Monday, 28 February 2011

27th February: Getting the Job Done.

Pic of the Day.

Morning Drive.

( Herald, Elliot & Grant)

Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / Peru – Woza Woza Cutline.
Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / Vielmieter – Nyosi River Rd.
Elephant ( Kambaku) / DeLuca – Deluca Access.
Rhino ( 4 x Unknown Rhino)
Leopard ( Kuhanya) / Argyle – Mangovo Rd.
Lion ( 3 x Mahlatini Males) / Scholtz – Fungwe Rd. East.

Afternoon Drive.

( Herald, Elliot & Grant)

Buffalo ( Breeding Herd) / Peru – Woza Woza Cutline.
Buffalo ( Dagha Boys) / Argyle – Timbavati/ Umbabat Cutline.
Leopard ( Argyle Male) / Argyle – Timbavati / Umbabat Cutline.
Lion ( Mahlatini Males) / Scholtz – Scholtz River Rd.
Elephant ( Breeding Herd) Mbali – White Syringa Fallen Tree.

Daily Synopsis.

Keeping to our word, we headed to the far South and the last place the Mahlatini Males were seen the night before. Herald and Elliot were still in search of Rhino and a return to the West and South would be in order.

Our morning was very quite with us only seeing a nice herd of Zebra and a couple Hippo's, but our goal was to track the Mahlatini's

We drove roads that we thought they may have walked along or crossed during the night, so as to make up time and distance on them, but came up empty handed and had to return to where they were last seen the night before. It appeared we were in for the long slog! Tracking is extremely exciting for a guide and more so for a tracker, but for a guest it can be extremely boring and frustrating if you don't involve them in the process. Going through the process with my guests I found it became as much a challenge for them, as it was for us.

Picking up their tracks heading to the North, Jacky and Clearance, our apprentice Tracker, followed the tracks on foot on the Eastern bank of the Sohobele River, while we checked on the Western bank. We found they used Repair Dam wall to cross the river to the West. It looked like they were still following the Buffalo Herd, whos' tracks we had found earlier to the North West. Jacky and Clearance continued on foot while we checked the surrounding area. As time passed we started to broaden our search as we were coming up empty handed at every corner. Jacky and Clearance were still on the tracks but the going was tough with the ground being very hard and rocky, as well as the bush being very thick in areas. Last thing you want to do is follow tracks into a thickly vegetated area that don't come out, it's career limiting! So what the trackers do, is to circumvent the area and try pick up the tracks on the opposite side of the thickly vegetated area. Having run out of roads to check and double check, we decided to take a coffee break and leave it to the proffesionals and hope they would have better luck.

Returning from our break, Jacky was quick to contact me and ask my whereabouts, as he and Clearance had found them some time ago. Heading in their direction we picked them up on a nearby road, from where they took us into the sighting. The three males were again resting in a Mopane belt not offering the greatest of views, but the sense of achievement made up for the lack of visual. It is always great to watch a tracker at work and to be part of the process makes you appreciate the difficulties, frustration, patience and overall skill involved!

Living up to their namesake again!

Herald had a rather frustarating morning as he always found himself in the wrong place when it came to the Rhino found. First Elliot found four in the North West while Herald was in the South West, but they were skittish and had been lost by the time he was approaching the area. The Southern stations then found Shangula, a large male Rhino, a little further South of where Herald had just come from, he too could possibly be related to me! He did however find Kuhanya resting in a Marula Tree on his way home, that never happens to me!

My afternoon was to be like Heralds morning! We set off wanting to locate the breeding herd of Buffalo that the Lions were following. Now you would think this would not be a difficult task, given it is a herd of around a hundred and fifty animals, but it proved more difficult than the Lions themselves, and far more frustrating! We headed to Sohobele Dam on a tip that they had crossed Western Cutline to the West and should be around Sohobele Dam or on the surrounding plains. Arriving at the dam we found Hippo, Waterbuck and a massive Crocodile but no sign of our Buffalo, so heading to the East we checked the entire area, driving back and forth between the dam, the plains and the cutline trying to make sense of it all. We eventually decided the best thing to do was back-track to where we last had tracks in the morning. Taking some effort and time to get there, we arrived at the spot, only to receive the news that a large breeding herd of Buffalo had just been found on Sohobele Plains! It was going to be one of those afternoons for us! Turning around and suffering serious dejuvu, we once again back-tracked, if that's what you can call it if it's now your third time, to find the Buffalo milling around the plains.

Finishing with the Buffalo we responded to Argyle Male who had been found stalking a Buffalo calf, that was mysteriously found with three Dagha Boys, we not sure why, but it was not bad company to be keeping. Even the ever tough and powerful Argyle Male agreed and abandoned his hunt. A number of stations got to see this prime specimen, and definitely our biggest and most dominant male Leopard, as he made his way through his territory. The way our afternoon was going we should have expected what happened next, or should that be, what didn't happen next, or for the next hour! Arriving to him resting in a hollow in amongst the grass out in the open, we could not believe our luck, this should be a great sighting filled with fantastic photographic opportunities. Pushing our luck we pulled up a short distance from him as he looked very relaxed with our presence, so relaxed in fact, that he didn't even raise his head at our arrival, hmm............... a little peculiar! Running through his history with my guests and really talking him up, I thought he would wake from his apparent nap to showcase himself. After twenty minutes he still had not moved a muscle and the only tell tale sign that he was alive, was that his chest expanded and contracted at every slow deep breath, clearly in a deep sleep. After a further ten minutes we started to think he may be comatose, but luckily he rolled over to change sleeping positions before we had our volunteer pull at his tail. We decided to give him a further fifteen minutes during which time the sun would have set and he was sure to have got active, he is a Leopard after all, nocturnal, nocturnal, nocturnal! The fifteen minutes came and went, and the only movement was that of his paw trying to shoo away the pesky flies! Allowing him another fifteen minutes to redeem himself we sat in darkness waiting for him to revive himself. Having now sat with him for over an hour all we eventually got to see was him sitting up, looking around, deciding it was not worth the effort, and slipping back into his coma, flat cat on the floor!

What we saw, see below for what Chad's camera saw!

Our timing was somewhat off for the afternoon but by the sounds of things Elliot and Herald were spot on, with them seeing Argyle Male active, the Buffalo Herd on the move and the Mahlatini Males resting beside a small pan. Lets hope our our timing improves tomorrow!

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