Friday, 11 February 2011

10th February: Welcome Back.

Afternoon Sightings.

Buffalo ( Dagha Boy) / Motswari – Crossing below Motswari Dam.
Elephant ( Kambaku) / Argyle – Argyle Dam.
Lion ( White Lions) / Scholtz – Scholtz River Road.

Daily Synopsis.

Greetings all, I'm back, but more importantly, so are the White Lions! Four weeks ago Jacky and I tracked them out of our traversing area, and it is strange that we would be the ones to pick up their tracks on their return, it was as if they were giving us a second chance at unfinished business. I cannot take any credit for finding them as it was a group effort between the Motswari trackers and Marka that eventually found them late in the morning. This now fast forwards us to the afternoon drive and everything to look forward to. Knowing the White Lions were in a very difficult area to access and that the visual was very poor, we decided that we would visit them late in the afternoon in the hope that they would move out into the open or get mobile. We started off the drive looking around Motswari for one of our resident Leopards that we thought may be in the area, as we had our resident Vervet Monkeys alarm calling and staring fixedly to the North during lunch. Not having any luck with our Leopard we did come across a nice Dagha Boy in the Sohobele River. It was while watching him that we spotted something far more exciting than our Leopard, a Half Collared Kingfisher. Listed as an uncommon resident, it would have been only the second time I've ever seen one, and my first in the Timbavati. Our luck only seemed to get better as it was joined by three others. The alarm bells should have started to ring then, hmm............. four Half Collared Kingfishers all together, and in an area they are not listed as being found in. Ignoring the bells I contacted Chad to gloat at my find and get him to come take a look at my great find. Leaving him in the sighting we headed of on a high. This was short lived, as the smug voice, I'm positive I could hear a tone, of Chad came on the radio to inform me that they were in fact juvenile Malachite Kingfishers, often mistaken for Half Collared Kingfishers. Ah, the advantages of having time to scrutinise one's bird book. I now faced the joy of having to break the unfortunate news to my guests after hyping it up so much. I did learn one thing from this however, and that was not that you should not hype things up, but rather that I should keep my mouth shut and not tell Chad! Being a warm afternoon I headed off to all the Dams in the area in the hope of finding something to redeem myself. We picked up constant sightings of general game, that included, Kudu, Impala, Zebra and Steenbok. We also found a few heavies in the form of Hippo and a nice relaxed Bull Elephant that allowed us to sit with him while he went about feeding. 

The Birding also revealed a wide variety of species, the majority of them being positive Id's and the unknowns casually not brought to anyone's attention.

During the entire drive we received updates of the White Lions movements, of which there were none and they remained out of sight. We again decided to delay our arrival and took a sundowner break hoping that they would get active once the sun had set and things had cooled a little. Finishing drinks, our strategy seemed to have worked, as we received news they had moved out of the thick vegetation into the riverbed allowing for a perfect visual. Carrying the surname Murphy, I should have known this was to good to be true. Getting into the sighting is a totally different story, that I'm not going to go into now, but after great difficulty and time we eventually made it into and up the riverbed and could see the Lions resting on the sand in the distance. No sooner had we got ourselves into position and killed the engine, they decided it was time to go on the hunt, so they all simultaneously got up and exited the riverbed leaving us with the daunting task of trying to get out and around to catch up with them before they disappeared into the night. Lady Luck had not totally deserted us as we successfully navigated out of the riverbed and managed to catch up with them. They appeared to have paused waiting for our arrival, at which they got mobile again. We followed them as they went about sniffing the air trying to pick up on the surrounding scents, and as they clawed the nearby tree's, all in preparation for the nights hunt that lay ahead. Not wanting to disturb them we did not spend much time with them and left them to go about there business. Who knows, maybe tomorrow we will find them with a meal. All in all, I couldn't think of a better way to return to drive!


  1. A great update - it really made me smile with the bird sighting :O)

    Looking forward to tomorrow's news.

  2. Thanks for the update Grant. I Birds sometimes really hard to identify so your not on your own. Are the White Lions part of a release Pride, or were they born into the pride from Tawny parents carrying the White Gene ?. I know Timbavati was the only area where they were found untill they were hunted it was thought to extinction in the early 60s, but I believe there have been two prides realeased over recent years with both White, and Tawnt members to increase the gene pool, but I may be wrong

  3. WS - thanks for the comment and the questions :)

    firstly, a BIG no, these lions are 100% wild and naturally bred and nothing to do with any of the white-lion breeding projects in the fact, the presence of these white lions hopefully throws a big spanner in the works of these projects as it proves beyond any doubt that the white lions are not 'extinct' (besides the obvious fact that they are not a species, just a recessive gene, so cant go extinct)...

    they were born to a tawny lioness carrying the gene, that obviously mated with a tawny male also carrying the gene...the gene is present in many of the females in the area, it is just a case or need to pair them up with the right gene-carrying one never knows when they will return :)

    as for the prides released; thankfully none were ever released into the wild areas of the timbavati, and are in the 'semi-wild' on the border of the reserve...i would be most disappointed if they were ever released into the greater area - it would take the magic away knowing that man had had a part to play in their presence in the area...let nature do her own thing and magic things will happen :)

    hope that helps; but the main point is that these special lions are 2 of only three known WILD, NATURALLY-BRED white lions...there are now reports surfacing about another 2 cubs born into a pride in the south, but that still needs to be confirmed!

    have a great evening


  4. Chad and Grant, I feel as though I have been on a massive game drive this evening, I have been catching up from the 8th feb and what a catch up it was. I am so pleased to read that the White Lions are naturally bred wild lions and not captive bred lions. Like WS I am very aware of the captive breeding in the area.
    The drives and the photo's have had me captivated this evening and I look forward to the next update.
    Thank you both.

  5. Grant,

    Thanks for the update. Isnt that the way, you find the white lions and they disappear.
    When we went to Serengeti our guide found a leopard and no other tours were there, we were there first. Within 5 minutes we counted 16 vehicles to which the leopard got out of the tree and disappeared. That day I was not cursing the leopard... I take it that is the advantage of a Private Game Reserve?


  6. glad you are enjoying it littlewild :)

    @SM - we are very lucky that the few lodges and guides we have in the timbavati all co-operate and work closely with one another to ensure we all get a fair chance to see the is definitely one of the advantages of visiting a lodge like motswari; we limit it to 2 vehicles per sighting, so as not to put pressure on the animal, and not to detract from the moment....most of our animals (especially lions and leopards) are very habituated and used to the vehicles, so dont run away, and go about their natural ways as if we were not there...we have to respect them and only go as close as they will allow....

    sometimes you can do an entire drive and not see another vehicle, but if the reserve is "busy" (that would be 10-15 vehicles in 15,000ha), then there might be a line up at a sighting, where you might only be able to spend 15-20 minutes with an animal before giving the others a chance, but most of the time, like yesterday afternoon or this morning, we could comfortably spend an hour with the animals and leave of our own accord...thus allowing you to get some special photos and memories :)