Saturday, 21 August 2010

"Flying Solo"

Greetings to you all, hope all is well, I'm back! Arrived back to drive on Monday, a little earlier than usual, but I guess there is no rest for the wicked!

I returned early as we were a little stretched at the lodge and this would also mean that I'd be without Jacky for a couple days, my solo d├ębut. Flying solo doesn't come without its challenges, first up is the ever present danger, let me rephrase that, ever present embarrassment, of getting lost. This is only amplified with the sun going down. Although Jacky wasn't physically with me he was still taking care of me and amongst organising my vehicle, he went to the effort to arrange me a smaller, lighter spot light, so it would be easier to drive and shine the light, and my arm wouldn't get as tired as if I was carrying the standard spot.

All organised, I was off. I did have the advantage of a sighting from the morning of ten wild dog that I headed straight for as I thought this would be a good way to start off. After navigating my way there I found the sight with relative ease, “this wasn't to bad, I can do this”.

So with the confidence boosted I left the dogs as they became mobile, I wanted to respond to Mbali who had been found not far away. As I approached the sight however they lost her in the thick reeds in the riverbed that she was making her way along, hmm, “ what would Jacky do?” I decided to drive around to the opposite bank and took a chance that she would reappear in the vicinity of where she was last seen. As I rounded a corner, I could hear a number of birds alarm calling off towards the river bank, confidence still running high, I proceeded to tell my guests that the birds alarm calling meant that she was there and it was only a matter of minutes before we would find her. Driving off the road and into the thick bush to the source of the birds alarm and my crowning glory, I came up empty handed or should that be headed! The birds were still going crazy but there was no sign of a leopard. I looked up into the trees to locate the birds and hopefully a direction for their distress, at which I found a small Pearl Spotted Owl and thus the direction and reason for all the commotion, “what the chances!”

Leaving the area ego somewhat deflated I did not venture far before deciding that I would take sundowners on a ridge above the river that allowed us to keep an eye out and hopefully afford me the chance to regain my now flailing ego. Drinks passed without any luck and now I had the added joy of having to drive and operate the spot light while still operating the radio and looking for game, I don't know how the self-catering camp guys do it. Unbeknown to us Irish Luck was with us and as we approached the dam up river from where we had drinks there in our spot light stood a male leopard on the dam wall. As we approached he got mobile slowly towards a drainage line and an area of very thick vegetation, at this point the thought did cross my mind that these leopards were “taking the mickey,” so not allowing them to get the better of me I followed. This is when things got interesting! I was now no longer on the road and heading in who knows what direction, so the potential for getting lost was almost a guarantee, added to this I was trying to direct other stations to the sight, never an easy thing when you don't know where you are yourself. To make life easier I had dropped the spot light into my lap, as I was trying to talk on the radio and navigate through some pretty thick bush scattered with the more than occasional boulder. Somewhere along the way I mentioned to my guests that I had the faint whiff of something burning to which they replied they had also picked up on it, this little mystery quickly exposed itself as an ever increasing heat spread from my lap and down my legs! OK, so maybe smothering a high powered spot light in your lap is not the “brightest” of ideas! I guess we were, know I definitely was, paying wildlife tax and after avoiding a somewhat very embarrassing incident, our male leopard took a seat in a small clearing allowing us a couple minutes great viewing. Once he decided our fare was up he stood and got mobile again, it was also our cue while vaguely remembering where we came from to embark on our next adventure, A Way Out!

Surviving my couple days, Jacky and I are now back and I will be posting our adventures from the weekend as soon as possible, as well as news of the White Lions and what has become of them while I was on leave.


  1. damn, i commented on this the other day, but it didnt get posted!

    heard that, in typical fashion, all the animals again showed themselves when i left!!!

    amazing to have all the leopards around camp - 4 regularly seen adults and 2 cubs - not bad at all!!! i heard vyboom dam male had his kill stolen? or was i misinformed? can think of worse ways than starting a drive than with a leopard and a kill 2 minutes down the road!

    even with them trying to hide from me, i still saw five different leopards this weekend

    - argyle male
    - vyboom dam male
    - zakumi female
    - nthombi female
    - machaton male - which i loved, as i hadnt positively identified this leopard since late 2008! he has obviously been around, and i suspect the male that the guys see around makulu dam, lily pan, java, and possibly vielmetter...although i saw there were tracks for a monstor male leopard - almost looked like lioness spoor! - at 1st Sharalumi...not sure who he is? there is a very large male we occasionally saw in the western sector, apparently even killed a giraffe calf once when i was on leave!!! i am just wandering if the guides are confusing rockfig young male and machaton male? rockfig male should be a massive leopard by now if he is still around...

    look forward to your next update!

    you lucky, i almost came back this weekend to chase all the animals away, but thought i would give you guys a break!

    chat soon


  2. PS - please tell Godfrey and Petros about that Machaton male, they will remember him from an awesome sighting where we had him and mangadjane male leopard fighting up a marula tree over an impala kill with 8 Sohebele lions lying underneath the tree, and Rockfig female leopard walking around 50m away looking for her cub, Nkateko, who was only 5-months old and hidden nearby to take her back to a kill she made not too far addition, i had also seen Nthombi female leopard earlier that day, as well as Mtenga-tenga rhino at Hide Dam! Was a rather amazing drive!

  3. and while i am adding to your comments, good to see the Goya Rd male leopard still around (the leopard you photographed here at night)! he is a stunning leopard with those pale eyes!

    Also had a great sighting of him on Goya Rd (hence his name!) when he had his impala kill somehow stolen out of a marula tree by the three Mahlathini male lions!