Thursday, 31 March 2011

29th March – Machaton Pride to the Rescue

Photo of the Day 

Morning Drive
(Chad, Grant, Elliot and Johannes)
11 x lions (Machaton Pride – 3 lionesses, 8 cubs on a waterbuck kill) – Tanda Tula, Eastern Cutline
1 x leopard (Thumbela Female) – Vielmetter, Vielmetter Access
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Vielmetter, Back 9’s East
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Peru, Voel Dam
1 x buffalo bull – Peru, Sohebele Dam

Afternoon Drive
(Chad,  Elliot and Johannes)
1 x leopard (Kuhanya female) – Motswari, Camp
1 x leopard (Thumbela female) – Vielmetter, Entrance Dam
2 x rhinos
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Peru, Wilkens Way
2 x elephant bulls – Argyle, Argyle Rd
6 x elephant bulls – Motswari, Camp
1 x buffalo bull – Argyle, Argyle Dam

Daily Synopsis
With the White Lions evidently moving further west than they have ever done before, it will be interesting to see when they decide to return; but what that does mean is that it leaves a big void in the lion sightings in the central region.  The Jacaranda pride and their cubs have also been absent for many weeks, and as they are not on Ingwelala either, their whereabouts remain unknown.  The Mahlathini males have not come out of the south-eastern pocket of the reserve that they moved into a couple of days ago – most likely lying fat bellied with a buffalo kill somewhere – and the nomadic Jacaranda Four seem to have fallen off the face of the earth.  This them didn’t help our lion sightings the last few days!
Fortunately, the Machaton Pride are always around to lend us a helping hand in our times of need, and Tuesday morning was one such time of need!  The southern stations had informed us the previous afternoon that they had located the pride and their cubs on a waterbuck kill, right on the eastern boundary, and that we were welcome to come and view them this morning, so we kindly took them up on that offer, and all of us slowly made out way down south.
Grant had an early check out, so he headed south the quickest, and spent time checking Vielmetter with some good reward.  Not only did he find a small breeding herd of buffalo, but he also found Thumbela female leopard on Double Highway.  He sounds to have had an awesome sighting of her as she wandered around chasing whatever she could; this included sprinting after a scrub hair as it zigzagged across an open area – he commented that it almost appeared that Thumbela had an identity crisis, thinking that she was a cheetah and not a stealthy leopard!  
Thumbela using the Vielmetter sign as a lookout point!

She missed that scrub hair, but not long after smacked a dead tree stump with her paw and lifted it up to reveal a squirrel that her lightning-fast reflexes had allowed her to catch!  Strangely though, she just dropped it and walked off into the Machaton Riverbed without eating her meal.  Her hunting wasn’t done, and as I pulled into the sighting, I was told to stop and watch the lone guineafowl that was wandering across the sand.  As the bird disappeared into the long grass on the bank, Thumbela came stalking across the sand and ran into the grass; there was a slight flutter of wings and then silence.  This time she actually ate her little meal, although it was in very long grass on the bank, and the sighting was a poor one.  Knowing her, I told my guests that we would rather come back in the afternoon when she would most likely be sleeping at Entrance Dam, and that we should continue south to see the lions.
Prior to the leopard, while standing by to go into the sighting, we had a nice view of a young hyena in the golden morning light waiting for its mother who soon emerged out of the Machaton Riverbed.

Hyean cub on Vielmetter

Onwards to the lions we went as the morning heated up.  Being late in the morning, and probably having fed all night, we weren’t expecting much action from them, but we did get to see all three lionesses awake and lying near the kill.  The three older cubs looked like balloons and ready to pop from eating too much, but we opted to spend the most time with the 2-month old cubs that had wandered a bit further away to sleep in the shade, and while it was a bit of a thicket, they were at least the most awake of the lions; although they soon too decided to go to sleep, but when they are so small, even when they sleep they are amazingly cute!


Machaton cubs

Kuhanya made an appearance just before lunch and had a drink at Cheetah Pan before wandering east through camp towards Wisani Trough; sadly we could relocate her during the afternoon drive though; it was a drive that started late for my guests and I because of more animals at the camp!  As we were finishing High Tea, an elephant bull approached the waterhole and then another, and another until we had 6 elephant bulls standing in front of the lodge feeding on the grass.  It was a wonderful scene and proof that sometimes the animals come to you, and you don’t need to go looking for them!
After about 40 minutes of watching them though, we did decide to go and look for some animals, and as Kuhanya did her usual and disappeared, we opted to go south again and see Thumbela who was still, as expected, resting at Entrance Dam.
En route we passed some nice general game around Argyle Dam; buffalo bulls, impala, kudu and waterbuck.

Waterbuck and kudu near Argyle Dam

We arrived at Thumbela leopardess, but she was still sleeping and didn’t do much in the afternoon; and looking at the comfortable spot she found herself – you can’t blame her!  
Thumbela in her favourite spot at Entrance Dam
After drinks, I took the decision to go east and see if I could perhaps get lucky with the Mahlathini male lions on Scholtz; but sadly I got lucky with nothing, and didn’t see much at all on the way home...but that did not put a dampener on a very enjoyable day!
Elliot found his rhinos eventually, yet unfortunately it was just after sunset, so he couldn’t view them with a spotlight.
The heat of the day eventually gave rise to a howling wind that blew in at midnight, with lightening everywhere, but again it was an empty promise of rain, and only 7mm fell during the night; we still remain hopeful that we shall receive one more bout of rain before summer officially ends!


  1. Great photos Chad (as always).
    Thanks for the update, Must be great to at least have some lions to bank on for now.
    Man, Thumbela is a beaut!!!


  2. Incredible photo of Thumbela - she is beautiful!

  3. Photo of kudu female running is spectacular - you are a true master of your craft. Still belive nature has a huge sense of humour when I see a pic of a waterbuck!! And, of course, your two ladies are spectacular as ever.

  4. I wonder if the ppi of a hyena's bite has ever been measured? Looks like the one cub, "Scrappy", had an ulcer or something on it's face, huge "scar".