Wednesday, 25 May 2011

24th May – Lots of Lion Tracks...Now To Find Them!

Photo of the Day
Machaton Cub
Morning Drive
(Chad, Johannes, Godfrey and Herald)
2 x lions (Machaton Lionesses) – Kings, Pat’s Drive
1 x leopard (Shongile female) – Motswari, Sharalumi Crossing
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Vielmetter, Double Highway
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Jaydee, Argyle Rd
1 x breeding herd of elephant – Peru, Tawny Eagle Rd
1 x breeding herd of elephant – Peru, Wilkin’s Way
1 x breeding herd of elephant – Jaydee, Nkombi Pan
8 x elephant bulls – Peru, Voel Dam
2 x elephant bulls – Peru, Wild West

Afternoon Drive
(Chad, Johannes and Herald)
12 x lions (Machaton Pride with Impala Kill – 3 x lionesses and 9 x cubs) – King’s, Van Wyk’s Crossing
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Jaydee, Nkombi Pan
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Vielmetter, Jaydee Access
2 x elephant bulls – Vielmetter, Elephant Dam Rd
1 x elephant bull – Vielmetter, Grasslands Rd

Daily Synopsis
I always love waking up early in the morning and hearing lions roaring close to camp.  This morning was not one of those mornings as I was clearly too tired to even hear them, but everyone else did, so I was just happy to hear that there had been lions near camp!
I set off to search for them north of camp, and soon found tracks for two male lions on Western Cutline, and followed the tracks to where they passed not 300m north of the lodge, and to the west where sadly they crossed off our boundary and into Ingwelala.  The trackers went to see if the tracks perhaps crossed the short distance from that boundary and into Argyle, but we were not so fortunate!
Elsewhere this morning, Giyani had had audio for lions near Entrance Dam, as well as near Crossing Below Java.  Johannes followed up on tracks for two lionesses near Entrance Dam and eventually found them resting on Sunset Plains some distance to the south.  There were tracks for Mafikizolo Pride heading towards Lily Pan, but also tracks for lions coming from that side towards Makulu Dam, but no lions were found in that area.
In the north, Herald and I also had a stroke of luck when Herald, Magic Herald, found Shongile female leopard at Sharalumi Crossing...again.  And again, it was on the same road that I had driven not 5 minutes earlier!  Still, I wasn’t complaining and went to join him.

Shongile female
She moved down into the riverbed towards “her rocks” and scent marked them and walked around a bit before going back north into the dodgy bush in that area. 

Shongile on her new favourite rocks - wonder what Kuhanya thinks of this?

We kept an eye on her as she wandered in every direction before she found a pile of buffalo droppings to roll in!  It is believed to help cover her scent, or to leave her scent on the dung.  After that she carried on scent-marking down the road until she sadly also crossed into Ingwelala and my plans of spending the morning with her were put to pay.

Shongile rolling in buffalo droppings and scent marking
The rest of the morning was spent taking it easy in the north, with sightings of waterbuck, hippo, impalas, giraffe and some nice birds.

Waterbuck, impala and giraffe
We found two breeding herds of elephants, one of which was at least 50-60 strong!  We spent some time watching them, but the photographic opportunities were a bit limited.

Breeding herd of elephants and a dust bath
In the afternoon, I went to check the eastern side for any sign of lions that had also been reported roaring in that area.  I found no sign of them, or much else for that matter.  We did see some zebras and the usual impala and warthogs.

Impalas, zebra and warthog
I then decided to follow Herald south in the hope of getting to see the Machaton lionesses in the open on Sunset Plains, and with the light as gorgeous as it was, it would be worth it.  Sadly though, my afternoon turned into an exceptionally frustrating one, and despite the amazing light bathing the bush, I just couldn’t find any animals to fill the view-finder of my guest’s cameras!
Vervet Monkey
We did see a few elephants, but they weren’t very obliging either, so we settled on a few birds instead. 

Elephants, Petros, Red-billed Hornbill and Fork-tailed Drongo
To make matters worse, the lionesses had moved, and were relocated late in the afternoon.  They had collected the cubs and made a kill, so drew a bit more attention from the other guides than they were supposed to, according to my plans anyway!
I had committed to come south to see them, so I pushed on with the plan, but the lack of light really provided nothing for us to photograph.  The open area setting was also not going to happen, as they had the kill on the banks of the Nhlaralumi. 
We arrived late, but had one slight stroke of luck when one of the lionesses and the four older cubs walked into the river bed and proved some photo opportunities for the briefest moment before going up the opposite bank to the kill.

Older Machaton Cubs heading towards the kill
The darkness was settling in quickly, and as we are unable to shine the spotlight on the young cubs that were present, we couldn’t get a great visual, or at least not for photos.  There was some nice interaction between the mother and cubs as they fed and fought for the scraps, and it was nice to see, but the frustration of missing out on an afternoon of great light did dampen the enjoyment of the sighting for me.
Young Machaton Cub
Heading back to the lodge after dark, we had two separate sightings of porcupines, and a nice spotted eagle owl. 
As we were getting ready for dinner, the male lions started roaring again close to the lodge – they had most probably gone to rest just inside Ingwelala!  Oh well...
After dinner, I took my guests up to the airstrip to take a few photos of the stars, and to be under such an amazing sky with the sounds of elephants and hyenas nearby was a great experience for them.

The Milky Way
Falling asleep with the sound of the lions roaring as they walked off to the west was enough to restore my energy for tomorrow!  Looking forward to a good day I hope...and hopefully some lion tracks that lead to some good lions!


  1. I love your wildlife photography, and having been to Africa twice and loving our safaris, can really appreciate you taking me 'out there' again, step by step. *happy sighs, Thank you Chad, you are awesome.

  2. Great photos Chad.
    Thanks for the update. It was a pitty you got to the lions after that special light, but there were still some great shots from the cubs.


  3. Thamks for the awesome wordsyourself Patty! Glad that you can get some pleasure from the blog :)

    Cheers Lourens, and thanks for all the comments of late - glad to have you as a loyal follower!

  4. Shongile is becoming a beautiful Leopard!
    Glad to hear the lions have finally decided to come out!

    Thanks for the beautiful captures!