Wednesday, 31 August 2011

30th August: Tough Going.

Pic of the Day.

Morning Drive.

( Herold, Marka & Petros.)

Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / Peru – Giraffe Kill Lookout.
Buffalo ( Dagha Boys) / Mbali – Mvubu Crossing.
Buffalo ( Dagha Boys) / Motswari – Wisani Crossing.

Afternoon Drive.

( Herold, Marka & Petros.)

Leopard ( Mbali) / Peru – Woza Woza Cutline.
Elephant ( Kambaku's) / Mbali – Mbali dam.
Buffalo ( Dagha Boys) / Argyle – Vyeboom Dam.
Buffalo ( Dagha Boys) / Mbali – Mvubu Crossing.

Daily Synopsis.

Greetings all I'm back and here with you for the next two weeks as Chad heads on leave. He is off to chase the animals from Tanzania, taking his talent global. As you can hear no jealousy here, besides I get to bring you all the wonderful sightings that we are bound to have now that Chad is not here!

Jokes a side, the viewing did improve around four o'clock yesterday afternoon, coincidently at about the same time Chad left the reserve, as the guys found Mbali, a very welcome Leopard sighting. Being the first Leopard sighting in a number of days in the North the guys naturally spent as much time with her as possible as she made her way towards Sohobele Dam. Along the way they were privileged enough to watch her stalk and unfortunately not catch a Guinea Fowl, well I guess it depends on who's side you site, I'm sure the Guinea Fowl considers itself fortunate! After her unsuccessful hunt she proceeded to the dam where the guys got to watch her drink before heading off themselves for sundowners.

I'll be joining the boy's from Thursday afternoon so you can expect a fuller recount of our adventures from then but until then I'll keep you updated with the sightings and a brief overview.  

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

30th August - My How We Have Grown - Thank You!

How our views have grown!  Thank you all for the loyal following :)

Not a blog update, but just an interesting little post to show you how we this blog has grown over the last year!
This week, we passed our 100,000th page view, and we are still growing!  This time last year, we were averaging about 1,800 views a month, and now, we easily surpass 12,000 views a month, with our record being almost 17,000 in one month!
I just want to take this opportunity to thank all of you for your loyal following of this blog, the continuous comments (and apologies for not always responding, but we do read them!), and I trust that over the coming years, you will keep on enjoying it!
It takes a lot of work from Grant and myself to keep this going, but when we see how much you all enjoy it, it definitely makes it worth the effort!
So please keep on reading, keep on sharing this page, and we all hope that one day you get to come and experience the magic of Motswari for yourself!
Happy virtual game viewing!

And in case you are interested, you can go and read our 5 most viewed post of all time - they are:

7 Jun 2011, 12 comments
1,415 Pageviews
29 May 2011, 5 comments
1,175 Pageviews
6 Jun 2011, 4 comments
537 Pageviews
8 Jun 2011, 9 comments
514 Pageviews
13 Jan 2011, 1 comment
479 Pageviews

28th August and 29th August – The Struggle Continues!!!

On This Day
28th August - A Wild Dog Den on De Luca with 7 adults and 12 pups!
28th August Morning Drive
3 x rhino (2 relaxed female and 1 male white rhino)

28th August Afternoon Drive
(Herold, Petros and Marka)
1 x leopard (Argyle Male) – Argyle, Mangova Rd
3 x buffalo bulls – Peru, Hippo Rocky Rd
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Argyle, Rudy’s Rd
3 x elephant bulls – Argyle, Vyeboom Dam

29th August Morning Drive
(Herold, Petros and Marka)
3 x buffalo bulls – Karans, Northern Access

29th August Afternoon Drive
(Herold, Petros and Marka)
11 x lions (Machaton Pride – 3 lionesses and 8 cubs) – Tanda Tula, Sunset Rd
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Tanda Tula, Cecil Street
5 x buffalo (being chased by lions) – Tanda Tula, Sunset Rd
1 x buffalo bull – Tanda Tula, Elloff Street
2 x rhino (relaxed females)
1 x rhino (Nhlangula male)
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Tanda Tula, Argyle Rd
1 x elephant bull – Peru, Flooded Crossing
1 x elephant bull – Karans, Moeniejag Crossing

