Sunday, 18 September 2011

16th September – A Week of Returning Friends Continues!!!

Photo of the Day
Machaton cub
Morning Drive
(Chad, Grant and Marka)
11 x lions (Machaton Pride – 3 lionesses and 8 cubs) – Tanda Tula, Machaton Plains
2 x lions (Mahlathini males) – Karans, Timbavati-Umbabat Cutline
1 x leopard (skittish male) – Motswari, Xinatsi Dam Rd North
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Java, Java Dam
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Java, Buffalo Kill Rd
1 x elephant bull – Kings, Eagle Owl Plains

Afternoon Drive
(Chad, Grant and Marka)
13 x wild dogs (8 adults and 5 pups with steenbuck kill) – Kings, Little Ridge
11 x lions (Machaton Pride – 3 lionesses and 8 cubs) – Tanda Tula, Machaton Plains
2 x lions (Mahlathini males) – Karans, Top Rd West
2 x rhino (2 males)
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Vielmetter, Hide Dam
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Tanda Tula, Machaton Dam
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Karans, Western Cutline
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Mbali, Mbali Dam
1 x elephant bull – Kings, Hyena Rd

Daily Synopsis
I normally cherish waking up and hearing sounds outside my window and cant wait to get up and head out into the bush.  Even waking up and hearing rain is wonderful.  But both Grant and I woke up feeling far less optimistic about the day than we had before we went to bed when we awoke to gusting winds outside.  Heading out with few expectations, we were to be pleasantly surprised by the end of the morning.
Marka once again chose the right road and found some lion tracks chasing buffalos close to the lodge, and together with Jacky and Johannes began tracking.  Leaving them to it, I headed south for a change of scenery.  Driving towards Xinatsi Dam, I was feeling down, and wondering why everyone could find leopards except me.  Then I found one.  Well, I don’t know if it counts as I was the only one to see it as it dashed off – and no, I wasn't hallucinating.  The impalas that all started alarm calling at it clearly saw it too.
I then found tracks for a herd of buffalo – how hard could 500-600 buffalo be to find?  Well, more difficult than it sounded, and this crazy herd moved this way and that way, crossing backwards and forwards across one road 5 times before I eventually ignored their last turn of direction and followed my instincts – or logic, if you prefer – and managed to locate the herd at Java Dam.

Large breeding herd of buffalo at Java Dam
I then went to check on my hyena den, but again, there was no sign of them – we did see our herd of 24 wildebeest on Java Airstrip, so maybe it wasn't such a change of scenery and had the exact same feeling as a few mornings back!

Wildbeest herd
Grant informed me that the trackers had found two of the Mahlathini male lions in the north, and while I hadn’t seen them for 6 months, I refrained from going back there, as there were lions in the south that we had been invited to go and see, so I continued down towards Machaton Dam.
The wild dogs had been on Java Airstrip, but I didn’t follow up on their tracks, and went towards Entrance Dam for a windy cup of coffee.  Heading south from there, we saw nice impala, a couple herds of giraffe, zebra and a lone elephant bull.

Elephant bull, zebra and gi
We eventually got to the lions – it was the 11 Machaton lions that were sleeping on Machaton Plains, fat-bellied, but in the open, and they provided us with a good enough sighting for sleeping lions to have made the trip worth it.


Machaton Pride

The cubs are still looking good, and eight of the original nine are still alive.

Machaton Cubs
Heading back north, we once more by-passed that big herd of buffalo as well as some nice kudu before closing down.

Kudu and giraffe
My afternoon was a simple affair – go see the Mahlathini male lions, although knowing them, I had to leave it until later if I wanted to see more than sleeping lions.  Grant followed up and found them in a similar area to where they were left in the morning, so I took it easy and continued looking for leopard in the north.  I didn’t find any, but enjoyed kudus, waterbuck, baboons, warthogs and a large crocodile.

Baboons, waterbuck and saddle-billed storks at Mbali Dam
I then headed over towards Mbali Dam after a breeding herd of elephants was seen heading there – for once my timing was good and we arrived as the herd moved down to drink on the opposite bank.  At first there were only a few elephants that came to drink.

Elephants at Mbali Dam
After a while, the rest of the herd arrived and came to drink in perfect afternoon light to create a wonderful scene!

More elephants arrive to drink at Mbali Dam
We left them as they moved off and went towards the lions, not seeing much along the way.  Out timing was good again – although not for photos as it was getting dark already, but what we lacked in light we made up for in activity, as at least the lions woke up!

Mahlathini males return!

They did some yawning, grooming and then got up and moved off into a clearing where they lay and sniffed the wind.  With a lot of buffalo in the area, we are hoping that they pick up the scent and go find a meal!

Turning into beautiful boys!
While Grant and I stayed in the north, Godfrey joined us on drive and took out some Ntsiri guests for a drive, including Janet who likes to follow this blog – they got treated to some good viewing by the sounds of things!  Besides three breeding herds of buffalo, they got to see the Machaton Pride of lions that hadn’t moved since this morning, but best of all, they got to see the 13 wild dogs that had been relocated at Tamboti Pan and moved south.  As Godfrey arrived, they had just caught a steenbuck that was still alive for a short while before being dispatched of in the feeding frenzy – not always a pleasant thing to watch, but seeing wild dogs on the hunt is a sight not easily forgotten...needless to say, I was most envious!
So that rounded off the day – so good to have some lions back in the area, and especially those gorgeous Mahalthini males – they are developing into real beautiful lions, and at about 6 years and now, their manes are starting to fill out, making them look even more impressive – I just hope that it is not another 6 months before they visit us!

Spotted-eagle owl
My night ended off well when John came to call me from the boma to tell me there was a leopard in camp – I got to see it briefly in front of the pool – looked to me like a young male, but it was only for a few seconds...still, at least I believe all of his stories now!
Let’s see what surprises tomorrow has in store for us tomorrow!


  1. Wow, for all these herds, thought you were still on the plains in Tanzania.... beautiful photos of all the animals.

  2. Great update Chad!!!
    Awesome pictures of the Mahalthini males... And I also love the buffalo pictures!

    It is quite impressive for 8 cubs from 9 to still be alive (Machaton Pride).