Thursday, 17 November 2011

16th November – Perfect Weather, Perfect Day!

Photo of the Day
Elephant bull enjoying the summer flush of green
Morning Drive
(Marka, Johannes, Herold and Chad)
3 x rhinos (skittish females)
2 x rhinos (relaxed males)
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Umbabat
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Umbabat
2 x buffalo bulls – Umbabat
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Peru, Snare Rd
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Peru, Sohebele Plains
2 x elephant bulls – Motswari, Airstrip Rd

Afternoon Drive
(Gran,t Herold and Chad)
3 x lions (Mafikizolo Pride – 2 males and 1 female) – Vielmetter, Hide Dam Link
1 x leopard (Mbali female) – Mbali, Woza-Woza Cutline
1 x leopard (Klakisa’s boy 2:2) – Peru, Sohebele Dam
1 x leopard (Gijima male) – Motswari, Trade Entrance Dam
2 x rhino (2 males)
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Java, Western Cutline
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Java, Leopard Rock Hide
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Peru, Entrance Rd
1 x elephant bull – Peru, Woza-Woza Cutline
2 x elephant bulls – Peru, Hyena Pan
1 x elephant bull – Jaydee, Madala Crossing

Daily Synopsis

Having guests that had really had some good viewing, and being able to take a morning “off” and try something “risky”, I decided to head up to the deep recesses of the Umbabat, hoping to get lucky with the Jacaranda lionesses and their white cub.
I made my way to the north-east, and ticked off some nice birds (black-bellied korhaan, martial eagle), impalas, steenbuck and a herd of zebras.

Zebra herd
Arriving in the area of the lions, we found two lone buffalo bulls, and a kilometre or so further along, we found a large breeding herd of buffalo that were waking from their night’s rest.

Buffalo herd and buffalo bull
We checked the areas where the cubs had been seen, and along the length of the riverbed where I thought the lionesses would be hiding them, but sadly, it wasn't to be our morning, and we eventually conceded defeat and made our way out the area.
We didn’t see much else besides impala and another large breeding herd of buffalos along the Kruger boundary.

Buffalo herd on Kruger Park boundary
Heading back to our regular traversing was quiet, but always had that feeling of expecting the unexpected, such as when a small crash of rhinos went running across the road in front of us and into the Kruger Park.
Back on Karans, we found more tracks for buffalo and lots of rhino activity from last night, but we didn’t see more than our lone wildebeest, impalas and a herd of zebras.

Zebras and a lone wildebeest in the east
Arriving back at camp, we did come across a lone hyena, but it appeared that the other guys had some better luck with elephants and two relaxed rhinos in other parts of the reserve.
The slightly drizzly and cool weather of the morning parted for a warm, but pleasant afternoon, and an afternoon that was almost perfect!

Hyena near camp
Johannes and Patrick had gone out after breakfast to follow up on some lion tracks in the south, and managed to locate the Mafikizolo Pride resting there, so that was my intention to visit them in the late evening.
Grant joined us on drive after a week’s leave, and I am sure he will tell you that it was his luck that was responsible for all the good sightings, that included me being able to see all of the Big 5 in one afternoon.  My main mission was for rhinos, then the lions.  But that didn’t mean I could ignore the smaller things.
I went out via Sohebele Dam to look for elephants, but didn’t get any – I did see a baby impala scuttling off into the bush, and then stopped to admire a large herd at Sohebele Dam (despite rhinos having just been called in 20m from our boundary over 15km away).  While watching them, a few started to alarm call, and so I drove around to Sohebele Plains, and there, as we expected was a leopard!
A leopard only found because we stopped to enjoy impalas
At first we were confused as to who it could be, as it looked relaxed, but wasn't a big male at all – so not Vyeboom Dam male.  Then Petros suggested it was Klakisa’s boy, and I took a look with binoculars, and sure enough, it was him!  The surprise comes in that this is not part of the usual area we expect to find him, but as a 14-month old male, he is clearly happy to explore the surrounding areas.

Leopard identified as Klakisa's 2:2 boy
We followed him down a drainage line where he went static, and I left Grant with him, not wanting to pressure the young male with two vehicles – Grant had a great sighting as he returned to the dam to drink, then immediately went back to the drainage line, a good clue that he had a kill nearby.
The young leopard didn’t get any other attention that afternoon, mostly because Mbali leopardess had been found sleeping up in a marula tree not far away.

Klakisa's boy resting in the drainage line
We didn’t go see her, and decided to try our luck with the rhinos.  Heading west, we found more baby impalas, kudu bulls, lots of impala herds, and two gorgeous elephant bulls feeding in the open.

Baby impala and two large elephant bulls
I headed down Argyle road and saw a leopard...tortoise.  But we did also find the rhinos resting still on our side of the boundary, and got to spend some nice time with them as they milled about the area – would be nice if they weren’t so scarce this summer!

Much better rhino sighting than this morning!
As the Mafikizolo lions were attracting a lot of attention from the south, I chose to go past Makulu Dam and see a large herd of elephants that were in the area – at the dam we saw a lone elephant bull, crocodiles, impalas and a herd of waterbuck.

Waterbuck herd near Makulu Dam
We spent some time with the elephant herd on the banks of the Nhlaralumi, being careful to avoid the elephant bull in musthe that was trailing them, but all in all, the herd was wonderfully relaxed and we enjoyed a good sighting – the only sad part was a new born baby that was seriously injured and struggling to walk – will be interesting to see if he can survive it?

Relaxed elephant herd
We enjoyed a lovely sundowner in the area overlooking the riverbed as some elephants fed on the sedge in the distance, before making our way towards the lions.
We got to them after dark, but they were all still static and fast asleep – wonderful to see them not even waking up when we pull in to sightings anymore; their habituation with vehicles is almost complete!
After a little while, the female got up, moved over to the older males and soon all three lions jumped up and looked intently north.  The larger male scent marked and scraped the ground to a cloud of dust before they all set off – we managed to follow behind and they looked rather comfortable with us, even deciding to rest again – once they got up, I left them and headed back to camp.

Mafikizolo Pride
On the way home, besides a spotted-eagle owl, I also saw a relaxed civet as well as the last of the big 5, a small breeding herd of buffalo!
So, with perfect weather, we had a perfect day – I wish everyday had such great weather and game viewing!  One interesting thing I did realise was the difference that time makes – had we seen the same individual animals we saw this afternoon, but 7-8 months ago, we would have had a very frustrating afternoon – the young male leopard would have run off.  The Mafikizolo lions would have run off.  The young male rhinos would not have let us get close, and all we would have seen would have been elephants!  It is thus a great testament to the guides in the area to have “worked with” the animals, shown them the respect and space they need, and now, after months of sometimes hard work, we can reap the rewards!
Hope tomorrow can produce some more of the same, and even if it doesn’t, I just hope that the weather stays this good!


  1. Chad, your photography, like old wine, just gets better and better... Most amazing!!!

  2. Thank you very much for the kind words...hope it keeps improving, still got a long way to go! :)