Tuesday, 2 August 2011

31st July – Windy Weather leads to Happy Cats!

Photo of the Day
Relaxed female cheetah

Morning Drive
(Chad and Herold)
1 x leopard (Argyle male with warthog kill) – Motswari, Sharalumi Link North
2 x leopards (Nthombi and young male “cub” with impala kill) – Vielmetter, Entrance Dam Rd
2 x rhinos (2 relaxed female white rhinos)
1 x rhino (Nhlangula male)
1 x rhino (relaxed, unknown male white rhino)
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Argyle, Peru Entrance
2 x elephant bulls – Vielmetter, Elephant Dam
1 x elephant bull- Motswari, Airstrip Rd

Afternoon Drive
(Chad, Marka and Herold)
1 x cheetah (relaxed female with impala kill) – Peru, Argyle Rd
1 x leopard (Argyle male with warthog kill) – Motswari, Sharalumi Link North
2 x leopards (Nthombi and young male “cub” with impala kill) – Vielmetter, Entrance Dam Rd
2 x rhinos (2 relaxed female white rhinos)
2 x buffalo bulls – Motswari, Trade Entrance

Daily Synopsis
After yesterday’s rather frustrating performance by our animals, I headed out there, knowing that at least I had a leopard, and possibly two, to see.  As almost everyone else went to see Nthombi yesterday, I knew that there would be very little attention given to her this morning, and so I duly headed straight south.
It was a bit chilly, and again, there was very little to see first thing in the morning...on the route I took at least!  Of all the mornings for the north to pump with sightings, it would have been the one I chose to head straight south.  While heading south, I was informed of: three different breeding herds of elephants, three separate rhino sightings, buffalo bulls, and Argyle male leopard with a warthog kill not 5 minutes from Motswari!  So why was I going south?
I bit the bullet, and carried on, hoping that Nthombi would reward me with my persistence.  After about 30 minutes, things started picking up, and we started with a nice herd of blue wildebeest bear Java.

After that, we saw many steenbucks, impalas, and a pleasingly large number of kudus – both cows and large, impressive bulls.

Steenbuck and kudu bull
Giyani had arrived and confirmed that Nthombi was still with her impala kill, but she had company – her now almost-independent boy was with her.
I soon joined Giyani, and found Nthombi sleeping on the ground below the marula tree, and the boy feeding on the kill above her.

Nthombi resting below the tree, and her boy feeding up it
I don’t think he is the sharpest tool in the shed, and for some reason, halfway through feeding, grabbed the kill, jumped out of the tree and ran off to the north, across a drainage line, tripping on the carcass as he went!  Nthombi looked at him with the expression, as if to say “did I really raise him like that?”  Nthombi herself got a half of an impala leg from the deal and walked off to eat that in peace.

Nthombi and her impala leg
We relocated the young male leopard as he ate the kill under a bush before leaving them to go back north.

Nthombi's boy with the kill
We found another couple of nice herds of kudus, as well as two elephant bulls at Elephant Dam.

Kudu and elephants
Continuing through the western section to begin looking for at least one of the rhino sightings, we found some waterbuck, impala and warthog.  Then we found Giyani, and asked him where the rhinos were, he confirmed he had seen no tracks coming out of the block, deduced they were still inside it, and I said I would go ahead and look for Nhlangula male instead.
Not a minute later, he radioed me to ask why I had just driven past the rhinos!  Amazing how things can suddenly appear!  I was just happy to see them, two relaxed females, as I never did locate Nhlangula male!

Warthog and two relaxed white rhinos
As it was getting late we continued camp-ward, and saw more of many things – impala, kudu, waterbuck, a breeding herd of elephants, male waterbuck, crocodiles and even a nice pair of tawny eagles with a fresh guineafowl kill.

Tawny eagles with a guineafowl kill and a waterbuck herd
Shortly before arrive back to camp, we saw another large elephant bull, then closed down for a well earned breakfast.
large elephant bull
The afternoon was going to be an easy, stress-free affair, and with Argyle male leopard not 2km from the camp, I wasn't going to go far.  It was this nothing that allowed me to spend 20-minutes waiting for a hippo to resurface in a small pool of water below Lover’s Leap!  The hippo went underwater when we arrived, and despite 6 of us sitting and watching, it took an age to resurface – so long that we couldn’t drive off until he came to the surface again, just to see how long he could hold his breath.  It was 20-minutes until he came up again!  Most books quote 8-minutes as a maximum, so I have my doubts, even at my own observations.  He did come up in a different spot to our primary focus area, but I am still sure we would have seen his nostrils had he come up for air?
Steenbuck ram
We then climbed back into the car, and I was going to head towards the leopard, but the Timbavati had other ideas, and I was told that a cheetah had been found on the main Argyle Rd, quite far north!  Herold was already on his way to follow up, as his guests had seen it coming in – what a great start to their stay at Motswari!
 Another guide happened to be driving past, and spotted the cheetah, that now had a fresh impala kill (no doubt asisted by the still windy weather)!  I knew the leopard could wait, and headed in the cheetah’s direction, slowly.  Sadly, it seems that all the other guides in the reserve had the same idea, just a bit quicker!
I hate rushing, but the problem was that the light was fading, and we don’t view cheetahs after dark.  The west is not the most interesting area to just drive around in waiting to go into a sighting, so I was in a predicament, until I heard of two rhinos near Lily Pan, and as I was close, I responded to kill time.
White rhinos
Bad idea!  After another rhino sighting in the area disappeared, the stations them wanted to come to my rhinos, and I had to wait for them, all the while the light was slowly fading!  It was exceptionally frustrating, but I didn’t want to just leave the rhinos unattended (well, I did, but im not that sort of guide!).
Eventually, one station came to take over the sighting, and I rushed off towards the cheetah, the sun now having set.  Fortuntately though, the line up was now non-existent, and I was the last station to go in there.  I ended up spending almost half-an-hour with the cheetah until it got too dark to view her anymore.

It is such a privilege to see such a rare animal, and even better with a kill; only my second time in 5 years at the lodge!  At first she was just lying down, fat bellied, but weary of possible scavengers and other predators that could come and steal the massive, fully-grown, adult, female impala from her.

As the light was fading to darkness, she got up and moved over to the kill to begin feeding, and we stayed with her until dark and then left her in peace, delighted with what we had seen!

Cheetah and her impala kill
There was not a great deal else this afternoon, as the cheetah stole the show, but Marka went to see Argyle male leopard, and Dave went out with some of the staff to show them this impressive male too.  At least I know where I will be going first thing tomorrow morning!

Argyle male seen near his kill - hopefully he will still be around tomorrow for Herold and I to see :)


  1. GREAT day Chad!!!
    Some stunning leopard shots from Nthombi and her boy. And then great shots of the Cheetah to close it off...
    Pity about the light, but still a great sighting and very pleasing pictures.


  2. Those tawny eagles, beautiful!!! Love the cheetah as wel. Thank you.

  3. I cannot believe that you see kills almost everyday. And the pictures you take are just awesome.