Saturday, 31 December 2011

31st December: Jeckyll & Hyde.

Pic of the Day.

Morning Drive.

( Grant, Chad, Shadrack & Petros.)

Leopard ( Shongile) / Motswari – Wisani Crossing.
Lion ( Jacaranda Pride & White Timbavati Female) / Peru – Wilken's Way.
Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / Peru – Mbali River Rd.
Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / Mbali – Buffalo Kill Rd.
Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / Vielmieter – Jiga Jiga Rd.
Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / Vilemieter - 1st Tsharalumi Crossing.
Elephant ( Kambaku) / Peru – Mbali River Rd.
Elephant ( Kambaku) / Karans – Western Cutline.
Elephant ( Kambaku) / Argyle – Horizon Rd.
Buffalo ( Breeding Herd) / JayDee – Makulu Dam.
Buffalo ( Dagha Boys) / Motswari - Sharalumi Access.
Buffalo ( Dagha Boys) / Argyle – Horizon Rd.

Afternoon Drive.

( Grant, Chad, Shadrack & Petros.)

Lion ( Jacaranda Pride & White Timbavati Female) / Peru – Woza Woza Cutline.
Elephant ( Kambaku's) / Motswari – Xinatsi Dam Rd North.
Elephant ( Kambaku's) / Motswari – Motswari Airstrip.
Elephant ( Kambaku's) / Vielmieter – Double Highway.
Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / Mbali – Buffalo Kill Rd.
Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / Peru – Shabalala Rd.
Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / JayDee – Argyle Rd.
Buffalo ( Daghaboys) / Karans – Majavi Dam.
Rhino ( Mtenga-tenga)
Leopard ( Rockfig Jnr) / Tanda Tula – Ridge Rd.

Daily Synopsis.

Walking my guests back to their chalet after dinner we found a set of female Leopard tracks that were on top of our tracks heading towards the riverbed. Immediately Kuhanya sprang to mind and filled us with hope that we would at least find Leopard in the morning.

Waking to a new day and hopefully a drive that would be filled with our resident animals we were eager to get out there, especially after finding more tracks for a female Leopard that had wandered all around camp during the night. It must have been the same one as I had heard calling shortly after waking up. There was also audio for Lions but they sounded a lot further to the North, this did not deter Shadrack in heading out there to check our Northern traversing boundary while Chad and I looked in and around camp for our little spotted friend. We headed to the North East of camp and it was not long before we picked up on fresh tracks for her heading North past Motswari's Dam wall. Jacky and I had literally gone onto foot and started to follow up on the tracks when we heard the distinctive rasping call off to our right a couple hundred metres off. Hoping back on the vehicle quickly we headed towards the origins of the call. We would need some considerable luck as the area it was coming from was in the centre of a very thick Mopane belt and an area we had lost Kuhanya on many an occasion. Jacky once again worked his magic and weaved us through the forest, which was very impressive in itself, and then to locate her as if it was as natural as breathing. There she walked slowly to the North sniffing and marking her territory. Immediately after seeing her we realisedit was not Kuhanya we were looking at but our long lost friend Shongile! We should have known from the tracks and both Jacky and I had thought they were to small to be Kuhanya's but had not said anything to one another as it has been a good six months since we last saw Shongile and she wasn't even a thought. With Chad joining us she walked straight onto the porch of a landowners house where we obviously could not follow her, so we headed off to the opposite bank of the Sohobele River in the hope that she continued West through the camp and we could pick her up on the other side. Once again luck ran our way and after stopping for a drink at the bird bath she proceeded to walk down into the riverbed and join us on the Western bank. We proceeded to follow her as she became engrossed in following a scent trail as she investigated a number of small shrubs in the area. One in particular she paid special attention to and spent considerable time smelling and brushing herself through. It was while sitting there that Jacky noticed the tracks of a male Leopard and the object of her attention. Following her for a while longer and getting a great sighting of her we eventually made space for Petros to enjoy. Oh I forgot to mention, on first finding her I reached for my camera to shoot off a couple snaps only to find that I'd left it at camp! This is typical Murphy's Law and from that moment on we knew we were going to be in for a special morning. So all morning drive photo's are kindly supplied by our resident pro, Chad! Thanks mate, glad the inspiration is back!

