Monday, 22 August 2011

20th August – So THAT is what a Lion Looks Like...oh, and Another Aardvark!

Photo of the Day
The gorgeous Vyeboom Dam male
Morning Drive
(Chad, Grant, Marka and Herold)
11 x lions (Machaton Pride – 3 x lioness and 8 cubs) – Umlani, Ngala Look Out
1 x leopard (Vyeboom Dam Male) – Motswari, Wedge Northern Boundary
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Rockfig, Elloff
2 x buffalo - Motswari, Wedge Northern Boundary
5 x elephants – Motswari, Airstrip Rd

Afternoon Drive
(Chad, Grant, Marka and Herold)
1 x aardvark – Vielmetter, Hide Dam Southern Access
11 x lions (Machaton Pride – 3 x lioness and 8 cubs) – Rockfig, Hugo’s Drive
2 x leopards (Kuhanya female and Vyeboom Dam male with warthog kill) – Motswari, Camp Dam
1 x leopard (Nthombi female) – Kings, Cheetah Plains
1 x leopard (Xinopinopi male with scrub hare kill) – Rockfig, Impala Dam
2 x buffalo bulls – Peru, Xinzele Rd
2 x elephants – Vielmetter, Hide Dam

Daily Synopsis
I set off on drive on another wonderful day in the bush – this is how winter should always be – 30 degree days, and not a cloud in sight!  I had some new guests that missed out on last night’s drive, so it was just a case of taking it easy and enjoying everything on their first trip to the bush.  We soon found a hyena walking across the airstrip and spent a bit of time watching her before moving onto a small group of elephant bulls just south of the airstrip.

Hyena on the airstrip
We had no sooner stopped to view them when Johannes “Leopard Man” Mhkari, after less than 10 minutes into his first drive back after leave, called to tell us that he had a leopard not too far from the camp!  He wasn't sure of the ID, but it was sitting on a small rocky outcrop right on our northern boundary, and I apologised to my guests for dragging them away from the elephants, but explained that we might not be able to see the leopard if it moves, and should get there as quick as possible and come back for the elephants later.  They didn’t disagree, and so we headed back a few kilometres north to join Johannes. 
It did however take us probably 15 minutes further before we actually saw the leopard.  The problem was that it was stalking a herd of impalas that were right on the Ingwelala boundary road, and we didn’t want to chase them into Ingwelala, as the leopard would then stalk off after them.  After some time though, the impalas moved into Ingwelala, and when no leopard followed we pulled forward to see that it was still sitting on the rock – and having had no cover to move closer to the impalas, he had remained motionless on the rock the whole time!  With the impalas gone, we moved closer and tried our best to view him, but sadly the bushes around the rocks didn’t make it easy!

Vyeboom Dam male
After a few minutes, he got up, stretched and went wandering to the south, deeper into Motswari.  We followed him for a while until he went into a very dense area and we left him on his own. 

Vyeboom Dam male looking a bit lean
As all of the other Motswari stations had gone down to Umlani to see the Machaton Pride that had eventually returned to traversable area, I was pretty much the only station operating in the north and enjoyed just bumbling about.
We saw a few giraffe near the leopard, as well as two impressive buffalo bulls that were grazing near the road.

A gang of dagga boys
Carrying on towards Argyle Dam for coffee, we found a nice herd of impala that suddenly started alarm calling, but we checked the area and found nothing – clearly just playing a trick on us!
After a nice cup of coffee on a warming morning, and satisfied with our luck so far, we checked the east for some surprises, but came up pretty empty handed – there was a small group of zebras, impala and steenbuck, but nothing least we had some lions to go visit in the afternoon, although I knew that it was so far south that we would need our passports!

With a long drive ahead, I forewarned my guests and so we set off to the west to cut down along Argyle Rd to the south where the lions had moved onto Rockfig property (and they had kindly extended an invitation to me), hoping too to bump into a rhino or two along the way. 
As usual, the drive started off with a sounder of warthogs, herds of impalas, a few steenbuck on Piva Plains, hippos and crocodiles at Sohebele Dam, and our pair of tawny eagles at their nest.

Warthogs, crocodiles and hippos
Carrying on to the west, we found some buffalo bulls, more crocodiles and nice birds at Concrete Crossing, but very little else as we ventured down south.  This was made more annoying my the fact that Dave radioed to tell as that the monkeys were going crazy at the camp.  Then a leopard walked past in front of the camp towards the dam wall.  Marka was not far away and arrived to find Kuhanya female and Vyeboom Dam male together at the rocks near the dam wall!  Later, it was discovered that they actually a warthog kill there, but sadly the hyenas pitched up and stole it...all the while, I was looking at trees!

Crocodile, Saddle-billed stork and male kudus
Fortunately all is well that ends well, and once in the south, we actually had an amazing afternoon...
It started with us visiting the 11 Machaton lions as they rested in the open – although sadly, despite timing it well again, they were not active in the period that they should be, and just rested with only a bit of suckling, grooming and movement taking place.  Even the nearby sounds of a breeding herd of buffalo at a waterhole were not enough to tempt the lions into action.

Machaton Pride
While with the lions, King’s Camp invited us to go and see Nthombi female leopard on Cheetah Plains, not far away, where she was mating with a skittish male.  Grant took them up on this invitation, and I was going to, but when Martin from Rockfig told me that Xinopinopi male leopard was at the nearby Impala Dam, and said I was welcome to go and see him – as I have never seen this young male leopard, it didn’t take a lot of thinking on my behalf to move towards him!

The very good-looking and very relaxed Xinopinopi young male leopard from the south with his scrub hare kill
We arrived, just as darkness was setting in and found him wandering about, but he soon went back to the scrub hare that he had just killed and began feeding!  He was an amazingly relaxed young male, and will hopefully stick around for some years to come – if he doesn’t get chased too far out of the area by his father!
As it was getting late, and we were still miles from home, we reluctantly left and made our way back north.  After some drinks in the fading light, we proceeded home, checkin on Cheetah Plains but finding no mating leopards.  Heading past Hide Dam, and onto more familiar territory, we bypassed some impala and giraffe, as well as two young elephants near Hide Dam.  Deciding to check down the southern access to see if it was a herd worth following up on tomorrow, we found no further elephants, but did find a large spotted genet.  Great!
Not two minutes later, and while talking to Grant on the radio to get a rugby score update for my guests, Tiyani flicked his light excitedly.  I turned to my right and saw a shape.  As I was only half concentrating on the animal, it took me a second or two to figure out what it was...then it turned sie voice’s pitch increased a few octaves, and Grant didn’t believe me when I squealed “****, I have an aardvark!”  Can you believe it!!!  Not one aardvark in 4 years, now I see two in less than 6 weeks!!!  Sadly though, it was only a quick sighting, and as we tried to get a bit closer, he/she appeared to have disappeared into a hole that had a lot of dust coming out of it!  Either that, or it moved into an impenetrable thicket, and we got no further view of it...but hey, it was 20 seconds more aardvark viewing that anyone else got today!  From the size of the one hole, it appears that it may have a burrow there, and we will definitely check on that area again in the next few days!
Following that, we didn’t see a great deal else, but did see some zebras and a small spotted genet before closing all in all, not a bad day I’d say!!!


  1. WOW Chad, great sighting.
    Even 20 seconds is more than I have ever seen. Except on TV and in books :-)
    Well done!!!

    Lovely Lion and leopard pics. Love the leopard through the bushes, those pics actually did not come out bad at all!!!
    Love the buf close up shots as well.


  2. amazing photo's. We just got back from Phinda. Didn't get to see leopard or hyena.