Saturday, 9 July 2011

06th July – Raining Cats!

Photo of the Day
Ximungwe young female with an impala kill
Morning Drive
(Chad, Grant, Godfrey, Colbert and Herald)
2 x lions (Sohebele males) – De Luca, De Luca-Luttig Cutline
1 x rhino (Nhlangula male)
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Mbali, Windy Way
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Java, Java Access
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Argyle, Great North
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – De Luca, De Luca-Luttig Cutline
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Peru, Woza-Woza Cutline
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Argyle, Mfene Crossing
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Argyle, Argyle Dam (on bush walk)
1 x elephant bull – Motswari, Reception Link

Afternoon Drive
(Chad, Grant, Marka and Colbert)
12 x lions (Machaton Pride – 3 lionesses adn 9 cubs) – Kings, Nyati Pools
5 x lions (Mafikizolo Pride members – 1 lioness and 4 sub-adults) – Mbali, Windy Way
2 x leopards (Mbali female and unidentified male) – Peru, Woza-Woza Cutline/Windy Way
1 x leopard (Ximungwe female with impala kill) – Argyle, Argyle Airstrip
1 x leopard (Argyle Jnr’s male cub) – Argyle, Skatie’s Pad
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Java, Java Dam Access
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Motswari, Xinatsi Dam Rd
1 x breeding herd of elephant – Vielmetter, Vielmetter Access
3 x elephant bulls – Motswari, Reception Link
2 x elephant bulls – Kings, Mafikizolo Rd
1 x elephant bull – Argyle, Piva Plains

Daily Synopsis
One of the only downfalls of living in the paradise that we live in is that our internet is not always the quickest, and hence my delay in posting these latest blogs!  However, when one has days like I had today, I would rather live with slow internet than leave this place!
It was a cloudy and cold morning, and the clouds persisted most of the day, but did disappear in the evening leaving us with a beautiful but chilly night sky
Bumbling about in the north, with no real plan of action, we came across the usual impalas and some nice giraffe herds in the north which was good to see.  While watching some giraffes though, we were informed that the relaxed dominant male rhino of the area had been found, and my guests said that despite seeing rhinos in other reserves, they would be interested in going to see this one at Motswari, and so off I went.

We saw some kudus and waterbuck along the way, as well as more giraffe, but not a great deal else. 
I arrived to join Colbert in the sighting as Nhlangula made his way west, and we got to follow him as he plodded along, only stopping occasionally to feed. 

He had clearly been in a big fight, as his face was badly scarred with a large number of scrapes an cuts, but he was looking in good condition.  I did have to leave him after a short while, as I wanted to give some other stations a chance before he crossed off the reserve.
Scratched up Nhlangula male
Leaving the rhino grazing and going towards Makulu Dam for coffee, we saw plenty more waterbuck, hippos, lovely kudu bulls, a few zebras and more ubiquitous impalas.  Further to the north, we bumped into a large breeding herd of buffalo (one of three found this morning – including one seen briefly being followed by the two Sohebele male lions before they crossed off our traversing area) that were just grazing in the area.   I did also see a Sharpe’s Grysbok on Mbali.

Rhino, breeding herd of buffalo and waterbuck trying to mate!
Other news for the morning included lion tracks for the Mafikizolo Pride in the north, but that was a bit confusing as some of them had seemingly chased the Machaton Pride off their giraffe kill and polished off what was left?  Rubbing salt into the wounds a bit was the fact that tracks for the Timbavati Male lions did indeed turn up at Hide Dam, meaning that they must have been resting in the drainage line behind the dam the evening before, and we just couldn’t find them! 
I took my guests out for a bushwalk after breakfast and walked around Argyle Dam and besides impala, hippo’s nostrils and a crocodile, we were lucky enough to encounter a breeding herd of elephants on the walk too!
My afternoon drive was a very chilled, and extremely productive affair; especially for cats!
It started off with some large elephant bulls as we left the camp, before we headed towards Vyeboom Dam where another guide had found a young male leopard.  I wasn't holding out on seeing him well, but as a leopard kill had been found in the area, I thought if I missed out on him, at least there was a chance I would see the other one.  As it turns out, I got to see both!
The young male (Argyle Jnr’s “current” son) required a bit of patience, as for the majority of the 25 minutes we spent with him, he was hidden behind bushes, and moved off when we tried to reposition. 
Hiding young male leopard
Only once did he cross the road in the open before going to sleep in grass only 15m from us, but even knowing he was there was not enough to see anything more than literally 2 spots!  So when the other leopard was reported at the impala kill, I slowly headed over there.

Ximungwe female's brother crossing the road and keeping an eye on us!
Along the route, we got kudus, impala and a large crocodile basking in the sun at Vyeboom Dam.

Crocodile and impala at Vyeboom Dam
I arrived at the leopard kill, but as I did she dropped the kill out of the tree, and I realised that it wasn't Argyle Jnr who I had hoped it would be.  It turned out to be her “current” daughter – Ximungwe Female.  It was the first time I have really been able to view and photograph this leopard, and man, oh man, she is a stunner!  She is not on the level of Shongile or Kuhanya for being relaxed, but in terms of beauty, she is possibly even more beautiful!  I think I almost fell in love!

Ximungwe female leopard eating her impala kill
Anyway, she was now down on the ground feeding, and I didn’t want to go too close in case we chased her off, so we slowly edged closer, stopping every time she looked at us, but after a while of not getting all that close, she voluntarily just wandered off.

I followed behind at a distance and found where she was lying grooming.  Even in repositioning myself though, she didn’t pay much attention, and only once moved off when I tried getting too close. 
After that though, we followed her for a bit longer, and at one point I had parked, giving her lots of space, and she chose on her own to come and walk about 10m past us without even giving us a second glance – so that was mightily encouraging, and after that we chose to leave, and thus left her with a good impression of the Land Rovers!

Ximungwe female - beauty personified!
I was then informed that the Mafikizolo Pride, or at least part of it, was found just east of Mbali Dam, and so I headed over there, and I was then told that Mbali female leopard had also been found about 150m from the lions...with a male leopard!  This suddenly confirmed our suspicions that her vast wanderings had been in search of a male due to her coming into estrus!  She had found one, and was following him like a shadow, but sadly they weren’t seen mating.
Unidentified male leopard with Mbali female
As they were literally on the access to the lion sightings, and the fact that my guests hadn’t seen a mature male leopard at Motswari, I stopped off with the two leopards for a few minutes before letting the other stations move through while I went to the lions.  Later, while Grant was following them, Mbali killed a korhaan (large bird) in front of him!
I went to see the lions, and that was also encouraging, as they were reasonably relaxed this afternoon and didn’t run off as the guides respected their comfort levels.  I viewed them for a while after dark, but eventually left them static in the same area.  There were only 4 that I could see, but Johannes reported seeing 5.  Grant and Colbert saw 12; but I guess that was because they went south to Kings to see the Machatons!

Mafikizolo Pride
After all those cats (and still hearing that Klakisa female and one of her cubs were at an impala kill not far from Mbali and this unknown male), I went for a drink and then headed back to the lodge and a warm fire in the boma!  Heading to the lodge, we saw some elephants as well as a large-spotted genet to round off a very enjoyable day in the Timbavati!


  1. Great day... Love the amount of leopard sightings Chad!!!

    Ximungwe sure is beautiful...


  2. fantastic photos Chad, they really make me want to come back very soon !

  3. Beautiful photo's as usual... You sure know how to make the rest of us jealous...