Friday, 27 May 2011

26th May – Completing the Big 5

Photo of the Day
Elephant Calf
Morning Drive
Chad, Godfrey and Herald)
1 x leopard (Argyle Male) – Motswari, Sean’s Clearing
4 x rhinos (Nhlangula male, female and two young)
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Peru, Hippo Rocky Rd
4 x buffalo bulls – Peru, Hippo Rocky rd
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Motswari, Bush Braai Rd
1 x elephant bull – Motswari, Camp

Afternoon Drive
(Chad, Marka and Herald)
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Mbali, Mcau Rd
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Peru, Sohebele Plains
1 x elephant bull – Motswari, Camp
1 x elephant bull – Motswari, Reception

Daily Synopsis
Today seemed to signal the rather prompt change between summer and winter...I guess you would call it “autumn” in some parts of the world?  From yesterday’s rather warm mid-30’s to low 20’s today, and a very chilly evening (okay, I was wearing shorts) surely signalled the changes that are to come over the next few weeks.
Much to my disappointment, today was largely a cat-free day.  I say largely as Godfrey briefly glimpsed Argyle Male leopard crossing the road ahead of him, but couldn’t relocate him.  Instead I spent the morning looking at leopard tracks, while Herald got to at least look at lion tracks.
The morning started off with promise – a leopard was heard calling near camp, so I went to check to the east and soon found tracks for Kuhanya and began following up.  Leaving my tracker on the spoor, I carried on and soon found tracks for Argyle Male going in all sorts of directions, but eventually they headed towards where Godfrey glimpsed him.
I was in a predicament, as I wanted to find leopard, but at the same time I didn’t want to waste the golden light driving around looking at tracks!  Sadly the cool morning wasn’t conducive to a great deal of activity in the first light, but we did find some nice squirrels posing on a leadwood tree.

Tree squirrel and red-billed hornbill
I then decided to head to the west to check for Argyle Male after Petros had lost Kuhanya’s tracks going into a difficult area.  En route to pick him up we came across a nice breeding herd of elephants west of Xinatsi Dam and spent some time with them.

Elephant herd
We then went and waited at Xinatsi Dam hoping that they would come and drink there, but while we enjoyed a cup of coffee, the elephants didn’t show themselves.  After coffee we went to check for the leopard, and found his tracks....walking all along the roads, but eventually disappearing into an area of long, tall grass that made tracking almost impossible.  I couldn’t help but wonder what if I would not have found the leopard had I headed straight over to look for him.  Oh well.
Lilac-breasted Roller
The reason that the elephants never arrived at the water became apparent when we found them over an hour late still feeding in the same spot! 

Entertaining elephant calf
We left them and headed back to camp for a good breakfast, and had a few elephants visiting throughout the day.
Other news of the morning was the eventual return of some rhinos to the area; four to be exact.  Nhlangula male was in the company of a skittish female and two youngsters, but allowed both Godfrey and Herald to see them.  In the west, there was also a breeding herd of buffalo resting east of Voel Dam, and tracks for the Mafikizolo Pride coming in from Voel Dam.  One of the Land Owners did eventually find them later in the day, but they moved into a thick mopane area and they were left alone.
In the afternoon, I was still keen for cats, but they had different ideas.  We tried around the camp, but came up empty handed.  At Argyle Dam we saw some nice impala and waterbuck, then went to go and see the hippos that had moved back into Sohebele Dam, hoping that they would be fighting or something more interesting than sleeping.  They weren’t. 

Hamerkop, brown-hooded kingfisher, impala and waterbuck and Hippos and Oxpeckers at Sohebele Dam
Fortunately there was a beautiful pair of saddle-billed storks that were quite photogenic.

Saddle-billed storks and crocodile at Sohebele Dam
We also spent time photographing other birds and smaller things, before Marka called to tell us that he had a herd of elephants on the Sohebele Plains.  I had been on my way to a buffalo herd, but raced over to catch the elephants before it got dark.
Petros - more energetic than the hippos!
The light was fantastic for a few minutes, and we merrily clicked away in delight.

Golden light elephants :)
After the light faded, the three youngest elephants entertained us immensely with their antics of chasing each other.  The youngest was a laugh a minute, running full speed into bushes, smashing at them, and then changing directions and running smack bang into the other younger, but much bigger, calves!

Playful Elephant Calves
We watched until after dark, almost feeling like part of the herd as they encircled us, still loving the babies, but eventually mom stepped in and calmed the young male down!  It definitely ranks up there as one of my favourite ever elephant sightings.

Part of the herd - a very special sighting
After drinks, the chill set in, but we had a fairly decent night drive, with a herd of hippos out the water, a civet and an African Wild Cat.

Hippos out of the water and African Wild Cat on the evening drive
So although we closed down at camp only having seen elephants today (of the Big 5), I still had over 400 photographs of the other wonders of nature!  Hope you enjoy them J


  1. Great diversity of pics... of course the elephant calf!!! Ah man, what could be more gorgeous.


  2. Hello Chad, you guide my belgian friends Jean-Philippe and Geneviève... I see him in one of your photos...
    I'm looking forward the trip with you.
    See you soon...

  3. thanks wanda and agnes!

    @agnes - yes indeed, i spent the last five days driving JP and Jane around, and enjoyed being out there photographing with them....sadlym our leopards were not very co-operative, and we only got to see Shongile and Thumbela, but it was nice to stop and take photos of animals that we normally dont spend much time with....and yes, we will see you at the end of june i believe? take care, and dont forget to pack your "leopard luck" when you come here!

  4. That's why there were many beautiful pics with landscapes, birds and other animals on the last posts of the blog... I undertstand !

    I shall pack my "leopard luck" at the end of june, I confirm, don't worry !

    I add my "white lions luck" crossing my fingers...

    Take care also.

  5. Hello Chad, Vhondo

    It was a pleasure to make the photographic drive, in Motswari, with you.
    The elephant sightings were so great... We remember this moment for a long time!
    The little boy was terrible. He was very playful.

    We hope to see you soon on Colors Of WildLife.

    Gene & JP

  6. Howdy Gene and JP! thanks for finding the blog, and thanks for the time i spent with you - learnt a lot, especially about trying to make use of the best light which is something that i often forget to do!!!

    hope you had a good stay and at least got a few nice photos!

    please keep on reading the blog to see what is going on with the animals this the leopards we found in great light on the two mornings after you left! i cant believe it!

    keep well



  7. Hello Chad, Vhondo

    Yes the light is for us, as you know, an important element of photography and it's great if we could make you appreciate.
    We will follow your blog with attendance.
    The wilderness of South Africa we already miss a lot.


    Gene & JP