Saturday, 30 April 2011

26th April – Back In Time!

Photo of the Day
Morning Drive
(Chad, Grant and Herald)
1 x rhino (Mtenga-tenga)
1 x leopard (Thumbela female) – Vielmetter, Dizzy Drive

Afternoon Drive
(Chad, Herald and Grant)
1 x rhino (Mtenga-tenga)
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Java, Java Dam
2 x buffalo bulls – Karans, Western Cutline
2 x buffalo bulls – Argyle, Argyle Dam
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Vielmetter, Elephant Dam Rd
2 x elephant bulls – Argyle, Argyle Rd
1 x elephant bull – Argyle, Piva Plains

Daily Synopsis
So I’m doing this a wee bit backwards, but I saw I hadn’t posted an update for the 26th April, so here is a quick rundown of how the day went, well at least from what I can remember!
In the morning I was out on a shortened drive as some of my guests were checking out early.  I started in the north as usual, not really hoping for much, or needing much, as my guests really had seen a lot.  What they hadn’t seen was rhino, but I wasn’t holding my breath!  Another guide found tracks for a male and female leopard just east of Concrete Crossing, so I went to give him a hand and dropped off Petros to track the leopards on foot.
Miraculously, one of the southern stations found a rhino, Mtenga-tenga, on our property and I followed the other guides down south.  It proved to be a good choice, as this same guide soon found Thumbela female leopard nearby!
While it was rhino I was most in need of, it was Thumbela that got my attention first and we joined Grant and watched this beautiful leopardess as she stalked through the bush after a seemingly invisible quarry, but likely a mouse that we just couldn’t see!  Thumbela was the sixth different leopard that my guests had seen in their stay!

Thumbela on the hunt
We pulled ourselves away from her as our time was short this morning, and we still had a rhino to see!  Grant kindly gave us his spot in the line up and we went to view the male white rhino, but it was a sighting that was far too reminiscent of our lion chase the night before!  He was on a mission and carried on walking through the bush, not once stopping to feed.  We only managed to get ahead of him once and got a nice walk past, but the rest of the time we had to put up looking at his bum as he stopped from time to time to scent-mark!
After that I headed back to camp, and then off to the doctor to get sorted out!  I actually had a very good drive on the way out to Hoedspruit; a breeding herd of elephants, elephant bulls, a breeding herd of buffalo, plenty of giraffe, nice zebras, wildebeest herds and tonnes of impala all along the road!  Maybe didn’t quite match the Cheetah that Dave saw on his way to town on Thursday morning, but it was still great!
I arrived back to the lodge and took my meds for the tick bite fever, then headed back out into the bush for the best fix!
It wasn’t the most productive afternoon, but we still had some good viewing and a decent star for the new guests; impala, waterbuck, warthogs, buffalo bulls, elephant bull and a breeding herd of buffalo were all seen before I stopped for drinks on Java Airstrip.

Impala, buffalo bulls and elephant

Breeding herd of buffalo
After dark I went to check Hide Dam area, really hoping to get lucky with Thumbela, but it was not to be, and I slowly made my way back to camp without much to talk about.  Grant sensibly took his new guests a bit further south to show them the rhino, and Herald also saw a nice herd of elephants, but lions were once again missing from the list...will have to wait and see when this drought ends!

28th & 29th April: Six Of Seven, Yet Still Somehow Disappointing!

Pic of the Day's.

Apologies for the late post's, we still fighting our internet connection, but things seem to have been sorted so we will be back to full stories from tomorrow, but I've posted our last two days sightings plus a couple pics to keep you up to date.

Viewing has been great with a number of fantastic sightings of all things great and small! We have showed two sets of guests six of the “ Big Seven”, you would've thought this would include Lion but alas it was the one missing, so our drought continues, nearly a week now for Jacky and I!

Morning Drive.

( Chad & Grant)

Wild Dog ( 7 x Pack) / JayDee – Khona Bobesi.
Leopard ( Rockfig Jnr) / Vielmieter – Entrance Dam Rd.
Elephant ( Kambaku) / Motswari – Motswari Lodge.
Buffalo ( Breeding Herd) / Argyle – Great North.

Afternoon Drive.

( Chad & Grant)

Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / Mbali – White Syringa South.
Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / Vielmieter – Hide Dam.
Elephant ( Kambaku) / Argyle – Timbavati/ Umbabat Cutline.
Buffalo ( Dagha Boy) / Motswari – Xinatsi Dam.
Buffalo ( Dagha Boy) / Peru – Flooded Crossing.
Leopard ( Rockfig Jnr) / Vielmieter – Palm Crossing.

