Wednesday, 19 October 2011

17th October – Bad Weather, Great Game!!!

Photo of the Day
Machaton male leopard with his impala kill
Morning Drive
(Shadrack, Marka, Grant and Chad)
3 x lions (Mahlathini males) – Karans, Top Rd East
1 x leopard (Rockfig Jnr) – Java, Back of Java
1 x leopard (Machaton male with impala kill) – Peru, No Name Rd
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Scholtz, Mananga Cutline
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Java, Peter Pan Access
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Vielmetter, Entrance Dam

Afternoon Drive
(Shadrack, Marka, Grant and Chad)
1 x leopard (Thumbela female with impala and two steenbuck kills!) – King’s, Ridge Rd
1 x leopard (Machaton male with impala kill) – Peru, No Name Rd
3 x rhino (1 male, 1 female and calf)
5 x buffalo bulls – Karans, Kruger Boundary

Daily Synopsis

Waking up to grey skies and drizzle, I wasn't holding out much hope for the morning, but our run of great game viewing continued unhindered, despite the inclement weather.
Heading out a touch earlier than the others, I wanted to follow up on the lions that had been near the Kruger the day before.  The first part of the drive was dead quiet, with only steenbuck, so my spirits were not being lifted until Patrick spotted a lone lion track amongst a mass of buffalo tracks.  The track didn’t look all that fresh, but we went to check on where it had been heading, and a couple minutes later, Patrick turned and asked me if I could see the lions; I could indeed!  In front of us lay three Mahlathini male lions!

Mahlathini males
We approached, and they were all looking intently to the east – not much of an issue, except for the fact that they were a mere 50m from the Kruger Park, and the edge of our reserve! 

Watching a herd of giraffes
I radioed Grant and told him to come quickly as one lion now got up and started moving east, intent on something.  The other brothers watched, and we soon spotted the giraffe that they were stalking!
Unfortunately the giraffe was in the Kruger, and I didn’t think our other guys would make it.  Luckily as the lions got to the boundary road, they lay down and fell asleep!  What a stroke of luck!
As it turns out, even the southern stations managed to make it up in time to see them before they crossed into Kruger – the lions in the south have been AWOL for a while now, and we desperately await the return of the Machaton Pride.

Resting on the right side of the road!
I left the lions and carried on south, finding more nice giraffe near Majambi Dam, not an area renowned for giraffe, so that was nice.  Then, going to the more central sections to follow up on a skittish leopard with a kill, we saw two  herds of zebra, nice impala herds, our Tawny eagle chick still trying to perfect the art of landing, and fortunately none of the rain that had been threatening.

Zebras and giraffes in the east, and on the Kruger boundary rd
We spotted the leopard at a distance, and made a very slow approach, stopping each time he looked at us.

At this point, this was an unknown leopard
We eventually got to a decent position to see him, and his identity confused us immensely.  It wasn't the Klaiksa boy I had expected, and almost looked like Argyle Jnr female, bar the fact that he had, well, a set of balls.
The eyes and spot patterns let us identify him as Machaton male
Looking through binoculars, two things struck me as being familiar – the golden eyes, and an interesting spot pattern on his forehead that led me to think it was the seldom seen Machaton male – except he looked smaller than I remembered. 
We sadly didn’t get any closer for a good view, as when a hyena came running in, he shot off down the tree and ran off. 

Hyena waiting for scraps
Grant had, in the meantime, bumped into Rockfig Jnr down on Java, so I headed over there, via Java Dam where we found our herd of 24 wildebeest all running in to drink before all running off again to join some nearby zebras.

Wildebeest drinking at Java Dam
I then went to join Giyani with Rockfig Jnr leopardess as she was stalking a steenbuck, but she seemingly lost visual of the thing, as despite sitting watching both of them in one scene, she got up off her termite mound and walked off.

The gorgeous Rockfig Jnr
I am almost tempted to say that she looks pregnant again, as her big belly appeared to be hanging differently to how a full belly would?  Time will tell if we are correct – might explain her sojourn up to Java!

Looking out for a steenbuck
Leaving her, we then found that massive breeding herd of buffalo crossing off our property to the south before heading back to camp after a successful morning.  Despite rhino tracks all over the east, we didn’t find any of them.
Part of a breeding herd of buffalo
In the afternoon, I received some new guests, Sue and John, who had been following the blog, so I had some work to do!
As they hadn’t seen any cats on their last trip to South Africa, I headed east hoping that the lions might just pop back into the Timbavati.  Despite checking the area, all we actually found was a small herd of half-a-dozen buffalo bulls that were clearly not getting the lions attention!
Buffalo bulls
Carrying on in the east and checking most of the dams for rhino, we came up empty handed, and only saw a few steenbuck, some impala and a lone kudu.  It was thus only slightly annoying that Grant struck out and found three rhinos wallowing in the mud in the east, albeit that they soon ran off!
I chose to head back to the central sections, hoping that Machaton male leopard would be better than the lions, and we started seeing more game – impala, zebras, nice birds around Sohebele Dam, and even a couple of giraffe near Concrete Crossing.

Giraffe and zebras in the afternoon
It hadn’t been a fantastic afternoon, but that all changed when we had a wonderful sighting of the male leopard feeding on his kill.  While we approached slowly, I soon realised that with the hyena underneath the tree waiting for scraps, he wasn't going anywhere, and managed to get as close to him as we could with any of our other leopards, and he showed no concern for our presence!

The golden-eyed Machaton male - my best ever sighting of him!
He was actively feeding and clawing at the kill as he crunched through the bones with the sun setting to the west.  A couple of giraffe came walking past, and it made for a truly African scene, especially with the hyena that got lucky when the leopard bit a leg off the dead impala, and the hyena wasted no time in getting it and moving off to eat it!

Losing an impala leg to the hyena that was waiting below
Even with the hyena gone, the leopard wasn't concerned, and continued to feed as the light faded, and we opted to leave him to go for a drink.  Driving past him along the road, at a relatively close distance, he still paid us no attention, and I think it was a great sighting for him and us, and hopefully he will start relaxing nicely now!

What a gorgeous male leopard!
After drinks in the near-darkness, we headed back to camp, ticking off only a few scrub hares, but not much else – still, it was a lovely introduction to the Timbavati for Sue and John, and a great birthday day for Camilla, my other guest!
The other guides also got to see leopard in the form of Thumbela, who was still in the far south with her three kills!


  1. Great sightings Chad!
    Mahlathini males are very impressive, and you had a awesome sighting of Machaton male... Man, he just had no chance of escaping you :)
    Rockfig Jnr is also gorgeous, I must say, you guys are really blessed with the most beautiful leopards over there!!!


  2. Thanks for the great time Chad, we are missing the bush and all of you at MOTSWARI, it was a truely memorable experience. How are the boys? We will certainly keep thinking of them and the beautiful white lions of the Timbavati.
    Sue and John