Its official I’m not going on days off ever again, you miss out on too many amazing things! Again it involved the White Lions, this time on a buffalo kill and a visit from the Sohobele Males. I’m not going to try re-create the extraordinary interaction that occurred through what I’ve heard and can make out, instead Leanne is coming to my rescue and has kindly offered a copy of her notes to the events that occurred to post on the Blog, so watch this space!
So what to say about the last weeks adventures. It seemed to be a week of feast and famine, to add to that it was inconsistent, with one day having plenty of a particular species and the next none at all. Case in point, before going on leave you couldn’t drive round a corner without bumping into a herd of Elephant and on the other hand buffalo were like finding chicken teeth. Returning, the herds of elephant had disappeared and been replaced by huge herds of buffalo, if I didn’t know better it would be a good argument for the belief in shape shifting!
With each group of visitors we had over this period there seemed to be a story attached. It started with the White Lions taking a leave of absence for a couple days after their buffalo kill, leaving us struggling to find lion, through perseverance and a lot of luck we were able to find the Sohobele Males in an area that we rarely drive except when desperate. I say desperate cause we drove every road in the area, and perseverant, cause we drove them multiple times!
Prior to my next visitors there was no shortage of leopard sightings, with their arrival, the game of cat and mouse commenced! Fast forwarding the story to their last evening and morning drive still without a leopard sighting. We found ourselves returning to camp that evening, when a call came in that Argyle Male was seen on Sohobele Plains near camp. Not being far we responded but before arriving at the scene another leopard was called in on Motswari Entrance Road. Already having committed to Argyle Male we pushed on, taking a chance, as Argyle Male can prove to be pretty elusive at the best of times. True to form he disappeared into some thick vegetation hunting before we arrived. So it was too plan B, try relocate Shongile on Motswari Entrance Road, hopeful at a stretch I know, but not impossible. Heading into the area that she was last sighted we combed the area to no avail, it seemed we were surrounded by leopard but none to be seen. Before arriving back in camp thoughts had already drifted to where we were going to find Leopard on their last drive. As if to tease/ torment me I got a radio call during dinner notifying me that I must be careful when walking my guests back to their chalets as there was a leopard resting on the path between two of the chalets. Hearing this, I escorted my guests to go take a peek, as we approached along the path we found that he had already moved off. Chatting with John, the security man and general jack of all trades, it sounded like it was Argyle Male that had given me the slip a second time that evening! To say the weather was not playing along the next morning would be an understatement. Having rained earlier that morning, effectively washing away any tracks, and the ever present threat of more rain we set about our mission, heading to all the areas that we were likely to find our Leopard. Coming up empty handed in the North we started to head South try our luck with Rockfig Jnr or Ntombi. As we made our way south an invitation to view a relaxed male leopard on Tanda Tula came through on the radio. Accepting the very welcome offer we headed further south, should have known it would not come without its price. We were racing against time, as some of the guests had to be back at lodge for an early pick up. The weather was also closing in and making its damp presence felt. To top it off we were heading into an area that we not that familiar with, we all know how Jacky loves that! Needless to say we not only got stuck, but also horribly miss placed, almost making an unscheduled visit to the Kruger Park. At one stage I tried to orientate us on the map but when I asked Jacky where he thought we were, he promptly replied, "in the nhlathini", which means, "in the bushes!" Thanks to a couple of the guides from the area and Jacky’s uncanny sense of North, South, East and West, we managed to find our way to the sighting.
In the end it was all worth it, finding him very relaxed sitting at eye level in an African Wattle Tree, in true leopard style. Unfortunately we could not spend long in the sighting as time was now definitely against us but as we sat there, there was this consistent loud noise of bushes rustling that seemed to be approaching, Jacky informed me that we best put on our Ponchos. Pulling out the sighting and heading back to camp we were met by a wall of water that persisted the entire 45 min drive back, and here I thought we had paid enough wildlife tax for one day!
One day that did stand out from the others was Good Friday and in more ways than one! It started out with Jacky and I trying to follow up on the White Lions, as they had not been seen since leaving the buffalo kill a couple days earlier. I should know that things in the bush are unpredictable and never usually go to plan. Jacky and I had planned our drive, the areas and roads that we where we were to check for any signs of the White Lions. During our follow up, a call came in that they had found Rockfig Jnr and cubs, being to good to pass up we added our names to the list of people responding and started to make our way into the area, passing Leanne on the way. As we neared the sighting Leanne called in that she had found tracks for the White Lions, where we had just come from. Torn between the two we decided to turn around and head all the way back and stick to our original plan of finding the White Lions, what can I say Jacky and I have a soft spot for them. Picking up Petros along the way, Jacky’s brother and fellow tracker at Motswari, we met up with Leanne and started following up on the tracks. Establishing that the tracks were very recent and that the guys didn’t need my help in driving around, I left Jacky and Petros to follow up while I returned to Rockfig Jnr. Getting only a little way down the road I got a call that they had located the lions. They were still mobile and I needed to make my way back quickly so we could follow with the vehicle. Turning around once again I made my way back, as I approached I contacted Jacky to find out the location, apparently the lions heard this from Jackys radio and stepped up the pace which the guys could not keep up with, yet again they had alluded us. We decided to stay in the area this time and check up on the roads for any tracks while Jacky and Petros followed up on foot, at this stage a couple of vehicles had moved into the area to give a hand. As is the White Lions MO they took us around in circles, it’s hard to believe that we were so close and now it seemed so far. Yet again the weather was conspiring against us by starting to drizzle and make things that little bit harder. Having driven all the roads in the vicinity and coming up with nothing, it looked like they had given us the slip. Just then Jacky’s whispering voice came through on the radio, by his tone I realised he had found them before he said anything more. I’m sure he keeps me waiting, let the anticipation build and then the frustration of not finding them settle in before he surprises me with finding them.
They settled down deep in a large block hence being difficult to find. This was my first sighting since getting back from leave, they all looked in great condition and the cubs were as playful as ever. Spending some QT (Quality Time) with them we left them resting in the shade.
The tracking had taken longer than expected and most of the stations were now responding to the lions and had already visited Rockfig Jnr and cubs. It was a chance we took and now it looked quite possible that we would miss out on her and the cubs. Heading off yet again in the direction of Rockfig Jnr and her cubs, take three! I was glad to hear that one station was still at the sighting and he kindly offered to stay until I arrived. Making our way down the riverbed we rounded a corner and there they were, mom resting in the bed, not in bed, grooming the male cub and his sister taking a siesta in a nearby tree.
Still on the cub front, both Tanda Tula and Kings Camp were very kind in inviting us to view their new arrival, a five-week-old lion cub born to the Timbavati Males and Machaton Females. The cub is one of three, unfortunately it looks like the other two have gone missing with no one quite sure what’s’ happened to them. Lets hope this little one grows to adulthood, it definitely has a lot of spirit!
As per usual I end off with a picture storyboard, where you get the opportunity to imagine the story that lies behind!