Tuesday, 13 September 2011

12th September – Chad’s back to Chase off the Animals!!!

Photo of the Day
Thumbela Returns :)
Morning Drive
(Chad, Grant and Herold)
1 x leopard (Mbali female) – Java, Java Access
1 x leopard (Ximungwe female) – Argyle, Buffalo Pan
15 x buffalo – Motswari, Workshop Rd

Afternoon Drive
(Chad, Grant, Godfrey and Herold)
1 x leopard (Thumbela female) – Vielmetter, Western Sharalumi
1 x leopard (Argyle Jnr female) – Argyle, Horizon Rd
2 x rhino (2 females)
1 x rhino (1 semi-relaxed male)
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Vielmetter, 2nd Sharalumi Crossing
8 x elephant bulls – Argyle, Horizon Rd
1 x elephant bull – Argyle, Vyeboom Dam
1 x elephant bull – Peru, Klipgat Crossing
1 x elephant bull – Motswari, Camp
1 x elephant bull – Borneo, Camp
4 x buffalo bulls – Motswari, Long Rd
8 x buffalo bulls – Motswari, Camp

Daily Synopsis
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I had no sooner gone on leave when all the animals came out!  The leopards that I had been so desperate to show my guests before I left suddenly came out in force – 8 leopards one afternoon drive, 5 leopards a few drives later...basically leopard every day I was away.  Then the lions.  As always, the white lions only pitched up when I was on leave, but there were also sightings of the Jacaranda males, regular viewing of the Mafikizolo and Machaton Prides, as well as a few new faces.  All in all, it seemed like a very good week to have missed out on!
Not that I am complaining, I spent the most amazing week in Tanzania, but I promise to share that experience in a blog post soon!!!  Still, arriving back yesterday, I was dead keen to get out there into my own back yard, and it was a wonderful return to drives!
I just took it easy in the north and had wonderful sightings of a herd of elephants, elephant bulls, giraffe, stripe-bellied sand snake, massive herd of waterbuck, impalas, steenbuck, the shier of the two Jacaranda male lions, Argyle male leopard up in a marula tree on our airstrip and plenty of buffalo bulls – cant complain about that ‘welcome back’!

Yesterday afternoon's drive with Jacaranda male lion, buffalo, elephant, giraffe, waterbuck and Argyle male leopard on the airstrip

Monday started off well.  The drive was a bit slow to begin with, but with the wonderful weather we are experiencing at the moment, it was just great to be out.  With impalas alarm calling, and leopard calling in the same area, we thought we wouldn’t have trouble finding leopard near camp, unfortunately we were wrong, and despite having the leopard walk on top of Grant’s vehicle tracks from 20 minutes earlier, we couldn’t find it.  We did find a large herd of about 15 buffalo bulls near the lodge though.

Buffalo bulls
Carrying on, we ticked off impala and steenbuck as we headed to Vyeboom dam where another leopard was heard calling, and we had fresh tracks, but it too eluded us.  We saw hippo at the dam, as well as a hyena.

Young hyena
Grant and I were watching a giraffe when the guineafowls flew off on the other side, and then Jacky spotted a leopard...third time lucky!  Or maybe not, it was Ximungwe female, and she wasn't all that relaxed today and soon gave us the slip without having had a good sighting.  Not to fear though, Johannes had found Mbali female leopard at the same time, so Grant and I headed there.

There was a male waterbuck, crocodiles, a herd of kudus, a family of warthogs and three herds of giraffe as I made my way to the leopard.

Crocodile at Concrete Crossing
She is still hanging around the drainage line near Java Airstrip, and looking at her teats again, I am sure that she has her cubs hidden close by.  We followed her for a while before leaving her to her own devices, spotting one hyena while following her too!

We also went past an old hyena den, and Petros pointed out that there was still again of hyena activity, with cub footprints there too, so maybe we shall have a look later to confirm that this den is again active.

Mbali female leopard still spending time in the same area we suspect she has cubs

It was getting late, so we headed home, and managed to tick off a herd of zebra and wildebeest on the road home.

The afternoon turned out to be another good one as can be seen from the list of sightings.  I had Sue and Andy (regular blog followers and visitors to Motswari) joining me in the afternoon, and when asked if there was any animal they wished to see (besides the white lions, which I knew already!), Sue replied that she wanted to see Thumbela leopardess; not having seen her for three months, I didn’t want to disappoint her and tell her what I really thought of her request, and said, “okay, we’ll try”, and with that we headed out.
Around Argyle Dam we had some nice steenbuck, impala, a male kudu and a herd of waterbuck, as well as a lone hippo in the dam.

