Wednesday, 30 November 2011

29th November: Finally A Feline!

Pic of the Day.
Morning Drive.

( Grant, Shadrack & Chris.)

Buffalo ( Breeding Herd) / Motswari – Sean's Clearing.
Buffalo ( Dagha Boys)
Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / Java – Western Cutline.
Lion ( 4 x Mafikizolo Females) / JayDee – Enkombi Pan. ( Guide Sighting Only)

Afternoon Drive.

( Grant, Shadrack & Chris.)

Leopard ( Kuhanya) / Motswari – Motswari Dam.
Elephant ( Kambaku) / Motswari – Motswari Camp.
Elephant ( Kambaku) / Argyle – Mangova Rd.

Daily Synopsis.

With four of my guests choosing to sleep in before heading off on their long travelling day the pressure to find Lion was off us for the morning drive, although both Shadrack and Chris were under the gun. Actually I think the rest of the entire reserve was in desperate need of a cat of some sort or another. Not needing Lion did not mean we didn't go out looking for it as if we don't find something soon we will be in exactly the same boat. So we headed off to the North East hoping to get lucky on the boundary where we have heard Lions calling from for the past three nights, maybe this morning would be the morning they had crossed over. Failing that there was always the chance of finding Kuhanya, our resident female Leopard, as it was in a region that she frequents.

Methodically checking the areas to the North we picked up on a lot of the smaller things. Chris however got off to a flyer finding a breeding herd of Buffalo shortly after setting off on drive. He then continued to the South where he wanted to check on the Hyena Den and found himself a breeding herd of Elephant. Maybe we should be following Chris! Having had no luck in the Northern corner we turned to the South and followed up on Chris's Buffalo from earlier. After giving us the run around for a while we eventually found them in a nice clearing and had a good sighting of them and a couple of Giraffe that found themselves in amongst the herd.

I had heard Shadrack was heading to the West but had not heard anything of him since. So we decided to head East after the Buffalo hoping to pick up on general game on the plains around Majavi Dam. On the way Patrick picked up tracks for a female Leopard heading back to the West. Coming from this direction it could only be Kuhanya. The tracks were from early the evening before as a Porcupine had walked over some of them. With it not being worth following up on foot we proceeded to check in the general direction she was heading and keep an eye out on her favourite haunts along the way. Following her usual route we decided to stop for a quick cup of coffee before continuing our search. It was as we stopped I heard the long lost voice of Shadrack come on the radio and announce that he had a visual of four lionesses. Apparently they had also stopped for drinks at Enkombi Pan when he had visited one of the nearby trees to mark his territory and found the Lionesses all asleep under a tree off in the distance. Unfortunately as is with some of the members of the Mafikizolo Pride they are very nervous and when Shadrack returned with the car they were gone. He checked the surrounding area but being on the Western boundary he eventually found tracks for them crossing out into Klaserie and out of our traversing area.

Resuming after coffee we continued our search for just as an elusive cat and shortly before Sohobele Dam we once again found her tracks heading to the North West. We proceeded to check all the areas to the North of this and slowly edged closer and closer to Motswari. With time not being our friend we eventually had to abandon our search as breakfast was waiting. Although we did not find our Leopard I'm sure we will pick her up this afternoon in or around Motswari. It was also nice to see that we have learnt something about this females behaviour over the last two years and we are now able to sometimes anticipate her movement.

Why I ever left camp this afternoon will remain a mystery! Having told everyone at lunch that I could see Kuhanya in my near future we set off once again checking all the area's she likes to frequent. I had this strange feeling we would find Leopard all day and started to question myself as the afternoon wore on as we had not found any sign of any cat, we had actually not found any sign of anything living if truth be told and our afternoon had been one of the little things. By this I mean the “ Little Five” as we had found ourselves a Red-billed Buffalo Weaver, an Ant Lion and a Leopard Tortoise, maybe that was the Leopard I was feeling.