Daily Synopsis
So not having been on drive the last few days, there is not much for me to write...and looking at the sightings, even if I was on drive, there would not have been much for me to write!
The quiet period continues, and the last two days have been far from spectacular – that being said, the guides have commented on the good numbers of general game (kudu, zebra, giraffe, impala, waterbuck) that they have been seeing.
Sunday night saw the return of Argyle male leopard, and Marka and Herold got to see him near Argyle Dam before he was sadly lost in some thick bush before Petros could respond.  Once more, John, our night watchman, appears to have the leopard luck, and he watched a leopard chasing after bushbuck in front of the camp in the middle of the night!
Monday morning sounded deadly quiet on the big game front, but that all turned around in the afternoon!
The north was struggling for lions again, and Tanda Tula thankfully came to the rescue and invited the northern stations down to the south in the afternoon to go and see the Machaton Pride.  As all the northern stations accepted this invite, it left the north unmanned, but they all had a good afternoon in the south.  Still on our property, the guides found Nhlangula male rhino near Nkombi Pan, and continuing further south, another two relaxed female rhinos were found on Argyle Rd, as was a breeding herd of elephants.
At the lion sighting, Petros and his guests had a heart-stopping moment when the three lionesses started to chase five buffalo bulls...but chased them straight for the Land Rover!  Petros reversed a fraction and the buffalo’s veered off at the last minute with three lionesses in hot pursuit, and the eight cubs jogging along behind!  Exciting stuff, but sadly the lions missed and the buffalo got away.
Grant is back from leave, a memorable one for him I guess!  So he will be taking over blogging duties from tomorrow and until I return!  I guess though, with me leaving, the animals are bound to come out and in force: so expect cheetah, wild dog, leopard kills and white lions this coming week!  I tried my best to trick them by staying an extra week and not using my usual leave cycle, but it didn’t work...maybe it’s the soap I use?
Until then...take care!
And here are some pics of "on this day" :)

"On this Day" - Impala (2008), unknown young male leopard stalking a duiker (2009), zebras (2009), and an afternoon at the den site of our wild dog pack (2008)

Sunday, 28 August 2011

27th August – Leopard At Last!!!

Photo of the Day
Mbali - has she dropped her cubs?

Morning Drive
(Chad and Herold)
1 x leopard (Mbali female) – Java, Back of Java
2 x rhino (2 relaxed female white rhinos)
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Java, Back of Java
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Peru, Giraffe Kill Lookout

Afternoon Drive
No Big 5 Sightings

Daily Synopsis
So, my last drive with my guests, and my last drive for the cycle...could I redeem myself and find a leopard for my guests...surely, I could not go 8 drives with no leopard!
For the umpteenth time, I headed to the wedge, hoping that one of our leopards would be lying up in a tree as the glorious morning light bathed the autumn-tinged bush in an array of colours that was only amplified by the gather dark clouds in the west.  Sadly, as the morning went on, the clouds won over and it turned out to be a blustery and cloudy morning, and loads cooler than yesterday’s 33 degrees!
There were impala, steenbuck, duikers and kudus around, but no leopards.  We saw some hippos and waterbuck at Sohebele Dam, but no leopards.

Impala, kudu and waterbuck
Hearing that a mating pair of leopards was seen near Illegal Crossing, and despite having run-off into the reeds of the Nhlaralumi, I still took a chance.
On the way, there was a nice breeding herd of elephants in the riverbed that went to drink below Giraffe Kill Lookout, and we ended up having our coffee watching as the herd dug and drank from the riverbed, while the young bull elephant played about with one another.

Elephant herd in the Nhlaralumi
Two of my guests, Denise and Geoff, had to leave early and Patrick came to pick them up.  I was most disappointed as they were a lovely couple, and I really wanted to show them leopard, but for the second time in the last few days, I had guests leaving without seeing leopard – and that never makes me happy.
It was thus with a cruel irony that shortly after coffee stop the radio crackled with Herold’s voice to notify us that he had found a leopard on Western Cutline, near Java Access.  I spun the Land Rover around and headed straight in his direction!
It was Mbali, and she had climbed down the tree and was now walking west, but I joined Herold to see this old gal as she strutted her stuff.  So while Geoff and Denise had missed out, at least my other guests got to see her...well, two of them had to join Herold as he headed back to camp, as the poor weather meant that their flight from the lodge would not be taking off, so they needed a road transfer to the airport.  That left me with just two guests, and we spent some wonderful time with Mbali.

Mbali on the hunt
She eventually climbed a tree and surveyed her surrounds, and that was where we left her to make space for Giyani and his Java guests.

