|Pic of the Day.|
No Big Five.
Rhino ( 2 x Males)
Buffalo ( Breeding Herd) / Vielmieter – Western Cutline.
Lion ( Mafikizolo Male) / Java – Back of Java.
Leopard ( Kuhanya) / Motswari – Xinatsi Dam Rd North.
There is nothing really to write about this morning except that it was a picturesque drive under the perfect weather conditions. We set off wanting to follow on our search for Leopard and Rhino and first checked the North before heading to the West. With us only finding the tracks for the Maghlatini's crossing back to Ingwelala we were in for an extremely quiet morning. So much so that we did not even see Impala for the first hour or two, well it felt that way. We did however set a new record in the fact that we have now gone three drives without seeing another vehicle and it was also the first time that I can recall that nobody called in a sighting during the drive, in the North or the South! Luckily we have such great guests and each drive is at least a great laugh. It does however make it extremely frustrating as they are the ones we would love to show everything to! We going to concentrate on finding a leopard this afternoon lets hope one of them plays along.
Hearing that this would be my guests last drive as they needed to leave very early tomorrow for their next destination we were under the gun to deliver what the Timbavati is renowned for. With the temperatures having risen quite considerably during the day and not having seen anything in the morning, tracks included, this was going to be a tall order to deliver. None the less if it's something I have learnt about the bush, it's totally unpredictable and this single fact gave us hope! Our intentions for the afternoon was to look for Leopard and we set about checking all their favourite haunts in the North. We decided to erase Rhino from our thought as our guests were heading to Southern Kruger next and they should see plenty there. While travelling around the afternoon took on that all to familiar feeling of solitude. So when two Rhino were called in the far South West corner of our traversing I found myself automatically responding without giving it a second thought. To tell the truth after the last two drives you could have called in anything and I would have found myself responding. Turning the car directly in their direction we headed off South making a few changes to our original plan. This did not mean Leopard was off the radar it was simply put on hold. We justified it to ourselves by reasoning that it was still warm and our Leopards would not be active yet and this would provide the perfect filler till conditions improved. We had a plan! We were also hoping that with the site drawing attention that other sites would be established as more eyes would be in the area. This once again proved right as Giyani found the large relaxed Mafikizolo Male lion on his way to the Rhino sighting. Arriving in the South we found our two relaxed Rhinos making their way through there new found territory slowly feeding. They have come to totally ignoring the vehicles now and go about their business as if we were never there.
While sitting with them we received some great news as Cynet found some very fresh Leopard tracks on his way to the Lion. So fresh in fact that he had dropped his tracker to follow up on foot. Our choice to come South had been further justified. With our guests having seen nice Lion we were very interested in helping follow up with the Leopard. Leaving the Rhino to continue their feeding we headed off to drop Jacky off to help follow up on foot. Myself and Andrea would check all the surrounding roads in the area for any signs that may speed up the tracking process. Not far from where we had dropped off Jacky we found the tracks of a herd of Buffalo moving to the East they were later called in a further kilometre to the East by another station in the area. This was not good as the trackers were battling to follow the tracks as the Buffalo had walked after the Leopard so trying to find a paw print in and amongst hundreds of hoof prints was no easy task. With the tracks being for a female Leopard we were looking at two possible candidates, maybe three in the form of Rockfig Jnr, her daughter Ntombela, or it could possibly be Mbali. I guess we could rule out Ntombela as her tracks would have been on top of the Buffalo tracks as she has a bad habit of following and stalking them for fun. We continued to check all the roads in the area but apart from the many Hyena tracks that slowed our progress we did not find anything. Finding ourselves driving past the Hyena Den with mom and the youngsters out, we could not but stop and spend a little time with them as they explored their surroundings becoming ever more confident in approaching the car to investigate.
