Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Lightening Strikes Twice!

Apologies on a number of fronts! Firstly for the delay, we have been experiencing some technical difficulties with our internet, that factored in with my Comrades trip, a ultra marathon that I run yearly of which I will tell you more at a later stage, the blog has gone a little while without an update. Secondly, you may notice the lack of pictures, this is due to a faulty or corrupt external hard drive that is presently holding all my pictures hostage, we presently in negotiations and hope to have the situation resolved within a couple more days! So what follows is a little dated but by the end of the week I should have you all up to speed!

I do realise it feels like some time since my last post but when you factor in my weeks leave, it has really only been a week that has gone by. So for those that feel they have been left in the dark, not mentioning any names, Chad, here’s this last weeks update.

So much to tell, it’s where to begin. Returning to drive it appeared that some of our more elusive members over the past few weeks have also made a comeback. Rhino sightings had been a little scarce of late, so much so I was starting to wonder if I would be able to identify one, should we stumble across it. So when the call came in that they had found a male rhino not far from where we were, I quickly responded. While trying to make our way into the area they lost visual of him in some very thick terrain. As he was not one of our regular rhinos, he was a little skittish around the vehicle, and they never easy to keep up with. Being somewhat desperate, we stuck around in the area trying to relocate him. With a little help from Irish luck we stumbled across him. Now being downwind of him, enabled us to approach ever closer, we also found that he was far more settled when the engine was off, so getting into a clearing we killed the engine and sat with him, while he quietly went about his business.

After finally seeing rhino again, they all seemed to come out of the woodwork, with sightings being reported from all corners of the reserve, you could take your pick, buffet style. On one such occasion, I wanted to respond to Tenga Tenga, a large relaxed male rhino, to round off an excellent afternoon’s game viewing. I needed to move a wee bit as the sun was about to set and we don’t view rhinos after sunset. As we passed through a crossing onto the opposite bank of a riverbed we emerged onto an open plain, where out the corner of my eye I spotted something lying on a termite mound off in the distance. At first glance I said it was a female lion, and was about to push on as we had just viewed the White Lions, but on a second glance it looked like it may be a leopard. Thinking that it could be a male leopard that frequents the area I took out the binoculars to confirm it. What I saw before me I did not immediately comprehend and it took a minute to register, but by this stage I had already turned the vehicle and was heading in its direction. Petros, Jacky’s brother & my tracker while Jacky is on leave, uttered the words hesitantly,"CHEETAH!" I say hesitantly, as if, if he uttered the words out aloud it would not be true! This was my first sighting of Cheetah in the Timbavati and only Petros fifth in eight years, understandably we were both in simultaneous shock and awe! Before setting out on drive I had asked one of my guests that had been with me for a couple days and had already seen a great deal, what she would like to still see? She promptly replied cheetah, and this is why I never ask the question! So as gently as possible I went in to explaining that this was not the ideal habitat for cheetah as the prime reason, but there where also a number of other factors that made the probability of seeing one rather slim. On my behalf I did finish the sentence with, "you never know and that is what I love about the bush, lightening can strike." It did, there we were sitting watching it rest on a termite mound in true cheetah style surveying the open plain. It was not long before he got up and started to make his way across the plain, where he briefly stopped at a shallow pond for a drink of water. This is where we left him as other stations were also responding and the light was fading fast. Cheetah is also a species that we do not view after sunset. Needless to say we never made it to Tenga Tenga.

I’ve not quite decided whether it’s the "Luck of the Irish," or being part Irish that I’m made to eat my words, but either way it seems to work for me! A day later, we had literally set out on morning drive, when we spotted a adolescent kudu bull on the side of the road, before I had a chance to break out into my description, another adolescent bull came flying across the road with a cheetah following in hot pursuit. Once again Petros and myself where dumbstruck and at a loss for words. We left the road taking a chance that we could relocate, but after spending some time searching we called it quits and set about trying to relocate the road. On our way out, off in the distance we saw that distinctive shape sitting erect amongst the long grass, turning the car we headed in its direction, all wondering whether it had been successful in its pursuit or not. Unfortunately that question was quickly answered as it stood and started to make its way north, we were however fortunate enough to spend some time following it before the thick bush and long grass conspired against us and we lost it. Guess lightening can strike the same person twice, what a privilege! Now where’s that Pangolin hiding!

