Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Heritage Weekend.

I'm back! So what could I possibly miss in a week I asked myself before going on leave, well lets see. Firstly, the White Lions were in and about the area, well that was until the Timbavati Males chased them off back to the North West. Strange how we never see the Timbavati Males in our traversing area until the White Lions are present, they then unfortunately make their unwanted appearance! Where you lose on one side you gain on another, as the Mahlatini's made themselves at home literally spitting distance from camp, where they had killed a Dagha boy ( Old Buffalo Bull). This sighting was enjoyed over a couple of days, and if killing a buffalo in water by three large male Lions was not enough, add Argyle Male ( large male Leopard),sitting on a rocky outcrop nearby, watching patiently waiting for the opportunity of a free meal. I'm not even going to go into all the other Leopard sightings. So ja, I didn't miss much! (The pic's are complimentary of Andri, our new addition to the Motswari Family, welcome and thank you.)

Returning to drive almost immediately on arriving back I was very excited to get out there and experience some of these amazing things for myself. With the White Lions having been chased off and the Mahlatini done with their Buffalo, Lions where always going to be a struggle, here's hoping our other little friends would come out and play. That's another beautiful thing about the bush you can never predict what it has in store for you. Setting out on our first drive we took things nice and easy appreciating all the smaller things before we responded to a sighting of Rockfig Jnr and Zakumi, who had been found that morning in the Machaton River with a Bushbuck kill.

When we arrived on scene, mom was resting in the riverbed while Zakumi was having a late afternoon snack. It was not long before she reached her limits and with a full belly waddled over to mom for her evening bath, or should that be grooming session. Once they were done we decided to move on as mom made her way to the kill for her dinner session. On our drive back to camp we saw our regular nocturnal visitors, but one welcome addition was that of a Chameleon our first of the season and a sure indication that spring has sprung, well that's if you ignore the temps in the constant thirty's!

The following day was to be a quite one on the cat front, but then again, everything does not revolve around our feline friends, and we took the opportunity and time to enjoy the many other sightings that we often overlook or take for granted. A sighting that was also an unexpected bonus was that of three Rhino, a large male, a female and her calf. Rhino fall into the same inconsistent Lion sighting category and if it were not for Tenga Tenga, a large male rhino, they would be very rare. So it was nice to see new faces in our area, all be it they were a little nervous of the vehicle, but given space they quickly relaxed and allowed us to view them going about their business. Here's hoping they become more regular visitors.

Morning drive took on a very similar theme as the day before, cats still hiding but elephant and buffalo now fighting for the vacant throne. Think the Buffalo just edged the Elephant on this occasion, but it was very short lived as a new contender eclipsed both of them to take the days crown. It all started shortly before finding the massive breeding herd of Buffalo, who were actually found by chance, as we were helping track Wild Dogs. They did, the Buffalo that is, have a hand in eventually finding the Wild Dogs. While following the tracks of the Wild Dogs, we lost them as they entered into the Tsharalumi River to the North, given the general direction we proceeded to follow the course of the river hoping to get a glimpse of these highly mobile hounds. Instead we came across a breeding herd of Buffalo, as we sat and watched them slowly feed to the South they became aware of something and all began to stampede out of the riverbed, a site in itself. It must have been the Wild Dogs, but as we had run out of time and where still a long way from camp we had to leave the area and could not follow up. As we travelled back to camp I got a message that they had found them not far from where we had just crossed, so close yet so far, but something to definitely follow up in the afternoon.

Heading out that afternoon it was not long before we got the news that the Wild Dog were still in the same area as that morning but had shifted from the riverbed to the road, where they were all now sound asleep. We decided to head straight there as Wild Dogs are notorious for suddenly waking and getting mobile and once that happens and they are on the hunt they are very difficult to follow. Given the terrain they were in we did not want to take the chance of missing them and would rather view a sleeping Wild Dog than none at all. While we sat and marvelled at these fascinating creatures they began to rouse and it would not be long before they got active, as there were still a few stations still responding we pulled out so hopefully everyone would get a chance.

On our way out we came across a giraffe that was lying flat across the road, with another Giraffe standing over it with what can only be described as a look of concern about it. We could see the fallen Giraffe was still alive as the chest was still moving and there was an occasional flicker of the ear. I had difficulty in explaining what I thought had happened, as there were a number of scenarios that could of played out. It was an old bull Giraffe, so age could have been a factor. A fight may have occurred with the now concerned male that was standing over it, or had it merely slipped on the loose gravel road. No matter the reason, there was not a dry eye on the vehicle as the Giraffe lay there seemingly helpless to its fast approaching fate. With us not knowing the cause but definitely knowing the outcome we continued on our way and left nature to take it's inevitable course.

