Tuesday, 22 March 2011

22nd March – What a Morning!!!

Photo of the Day
Mahlathini male on Piva Plains
Morning Drive
(Chad, Herald and Grant)
3 x lions (Mahlathini males) – Argyle, Argyle Dam
1 x leopard (Thumbela female) – Vielmetter, Entrance Dam
2 x rhinos (female and youngster)
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Vielmetter, Entrance Dam
1 x buffalo bull – Peru, Sohebele Dam
1 x breeding herd of elephant – Motswari, Camp Mudwallow
1 x elephant bull – Motswari, Camp
1 x elephant bull – Vielmetter, Elephant Dam

Daily Synopsis
Every day in the bush is different; and that is what makes our jobs so wonderful.  Some drives are more ‘difficult’ than others, and the animals just seem to be conspiring against us and don’t cooperate to make our lives easy.  But then there are the ‘easy’ drives where everything just seems to fall perfectly into place – this morning’s drive was just one of those drives for Grant and me!  That is not to say Herald didn’t have a good one himself; he just had a different mission – to find rhino, and being Herald, he did just that when he managed to relocate and have a good sighting of two rhinos that had been lost earlier in the morning.
The day started off with Doctor telling us that he had heard lions roaring to the west of the camp, so Herald and Grant went to check around Argyle Dam while I was going east.  Herald drove past and found nothing, yet when Grant drove past 5 minutes later he found the three Mahlathini male lions lying in the open!  It’s all about timing as we would find out this morning!
I quickly changed my plans and responded to the lions, who put on a real show that must rank as one of my best sightings of these growingly impressive male lions.  It was the most playful I have ever seen them as they chased after one another and ambushed their brothers in the golden morning light in the clearing around Argyle Dam.

Awesome sighting of the Mahlathini male lions
I spent about 35-minutes with them as they played around before they went and drank near Lover’s Leap before settling down in the sedge along the Sohebele Riverbed.

After that, we enjoyed a nice pod of hippo, an old buffalo bull, crocodiles, impala and a few birds before making our way south to go and see what happened to Rockfig Jnr and Thumbela on their kill.
Thumbela was found at Entrance Dam, and Rockfig Jnr and the kill seemed to be gone, but I still headed to see Thumbela.  There wasn’t a great deal around besides impala and a black mamba that caused a bit of excitement, and arriving at Thumbela it didn’t look like it was going to be the most exciting sighting either as she lay in the shade of a large fallen tree stump near the waterhole and watched a herd of zebras that were watching her. 
I thought if we waited long enough the zebras might come and drink, and we would be in for some action, but they knew she was there and weren’t coming closer.  I waited for Grant and then left to go and try relocate a herd of buffalo that were seemingly on their way to Hide Dam, only to be joining Grant a few minutes later when he told me that a breeding herd of buffalo were on their way towards Entrance Dam!
The buffalos all approached the water and started drinking, while Thumbela lay low to the ground besides the log, peering at them very intently.  Occasionally she would sit up and look at them over the log, but she seemed confident enough that they couldn’t see her, and didn’t move. 

Thumbela and a herd of buffalos at Entrance Dam
 She was almost right.  Almost.  Then she was almost ‘The leopard formerly known as Thumbela’.  Almost.  One large bull couldn’t get a space to drink with the others and started wandering to the other side of the dam, and this took him straight past Thumbela who eventually lost her nerve when the buffalo was only about a metre from her, and still seemingly hadn’t seen her!  She jumped up and ran off across the clearing to the north, but as there were buffalo everywhere and no trees to climb up, she had picked the wrong direction, and it almost cost her dearly. 

Thumbela loses her nerve and runs for her life!
At first the buffalo were all taken aback by her presence, and all ran off, but upon realising that it was only a leopard, they turned and tried to attack her!  She spun around and ran back to some nearer cover, but the buffalos were everywhere and one of then bashed her with his boss, but not hard enough to knock her off her feet, and she kept running, and again another buffalo tried to take her out, but fortunately it only succeeded in bumping her, and she kept her balance and speed and managed to get up into a small tree on the water’s edge before the buffalos could get her. 
Add caption
Thumbela on the run
Our hearts were almost in our mouths, but I am sure not as much as hers!  The buffalo soon settled back down as if nothing had happened, and Thumbela remained in the tree when we left her, seeming a bit shaken, but none the worse for wear.  It was a close call, and hopefully a lesson learned!
After some coffee we headed back to the lodge and ended off the drive with a herd of ten elephants at the mudwallow behind Elephant Room, as well as with one elephant bull feeding 10m from my guest’s bungalow and a family of warthogs wallowing in the mud in front of the breakfast deck!

Elephants at Motswari's camp
What more could one ask for in a drive?
I do however fear that we used all of our luck this morning, and it will be interesting to see if the animals will come anywhere close to repeating that performance this afternoon!


  1. WOW! What adventures. I love your stretching lion shot, just like a pet cat! Amazing post, thanks.

  2. What can I say - the photos are fantastic.

    Hopefully see you all - those with two legs and those with four in September. Sue, UK

  3. what an awesome day!!!!!!
    Thumbela is counting her lucky stars no doubt

  4. WOW Chad, awesome morning drive. Great pictures of the lions and some great light there. Great photos of Thumbela with the buffalos as well.