Not forgetting our pride and joy, the White Lions. We have been very fortunate of late and have seen them on most drives, although they have proved a little camera shy, hiding in some pretty thick vegetation. This could have something to do with the unseasonably hot weather we are currently experiencing .We found the best time to catch them has been first thing in the morning or a little after sunset when they are either socially interactive with one another or mobile. Lately they have been very playful with even the moms letting down their guard and getting involved in the fun and games. They have not made a big kill recently but have been getting by on smaller prey such as Impala and a small buffalo calf.

On the subject of buffalo, it’s was from a particularly large herd, +/- 250 animals, that they acquired the small calf, or as a guest mentioned, "veal," from. The herd itself was something to watch, it’s shear mass and magnitude.

For animal interaction during this period, I don’t think anything can beat Rockfig Jnr and her two cubs. Well some of the Elephant interactions could give them a run for their money but that would be me being somewhat biased.

Like the White Lions, we were getting to see Rockfig Jnr or her cubs nearly daily. This was partly due to the fact that she made two impala kills during this period that kept them in based in an area, and when not on a kill she was to be found in her other favorite location, one of the dry riverbeds. The cubs are doing extremely well and are as playful as ever, honing their skills for later life, but at the moment it is all fun and games.

Looking back at some of my pics its amazing how quickly they are growing and how big they have become in so short a time. After getting the chance to watch them feed I can see why, especially the male cub, he’s a little guts! Another thing that we are starting to notice, is their separate personalities, or should that be leopardalities. The little female is very independent and goes about her own thing, whilst the young male constantly seeks out the attention of either his sister or his mom, very much a "mommies boy". Saying that, he is also far more adventurous that borders on mischievous and constantly tries to get his sister involved in on his schemes, to which she does and doesn’t partake, depending on her mood.

Sticking with leopards, we finally got to see Mbali, this is after over a month of no sign of her, which is very unusual and bordered on very worrying. It was great to see her again, but raises the question, where are her cubs? I personally think she may have lost them, as we have not seen any evidence of them, apart from the signs of her lactating. Here’s hoping I get to eat my words! We have also found tracks that indicate a male and female leopard have been spending time together in her territory. We know they are not Kuhanya’s tracks as at the time she was around Motswari camp, which in itself is quite unusual as we have never seen her this far East. She spent the night around the camp calling and was seen at one stage at a pond behind two of the chalets. The following day while returning to camp we found her even further East.
There are many questions posed and a variety of possible answers. Has Mbali in fact lost her cubs? Did she have cubs to start with? Is it in fact her associating with this male? Where has she been the last month? Why is Kuhanya pushing so far East? With each answer another question is posed, but I’m sure all will be revealed over the upcoming months, we’ll keep you posted.


  1. Thanks for the update, I really enjoy hearing about and seeing the photos of all the animals you see (I'm hooked after a visit in February!)

  2. As always, I am entranced by your pictures. I am looking out the window right now and see a little white cat crossing the driveway. If it were where you live, you would see a white lion crossing the path – how utterly wonderful.

  3. Thank you so much for these incredible game drives. Reading your post made me remember of every special moment we had with these animals. About the 2 cheetahs in 2 days maybe it's Brazilian or Australian luck! :)
    I'm slowly posting some of the pictures I took at
    So far, my favorite ones are from Rockfig Jr and her cubs. They are lovely.

  4. Fabulous to catch up again and thrilled that the white lions are doing so well!!

  5. Thanks for all the comments. Lile, I think it was combined Brazilian and Australian luck as I've not seen cheetah since, hope you planning another trip soon! Karen, still trying to recover my pic's from the harddrive but as soon as I get them I'll post them off to you, unfortunatly they not that great, needed a little more light.

  6. Hi Grant, great update, I loved to reas about the Motswari-news-it`s a little bit like beeing back. I love the mungoo pic:-) just missing the one of you & Marita waiting infront of the termitemountain :-) Warmest greetings, Maike

  7. Glad to hear you home safe and sound, hope you enjoying a rainfree summer. Marita and I thank you for not sharing that pic:-) You could get some great mongoose pic's at the moment as we are baby sitting a banded mongoose for a friend. If the termite mound incident provided entertainment, you'd get a great laugh out of us trying to catch crickets.