Friday 29th April.

Morning Drive.

( Chad & Grant)

Buffalo ( Dagha Boy) / Argyle – Horizon Rd.
Buffalo ( Breeding Herd) / Vielmieter – Bluethorn Rd.
Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / Vielmieter – Bluethorn Rd.
Wild Dog ( 7 x Pack) / JayDee - Civet Rd.
Rhino ( Mtenga-tenga)

Afternoon Drive.

( Chad, Grant & Godfrey)

Buffalo ( Breeding Herd) / Peru – Lion Pan.
Buffalo ( Breeding Herd) / JayDee – Ndlovu Rd.
Buffalo ( Breeding Herd) / Vielmieter – Entrance Dam.
Wild Dogs ( 7 x Pack) / JayDee – Peter Pan Access.
Leopard ( Kuhanya) / Motswari – Motswari Airstrip.
Elephant ( Kambaku's) / Motswari – Motswari Camp.

Catch you tomorrow with the full adventures of Grant and Chad, The Circus Continues!

Thursday, 28 April 2011

27th April: Putting Money Where My Mouth Is!

Pic of the Day.

Morning Drive.

( Chad, Herald & Grant)

Cheetah ( Unknown Female) / Karans – Bottom Rd.
Wild Dog ( 7 x Pack) / Peru – Woza Woza Cutline.
Leopard ( Ntombela) / Vielmieter – Hide Dam Southern Access.
Buffalo ( Breeding Herd) / Vielmieter – Western Cutline.
Buffalo ( Dagha Boy) / Peru – Francolin Pan.
Elephant ( Kambaku) / Borneo – Borneo/ Scholtz Cutline.
Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / Mbali – Buffalo Kill.

Afternoon Drive.

( Chad, Grant & Marka)

Wild Dog ( 7 x Pack) / Peru – Woza Woza Cutline.
Elephant ( Kambaku) / Peru – Sohobele Dam.
Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / JayDee – Tchwala Rd.
Leopard ( Ntombela) / Vielmieter – Blue Waxbill.
Buffalo ( Breeding Herd) / Vielmieter – Blue Waxbill.

Daily Synopsis.

( Apologies for the lack of pic's, Chad had a camera malfunction and I was snoozing.)

Hello all, its me Grant! I'm writing today's blog because Chad is sulking, something about not having as good a drive as myself!

Arriving at morning coffee I announced to all who were there, today was Dog Weather, and I again reiterated it to my guests before driving away from camp on morning drive. It was warm due to the cloud cover that had moved in during the night, insulating us and giving the morning a grey shaded start.

Some of us set off from camp looking for Kuhanya who had visited us at Motswari during the night, while others went in search of the Hyena we had calling shortly before departing on drive. Having checked the airstrip, we intended to travel to the West but were sidetracked by a herd of Zebra, being on a road that was heading East and hearing that there were a number of vehicles on the West we shied away from the croud's and changed plans and continued to the East, not to sure of what we were looking for, or what we would find.

Heading through an area of open plains I had mentioned to my guests that it was Cheetah country, but had never seen a Cheetah there before, actually it is usually very quit but is our go to place when in search of Zebra. On this occasion the area appeared empty and we were sitting with a flock of Ground Hornbills watching as they made their way through the grass feeding. I happened to look further down the road as something caught my eye on a termite mound about two hundred metres away, it had a very distinctive shape that I thought I must be seeing things. I mentioned it to Jacky but as he looked in it's direction it sat down, and he said he could see nothing, he must of thought I was going mad. I told him there was definitely something there and reached for my binoculars, being ill prepared I couldn't find them and after a brief scrounge decided to abandon the Ground Hornbills and head for the termite mound. On approaching the distinctive shape made itself apparent, unfortunately at high speed away from us, but there was no mistaking it, it was a Cheetah! Continuing slowly and giving it space and time, it settled and began walking, occasionally sitting while keeping a close eye on us. We continued to give it, its space, and as it approached another termite mound we were sure it would settle down on it as it provided it with cover and a great vantage point. Pre-empting it, we headed to the Southern side of the mound get ourselves in a great position, making the fatal mistake of losing visual contact for a brief moment. Rounding the mound she was nowhere to be seen, clearly she had been watching us more closely than we gave her credit for and had waited for this opportunity to disappear. We drove the entire area but with no joy, we did however finally find tracks for her South of where we had been, she was now heading back to the East towards Kruger, where she more than likely came from. As I had mentioned to my guests, you have to love the bush, you never know what you going to find.