Having been defeated by the Lions the previous evening we once again intended to head in their direction to follow up with our new found luck! As things would have it though while we were busy with Shongile the Simbavati boys had found tracks, followed up and found the Jacaranda Pride with the one White Timbavati Female not far from their camp. So although two of our guests had chosen to sleep in, we did not want to chance our luck and decided to head in their direction, as the previous day they had been seen in the morning but had moved during the heat of the day and we missed out in the afternoon. Along our way there we had a very nice sighting of a flock of Ground Hornbills feeding in the open grasslands around Argyle Dam, perfect for photography!

Arriving at the sighting the two older females were out for the count but their sub adults and the White Female were all still settling in for their mid morning siesta so we got to see them heads up and somewhat active. With things warming up quickly it was not long though before they too dropped their heads and headed off to the land of Nod. With having spent so much time and effort the previous evening in trying to find them and facing the disappointment when we didn't, we got to experience the complete opposite emotions this morning. Spending our time with the pride we eventually headed off South towards Java hoping to relocate on a herd of Buffalo that had been seen their the previous afternoon.

We chose to travel down the Tsharalumi River South and this turned out to be a great choice as we seemed to find herd after herd of Elephant. They came in all sizes, shape and sex and we spent considerable time with each herd as they went about their different activities. Getting caught up we decided to stop for morning coffee before continuing to follow up on our Buffalo.

Resuming our search it was not long before we picked up fresh tracks for the small herd. True to Buffalo behaviour they then ran us around in circles for the next hour with us eventually catching up with them nearly exactly where we took our coffee break and after all our hard work it was not that great a sighting as they placed themselves in a very inaccessible area along the river allowing for only obscured views from all angles. It would have been a little disappointing had we not seen a herd of Elephant that must number nearly a hundred and a whole bunch of Giraffe while looking for them. With poor visuals and having run out of time a while back we headed back to camp with our wildlife having redeemed themselves and we look forward to what the afternoon holds in store.

With two of my guest having missed out on the lions in the morning our afternoons intentions were to drive along the Tsharalumi River South to Java and look around for Mbali, as we had tracks for her in the morning in the area, followed by returning to the Lions when they were a little more active. Our plans changed quickly when we received news shortly after heading out on drive that the lions were actually active and up and mobile. This worked out well for us as we could visit them straight away and then not have to return back for them and we could spend our time on Java without worrying that we needed to get back. By the time we got into the sighting though the four youngsters had gone static on a termite mound while the mothers wandered off to a nearby watering hole. We chose to stick with the youngsters as although they were static they were heads up and intrigued by their surroundings. We sat with them as they inter-mingled and went about their social bonding. When they did finally settle down to rest we took it as our cue to head South in search of our Leopard.

As was in the morning we found herd after herd of Elephant along the Tsharalumi and spent a great deal of time with each of them as we slowly headed South. On reaching Java the skies had turned very dark and we received news that it had started to rain pretty hard in the North. Looking around us we could see cloud burst all around us and our drive took on trying to avoid these heavy downpours. 

We found ourselves heading further and further South which turned out to be very fortunate as Shadrack had gone to the far South to visit Rockfig Jnr and on his way back he had found Mtenga-tenga, our large resident male White Rhino. Not being far away and needing Rhino we jumped at the opportunity and headed in his direction. It also looked far drier to the South of us. Reaching the sighting quickly we spent a fair amount of time following him as he went about feeding and marking his territory. We eventually had to leave though as the isolated downpours congregated and the perfect storm was formed.

