Tuesday, 5 July 2011

03rd July – Once in a Lifetime Sighting!

Photo of the Day
Unbelievable - my first Aardvark in over 17 years and many thousands of hours of driving!!!!  And in the daytime!!!!
Morning Drive
(Chad and Colbert)
1 x leopard (Nthombi Female) – Kings, Double Highway
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Vielmetter, Elephant Dam Rd
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Motswari, Umbabat Cutline
3 x elephant bulls – Motswari, Xinatsi Dam Rd North
1 x elephant bull – Motswari, Southern Access

Afternoon Drive
(Chad, Godfrey, Colbert and Herald)
1 x aardvark – Borneo, Abercrombie Dam
1 x leopard (Mbali female) – Vielmetter, Hide Dam
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Vielmetter, Back Nine’s
3 x buffalo bulls – Motswari, Camp
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Vielmetter, Entrance Dam
1 x elephant bull – Motswari, Wisani Crossing
1 x elephant bull – Borneo, KNP Cutline

Daily Synopsis
Considering the rather frustrating and quiet day I had today, it might come as a shock that it is one that I will never forget; and that is due to one sighting of one animal that I never expected to see!
Starting out, the morning was a cold one, and as usual in this wintery period, the animals were not out and about providing us with the sightings we wanted!  I checked the northern areas yet again, and once more, I was coming up with nothing until I got a call saying that the monkeys near camp had spotted a leopard, so immediately crawled back towards camp (going any faster might have turned us to ice). 

Land of the rising sun!
Petros found tracks and began tracking, and I drove about to kill time, waiting for his call.  It never came, so instead I tried to follow a hyena that raced across our airstrip, but with no luck to see what caused it to run so fast!  I did find three lovely elephant bulls feeding next to the road though and spent time photographing them!

Some more wonderful textures and shapes of this relaxed elephant bull
After an hour and a half of only impalas, I decided I had to head to another area, and soon enough, Thumbela was radioed in near Entrance Dam, sadly having just lost her kill to hyenas!  Heading south into the area produced nothing but impala and some giraffes. 

Brown-headed parrot eating a sjambok pod seed-pod
I was first standby to go into the Thumbela sighting when she was lost, and as three other stations suddenly popped up on standby when earlier there was going to be no one, I didn’t feel like being rushed out of the sighting and pulled myself out of the line up.  The fact that they suddenly relocated Thumbela up a tree with a piece of meat, and the fact that all the stations that had claimed to be so close were not actually that close didn’t do my mood much good...but luckily a call informing us that Nthombi had been found about  1km from where I was suddenly brightened my mood!
My guests really love Nthombi, and wanted to see her, so I didn’t hesitate in responding, and fortunately not many other stations did, so we got to spend the latter part of the morning following this beauty around.

The beautiful Nthombi female!
She didn’t make it easy for us, and seldom sat still, but we kept up with her as she was on the prowl.

Nthombi on the prowl
She eventually went static for a while on a termite mound to survey her surrounds before wandering off and I left her for the one or two other vehicles that had come to see her after Thumbela was lost again.

Besides that, I did find a large breeding herd of buffalo east of Elephant Dam, warthogs, as well as a large herd of wildebeest which was a nice change!

Warthogs and eildebeest - not the prettiest of animals!
In the north, another large breeding herd of buffalo was found, but not a great deal else.  It was only in the early afternoon that Marka found our long-lost Kuhanya on his way to Java from Motswari – good to have her back, as I was starting to get worried about her whereabouts!
Sadly though, my afternoon dedicated to finding her was not as good.  After a lone elephant bull in the distance at the start of the drive, I didn’t really see much at all – even impalas were hard to find!
Petros and Patrick were following up on fresh tracks for Kuhanya near Karans Airstrip, but had no luck before it got dark.  I drove the eastern sections, but saw nothing...well, almost nothing.
Colbert called us to tell us he had something strange.  I almost didn’t believe it, but I instinctively put my foot down with a bit more power.  He had found an aardvark (ant-eater), one of the rarest and shiest of our animals.  To give you an indication, I have done over 2000 drives in the last 4 years and never seen one at Motswari.  In fact, the last one I saw was back in 1993!!!  Petros, who has been here for almost 9 years, still hasn’t seen one.  I was thus really upset that I was racing down the Kruger Cutline without him on my bonnet. 
Colbert was talking me through his sighting which didn’t help me, or maybe it did, as I arrived at Abercrombie Dam in record time, and there, drinking water, was an aardvark!


Aardvark drinking water in the day...need i say more!

I almost couldn’t believe it!  At first it looked small, but only in following behind it later (and man, it was so relaxed – like following Argyle Jnr leopardess or Shongile!) that I appreciated how big it was for something one expects to be small!

What a fantastic and special sighting - one i will never forget!
My guests appreciated the rarity of the sighting, and while at first I am not sure that Colbert’s guests did, they way we carried on about it, I think they slowly began to realise just how amazing lucky they were to see an aardvark on their first ever drive in the bush.  The only person not so happy was Mr David King!  Hahahaha!  Poor old Dave (our manager) has been in the Timbavati for over 6 years and is still waiting to see his first living aardvark!  I took much delight in showing him my pictures (very cruel, I know!)!  Truth be told, he did look happy for us, although the groans as he walked back to his house shoed how much he wished he had been out there with us. 
No one else was anywhere near us (it really was a remote location – the beauty of the east – you never know what you going to find!), and so only Colbert and I enjoyed this amazing sighting!  I eventually left it when a hyena came running in and chased it – probably as surprised about this weird animal as we were – and who can blame it?  it looks like a mix between a kangaroo, a rabbit, a big, a buffalo (legs), and a rat (rat-like tail)...very, very odd...and no wonder it only comes out after dark, with a face like that, I would also be inclined to hide!
Heading back to continue looking for Kuhanya after dark, all we got was a side-striped jackal that ran off...but who cares, we saw aardvark!

A day to remember!
The others actually had generally better drives than me, and they all got to see Mbali female leopard; not so odd, except for the fact that Godfrey first found her at Hide Dam of all places!  Don't know if she has ever been in that area before!  They also saw that large herd of buffalo as well as some nice elephants.
So that was my day – made unforgettable by a single, strange and totally unexpected animal...guess it really is true, you never know what to expect in the Timbavati!  Maybe a pangolin tomorrow morning...although I will be happy with Kuhanya or Shongile!


  1. WOW Chad, what a great sighting. I have never seen one!!!
    I have been away for a few days, and have missed out on a lot of great sightings... The lions with all their kills, and all the great leopard sightings. Great to see that Thumbela and Kuhanya was spotted again, and you have some lovely photos of Nthombi... But the aardvark sure makes the day!!!
    Love the elephant shots with all the textures and the close ups of the tusks.


  2. I had some great sighting of these guys on the Zambezi, be it at night ... what shocked me was actually how big they were ... from you images its got coloration not to dissimilar to a white tailed mongoose. never noted that ...

  3. Wow and wOw. Only seen in books, and man, not a photo of the day, more one or a couple of the year.
    Damn, lucky but just say you had the gear an know how to take lovely shots and share.
    This WILL be in the next coffee book !!!

    Well done


    PS, having errors posting to this blog.