the middle of a jungle somewhere. Leopards 3 – Grant & Jacky 3 couldn’t think of a better way to equalize!

Pushing our luck we returned to our Impala carcass thinking we could close out the game, but as if to remind us that we may have the luck of the Irish, but you’re still a Murphy, the carcass and any trace of it had disappeared into thin air, that left us Leopards 4 – Murphy & Jacky 3.

Jacky and I continue to grow as a team and are fast learning one another’s strengths and weaknesses, he is my strength and we need not mention that I’m his weakness. Not only is he my on board GPS, teaching me my way around the reserve, my translator, cause otherwise I wouldn’t know what a Mkombi (Rhino), Ngala (Lion), Ingwe (Leopard), Ndlophu (Elephant) or even a hlambe (Herd) were, but to add to all this he is an unbelievable tracker. Over the past couple weeks it has been nice for the guests as well as me to see him in full action with him successfully tracking down the White Lions on a number of occasions. It’s a dying art to be able to interpret the signs, anticipate an animal’s moves, follow and find it, it amazes me every time, and I now find myself looking more for the tracks than the animals themselves.Guess Jacky is also starting to feel a little more confident in me as well, as while he is off tracking I’m continuing the drive, alone. I say starting because every time he contacts me to let me know that he’s found what he’s looking for and asks my location, I hear the surprise in his voice that firstly I’m so far away and secondly that I know where I am, well sort of, I believe you’re never lost merely mis-placed.

So yes the White Lions are still with us, although there was a day that the White Lions crossed over into Klaserie, the neighboring reserve and an area that we don’t traverse, funnily enough it was the same day that the three Sohobele Males also crossed over into Klaserie, and with the Maghlatine Males only making guest appearances these days, that effectively left us with no lions in our traversing area that night and an uncertainty of when we would see any of them again.

Strange how you take things for granted when they’re around but suddenly realize how much they have come to mean to you when they are gone. Think that night many went to bed wishing they would wake to the return of the White Lions of the Timbavati, know this is not totally politically correct, for many a reason, but I think we all wished the return of “our” White Lions to the area. They didn’t disappoint and as quickly as they had left they were back, you have to love nature. Over the next couple days they proved to be very elusive and where tracked over great distances in every direction, we (royal) believe the reason for this was they where on the hunt and were struggling to catch something, unusual for these very capable female hunters.As I mentioned, so many adventures over the last couple weeks, its impossible to recount them all, one particular group does stand out though and I think that’s because they got to experience Murphy’s Law at work, I’m not going to go into the compulsory puncture per drive, or the freak downpour that had us drenched to the bone, while others were sunbathing at the pool back at the lodge, or even the bout of sunstroke on one of the hottest days that I’ve experienced in this area with the mercury pushing 42C. Think what took the cake and worth a mention was the returning to camp late one evening we came across a group of three hippos venturing out on their nights foraging. During all the excitement of seeing hippo out of water and marveling at their size, we became stuck while crossing a dry riverbed, actually I think a better word would be grounded as both our back wheels had dropped off the two track into furrows and the axle had grounded itself, thus leaving both the back wheels suspended and unable to get any traction to set us free from our latest predicament. Having been together the last couple days it seemed that this was not unexpected and everyone was very calm and quick in coming up with a solution, we just jack up the car and fill the holes with stones thus providing traction for our escape, simple. Not so simple, we would all have to leave the vehicle and who was going to fetch the rocks, well think the fate of fetching rocks was already sealed but that didn’t stop everyone quickly volunteering to hold the light, Jacky and myself included. With everybody out the car and crowded around the lamp Jacky and myself scurried off into the dark to find rocks ever mindful of interrupting the hippos’ dinner party, it’s amazing how scarce rocks become when you’re looking for them, after what felt like an age we collected sufficient rocks to orchestrate our escape and found ourselves bumping down the road with another story for the fireplace, and the blog.

Well that sort of wraps up things from us over the past couple weeks, the edited version, but we’ll be trying to keep on top of things more this month, plus get around to the sightings report for January and February, bringing you up to date on all your favorites, who’s been seen, where and with whom. *


  1. Hey there

    Very glad to hear that the white lions have finally returned, I worked at Motswari in 2006 for two months as a student and had the priveledge to meet Mr. McBride and his tracker, when they did a documentary on the white lions of the Timbavati in 2006. Sadly there where no sightings.

    How is everyone doing? Is Steve and Kathy stil there? Godfrey, Isak? Send my regards to everyone there. Kind regards.

    Frank Solomon
    Tswalu Kalahari

  2. What a great report. I really felt like I was with you trying to find these rocks. You live in such a wonderful place.

  3. Nice one Grant; look forward to more updates, especially regarding Mbali and her new cubs!

    Frank (from Outdoorphoto?), everyone is well. Kathy is still running the lodge, but steve has started his own business, although he is still at Motswari every other weekend. Godfrey is still doing well and enjoying the white lions like everyone else! Isaac has moved to Tinga in the Kruger, but as you can see we have a number of new faces in the tracking team, and they are all doing very well.

    Those white lions that you were looking for in 2006 were never seen again, although the lioness that gave birth to them is the grand mother of this current litter. She was from the Jacaranda pride that gave rise to the Timbavati pride (all the youngsters broke away as the pride got too big), and it is one of these Timbavati lionesses that has the current white cubs. I believe Chris McBride was up at Motswari last week to come and see them! Best you plan a return trip soon; its amazing to see them in the wild...and bring along a Pangolin or two for us!

  4. Precious cubs Grant thanks for the pics!
    Hey Chad - stop with the Pangolin. I get sooooo jealous!!

  5. Well done Grant on the blogging. We certainly remember our first drive with the Swedish couple in Feb. It was the one where we got to see Rockfig and the cubs for the fist time, thanks to yourself and Jackey or was it the luck of the Irish!!!
    All the best
    Susan & Neil