While we spent a fair amount of time with our Cheetah adventure, others were having adventures of their own. Chad had found a dead Hyena not far from our airstrip, from the state of decay it must have occurred a couple days ago, least that explains the smell that has been lingering around in that area. He then proceededd to find a few live members of the Xinatsi Clan also not that far away, maybethat'ss what all the racket was about this morning.

In the South a breeding herd of Buffalo had been found, and no surprisee, behind it was Ntombela, once again stalking the youngcalf's.. This is after we found her yesterday first trying her luck with Buffalo and once being chased off she turned her attention to a herd of Giraffe, that she stalked and actually chased, sending them running in all directions. She really is one mischievous cat!

Both Chad and myself headed in her direction as we had guests that were yet to see Leopard. We arrived after Chad, but she was moving through a particularly difficult area and finally came to rest in a pretty inaccessible area, not offering us the greatest of views of this beautiful Leopard. It was while sitting with her that we received a message that they had, out of the blue, found a pack of seven Wild Dog in the North. Being very late in the morning should both Chad and myself respond we would be in big trouble with the kitchen. Lucky for us we are hated by them already so we could not damage our already tainted reputation, and responded without a second thought. Learning from our previous mistakes, we did on this occasion inform the kitchen that we would be delayed.

We arrived just as the dogs were seeking shade from the sun which had now burnt away the mornings clouds. As is usual we had a great sighting of them, firstly running about followed by them settling down to their afternoon rest. Not wanting to push our luck to far we did not spend that much time with them, just enough to get our fix!

Lets hope this afternoons drive is as fantastic as this morning, we wait and see, you never know!

Starting afternoon drive in somewhat warm conditions we decided to stick to the dams of the North in hope of finding Elephant and Buffalo. Coming up empty handed we turned our attention to following the Tsharalumi River as it winds its way South. Finding ourselves not far from the Wild Dog, who had slept off the day's heat in the same spot as we had left them in the morning, we popped in a visit, hoping to catch them as they became active and headed out on the hunt. Our timing was a little out and we arrived to sleeping dogs, only moving to reposition themselves out of the sun. Having had a good look we left them, and as is Murphy's Law, no sooner had we gone around the corner, they sat up and started to get mobile. Chad had waited a little longer and looked like his timing was to be perfect, but the risk you run with active dogs is that you loose them as they are so quick and head in all directions. This was to be the case with Chad, as they lost them shortly before he arrived, and as hard as they tried they were not able to relocate them before the sunset. Knowing Chad he will be out there first thing in the morning following up and he will have his dogs!

Our afternoon was quite on the “ Big Five” front but we did however find a nice variety of different species, the highlight being a very relaxed Sharpe's Grysbok. We also found ourselves a White Tailed Mongoose, which is rather a rarity, but as is always with there sightings you see them briefly before they turn and you watch their white tails disappear into the closest bush. Close to home we also found our elusive Hyena's from the morning taking a nap on the airstrip. No doubt charging their batteries before an eventful night.  

By the sounds of things Chad also had himself a rather quit drive, Marka on the other hand seemed to be in all the right places at all the right times. His highlight being watching Ntombela as she stalked yet another Buffalo Herd. Lets hope you grows out of this dangerous habit, quickly!

As you may of noticed, there has been a distinct lack of Lion sightings and I've not any seen since arriving back from leave on Sunday, so you can guess what is pretty high on the priority list for tomorrow, lets hope we can break the dry spell!

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

25th April – Good Game Viewing Continues!

Photo of the Day
Late afternoon Zebras
Morning Drive
(Chad, Grant and Herald)
1 x leopard (Argyle Male) – Motswari, Sharalumi Crossing
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Kings, Little Kariba
3 x elephant bulls – Peru, Hippo Rocky Rd
2 x elephant bulls – Peru, Western Cutline

Afternoon Drive
(Chad, Grant and Herald)
1 x lion (Mahlathini Male) – Peru, Argyle Rd
1 x leopard (Kuhanya female) – Argyle, Argyle Dam
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Vielmetter, Entrance Dam
1 x buffalo bull – Peru, Sohebele Dam
1 x breeding herd of elephant – Vielmetter, Sweetwater Southern Access
3 x elephant bulls – Karans, Western Cutline
3 x elephant bulls – Peru, Entrance Rd
2 x elephant bulls – Argyle, Horizon Rd
1 x elephant bull – Argyle, Mangova Rd

Daily Synopsis
Apologies for the delay in posting these updates, but been a bit under the weather the last few days with tick-bite fever!  I’m slowly on the mend, so no excuses for not posting I guess!
Also a real test for my little memory as to what went down on Monday...maybe that’s because all I could think of was Leigh’s Easter cupcakes from the day before!