With a slither of light on the Western boundary we decided to head in that direction before turning North biding our time to let the rain pass. Initially this worked very well but as we got further and further North the rain became harder and harder until eventually it was bucketing down that the rain actually felt like hail stinging you as it fell. As we now had chosen the longer route home we had to weather the storm for longer and by the time we reached camp we were wet through and through. Truth be told though it was a lot of fun and a great and memorable way to finish off the year!

30th December: Welcome Back To Planet Earth!

Pic of the Day.
Morning Drive.

( Grant, Chad, Petros, Godfrey & Shadrack.)

Elephant ( Kambaku's) / Motswari – Motswari Southern Access.
Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / Vielmieter – Hide Dam.
Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / Vielmieter – Nkhoro Rd.
Buffalo ( Breeding Herd) / Peru – Voeldam.
Leopard ( Mhakipi's Madoda) / Peru – Giraffe Kill Rd.

Afternoon Drive.

( Grant, Chad, Petros & Shadrack.)

Elephant ( Kambaku's) / Motswari – Motswari Reception Rd.
Elephant ( Kambaku) / Vielmieter – Sweetwater Pan.
Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / JayDee – Enkombi Pan.
Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / Vielmieter – Martin's Rd.
Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / JayDee – Argyle Rd.
Rhino ( 2 x Males)

Daily Synopsis.

With our group checking out early Jacky and I went out more on a little bumble to enjoy being out in the bush first thing in the morning rather than looking for anything specific. With the weather playing along beautifully, clear blue skies and a cool breeze, we slowly made our way around the North taking in whatever came our way. In the short time that we were out we had ourselves a busy morning with us finding Elephant, Buffalo, Giraffe, Zebra, Waterbuck and Impala, I guess the secret is not going out there to find anything as it will come find you! We heard that the Jacaranda Pride with the White Timbavati Female were still in the area obviously still sleeping off their indigestion. Lets hope they are still around in the afternoon when we receive a whole car full of new guests.

With us closing down early the rest of the gang had themselves mixed fortune out there with Shadrack finding the Giraffe, Zebra and Leopard that he needed. Petros also got to see the young male Leopard and complete his wish list. For Chad it was another frustrating experience with this young male, as once again he slipped off into the riverbed and out of sight on approach leaving Chad still needing one of our spotted little friends. Not to worry Chad, Kuhanya is long overdue a visit and I'm sure in the next day or two she will be around, maybe even this afternoon!

Well I guess the good thing about seeing very little on drive is that the blog is kept short and sweet. Our drive was a bit of a crash landing after the high we have been on the last couple of days. With all new guests in the afternoon we decided to spend it in the North around Argyle and Sohobele Dams looking at general game, we were then going to head towards the Jacaranda Pride and the White Timbavati Female as things cooled off. 

This plan unfortunately went out the window at a very early stage when a station checked on the Lions to find they were not there. As they decided not to follow up and with nobody but ourselves and Shadrack interested in them we had to accelerate our arrival to the area so we could give ourselves time to track. Passing all the general game on the way promising to return after finding the Lions we arrived in the area thinking they could not be far. With Jacky, Shadrack, Tiyani and Petro on foot and myself driving around the area checking the roads for tracks it should have been only a matter of time. Unfortunately it was a very difficult area to track and the trackers lost the tracks on multiple occasions and had to spend considerable time trying to relocate. This ate into our precious time and with the clock winding down to sunset we had not progressed very far. Eventually Shadrack cut his losses and headed South following Chad and Petros who had headed to the South West corner for Rhino. They seemed to have a more successful afternoon finding an assortment of large game. Jacky and I stuck in the area, I guess we are a little more stubborn, and would not let this simple tracking exercise defeat us. I drove the area flat, multiple times, while Jacky worked off his Christmas belly and walked the equivalent of a marathon. We eventually called it a night and admitted defeat after we lost all light and were once again in danger of the kitchens wrath!

Guess we better get started early tomorrow as there is a lot to be seen!