Wednesday, 29 June 2011

28th June – Lions at Last!!!

Photo of the Day
Male rhino
Morning Drive
(Chad, Colbert, Marka and Herald)
1 x lion (Sohebele male) – Ingwelala, Argyle Rd
2 x rhino (2 x male white rhinos)
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Ntsiri, Argyle Rd
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Peru, Giraffe Kill Lookout
1 x breeding herd of elephants, Mbali, Java-Mbali
1 x breeding herd of elephants, Mbali, Terminalia
1 x elephant bull – De Luca, Mpela-pela Northern Access
1 x elephant bull – Mbali, Mbali River Rd

Afternoon Drive
(Chad, Colbert and Herald)
12 x lions (Machaton Pride – 3 x lionesses and 9 x cubs) – Umlani, Donga Lookout
1 x leopard (Argyle Jnr female) – Peru, Entrance Rd
3 x rhino (male, female and calf)
2 x rhino (2 x male white rhinos)
1 x rhino (Nhlangula Male)
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Scholtz, Big Dam
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Jaydee, Tamboti Pan
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Mbali, Mcau Rd
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Vielmetter, Western Sharalumi
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Kings, Argyle Rd
1 x elephant bull – Scholtz, Mananga Cutline
1 x elephant bull – Motswari, Camp

Daily Synopsis
While I have been only too happy with all the leopards of late, the other guides have been feeling the pressure for lions, and with only the ultra-skittish Mafikizolo Pride being around (although not seen), we have not had an easy few days.
It was thus rather exciting when Colbert radioed in fresh tracks for lions on our southern access road, and a few of us immediately began tracking as the tracks headed north; sadly though, it quickly became apparent that they had most likely already crossed into Ingwelala, and sure enough, we found tracks crossing over our most northern boundary.  We automatically assumed that the tracks were for the Jacaranda Pride, but still held hope that the tracks Giyani had for the Mafikizolo Pride near Java Dam would hold something.  Only later did we realise that the lion tracks were one and the same, and that they had walked form Elephant Dam near our southern border straight into Ingwelala – easily covering 15-20km during the night!
We all slowly made our way out of the area, me looking for leopards, Marka desperate for lion, and Colbert and Herold looking for anything.  Herold went west along the tar road and found a large breeding herd of elephants...Marka went that same road a few minutes later and found one of the Sohebele young male lions walking down the middle of the road!  Sadly, before either Colbert or Herold could get there, he crossed into Ingwelala and was gone.
My drive didn’t produce much, a hyena following the scent trial of the lions (albeit in the wrong direction!), a few impalas, steenbok and then down towards Mbali Dam where we saw a nice Martial Eagle.  I had no sooner stopped to admire him when I looked up and saw two rhinos at the water’s edge of Mbali Dam.  

Hyena on the scent trail of the lions - pity he was going in the wrong direction!

Martial Eagle and white rhino with hippos
We finished watching the eagle before going to relocate the rhinos – it was two males, the same two that had been up north yesterday, and they seemed reasonably relaxed for new rhinos.  We followed at a distance waiting for some other stations to arrive, but they soon crossed the Nhlaralumi and disappeared. 

Martial eagle in flight, and two male white rhinos
While watching them on foot, we also had a lone elephant bull feeding in the riverbed, as well as a pair of saddle-billed storks.

Elephant bull and saddle-billed storks while watching the rhinos on foot
A bit further along the riverbed, there was a large breeding herd of elephants, and even opposite that, in the area where the rhinos suddenly vanished, there was a great deal of elephant activity, from Mbali Dam to Java Dam.

Breeding herd of elephants approaching giraffe kill lookout
I slowly headed back to camp, not seeing anything exciting.
The afternoon for me proved to be a bit of a quiet one; well, at least compared to Colbert and Herold’s drives!  They both had a similar game plan, and that was to go way down south to Umlani to see the Machaton Pride.  They saw them, and had wonderful sightings of the nine cubs playing around – all the guests were beaming when they got back from drive, which was wonderful to see!  It wasn't only the lions; they also both got to see at least four or five large breeding herds of elephants all over the show, as well as the relaxed Nhlangula male rhino!  Not bad!
I had a frustrating morning, so took it easy in east, and just wanted to spend some time without worrying about leopards, seeing other vehicles and just wanted to drive a different area!  Dave had made the suggestion that I should drive Scholtz...I said that I wouldn’t as I actually wanted to see animals!
That being said, the lure of the unknown drew me east...and soon enough I had crossed through Kudu Pan Clearing and was driving into Scholtz.  I always love the property, but it can be notoriously hit or miss!  As I made my way towards the Sohebele Riverbed, I didn’t even see an impala.  Oh great, it was going to be a big miss day!
That was until I decided to check on one of the natural pans and saw the shape of a rhino through the mopanes, but didn’t think it could be...I was half right; it wasn't a was three of them!  They ran off, but I decided to try my luck, and eventually caught up with them -  male, female and calf, and followed them at a slight distance for some time, and for nervous rhinos, they gave us a good sighting, not once running as we followed behind through some sometimes-thick bush.  After we passed found a road, we left them and carried on checking along the river.

Crash of rhinos

As we arrived at Big Dam, there was a large herd of buffalo finishing off their drink before heading back north. 

Buffalo herd at Scholtz Big Dam

A bit further along, we saw a lone elephant bull, and one steenbok.  No impalas, but three of the Big 5 in an area that supposedly has no animals – not bad Chad – good call Dave!
I then moved back west to look for leopards, and while we only found impala and kudu going past Hide Dam towards Elephant Dam, it was just so beautiful driving around as the golden light bathed the bush.  Winter is indeed a wonderful time to visit the bush.
Yellow-billed hornbill
After sundowners at Elephant Dam, Johannes told me that he had found a leopard near Concrete Crossing.  He thought it was Mbali, but then correctly identified her as Argyle Jnr female, and she was hunting impalas until a clan of hyenas arrived and chased her up a tree!

Sunndowners at Elephant Dam with Agnes and Sylvie

I tried my best to get there before she descended to start hunting the impalas again, but arrived a minute too late.  As she was showing interest in the impalas, we didn’t shine on her until she moved off to go after a less alert herd.  She was trotting off, but we soon realised it was because the three hyenas were coming up behind her.  She managed to lose them, but carried on stalking some impalas, and I decided to rather leave her in peace than potentially disturb her hunt, and carried on back to the lodge.  We did see civet and hyena on the way.

Argyle Jnr female on the prowl
So while Colbert and Herold had great quality sightings, for me the quality wasn't as good as the days before...but I still got to see some pretty good things, so I guess I shouldn’t complain too much!
Let’s hope for some good quality sightings tomorrow! 


  1. Still a great day Chad, and to end it off with a leopard is great... No Thumbela this time :)
    Thanks for the great updates Chad.


  2. Awesome update Chad, I love the rhino, they amaze me so much!

    Kind Regards,