Mbali up a marula tree
Some potentially very good news is that Mbali is no longer pregnant!  When we saw her on Java a couple weeks back, she was looking quite pregnant, but that fat belly is gone, and her teats do appear to have been suckled upon – so there is a very good chance that she has had cubs, possibly in the drainage line near Java, but only time will tell if we are correct (bearing in mind that we haven’t seen any of the last two litters that we suspected she has had!).
For the first time in a number of drives, I headed back partially satisfied with what we had seen, although truth-be-told, the bush had not lived up to its usual superb sightings!  But I guess that is the beauty of the bush – you just never know what you are going to see!  And I wouldn’t want it any other way J
So that is me done for this cycle: its been a goodie with some wonderful highlights!  I have personally seen no fewer than 17 different individual leopards, aardvark, cheetah on a kill, five different prides of lions (30 different lions in total), great rhino sightings and good elephant and buffalo!  I can’t wait to see what next cycle has in store for me! 
Until then, I will keep you posted on the other guide’s sightings for the next few days before I go leave.  Enjoy!

26th August – Lions at Last!!!

Photo of the Day
Timbavati male lion on a giraffe kill
Morning Drive
(Chad and Herold)
12 x lions (Machaton Pride -  1 Timbavati Male, 3 lionesses and 8 cubs on a giraffe kill) – Tanda Tula, Idlamashox Rd
1 x rhino (Nhlangula male)

Afternoon Drive
(Chad and Herold)
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Peru, Pan Rd
3 x buffalo bulls – Peru, Giraffe Kill Rd

Daily Synopsis
So after yesterday’s frustration, I had high hopes that things would turn around today.  While there were lions in the south, I was saving that card for the afternoon, but when I heard that there was not much of the giraffe left, I thought that I had better play it safe and go there in the morning.
I spent the first hour or so of the drive looking for leopard in the north, and while Difference and Johannes were following up on fresh tracks north of camp, they tracked them all the way into Ingwelala.
I saw some nice nyala, impala and giraffe, but then made the trip south, and the sighting didn’t seem all that busy, so I headed straight there.  There were some zebra and kudus on the way, but really not much else.

Arriving at Machaton Dam, I saw two other vehicles standing by, and a third approaching!  I was not prepared to sit in a queue for a sighting, and pulled out of the area.  Cynet from Kings then kindly invited me to come and see a rhino that he had not all that far away, so to kill time, I headed over towards Nyati Pools to see Nhlangula male.  Once more, he was sleeping, but too jumped to his feet once before repositioning and nodding off!

Nhlangula male down in the south
I then moved back east towards the lions, and even got to drive on a road and in an area that I had never driven before, so that was great for me!
Impalas and some new roads for me!
We also got lucky in that one of the Timbavati male lions had moved in to join his pride at the kill, as he had not been present earlier.

Timbavati Male on the giraffe kill
He was the only one active and feeding on the large giraffe carcass, while the other eleven lions all lazed about fat-bellied trying to keep cool on a warm morning. 

Lion on the kill
The cubs moved from time to time, but there was not a lot of activity from them.

Fat and sleepy - Machaton Pride!
More energetic were the hooded vultures that were walking about near the carcass eating the scraps!

Hooded vultures waiting around looking for scraps
We pulled out as it was already late, and we had a long trip home – although to be honest, the fact that the lions had killed this giraffe on one of the few small mopane belts in the south did make it feel like home already!
The afternoon saw us resuming with operation leopard.  We failed.  I almost couldn’t believe how poor our leopard viewing had gotten the last few days, and at the end of the drive, it marked seven drives without a sighting of a leopard.  This was only made more frustrating by the fact that not long before we had arrived back at the camp, Kuhanya leopardess had come wandering through the entrance to reception and  we found her tracks walking all along the pathways in the if to taunt us!
As for the drive...well, the less said the better!  We saw three buffalo bulls, a few giraffe, impala, steenbuck, duiker, warthogs, zebras, wildebeest and waterbuck, but nothing of note.  We spent much of the evening looking for the Mafikizolo pride that Giyani had found on Java in the morning, but despite hearing them roaring, we couldn’t locate them. 
Giraffe on a quiet afternoon (sorry, i was also lazy to take photos of the other animals!)
We had a nice sighting of a hyena, and I am sure the lions were nearby, but luck was no our side today, and I headed back to camp feeling very dejected.  So much so that I only took one photo the whole drive...I really hope that the bush has something special in store for me tomorrow!