Remembering our focus we kept the visit short and were soon on our way again however we were again delayed this time by the end of the Buffalo herd crossing the road. Taking the pause as a chance to contact Jacky he informed me that the Buffalo had erased any trace of the Leopard and with them loosing light fast it did not look good. With not much else on the cards and having checked where we could have we decided to visit the Mafikizolo Male before drinks. Finding him sitting out on a clearing not far from the Buffalo he began calling clearly trying to raise support from his pride members to join him on the hunt. This was another amazing experience my guests got to enjoy as we sat metres away from him as he bellowed out Africa's most distinctive sound. There is nothing quite like a Lion calling and as many times as I've heard it, it never ceases to well up feelings deep inside my soul and bring goosebumps to my flesh, there is no equivalent!
With it getting dark, Lions calling, Buffalo in the area and Jacky still on foot, it was time to go fetch him and head for sundowners. Resuming after drinks we did not have much time and would have to travel straight back to the lodge. Along the way I overheard a conversationn between Johannes and John, our night watchman at Motswari, that he had heard a Leopard calling to the East of camp near oursoccer field.. With Johannes having stayed in the North and dedicated his whole afternoon to finding Leopard he was not going to let this one get away. He positioned himself on the ridge of our airstrip and sat patiently waiting in the dark for it to call again. This had all the signs of Murphy's Law as we were in no-mans land. We did however accelerate in his direction to try give him a hand. A glimmer of hope had been reignited! This was intensified when Johannes let me know that he could hear it calling and that he pretty much pin pointed it's location to our old bush camp and that he was on his way there to follow up. Still being a way out we knew it was only a matter of time till the Leopard man would find his quarry and we needed to be close as the are she was in is notoriously difficult as it's extremely thick bush that runs along a drainage line, perfect Leopard country. My heart sank when Johannes contacted me and asked my location, as I already knew he had found it, before he said anything and we were still about ten minutes out. He confirmed that he found Kuhanya and said that he would try his best to keep her till my arrival. Pushing as fast as we could, we got nearer and nearer and Johannes still had her. All was good right up until we turned onto the road that took us to him. She got mobile through the drainage line leaving Johannes stuck and unable to follow her through it. It did appear that we were going to be thrown a life line when a Hyena turned up on the scene and chased her. We hoped that this would have her seek the shelter of the closest tree but it seemed to have the opposite effect and drove her further into the darkness. While Johannes made his way out to try relocate her he said that I must check along the road as she was heading in that direction. We checked all the way along to the point we found Johannes exiting the bush but found no trace of her. It definitely seemed that Leopard was not meant to be. While Johannes checked further to the North he said that I should head back to where he had come out and head back into the bush and check that she did not just cross the drainage line and then sit down. As I turned off into the bush Jacky gave me this look as if to say, what exactly was I thinking and had I lost it. What were our chances of finding a Leopard just driving through the thick bush in the pitch black. He did however support me and he guided me in finding us a route to the drainage line. Rounding a large termite hill there were two large Knobthorn trees ahead of us with a grassy patch between them and there sat Kuhanya nonchalantly in the only open patch in the entire area.
I don't know how Johannes knows these things but he truly is the Leopard Man! I'm not sure what was better, the sight of her sitting there or the faces of my two guests as there jaws hit the floor in amazement, they were speechless! She sat there a while and then headed off back in the direction of the road marking her territory as she went. As a double bonus, while she passed the front of the car she broke out calling giving my guests a nice comparison between Lion and Leopard calls. We followed her for a while but as soon as she got that distinctive look when something has peeked her interest on the dinner menu we left her to her hunt, not wanting to have an effect on the outcome for both parties. It's amazing that she should just appear like this and especially on this particular road, as while driving that exact same stretch when first setting off on drive earlier in the afternoon I had commented to Andrea that we needed Kuhanya to show her pretty face and I wondered where she was. I guess she answered my question, she was right there! With us having had to go into extra time to complete our mission we headed back to camp in high spirits for a scrumptious celebratory dinner.
With me not driving the next three drives, and I was looking forward to this because it was so quite, not so much any more! There will only be a sightings update while Herold takes over the reins, with the stories to continue from Friday afternoon when we resume drive. Till then, Ciao.