Leigh's De'leigh'cious Easter-egg Cupcakes (sorry, that was corny!)
Monday started off slowly for me, I guess much it did all over the world!  I headed east, full of excitement and truly believing that I would find the wild dogs that had been seen yesterday.  The drive started off well enough with impala and a herd of zebras not far from camp, but that almost seemed to be where it stopped!  I checked all the areas that I thought the wild dogs might have utilised, but found no signs.  I drove on roads that had clearly not been driven for months and found very little out east.  I guess that’s the whole thing about the east; it’s a high risk drive with the potential of high reward...and if not that, it gives you nothing!  That is what I got this morning!

Zebra herd on Karans
My guests and I still enjoyed the solitude of the east, and not seeing anyone else, or even hearing another vehicle for 3h30 was great.  We stopped for coffee at Gravel Pits Pan, which was worth it for me, as I don’t think I have ever seen much water in there...and I did see some wild dog tracks, albeit from a few days ago, but it’s good to know that at least they have been around!

Coffee and Wild Dog tracks at Gravel Pits Pan
I was almost ready to respond to a sighting of Thumbela female leopard after we had been invited south by the King’s stations, but when I heard that Herald and Grant were going, I decided to rather just stick to my mission in the east.  Sadly for them though, the leopard was lost before they could see it, but they did see a nice large breeding herd of buffalo.  I guess this was partial reward for having spent the morning tracking rhino off the property into Klaserie (the same story as another guide who also tracked the Mahlathini male lions off the property to the west).
The highlight of my morning was something very small; a family of dwarf mongooses posing outside their termite mound hole!

Dwarf Mongooses
While watching some hippos at Sohebele Dam, my new vehicle decided it didn’t want to start, so while we waited for a replacement vehicle to arrive, we enjoyed a stroll along the dam with the hippos eyeing us out, and then a bit of an amble across Piva Plains before going back to camp. 
We had no sooner finished breakfast when we were told that there was a leopard near camp...this is the second time in three days, so we got the guests and headed out to go and see the always impressive Argyle Male leopard!  He is a monster of a leopard, and is getting so unbelievably relaxed around the land rovers that he is on par with any other leopard in the reserve! 
Argyle male with some familiar faces; Tammy, Jeremy and Kate - regular visitors to Motswari :)
Despite being a warm day, he was very active and following the scent of something, not 700m from the lodge.  We followed him through some tricky terrain but eventually he went to rest in some shade and we left him to sleep and headed back to the lodge for a sleep of our own!

Argyle Male Leopard
In the afternoon, I headed south, and I had no sooner arrived there when Kuhanya female leopard was radioed in sleeping on Argyle Dam wall.  Oh dear, had I made the wrong choice again!  While Grant and Herald had good sightings of her and a nice afternoon in the north, I am happy to report that in the end, I made the right choice!

It started off with a couple of beautiful big elephant bulls on Western Cutline.

Large elephant bull
This was followed by some impala, warthogs, kudu and a nice group of giraffes.

We then drove towards Entrance Dam to watch a massive herd of several hundred (I would guess 500-600) buffalos as they drank at the small dam and carried on north.  It was great to see them at the water, as well as all the babies.

Buffalo herd at entrance dam
After that I checked around Elephant Dam for Nthombi and her cub, but got nothing, although we did have some zebra and giraffe en route, and then found a small breeding herd of elephants before enjoying a drink at Sweetwater Pan.

Zebras and another 'terrible' African Sunset!
Now I generally don’t like driving on Argyle Rd, but tonight I thought it would be a good idea, and drove it with the intention of finding the Mahlathini male lions on the road.  It was a long shot, but it was the right one, and a few kilometres down the road, the brake-lights of a private vehicle instantly spoke of what they were looking at!  We pulled up and found one of the male lions walking along the road, but he soon drifted into the Mopane woodlands of the Timbavati and we did our best to follow him.  He was on a real mission, and after some time we left him to do his own thing, and hopefully can follow up tomorrow.

Spotted eagle owl and a hippo outside the water
Mission accomplished, everything else was a bonus; like our Spotted Eagle Owl, our hunting wild cat and a hippo outside of the water.
All in all, the day turned out to be a very good one, and all of our guests were yet again delighted!  Now let’s see if we can repeat that tomorrow!