Waterbuck and kudu at Argyle Dam

Hearing that two rhinos had been picked up further south, I aimed myself in that direction as my other guests were very keen on seeing rhino.  Bypassing Sohebele Dam, we found some more kudu bulls, waterbuck bulls and a massive crocodile.   

Crocodile and fork-tailed drongo at Sohebele Dam
After that, it was a bit quiet, with some eagles, impalas and steenbuck, but we had a long way to go south, so I didn’t hang about long until Grant radioed me to ask where I was.  I thought he had lions for me, but instead he had a rhino much further north, so I went to join him.  He was a very large, but slightly nervous male, and we had to give him space.  After Grant left, the rhino turned and ran off, so I pulled off road to follow into a small clearing.  He then picked up our scent or something and after becoming alert decided to run...pity he chose our direction to do so!!!  Rhinos have notoriously poor eye-sight, and as this guy was running straight at us without the signs of it being a charge, I concluded that he just couldn’t see us!  Not being entirely sure what to do, I simply banged against my door so that he would know we were there, and he then took notice of us and ran off at a slightly different angle.  We followed for a while longer, at a distance before leaving him.

White rhino bull
Not having a plan from there, I decided to maybe head towards a sighting of Nthombi leopardess on Vielmetter.  I was a bit far, but made my way there not seeing all that much, but I didn’t care, as miraculously, “Nthombi” turned out to be Thumbela!!!  I couldn’t believe our luck, and for the first time in three months, I was going to get to see her unmistakable blue eyes!

Thumbela and her gorgeous blue eyes watching a herd of elephants
Grant kindly gave us a space before she disappeared down into the Nhlaralumi riverbed, where while watching her, we also paused to watch a breeding herd of elephants. 

As the leopard carried on along the bank, she flushed a Sharpe’s grysbok and ran after it, but had no luck.  She then crossed to the eastern side and we picked her up again as she walked towards Elephant Dam with a full moon rising in the background.

Thumbela making ehr way to Elephant Dam

After watching her drink, we went and had a drink in the dark before making our way back to camp where a herd of buffalo bulls was waiting for us in front of the lodge.  Later in the evening some elephant bulls were there too!

Thumbela having a drink

Godfrey was back on drive and stayed in the north, and while watching a herd of elephants, spotted Argyle Jnr leopardess walking behind him.  At first he gave her some space, but later couldn’t get over how relaxed she was – while I know how relaxed she is if respected, it is great to hear that her aberrant behaviour last month (where she was super skittish) has passed and not had any long-term effects.  Anyway, while following her, Godfrey found a pack of hyenas, so without running about, had a wonderful afternoon.  Johannes too found an interesting sighting, that of Argyle male leopard up a tree with a bushbuck kill, and, believe it or not, a hyena up in the tree with him trying to steal the kill!  He burst out laughing as the hyena fell out of the tree after managing to get a piece of meat – oh what I would have done to see that sight!

Anyway, a good day had by all, so let’s hope that my bad luck does not return and that the great viewing continues over the coming weeks!


  1. Great day Chad!!! Welcome back home :-)
    Man, I was ssooooo glad when I saw Thumbela has been found, with those absolutely gorgeous blue eyes of hers!!! She definately is one of my favorites with Kuhanya :-)
    Would have also loved to se the heyena fall out of the tree... LOL.

    Love the pictures of the waterbuck running Chad, well actually I love them all :-)

    Hope to see all the pictures from the trip soon, the few I saw on facebook is stunning to say the least!!!


  2. Thanks for the blog, I only discover it today and I must say it is absolutely beautiful, I wil read it everytime know, it warms my day and I feel like being there with you guys and not in the cold here in the Netherlands. Greetings from the Netherlands.

  3. Nothing to say about all the pictures from the last week - the were beautifull too - but the pic's from today are fabulous.
    Indeed Anonymous, greeting from a windy and cold Holland.

  4. Some really fantastic photographs there Chad. Some of them are stunning, and a great variaty of animals to. I'm sure the Guys will be over the moon seeing them.
    Greetings from a now not so windy North Wales UK


  5. Really sorry Chad so many blogs to look at I trusted your prompts.

    What settings do you use?