Monday, 17 October 2011

14th October – Leopards at Last!!!

Photo of the Day
Hyena cub
Morning Drive
(Herald, Grant and Chad)
1 x leopard (Mbali female) – Java, Steep Macahton
1 x leopard (Nthombi female with impala kill) – Kings, Airstrip Rd
3 x rhino (3 males)
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Vielmetter, Vielmetter Access
6 x buffalo bulls – Karans, Majambi Dam
1 x buffalo bull – Scholtz, Kudu Pan Rd East

Afternoon Drive
(Herald, Shadrack, Grant and Chad)
1 x leopard (Nthombi female with impala kill) – Kings, Airstrip Rd
1 x leopard (Klakisa’s boy) – Mbali, Mbali Dam
3 x rhino (3 males)
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Vielmetter, Bluewaxbill
14 x buffalo bulls – Peru, Voel Dam
4 x buffalo bulls – Argyle, Ingwelala Crossing

Daily Synopsis
Still having my guests for just one night, I still had a lot to find for them this morning, especially leopard!  Seeing as the leopards in the north have been rather rare of late, I decided to head down to Vielmetter for the first time since getting back from leave, hoping to have more luck down there.
I also wanted to check on the hyena den, so I went via Java Dam to the hyena den, and found impala, steenbuck and a herd of blue wildebeest along the way.  We arrived at the den site to find nothing, so sat for a while before Patrick spotted some movement in a bush in front of us; movement that turned out to be the hyena cubs! 

Our initial hyena sighting!
We decided to leave, as they weren’t going to show themselves, but luckily, as we were driving out, they got inquisitive and came out to see what we were doing, and we got to spend some nice time with them as they lazed about on the mound.

Hyena cubs at the den
I then made my way towards a very relaxed herd of elephants that were feeding in the Machaton riverbed near Vielmetter Camp, and enjoyed a lovely sighting of these amazing creatures as they fed around the vehicle as if we weren’t even there – always special!

Elephant herd
King’s Camp then invited us to go and view Nthombi female leopard that had been found with an impala kill on their property, so after some coffee, I headed over there.  Murphy’s law, as I arrived, Herald found Mbali female leopard on Java!!!  Oh well! 
I got to see some more impala, giraffe and zebras before going in to the leopard sighting.  The leopard was resting under a bush in the shade as it was already warm out there.

Nthombi resting near her kill
She did however awake quickly when a vulture landed in the apple-leaf tree that housed her impala kill, and she quickly got up and ran up the tree to chase it off!  She then stayed in the tree, and while she didn’t feed, she did pose for a few photos before we left her to head back to camp.

Nthombi up a tree
There had been some rhinos seen earlier in the morning, so I took a turn past that area to see if I could relocate, and after giraffe and impala sightings, we found the three male rhinos resting in the shade.

Crash of rhinos
Our time was up, so I headed to the camp for breakfast, and again saw more impala, kudus, crocodiles and steenbuck.

Kudu cow
Grant enjoyed the east, with loads of zebras and a few groups of buffalo bulls, but no sign of the Mahlathini male lions.
Having a new set of guests, all South Africans, allowed me to have a nice and chilled game drive, that turned out to be very enjoyable!  Starting off with steenbucks, a hippo, kudus, and a giraffe, we headed towards Vyeboom Dam.  There we found a group of buffalo bulls feeding in the riverbed, as well as a baby crocodile that was no more than a week or so old!

Waterbuck, buffalo bulls and baby crocodile at Crossing below Vyeboom Dam
I then went to follow up on the rhinos from this morning, and found our first impalas before heading into the area where the rhinos had been.  We found a large group of over a dozen buffalo bulls, and simultaneously spotted the rhinos in the distance. 

More buffalo bulls
As we approached the rhinos, they started running, and from our right, a zebra came trotting in that had seemingly spooked them.  Following along the road, the zebra continued to chase them for over 1.5km!!!!  I even stopped thinking I might be the cause of their “distress”, but when I caught up again, they still hadn’t stopped running!

Running rhinos!
Eventually, over 2km later, the three went static, and I could approach closer to see that it definitely wasn't me they were running from, but they appeared so tired from their exercise that they just went to sleep!

Resting rhinos
We left them and went for a lovely sundowner overlooking the distant mountains before heading back to camp.  I jokingly asked Patrick to find me Klakisa leopard or her cubs, and he obliged by spotting one of the boys sleeping on Mbali Dam wall!  It was a distant visual, but a sighting none-the-less, and it rounded off a very enjoyable and relaxed afternoon.

Klakisa young male on Mbali Dam wall
Grant and Herald had some great elephant viewing on Vielmetter, as well as a nice sighting of Nthombi leopardess on her kill in the south.  The wild dogs also popped up in the far south, but hopefully tomorrow they are on our traversing area!

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