Friday, 20 May 2011

19th May – Maybe Chad’s not such Bad Luck!

 Photo of the Day

Argyle male on the lookout!
Morning Drive
(Chad, Grant and Herald)
3 x lions (Sohebele Males) – Borneo, KNP Cutline
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Karans, Timbavati-Umbabat Cutline
1 x buffalo bull – Motswari, Ingwelala Cutline
1 x breeding herd of elephant – Motswari, Giraffe Pan
5 x elephants (3 x bulls, female and calf) – Peru, Xinzele Rd
1 x elephant bull – Karans, Kudu Pan Clearing

Afternoon Drive
(Chad and Herald)
1 x leopard (Shongile female) – Motswari, Sharalumi Crossing
1 x leopard (Argyle Male) – Motswari, Southern Access
1 x breeding herd of elephant – Motswari, Hanger Rd
2 x elephant bulls – Motswari, Sharalumi Crossing
1 x elephant bull – Motswari, Airstrip
1 x elephant bull – Karans, Barnes’ Post

Daily Synopsis
So after a week’s leave in Johannesburg (a torturous one I might add after reading about EVERYTHING I missed out on!), I was dead keen to get back to the bush to see if what Grant and Herald had been seeing in my absence was real, or if they had once again accidentally licked a toxic frog.
My first drive yesterday afternoon seemed good enough to me; without evening leaving our property, we had found a couple of breeding herds of buffalo, as well as two breeding herds of elephant, but the lack of cats during the drive was something that was seemingly unheard of for Grant and Herald this last week!  I am amazed that we couldn’t find a leopard, as we really worked the area where both Kuhanya female and Ximungwe female leopards had been seen in the morning and just before lunch respectively. 
Breeding herd of buffalo
Still, it was a good start, but Thursday began with me being desperate for some animals sporting big teeth and claws – not because I needed to see them, but more just to prove to everyone that I was not as full of bad luck as they all believed!
The morning started off slowly, the usual impala, a troop of baboons at Argyle Dam, a hippo emerging from the bushes as it returned to Argyle Dam from its nightly feeding session, and plenty of birds.  A few elephant herds were called in in the north, but I fllowed up on audio for elephants near Sohebele Dam, but besides a lone hippo (the pod has moved off!), there wasnt much else around. 

Baboons at Argyle Dam
I did find a group of elephants, three males (one in musthe) and a female and calf, feeding to the west off Sohebele Dam, but the presence of the bull in musthe meant that we didn’t spend as much time with them as I would have liked.

I was then on my way to Mbali Dam for a cup of coffee and to look at the hippos, finding more impala and a small rock python en route.  As I was about to stop, Grant called to tell me that Johannes had, after finding a breeding herd of buffalo, proceeded to find the three Sohebele male lions, but they were right on the Kruger Park Boundary, and mobile south along the boundary road.  I was about half an hour away, but decided that it was worth the risk, especially to see my long lost friends; friends I had not seen for over four months!
We found a family of warthogs and a nice large elephant bull on Kudu Pan Clearing, along with the usual impala and one lone zebra and a kori bustard.

Warthogs; Elephant bull on Kudu Pan Clearing
We had to pull ourselves away from that on the instance of Johannes, who told me to hurry up in case the lions crossed into Kruger.  Fortunately for me they didn’t, and I arrived to find them still walking straight down the road to the south, before eventually finding a tree to rest under and settle for the morning.

Sohebele male lion - growing into a Real lion!
It was truly wonderful to see them again, and even better to see how good they were looking!  Their skinny appearance was no longer evident; their fat bellies were a pleasant change; the blonde manes on their heads were slowly getting longer; and even the most sickly of the three (back in the day anyway) was looking good, and his lumps on his elbows had all but gone!  It was a sighting that put a big smile on my face! 

Sohebele brothers - looking good :)
The afternoon drive saw us needing leopard.  I didn’t expect someone to answer the need so soon!  I drove to check the northern side of the camp, but found only impalas, and as I was coming back around to the airstrip, an alert giraffe piqued my interest.  She was acting just like a giraffe who had seen a predator, so we went to investigate, and Petros went on foot, but to no avail...or not for that predator in any case. 
Herald, Magic Herald, called me to say that he had a leopard just north of the camp, on the very same road that I had drive 5 minutes prior to him!  It was Shongile, another long lost friend!
She had been in a marula tree when Herald found her, but she jumped down and headed down towards the riverbed in some seriously tricky terrain, and some very thick bush with a few elephants in it that too seemed to disappear with ease!  We managed to get a nice sighting of her on the rocks in the riverbed, but she carried on moving through the bush before stalking some guineafowl in the thickets. 

Shongile female on "Kuhanya's Rocks"
One station responding to Shongile found Kuhanya female leopard up another tree less than 1km from Shongile, so the pressure was taken off our sighting, but I still left Herald alone.  The reason?  Well Giyani radioed me to say that he was “stuck” and needed “help”...the help entailed going to join him to a few hundred metres from the lodge where he had found Argyle male leopard and help him to take some nice photos!  Being the kind soul I am, I happily obliged!
Argyle male was up in a marula tree and posing wonderfully for us as he scanned the terrain around him.  Knowing that Johannes and his guests had not had a static sighting of Shongile, I decided to make room for him so that he could see a leopard up the tree, but dear Murphy dictated that as Johannes was making his way from the stand-by point to the sighting, the leopard decided to climb down the tree and wander off down the road – at least my guests were lucky enough to get some great photos of him jumping out the tree!  And me?  Well I forgot to pick up my camera!

Argyle male leopard
After the leopard feast (we passed on Kuhanya, will save her for tomorrow!), we took the decision to try head east and see if the lions were still there.  We found another large elephant bull in musthe, a few distant zebras, impalas, and then onto the Kruger Boundary where I found something I wasnt expecting...a freshly graded road!  Of all the days for the Kruger Park to grade the road to make a fire-break, they had to pick the day that we had three lions sleeping right off the road!  Knowing that the lions would have just moved off into the Kruger, I didn’t even bother going to check, so instead went to have a sundowner at Majambi Dam.
After drinks we headed back to camp, finding a chameleon, a large-spotted genet, impala, zebra, and a few elephant along the way.  After dinner, we caught a glimpse of a honey badger behind the boma, and had our dinner interrupted by another bit of rain!  It is crazy that at the end of May, we are still getting rain!
I guess we shouldn’t complain – I only hope that it doesn’t do anything to wash my not-so-bad luck away! 


  1. Happy to see that you made peace with the animals! :)
    Beautiful photos of Argyle male!

  2. Great photos Chad!
    Love your lion and leopard shots!!!
    I am glad you are back.