Wednesday, 25 May 2011

23rd May – Thumbela Saves the Day!

Photo of the Day
Thumbela stalking an imaginary quarry
Morning Drive
(Chad, Johannes, and Herald)
1 x breeding herd of elephant – Argyle, Great North
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Vielmetter, Bluethorn Rd
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Vielmetter, Nkhoro Rd
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Vielmetter, Elephant Dam
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Jaydee, Makulu Rd

Afternoon Drive
(Chad, Johannes, Godfrey and Herald)
12 x lions (Machaton Pride – 3 x lionesses and 9 x cubs) – Tanda Tula, Sunset Rd
1 x leopard (Thumbela female) – Java, Sjambok Pod Rd
1 x breeding herd of elephant – Peru, Tawny Eagle Rd
1 x breeding herd of elephant – Argyle, Buffalo Pan
1 x breeding herd of elephant – Peru, Wilkins Way
8 x elephant bulls – Peru, Concrete Crossing
1 x elephant bull – Peru, Klipdrift Crossing
1 x elephant bull – Peru, Entrance Rd
1 x buffalo bull – Peru, Concrete Crossing
1 x buffalo bull – Argyle, Vyeboo Dam

Daily Synopsis
After yesterday’s excitement, I was keen to get out there this morning, hoping that the wild dogs had moved north.  While my plan was to head straight south, the fact that before I even arrived at my Land Rover I had found fresh leopard tracks walking through camp! 
We left the trackers on the spoor and began searching for the leopard, but sadly the efforts were in vain, and we came out empty handed...this was made worse by the fact that, in the evening, the leopard had once more walked through camp, straight back from where she had come!
This seemed to set the tone for the drive, and it wasn’t the most productive drive ever.  Having photographers, the pressure was a bit greater on me, and as the golden light got harsher, the pressure grew!  Sadly I couldn’t find an answer to this, and while I enjoyed some good sightings in the morning, they were not great for photographs that we were looking for.  A early highlight was a sighting of a honey badger running along the road, as well as a nice herd of kudus.


Red-billed Hornbill
The interesting news was that the Mafikizolo had seemingly abandoned their kill, and now the Rockfig Clan of hyenas was busy feasting on the remains, along with a whole lot of vultures.  Together they did a good job of finishing most of the kill – and dragging away what they didn’t want to share!

Hyenas, hooded and white-backed vultures and elephants around the buffalo carcass
Even more interesting for me and many of the other guides, were the number of elephants in the area!  One guide said the one group he saw south of the hyenas, near Elephant Dam, was at least 150 strong, and around the hyenas we had another two herds of about 20 elephants each!  There was a stream of elephants from the south, and the number of elephants made this fantastic to see!

Elephants everywhere!
The herds eventually ended up north of Makulu Dam, and we left the area to head home for breakfast.
After breakfast, Johannes, Grant, Herald and I went out for a bit of shooting practise, just to keep our “eye in”!  It was good fun as always, and our guides did very well – shooting at the targets with very good accuracy!

Grant, Johannes, Herald and Chad at shooting practise
In the afternoon, I needed leopard.  Johannes needed leopard.  Herald needed leopard.  Fortunately, at least one of us had taken their “muthi” (medicine), and it was no surprise that the Leopard Man himself was the one that found a leopard.  While that is not surprising, it was surprising who he found and where!  It was out nearly forgotten friend, Thumbela, and she was all the way up on Java Access, an area where we had never seen her before.

This was music to my ears to hear that we had a leopard to go and see, but almost as if not to be outdone, and in typical fashion of Murphy’s Law, all of the animals started to show themselves  whilst I needed to get to there in a hurry. 
First it took the form of some nice impala, baboons and a distant buffalo at Vyeboom Dam.

Hippos, Grey Lourie, Baboons and impala and buffalo at Vyeboom Dam
Then we had waterbuck, impala, giraffe and a small breeding herd of elephants at Buffalo Pan.

Elephant herd at Buffalo Pan
From there we had another three sightings of lone elephant bulls, as well as a group of about eight of them.  In addition, there was a buffalo bull at Concrete Crossing.

Elephant bull, buffalo bull and hippos at Concrete Crossing
Further down the road, another herd of elephants popped up, and then some zebra and always impalas!

Elephant herd and zebras
Eventually, we arrived to pull into the sighting just as a magnificent sunset enveloped the sky.  While the light was not great, we did have a good sighting of Thumbela.  She was stalking an imaginary quarry, but also successfully pounced on, caught and ate a small Kurrichane Quail.

The beautiful Thumbela female!
Thumbela was very active, and this didn’t make for an easy sighting.  We eventually decided to leave her in peace, especially as she was being trailed by a couple of hyenas.

Thumbela stalking, and being stalked by a hyena
After drinks in the dark I headed back to camp.  Godfrey had a nice afternoon too, and went south and was invited to go and see the Machaton Pride near Tanda Tula Camp.

In the evening all of us went to a great social evening with all of the other guides in the Timbavati.  It was a great idea initiated between the managers of Motswari and Kings Camp to build up the strong relationships between the different lodges and the guides even more!  It was a very enjoyable evening (except for eating that stupid chilli pepper, but that’s a different story altogether!), and we look forward to our next ‘reserve social’!
On a slight side note, and one that I hope doesn’t cause the event not to happen, but we have received word that the White Lions are nearing our property again!  For the first time in three months, they are within touching distance of our reserve, and were seen yesterday and today with a kudu kill on the southern boundary of who knows, maybe I will be able to report on some fantastic news in the next few days...we shall just have to wait and see!


  1. WOW Chad, Thumbela sure is a beautiful leopard!
    Lovely pictures of her.

    Man, I hope the white lions return, can't wait for that day. Thanks for the great news.


  2. A great blog Chad and some stunning photos as ever, how wonderful to see so many eles.

  3. It's to see beautiful Thumbela once again, after some time without new of her.
    I hope she sticks around the are to give you more opportunities to photograph her.
    After all, she's not only a beauty, but also a poser!