Chris ventured to the West hoping to get lucky with Rhino or maybe even the skittish Lions that Shadrack had seen in the morning. Shadrack joined me in looking in the North but eventually he too drifted to the West to visit a great spot for Hippo. You take what you can get on afternoons like this.

With us having covered every conceivable place that Kuhanya could be we eventually turned towards the Tsharalumi Riverbed hoping to get lucky with one of Klakiso's youngsters. About mid way there I received news from Dave back at the lodge that both the Impala and the Vervet Monkeys were alarm calling to the North West. Being the gentleman that he is he hopped in a vehicle with my late arrivals that had decided not to join us and headed off in search of the source of the commotion. I hesitated when he told me the news as it was a big chance heading all the way back to the area I had just driven flat and forgo my great sundowner spot that I thought may salvage my drive a little. I guess desperate times require desperate measures and I turned the vehicle around and headed back to Motswari as fast as I could. While Dave checked to the West I said we would come in from the East so that we had the whole area covered. It was a little disconcerting as we made our way there as the radio was awfully quiet and I had received no updates from Dave by the time we reached camp. When I contacted him he mentioned that the Monkeys had stopped calling a while ago and that he had found nothing in the West. He thought it may have moved to the North so while he checked that, we checked the East and then swapped, double checking one another. It was during this that a heard the magic words, “ I Ntola,” which means I found! Dave found her in the Riverbed North of Motswari Dam. We had been sitting with a group of Kudu contemplating our next move which that was quickly made for us and we headed off in his direction.  

When we first arrived she was in a difficult spot lying down in the riverbed which did not allow any access but once again luck was on our side as she got up and moved to the West. This allowed us some great views of her as it was in a nice open area North of the camp. She slowly but steadily continued to the West marking her territory as she went. As most of the stations had closed for sundowners we had her all to ourselves. When they finally returned to drive we notified them of our find and said that we would hold her until they got here. We did mention that they must hurry as she was now approaching our boundary with Ingwelala but just short of it she turned to the North appearing to be interested in some nearby Impala, lucky break, but she then turned into a Weeping Wattle and brought out a half eaten baby Impala. Being dark and having her under the light we had to switch off our spots and close the sighting as we do not view Leopards with there kills on the ground after dark as it could attract the attention of the ever present Hyena.

Having finally seen a cat we could retire for a well deserved sununder. I'm sure the guys will follow up first thing in the morning as there appeared to be a fair amount of meat left. Lets hope she doesn't loose it to the Hyena.  

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

28th November: The Cats Go Into Hiding.

Pic's of the Day.

Morning Drive.

( Shadrack & Chris.)

Rhino ( 2 x Males)
Buffalo ( Dagha Boys) / Peru – Hidden Away Pan.
Buffalo ( Breeding Herd) / DeLuca – Nyati Dam.

Afternoon Drive.

( Grant, Shadrack & Chris.)

Rhino ( 2 x Males)
Buffalo ( Dagha Boys) / Mbali – Woza Woza Cutline.
Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / Peru – Mbali River Rd.
Elephant ( Kambaku) / Peru – Mbali River Rd.

Daily Synopsis.

So with all of my eight guests wanting to sleep in I found myself with an extremely rare morning off. This did not stop me waking from my usual four thirty start and being awake I thought what better way than to head for a run. Not that often that I get to run in the morning but I may say it is the best time of the day and as I headed out on the airstrip in the fresh crisp coolness of the morning I watched a magnificent sunrise. The horizon was a blaze of yellow with the few clouds that where present reflecting a deep plum purple colour. Not getting to drawn into the beauty of it all, I still had to keep my eye's out for the local inhabitants. On this occasion I was quite glad my run followed the same suite as our morning drives at the mo and apart from a few Impala and a lone Wildebeest it was uneventful. Well I guess that is what I saw, who knows what saw me but I did not find any tracks indicating that there was anything more exciting about.

