Friday, 4 November 2011

03rd November: Signed, Sealed & Delivered!

Pic of Day.

Morning Drive.

( Grant & Shadrack.)

Buffalo ( Dagha Boys) / Peru – Pagati Rd West.
Leopard ( Klakiso Female) / Peru – Xinkhovanian South.
Elephant ( Kambaku) / Argyle – Argyle Rd.
Lion ( 3 x Machaton Females & Cubs.) / Kings – Double Highway.

Afternoon Drive.

( Grant, Shadrack & Herold.)

Rhino ( 4 x Unknown)
Buffalo ( Dagha Boys) / Peru – Giraffe Kill Rd.
Wilddog ( 14 pack) / Peru – Giraffe Kill Rd.
Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / Vielmieter – Vielmieter Access.

Daily Synopsis.

With serious work ahead of us this morning and under pressure to now deliver other members of the “ Big Five” apart from Buffalo we set off intrepidly. Shadrack headed to the North of camp and it was not long before he picked up tracks for a male Lion. Unfortunately it took about the same time to follow it across our boundary and in to Ingwelala. Not giving up Shadrack headed to the East hoping it had crossed through Ingwelala and back into our traversing area on the other side. While he scoured the area for any sign we checked around the lodge for any sign of a spotted cat. Not having any joy we extended our search to include Argyle and Sohobele Dam and the immediate surrounds. Still not finding signs we headed to the North towards Vyeboom Dam, surely there must be something there! Alas it was to be like every where else we checked, quiet, very quiet! Having checked all the usual and not so usual spots for our Leopards we decided to once again turn our attention towards the Lions that we had tried to find the previous evening. Or at least check the area they had been, see if we could pick up where they had got to. Nearing the vicinity of our previous nights search Jacky shouted out “ Ingwe”! We all looked to the left where he pointed and saw the spotted cat highly mobile across the road and off into the thick vegetation of a nearby drainage line. Had you blinked during that moment you would have missed it and I'm still not sure to this point whether it was a Leopard or a Cheetah as I've never seen a Leopard move so fast! Having wished for “ Big Five” I guess we all should have been a little more specific and asked for a sighting that lasted more than thirty seconds. On a positive note, at least we still know they are around.

Getting back to our task of following up on the Lions we once again drove a lot of roads of what seemed to be endless Mopane. The drive became ever to familiar when we once again found ourselves a group of Dagha Boys and nothing else. Eventually all of us suffering from a mild case of Mopane Claustrophobia decided it would be a good time to take a coffee break.  

Stretching the legs and getting in some fresh air we resumed drive not totally sure of what to look for next or where to begin looking for it. Lucky for us it was not long before we received a message from Kings inviting us to visit the Machaton Pride and their cubs. Not having much time left in the morning and being a way off we contemplated leaving it to the afternoon. This lasted all of a millionth of a millisecond and the car was already automatically driving itself in their direction. I guess we could afford to be loved a little less by the kitchen! Pulling into the sighting we found the pride resting up in some long grass, it appeared they had just sat down as they all were still heads up and something peeked their interest on the wind blowing from the North. Now here was a sight for sore eyes! Being late already we could afford to spend a little time with them so we sat as they settled in. It took them a while to get comfortable as they were up and down with whatever it was to the North still intriguing them, this would cause a chain reaction and they would all take a turn in readjusting. With the temperature rising they all eventually settled in and sleep seemed to be the overall winner. Also drawn by something in the North, lets call it Hunger, we chose to head off back to the lodge for brunch.

Still having a lot to do on afternoon game drive we turned to the East to try our luck in finding Rhino. We also had two new guests that we were expecting and therefore could not travel to far away from the lodge. Hearing from Johannes that he had seen fresh tracks for a crash of Rhino earlier in the afternoon we decided to follow up. Arriving at the tracks Jacky and I went on foot to follow up. As we made our way through the bush we knew we were not far behind from the state of the tracks. Loosing them temporarily Jacky and I split trying to relocate. Keeping a watchful eye ahead of me and not just looking at the ground, as I had been taught by my master, I saw the unmistakable humps of the crash of Rhino. With both the wind and sun in my favour they did not pick me up, not even when I whistled an indistinguishable bird call to get Jacky's attention to let him know I had found them. With Jacky keeping an eye on them I returned to fetch the guests, we decided to approach on foot as it was a nice open area and we would have a better visual of them on foot as the noise of the car would chase them away. With conditions being ideal and perfect cover available in the area we were able to approach to within fifty metres of them. One stood guard and the other three slept. Being a group of nine of us including myself, Jacky and Andrea, our new apprentice, we were a large group which tends to be a lot more noisy and after a short while they picked up on our scuffling and moved off to the North. We once again followed them a short while and got another good view of them standing in the open. With us also a little more exposed it was not long before they got sight of us and moved off. Having had a good viewing we chose not to push them and returned to the car having found our Rhino.

Hearing our guests had arrived we organised to meet up with Godfrey who was bringing them out to us. Once all aboard we set off in the direction of the Wilddog who had been seen along the Tsharalumi Riverbed earlier in the morning. With the temperature having been fairly warm and with water in a number of pans in the area that they were we were pretty confident that we would be able to relocate them. Our timing could not be more perfect as we arrived just as they were beginning to rouse. This was a good thing firstly because we could now watch active animals, as opposed to them sleeping and secondly because they were located in a dreadful position in amongst a large thicket of Mopane Shrub. It was the pups who woke first and they began running and playing around. They then turned their attention to the parents begging and whimpering from them, this got them up and about. A quick game of tag ensued before they all got mobile in a North Westerly direction. With no stations responding we were able to spend the majority of our afternoon with them.

Having one more of the “ Big Five” to find and hearing that there was finally a herd of Elephant in our area we could pop in visit if we left the dogs now. Hearing the location of the herd and racing a fast setting sun we headed off to the plains of the South. Arriving shortly after sunset we found a massive herd of Elephant feeding on the open area's around Entrance Dam. The herd composed all shapes and sizes but when we saw a mom and her calf that must not have been older than two days we decided to spend our time with them. Mom was extremely relaxed and went about her business as if we were never there. We had positioned ourselves well as the Elephant approached and surrounded us eating the shrubs and bushes around the vehicle. We even had a large Bull Elephant in musth approach within metres of us, normally they are very aggressive and we try to avoid them. From his approach he seemed relaxed and more focused on the females who were also chilled with his presence, so we decided to sit fast. He walked right behind the vehicle not giving us a second glance, very impressive.

Having had an awesome afternoon we wrapped it up with a starupper and then headed back to the lodge to recount our tales at dinner.

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