Wednesday, 15 June 2011

12th June – Not such a bad hangover!

Photo of the Day
Fighting elephant bulls
Morning Drive
(Chad and Herald)
1 x leopard (Mbali female) – Peru, Sohebele Plains (on bushwalk)
4 x rhinos (Nhlangula male, 2 females and a calf)
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Argyle, Argyle Dam
2 x elephant bulls – Peru, Sohebele Dam

Afternoon Drive
(Chad and Herald)
4 x rhinos (Nhlangula male, 2 females and a calf)
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Motswari, Sean’s Clearing
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Peru, Sohebele Dam
1 x elephant bulls – Peru, Sohebele Plains

Daily Synopsis
Like any good party the night before, you often wake up feeling a bit, shall we say ‘tender’, and not really looking forward to the day ahead.  Sunday morning was partially like that, and I really didn’t know how we would come close to matching the excitement of yesterday. 
As two of my guests were leaving this morning, and we still wanted to see rhino, I planned to head west and check the areas there, but was informed by another guide that he was already on route to check the west.
I thus slowed down my approach drive, and planned to focus on the central areas instead.  Coming up empty handed north of the lodge, I continued to Argyle Dam where we found a breeding herd of about 150 buffalo having a drink in the early morning.  We viewed them from the opposite bank as they slowly started moving east and away from the dam.

Buffalo herd and egyptian geese at Argyle Dam
Not a bad start, and it got better when we were then informed that a herd of rhinos were found in the exact area we had planned to head, so we slowly bumbled along in that direction.  We checked on our Gijima male leopard’s kill, but there were only a few ribs left dangling in the branches, so we left the area.  There were the usual impala and warthogs around as we headed to Concrete Crossing.  It was here were we stopped to admire a grey heron and a small crocodile resting abstractly in the water.

Crocodile and grey heron at Concrete Crossing
Carrying on west, the impalas and even more numerous guineafowl littered the clearings, and a mother giraffe and calf caught our attention before we carried on to the rhinos who were now quite close to our boundary.

Giraffe and calf
Sadly, in typical fashion, the relaxed Nhlangula male was sticking close to the more nervous females and their calf.  They had stopped to feed, but it was right in the middle of the dense mopane woodland in that side of the reserve, so the visual wasn’t the best...well, it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t what we had come to expect from our animals after yesterday!

Crash of rhinos
We eventually lost the rhinos as they crossed off the property and carried on down towards Makulu Dam for coffee.  We saw nice impalas, kudus, waterbuck and vervet monkeys near the dam, and got excited as all of them were alarm calling, but we couldn’t find the cause of their concern despite Petros checking the area on foot.

Male kudus and a male waterbuck
During coffee, we had the company of a raft of hippos in the dam, and then we made our way back to the lodge for breakfast, satisfied enough with our morning so far.  Heading back we got more giraffe, impala, waterbuck, and then the breeding herd of buffalo resting on Sean’s Clearing. 

Herd of waterbuck and a herd of buffalo
The highlight for me was again seeing another yellow-billed oxpecker – it really is fantastic to see them doing so well!

The rare yellow-billed oxpecker
Considering the amazing experience of the walk we had yesterday, it was probably no surprise that my guests wanted to do it again, although I guaranteed them that it would not be nearly as good.  Once more, I was wrong!
With just three guests, we drove towards Sohebele Dam to walk there, seeing warthogs, banded mongooses and the buffalo herd on the way.  I was hoping to find some elephants to walk into, but there didn’t appear to be any as we ambled towards the eastern end of the dam.  We enjoyed looking at a few tracks of animals, including leopard, and some plants and trees, and then moved up onto Sohebele Plains.  A guests asked me about a large tree in the distance, and while I was about to start talking about it, he said “look, there’s a cat in that tree!”  and sure enough, in a tree about 60m from us, was lying a leopard! 
Sadly she had spotted us and jumped down, but stood at the base of the tree for a minute or so, just watching us.  She then slowly walked off across the clearing to the east!  It was Mbali leopardess!  Wow, what a treat to see a leopard on a walk, and to have more than just a fleeting glimpse!  We tried to go around to see if we could relocate her in the riverbed, but had no luck, and eventually made our way back to the vehicle after that! 
Returning to the lodge, we did end up seeing two large elephant bulls leaving the western side of Sohebele Dam, as well as impala, waterbuck, and  large crocodile.
The afternoon surely had to be a disappointment!  Well, it might not have had the lions and leopards, despite us looking for them, but it was full of excitement!

Brown Snake Eagle take-off
We went to follow up on Mbali, and came across the breeding herd of buffalo that had woken up and were heading south from their resting spot.  We didn’t spend a lot of time and carried on towards Broken Dam.  We did spot some dwarf mongooses, impala and then a breeding herd of elephants that were feeding towards Sohebele Dam.

Buffalo and elephant
After watching them for a while, we went to the opposite side of the dam to view the elephants from the opposite side, and to drop Petros off on the leopard tracks.
We went and squeezed through the trees to get to a position to view the elephants on the opposite bank.  The young males had all gathered in one place and were play fighting and splashing around in the water before crossing over the dam towards us. 

Elephant bulls playing at Sohebele Dam
Being young males, their hormones were running high, and the bit of fighting had caused a great deal of excitement, so upon seeing us, they thought that we could join in the games!  They were demonstrating and trumpeting and hitting the trees to try and intimidate us, and it worked I guess!  While I enjoyed their antics and knew that there was no danger in their behaviour and their intentions, some of my guests developed a new opinion of elephants which was rather different to the chilled herd drinking in the riverbed yesterday!
We left the area, but one noisy bull kept following us and trumpeting!  While I didn’t want to drive off and give him the impression that he had “won the fight”, I had to leave as my guests were getting a bit nervous!  Instead we watched a large bull that was in far better control of his hormones than the young teenagers who were still trumpeting in the distance!

Relaxed elephant bull on Sohebele Plains (top shot shows the same tree that we found Mbali in during our bush walk)
The trackers weren’t having luck with Mbali’s tracks, so we took a chance and checked Karan’s, hoping to bump into her and a few herds of zebras.  We only got lucky with the later when we found our first herd in the company of a very relaxed herd of kudus with a beautiful large bull amongst them!

Relaxed kudus and zebras
Carrying on towards Majambi Dam for a sundowner, we encountered some impalas and another nice herd of zebras on Kudu Pan Clearing.  At the dam, we found a lone hyena that walked past us, and then enjoyed a drink with the inquisitive lone hippo bull that calls the dam his home.

Hyena at dusk
Considering the luck we were having, we tried to even check the far north for any sign of the Mahlathini or Jacaranda male lions, but it did appear that maybe our luck was running out, as we saw very little besides the bright eyes of a bushbaby in the distance (although it was a case of right place, wrong time, as the next morning Johannes found fresh tracks for the Jacaranda Pride and cubs on top of our vehicle tracks!).
So the hangover day might not have been as bad as we had anticipated, and we all enjoyed it; even the scary moments that now gave my guests a fantastic story to tell all their friends!


  1. Another wonderful day in the bush Chad.
    It must have been awesome to see the leopard on the walk, and it is pretty open around the tree, so not to bad to see her there.
    Lovely kudu pics, and I also love the elephants playing in the water.


  2. Congratulations on another beautiful and interesting series, Chad!! The Oxpecker and the elephant trunk close-up are my absolute favorites!! Thanks for taking the time to share your sightings with us.
    Best regards from Austria, Peter (Photoza).