I'll be back on drive this afternoon to bring you full details of what's up and happening out there.

Having missed out on morning drive I was keen to get back out there and see what was about. With the temperatures having risen quite high we knew we would be in for the initial quiet period followed by a hive of activity as things cooled off. Still needing Lion for my one set of guests and everything else for my new set we hoped for a busy afternoon.

Sticking with our tried and trusted for warm afternoons we checked the dams in the North before heading to the Tsharalumi River. On this occasion Xinatsi, Argyle and Sohobele Dams did not deliver much. I think this has partly to do with the fact that there is a fair amount of water still lying in all the natural pans and drainage lines from our last rains that the animals don't need to travel to the dams. As usual though the Tsharalumi Riverbed did not disappoint and delivered up a nice breeding herd of Elephant that was slowly feeding along the riverbank towards Mbali Dam. They were not alone as a large Kambaku had joined them and provided us with a nice comparison between male and female. With not much else being reported on the radio we spent a fair amount of time with them as they made their way to the waters edge. After having them feed all round the vehicle we set off on our way still wanting to follow up on the two Rhino that had been found in the morning.  

Getting into the area we received news that one of the King's trackers, who had been dropped off earlier to follow up, had in fact located them and was following behind them keeping an eye on them till our arrival. Finding them not to far from where they had been, they had visited a small mud wallow where I'm sure they had spent their afternoon as they were caked in fresh mud, if there is such a thing, when we found them. These two males have become extremely relaxed with the vehicles over the last couple of weeks and now go about feeding around the car without the slightest worry, which is great to see and a credit to the guides in habituating them to our presence. Spending the rest of our afternoon with them we left them shortly before sunset to head for sundowners at Voeldam.

With Rhino now checked off the list it is only Lion that we need to find in the morning before my guests depart, no pressure Grant, no pressure.

Monday, 28 November 2011

27th November: Hyena's To The Rescue.

Pic of the Day.

Morning Drive.

( Grant, Petros & Chris.)

Elephant ( Kambaku) / Karans – Karans Airstrip.
Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / Karans – East Street.
Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / JayDee – Nlaramisa Rd.
Wilddog ( 13 x Pack) / Vielmieter – Jaydee Access.
Buffalo ( Dagha Boys) / Motswari – Motswari Southern Access.
Cheetah ( Unknown) / Borneo – KNP Cutline.

Afternoon Drive.

( Grant, Shadrack & Chris.)

Buffalo ( Breeding Herd) / Motswari – Xinatsi Dam Rd North.
Elephant ( Kambaku) / Argyle – Argyle Dam.
Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / Vielmieter – Western Tsharalumi.
Wilddog ( 13 x Pack) / Vielmieter – Sweetwater Pan.

Daily Synopsis.

Not so sure why we get up early for drive these days as the first hour or two seems to be very lifeless these days. Only later in the morning do things start to pick up. I think it may have to do with the cooler overcast weather we are currently experiencing, none the less as long as they do come out it does not matter when.

We all started with different missions this morning. Petros was after Lions so he headed to the North East following up on the calls we had heard during the night. Chris headed to the East in search of Rhino while I did the same but on the West. I also wanted to check our Northern boundaries for any sign of the White Lions. Shaddy got lucky as his guests were checking out and wanted a lie in so he was also able to get a rare sleep in.

