|Pic of the Day.|
( Grant, Shadrack & Herold.)
Leopard ( Kuhanya) / Motswari – Giraffe Pan Rd.
Wilddog ( 14 x pack) / Motswari – Trade Entrance.
Buffalo ( Dagha Boys) / Motswari – Tsharalumi/ Ingwelala Boundary.
( Grant & Chad.)
Wilddog ( 14 x Pack) / Motswari – Trade Entrance.
Elephant ( Kambaku) / Argyle – Long Rd.
Elephant ( Kambaku's) / Peru – Wild West.
Lion ( Machaton Pride: 3 x Females & 7 Cubs) / Umlani – F Link Rd.
Leopard ( Xinopi Male) / Umlani – Eloff St.
Now before you going getting your knickers in a knot, NO the lodge has not burnt to the ground al la Richard Branson. It was merely a referral to how good the sightings were on Motswari this morning. Our focus for the morning was to find Rhino but we first wanted to check North of the camp for the Wilddog as they normally run a pattern and when they had crossed to Ingwelala yesterday it looked like they were keeping to that pattern which meant they should be with us this morning. We also had our resident Vervet Monkeys alarm calling in camp this morning so we thought that they may have seen them or we had Leopard around. While Shadrack and Herold checked the airstrip to the North West of camp we checked to the North East. Having just pulled out we found male Leopard tracks heading to the West. I notified the guys to keep a careful eye out on their side while we continued to the North of camp. We then again found tracks for Leopard but this time it was a female she had also defecated on the road which indicated it was very fresh. Almost all together we converged around the corner and there up in front of us in a Maroela Tree sat her majesty Kuhanya. With the perfect light and her behaving for the camera's it made for one of Africa's postcard pictures! With a very full belly she did not move much and she went about grooming herself while keeping an eye out over her lands. Watching her for sometime we decided to finally head off and regain focus.
A little ways down the road we found a couple of Dagha Boys feeding in the Riverbed and while watching them I joked with Jacky and Andrea that we should try find the “ Big Five” all on Motswari this morning.
With apparent sense prevailing we left the Buffalo to go about their grazing while we headed to the West to increase our chances on locating a Rhino, our mornings mission, lest anyone forget. Casually driving our Northern boundary we picked up on a number of the little things as well as some of the tallest things like Giraffe, the only request from one of our guests. Driving the boundary we were ever mindful to keep out an eye for Lion tracks as when the White Lions return it usually is from this direction. Heading on towards Voeldam we had not picked up on any sign for Rhino and we were about to turn towards the South when we found tracks for Lion. From what we could make out it looked like the White Lions as the tracks were for one or two Lions with one large track and another smaller. We started the tracking process with Jacky and Andrea going on foot while I circled the surrounding roads. During my circumnavigation I received a message from Chad that the Wilddogs had run through camp and were in and around the area. As he was not on drive he went out to locate them behind camp resting at Marula Pan, a mere hundred metres from Motswari. They had clearly killed something as there faces gave away the tell tale signs with the blood stained cheeks. Sticking to the game plan I continued to check for any signs of the Lion tracks which I did in fact locate soon thereafter, the tracks that is! This is where we ran into our first technical problem as I tried to contact Jacky on his hand-held but there was no answer. Trying multiple times to no avail I resorted to the resources I had available and started revving the engine in the hope he would hear me and head in my direction. I then decided to take a coffee break and wait and see if he got my message. It was not long before they popped out the bush and informed me that both batteries had died on them. Having charged them the night before, I think it's time for some new one's. Without the radio tracking became near impossible but once again Patrick and Chad came to the rescue as they made their way out to us to give us a hand.
With them having a vehicle now and being able to walk out and back to the same spot they could all continue to track. I in turn could leave them to do what they do best and respond to the Wilddogs that were sitting on the doorstep of camp. Arriving at the sighting after everyone had been through we once again had the dogs to ourselves. Still being early and having energy from their recent meal they were in a very playful mood and were running backwards and forwards around the pan. They would occasionally stop for a drink and a cool down before resuming to chase one another around. With us being so close to camp we could sit with them until time was nearly up and then pop into camp for breakfast. A near guarantee that we would not be late!
Afternoon drive started under very warm conditions and it was no surprise that we found the fourteen Wilddog still resting in the shade around Maroela Pan next to the lodge. What was surprising is they must be fantastically relaxed as not only were they right next to our staff village but we had big delivery trucks driving past them most of the afternoon and they had not budged an inch. Having had a great sighting of them this morning and having the same guests we left them to rest and for others to enjoy.
We once again headed to the West hoping that a Rhino had ventured in from the neighbouring reserves for water on this somewhat hot afternoon. Avoiding any distractions we headed directly West so as to allow us as much time as possible to follow up should we find tracks. Along the way we did however find a couple of roadblocks in the form of Bull Elephants, always worth a stop. Heading South along our Western Boundary we were having no joy in finding any signs of recent Rhino activity so when we received an invitation from Umlani to visit the Machaton Pride we decided to head in their direction as we only caught the tail end of them as they slipped into the Machaton Riverbed the previous evening. Making the long trip South we arrived shortly before sunset to an open sighting as the majority of the Southern stations had made the opposite journey to the Wilddogs in the North. We found part of the pride sleeping out in the open, sleeping belly's up. There were four cubs missing but we did not think they would be far as they had all been together the previous evening. With nobody responding we had the pride to ourselves and we patiently sat with them hoping they would get active. It was worth the wait as just before it got dark the pride rustled into action, first stretching and yawning and then followed by grooming themselves before moving closer to one another for a little mutual grooming. It was great to watch as this family went through there bonding routine. They then became mobile and if by magic suddenly the four missing cubs came running as if from nowhere across a clearing calling to their long lost pride mates. They all paused for the ritual greeting ceremony and then the cubs had a quick game of ruff and tumble with their now reunited siblings. They all then turned to the West and headed off to a nearby pan where they all paused for a lengthy drink before continuing on their way to the South West. It was a fantastic sighting and we got to spend a rare afternoon completely dedicated to them.
Having stayed extremely late and with a very, very long way home we reluctantly left the pride to go their way. Being once again late it did not help bumping into a young male Leopard on our way out. Being such a relaxed Leopard it would be criminal not to spend at least a little time with him. So we followed him slowly being transfixed as he elegantly went about marking and surveying his territory. Once again being drawn in it was lucky that two other stations responded to our sighting as we could have found ourselves spending the entire night out in the bush which would not bother me and after the afternoon we had had I'm sure our guests would have also been keen!
This will be my last blog entry as I'm heading off on leave in a couple of days, I'll be leaving you in the very capable hands of Chad for the next week or so. I'm sure he will keep you all informed and up-to-date on all the bushes goings on, as well as illustrating it beautifully through his magnificent photo's! It's been fun the last couple weeks and I've enjoyed bring you all the happenings. A big thank you for all the support and for following our blog.