During all of this I had heard that the Wild Dogs had got mobile and the guys had done a great job to stick with them as they went on the hunt. What I didn't think I heard correctly was that they were hunting, wait for it, BUFFALO! I have never seen, let alone heard of Wild Dogs hunting Buffalo. In all the books I've read they mention that in Southern Africa the largest prey is Impala, and only in East Africa are they known to hunt Zebra. Yet here before the guys eyes they watched as the pack created chaos and confusion and managed to split and surround a mother and calf from the herd. They then began to pick on the calf and patiently and tactically attacked until they finally fended off the mother and killed the calf. Knowing how Wild Dogs kill, the scene must have appeared horrific, not to mention the calls of distress from both mom and calf intermingled with the adrenalin fuelled chirps of the Wild Dogs. It's strange how nature works and how it's completely unpredictable! As we later heard that our old dying Giraffe in fact managed to get back on his feet and moved off seemingly none the worse for wear, and a young Buffalo calf paid the ultimate price even though he had the protection of a formidable herd. I think sundowners could not come soon enough for everyone! ( Pic's complimentary of Andri, cheers.)

After the highs and lows of the evening before the following morning was spent looking for the tamer side of the bush, and who better than Rockfig Jnr and Zakumi, to restore the tranquillity. So we spent some time with them as they groomed one another and restored our faith that nature can also be tolerant, affectionate and loving!

The afternoon drive was again full of surprises, having given up on finding Lion over this now longer weekend, we settled in for a nice relaxed Sunday afternoon drive. Taking in the variety of general game about, which included our large herd of Buffalo from the previous day. While observing the placid nature of such an enormous herd the sun began to set and things once again appeared at peace.

As is natures way this was soon interrupted by a message that Vyeboom male Leopard had been found with a recently killed Warthog, and with it the serenity of the moment once again disappeared. After our visit, we decided to take a nice long relaxed sundowner, being Sunday and all! Little did we know the changes we would return to.

Moments after announcing we had finished with drinks and were getting mobile again, I got a call to let me know they had found the Mahlatini's, our three large male Lions! At first I thought it was a joke and I was being set up, but looking to the horizon I could see all the lights heading in the same direction. There went our relaxed Sunday evening, while waiting to access the sighting a short distance away the Lions let the neighbourhood know of their return! Nothing quite personifies Africa than three male lions calling while you sitting in complete darkness.

Our driving spell came to an end after drive on Monday morning, but this was not without its excitement. It started with our Xinatsi clan of hyena's, seven of them on this occasion. While sitting watching a pair of them go through their ritual greeting of standing head to tail and raising their back leg exposing their genitals for one another to sniff, a couple of them approached the vehicle with one going round the back.

The next moment Jacky asked me to drive forward as the inquisitive hyena was trying to get into our cooler box on the back of the vehicle. I pulled forward and he followed us, so I reversed thinking he would come round the front of the vehicle, and as I backed up there was this popping noise, hmm, wonder what that was? We stopped again thinking the hyena had know moved away, sorry let me rephrase that, I thought, Jacky warned me otherwise and before I could take any action we had the hyena run round the front of the vehicle with a tupperware container that looked awfully similar to the one that we use for our rusks for morning coffee break. When the other hyena got sight of this, there was much excitement and lots of giggling, actually not to sure if the giggling was from the guests or the hyena, could have been both! It did not take them long to open it and quickly consume the contents. I hopped out the vehicle to check on the rest of the coolers contents at which point I found the source of our popping noise, it was our orange juice carton that I'd reversed over. Before it turned into a complete circus we took our leave.

Our driving spell could not have had a better conclusion than the sighting of Ntombi and her cub. Ntombi had killed a Steenbok and stashed it in a tree on the banks of the Tsharalumi River. As we sat there with her she was constantly calling to her cub, but he, we know this now, would not make an appearance. Ntombi then left her resting place and started to move through the riverbed checking all the areas of thick vegetation while constantly contact calling. On reaching a rocky thickly vegetated area on the opposite bank, he made his appearance, leaping from the bushes and attacking his mom playfully, a game of cat and mouse ensued, with both of them taking turns in stalking, chasing and pouncing on one another. Once the fun and games were done with they retired to the carcass where he started to feed and she took a mid morning siesta.

Now that's how you want to start your Monday, I'll keep you posted on how the rest of the week turns out!