Making our way around our respective area's the radio was ominously quiet and it sounded like everyone was struggling a little. Time seemed to stand still as all three of us did not find any trace of what we were looking for. It was time to readjust our objectives. Having not found any sign of Rhino or Lion in the North or the West I turned South hoping to get lucky around Sweetwater Pan. Earlier the Wilddog had been found on our Western Boundary I had initially ignored this as we were focused on other things but with no other stations responding, the fact that we had seen nothing and being in the area that they had just killed a Steenbok we decided to respond. Pulling into the sighting we found the pups pulling at the remains of the Steenbok while the adults drank from a puddle on the road. They then left the pups in the care of the alpha female while they set off towards Sweetwater on the hunt for themselves. Knowing we would not keep up in that territory we chose to stay behind with the pups as they wrestled with one another for the remaining parts of breakfast. It was not long before we saw one of the adults returning in our direction followed by another. Suddenly they accelerated and now there were not only two but five dogs running full speed in our direction. As quick as a flash the pups that we were sitting with were up on their feet and heading off in the direction of another Steenbok that came running by the front of our car. We tried to keep up but it was in vain and I headed in their general direction in the hope that I could relocate. Once again we got lucky as one dog turned and headed back in our direction and then another followed by a few of them. They all returned to back to their original resting spot where we once again joined them waiting for another station to take over from us. Once in place we handed over control and responsibility and headed off to view a nearby herd of Elephant. I later received news that the missing dogs had actually caught the poor Steenbok further to the West of where we had been.

Chris and Petros drives also picked up with them both having success. Petros found himself a nice breeding herd of Elephant that he got to spend the morning with while Chris found himself a Cheetah, unfortunately it was in our South Eastern corner and as they approached it ran off into Kruger.

With all three of us having covered all the boundaries of our traversing area and not finding tracks entering, we going to struggle this afternoon. Lets hope the temperatures keep cool as maybe they will enter during the day. We wait and see what the afternoon hold for us.

Having searched the West hi and low for any sign of Rhino or Lion in the morning it was to be the turn of the East in the afternoon for us. With Shadrack receiving all new guests his afternoon was to be a chilled one as everything was new and exciting. Chris was on a mission for White Lions and he headed off to the far North East corner to see if he could get lucky with the new White Lion that had been found about two weeks ago.

Our afternoon got off to a great start with us finding a breeding herd of Buffalo within two kilometres of camp. They had just finished off drinking at Xinatsi Dam and were now heading to the East. Having not seen a breeding herd of Buffalo we spent a little time with them and hoped this set the tempo for the afternoon drive.

Unfortunately it started and ended with the Buffalo, well for the next two hours at least, with us finding very little in the East. Being a picturesque drive though nobody seemed to notice that we saw nothing and time passed quite quickly. As the sun began approaching the horizon we found another first for us in the form of Zebra, which have become very scarce these days. With picture perfect light we also spent a fair amount of time with them. It also could have been the fact that I was scared if we left we would not see anything more till the close of drive!

Finding ourselves in the area of the Hyena Den shortly before sunset and on our way to Hide dam for sundowners we popped in a visit to the Den. Not expecting much as our luck with this den has been erratic to say the least we were pleasantly surprised to find both sub adults milling about the area. Pulling into an open clearing where we had a view of the hole into the den we sat as the Hyena's inquisitively approached the car. They seem to have no fear and walk to within a metre to examine us. With the arrival of an adult our luck was about to change as the sub adults approached the entrance to the den the babies seemed to gain confidence from their family members and popped their heads out. It was not long before the one sub adult encouraged it all the way out and this babies new found courage urged the other to join it. We sat and watched as they clumsily went about investigating their surroundings and their older siblings inquisitive to their every move. At stages their little legs would not be able to keep up with them and they would stumble and roll down the termite mound in a little ball. They would quickly gain their feet again, dust themselves off and dash back to the safety of the entrance hole, where they would once again start all over. They would sit at the entrance and bite their older cousins which eventually they could not tolerate and they moved off. Unfazed the two babies turned on one another and continued with their antics eventually wearing themselves out and returning to the den to nap. Our timing could not have been better and it saved an otherwise mediocre drive.



Night, night.

After a beautiful sundowner at Hide dam we slowly made our way home were we had our last first for the day, this time Patrick found us an African Wildcat, not quite the cat we were looking for but strangely enough one that our guests had requested to see at dinner the previous evening, strange how things work out.