As you all should know by now we experienced a particular quite patch on the lion front, specially as the White Lions went on a extended vacation, however they did return, unfortunately it would appear that it was for only a day, because as soon as they entered in the West they made there way East and back into Kruger. Silly me, to think that I could manipulate “Murphy's Law”, that'll teach me! No doubt they will return somewhere in the South in a couple days.
During our lion-less time, a whole four days, felt like a lifetime, we were fortunate that our other regulars stepped in to fill the gap, with some new players also stepping up wanting to make a name for themselves. In particular a clan of hyena's that can number anywhere from eight to fourteen that we now find nearly daily around camp. On one occasion eight of them were found hunting an injured Daggaboy. It made for interesting viewing as all eight hyena's would approach the old male buffalo upon which he would turn and charge at them, scattering them like pins in a bowling alley. This occurred countless times as the hyena's were relentless but the old male stood his ground and fended them off on each occasion. We eventually left them to their game of tag believing it was a touch opportunistic on behalf of the hyena's, I guess the smell of blood from the injury on the buffalo's rump was to overwhelming for the hyena's to ignore without trying their luck.
Our Leopards always come to our rescue, with Kuhanya and Mbali never failing us. Even though they are not seen as regularly these days, due to their shift in territory or should I say possible expansion, they seem to make an appearance when needed most. On this occasion we spent an hour with Mbali as she waited for a Steenbok, that she had stalked so painstakingly close to, to get up from its resting place and start feeding in her direction, totally unaware of her presence. As the Steenbok got within metres of Mbali, she for some reason got impatient and broke early giving the Steenbok that vital seconds head start and enabling it to escape. It was fascinating to watch and even though we didn't get to see a kill, we all had a new appreciation for how much effort and patience goes in to a hunt!
On a morning drive a radio call came in that lion tracks were finally found in our traversing area all stations stepped up to help track them. It was somewhat confusing as two sets of tracks were found in a similar area but appeared to be from from different lions, so while some set out about tracking one set a couple of us got busy on the others. To cut a very long and frustrating morning short we came up empty handed on both sets, having been led jointly in circles for hours. After brunch we organised a tracking team to follow up before afternoon drive but they also returned with the same frustrations of the morning, ok, maybe a little more! Setting out on afternoon drive we had given up on the idea of finding this now very elusive cat, when as is the bush's nature of total unpredictability it presented us with a Timbavati Male lion lying out in the open sleeping next to the road. He may have looked dead when we visited him but a lion is a lion and we were very grateful to break our dry spell!.
The following day there were Lion to be found all over, with us first finding the White Lions, on what now appears to have been a day trip. All three Mahlatini Males were also found, I guess the abundance of large buffalo herds have tempted them back into the area. Not to be outdone by their male counterparts the Machaton Females were found in the South stalking a herd of Buffalo as well. Amazing how quickly things can change!
A drive that stands out a head above shoulders from the others, was an afternoon that Godfrey, Motswari's Head Guide and Assistant Manager, turned on the magic! It started within mere minutes from camp, where Godfrey responded to Impala alarm calling. Parked amongst the herd the reason for their alarm became apparent as Shongile, a female leopard, dragged her Impala catch in front of the vehicle and into the shade of the nearby bushes. I was in the area as we were following up on a Leopard we had seen whilst on bush walk, and arrived on scene in time to watch her start feeding. Once we were in position, Godfrey handed over control and moved off to continue his drive, whilst the rest of us responded.
Having watched a while we too moved on, our plans were to head to the West were a very large herd of Buffalo were slowly making their way to a dam, always a nice scene. Before arriving on scene, Godfrey who must have had the same idea, reported an interesting interaction between the herd of Buffalo and a herd of Elephant that had also now arrived at the dam. He also commented on the how the elephants were trumpeting and behaving whilst in the riverbed below the dam, usually a good indicator of a predator. Again as I made my approach Godfrey moved off.
After spending some time with both the buffalo and elephant we also started to head off to find a sundowner spot, but luckily before we did Godfrey's voice once again calmly announced that he had found three rhinos, Shangula, a female he was pursuing and her calf. Guess drinks could wait. Arriving on scene Godfrey yet again left us to follow the rhinos. While trying to keep up with the now moderately mobile beasts we got stuck in a drainage line and had to have the whole vehicle off load and push, no one gets a free ride. Once wildlife tax was paid we relocated the rhino before handing over to the next stations to carry on, while we now set about finding a sun-under spot!
Returning after drinks it was Godfrey's voice yet again that broke the silence and announced that he had found the three Mahlatini Males hunting our buffalo from earlier that afternoon. As it was nearing dinner time I had already set about heading home and unfortunately was unable to respond to the sighting. It appeared there was no keeping up with Godfrey and one by one we all slipped by the wayside. However Godfrey was not yet finished and on his way home he swung by the area where the Elephant were unsettled earlier, to find a male Leopard making his way out of the riverbed. Any thought of trying to make a comeback was now definitely dashed! As a consolation prize, on our approach home along Motswari's reception road we found a male Leopard stalking a young giraffe, but a hyena that was following him spooked the baby giraffe and he ran off to live another day. A great sighting and an amazing way to bring to an end a drive that must be in contention for my “all time top five!”
My intentions were to post the blog above before the weekend and then post another before going on leave tomorrow, but as per usual things are a little crazy at the mo. So what follows is a brief update of the long weekends sightings, so as to keep you busy while I'm away for the next week.
So, we were right and the White Lions have returned in the South. They have taken to travelling great distance when on the hunt and can cross our entire traversing area in a twenty four hour period, it makes for fun tracking, NOT!
The Mahlatini Males are still with us even though they were found on the Western Boundary very near to home and we all thought they would cross out back to Klaserie. Ok, hoped maybe a better choice of words, but they have turned back and are now to be found in our Central traversing area, this is not good news for the White Lions as they will keep on the move to avoid the Mahlatini Males and will not be able to settle down.
On the other hand very welcome visitors were the four wild dogs that popped up in the area. Still trying to piece together who they are and how they fit in, may have to consult “ The Chad.”
Otherwise the buffalo have seemed to have moved on but the Elephant are still to be found all over the North in a variety of social groupings, you need only take your pick. Our trusty Leopards are to be found around camp and we need not travel far to find our faithful friends.
Well.............., that about wraps it up for now, will catch you all in little over a weeks time, and who knows what the bush has in store for us, already looking forward to getting back and finding out!