Thursday, 4 August 2011

02nd August – Mafikizolo Pride Returns

Photo of the Day
Early morning spotted hyena
Morning Drive
(Chad, Marka and Herold)
8 x lions (Mafikizolo Pride) – Karans, Karan’s Southern Access
2 x rhino (relaxed female rhinos)
2 x rhino (semi-relaxed males)
1 x elephant bull – Motswari, Trade Entrance Dam

Afternoon Drive
(Chad, Godfrey, Marka and Herold)
8 x lions (Mafikizolo Pride) – Karans, Western Cutline
1 x leopard (Nthombi’s Boy) – Vielmetter, Elephant Dam
1 x leopard (Klakisa’s Boy) – Peru, Elephant Crossing
2 x buffalo bulls – Motswari, Wedge River Rd
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Peru, Elephant Crossing
1 x elephant bull – Motswari, Airstrip

Daily Synopsis
Sorry, I know I have been REALLY bad with these updates, and I do apologise for that, but has been hectic at the lodge, and struggling to find the time to sit down and put pen to paper...or finger to keyboard if you prefer!
Good news is that I am feeling better, although poor ol’ Dave now seems to be feeling a bit off-colour.  Fortunately, it is just ourselves that have been struggling, and the guests have been enjoying some good game viewing the last few days!  This is what I can remember of my 28, it’s hard to remember what I ate for breakfast this morning, let alone what I saw two days back!!!
I started the drive with some new guests that missed out on yesterday evening’s drive, so as always I began looking for the northern leopards, hoping that at least one would pop up.  As seems to be the story of my life, none did!
After finding a few giraffe north of camp, I headed to the airstrip, where, while spotting some distant giraffes, we found ourselves a couple of hyenas crossing the strip to the east. 

We left them to it, and continued to the herd of giraffes and spent some nice time discussing the giraffes and watching them as a small steenbok ram came walking past us.

Giraffe and steenbok
In the distance, the giraffes spotted a third hyena making her way across the airstrip, and she stopped to make for a wonderful, truly African scene that is so typical in the wilderness that is Motswari and the Timbavati!

Wonderful setting of Motswari and the Timbavati
Passing the large dams, but slowly dwindling, dams near the lodge, we ticked off hippos and crocodiles, as well as a few impalas before moving to the east to assist Johannes and Marka that had found tracks for the Mafikizolo Pride returning from their foray into Kruger.  I joined and soon found tracks heading back to the west, towards Java area.  Finding no tracks coming out of the area, I left Petros with Patrick and Johannes and went for a cup of coffee at Java Dam...well, we had to wait for some impalas to finish theirs first, then we enjoyed ours!

Impala at Java Dam
After coffee, I carried on bumbling about, and soon got word that the trackers had found the lions, and took my time waiting for the other two closer guides to go onto Karan’s first before I went to take over the sighting.  Sadly, during the day, the pride is still not relaxed – yet it was still a “good” sighting by their old standards, and they no longer run away.  The worry is the one female that always growls when we approach, but given space she calms down.  The rest of the pride walk off, but don’t run, so big improvement!  After some time they settle and you can view them at a distance – the young male still provides the best viewing.
It was not the most wonderful sighting I have ever had, so much so I didn’t even get any photos (too busy dodging mopane trees!  It was already late in the morning, so we left them and headed back to camp, and found an entertaining elephant bull near the camp as he approached Trade Entrance Pan to have a drink of water.  He appeared fussy, and splashed his trunk around in the water more than he drank.  It made us thirsty, so we pulled around the corner to the lodge for some refreshing fruit juice and a delicious breakfast!

Elephant having fun at Trade Entrance Dam
The afternoon approached, and I needed leopard, but didn’t have a clue where to find one.  Being a hot afternoon, I did know that the trip along the Nhlaralumi would no doubt produce game, and it sure did.
After seeing only impala and hippo en route to Mbali Dam, we suddenly got ourselves a big herd of waterbuck, impala, baboons, dwarf mongooses, more hippos and some lovely scenery!

Dwarf mongoose and Impala
Further along, we found a herd of giraffes, and not long after that, a big family of kudus.
Kudu family
It was not too long after that when we found a small breeding herd of elephants feeding on the banks of the Nhlaralumi.  We spent some nice time with them, and as I was getting to ready to go, a leopard was radioed in at Elephant Dam, and while a slight distance off, I still had to go, especially as my guests had come to Motswari primarily to see leopards!
I had got no more than 500m down the road when Godfrey, whom I had left in the elephant sighting, radioed me.  He asked me where I was going, and I explained how I had to go see the leopard at Elephant Dam.  He again said, “where are you going.....there is a leopard right here!”  I had no sooner left the sighting when one of Klaskisa female’s cubs popped out of the dense bush into the open!  I guess that is the sort of luck you have when you are in the Top 8 finalists for Field Guide of the Year (although we won’t tell anyone that it was actually Godfrey’s guest, Peter, that spotted it!).
I turned around and went to join him, but literally saw the leopard for two or three seconds before he disappeared into the reeds and was gone.  As Nthombi’s boy was still around Elephant Dam, we continued on our mission and saw more impala and a herd of male giraffes play fighting in the middle of the road.
There was quite a line up, so we stopped to enjoy a sundowner and then went into the sighting after that.  It was my guest’s first ever leopard they had seen, and he put on a good show (although, as it was at night, it was terrible for photos) as he had decided that tonight was the night to harass the guineafowls roosting in the leadwood trees at the dam!  The leopard showed off his agility as he ran up and down the trees in pursuit of a meal, but despite his energy and ability, he was unable to get a meal, and we left him as he disappeared over the dam wall.

Nthombi's boy chasing guineafowl up and down leadwood trees a Elephant Dam
Feeling happy with this, we headed homeward, but our drive was not yet done.  We came across a side-striped jackal, and shortly before closing down, a spotted hyena. 
We were also lucky enough to bump into the Mafikizolo Pride again, after dark, as they were crossing Western Cutline into Java.  At night, they appear to be a different pride of lions, and seem almost at total ease with us!  No running away, no looking at us, no growling...just lions acting like “habituated” lions do!  We counted eight lions as they crossed in front of us before heading back to camp.
Mafikizolo Pride at night on the way back to camp
So that is that...and just in case you were wondering, I had fruit salad an yoghurt with granadilla coulis for breakfast today...will see if this memory can keep up, and catch up with present day sightings!!! 
Enjoy J


  1. Hello,

    Love reading your blog..can you tell me what camera and filter you use..awesome shots!!! Thanks, Melissa

  2. hello melissa :)

    thank you so much for looking at the blog and the wonderful comment!

    as for your question; i make use of Canon 1DmkIII cameras, and a range of lenses, but mostly a Canon 70-200f2.8 IS and a CAnon 500f4 lens, with a 24-70 f2.8 and 120-300 f2.8 as back ups. i do not use any filters on my lenses either :)

    hope that helps!

    enjoy reading the blog


    Chad Cocking