Tuesday, 13 December 2011

12th December: Finally Seeing Spots.

Pic of the Day.
Morning Drive.

( Grant.)

1/3 Leopard ( Umfana) / Vielmieter – Entrance Dam.
Buffalo ( Breeding Herd) / Scholtz – Kudu Pan.

Afternoon Drive.

( Grant, Herrold & Marka.)

Elephant ( Kambaku) / Motswari – Argyle Dam Rd.
Elephant ( Kambaku) / JayDee – Madala Crossing.
Elephant ( Kambaku) / Peru – Giraffe Kill Rd.
Buffalo ( Dagha Boys) / Mbali – Buffalo Kill Rd.
Buffalo ( Dagha Boys) / Vielmieter – Sweetwater Pan.
Leopard ( Ntombi) / Vielmieter – Elephant dam Rd.
Leopard ( Mbali) / JayDee – Makulu Rd.

Daily Synopsis.

After missing out on Kuhanya the previous evening we had a feeling she would pay us a visit during the night at Motswari. This was confirmed when Robert , our night watchman, mentioned that he saw her twice. Once at the kitchen with a male Leopard and another time in front of the Veranda. She must have had a very busy night in camp as we found tracks for her all over the place. From the staff quarters right throughout the main area of the lodge. Robert mentioned the last he heard of them was shortly before five very close to the dam wall. Still looking for Leopard Jacky and I headed out that way and it was not long before we picked up on the tracks for the two of them. To cut a long and not very interesting story short we spent the next hour trying to track her as she walked around in circles, so much so that Jacky and I were dizzy by the end of it and we think her male suitor also became tired of it and he departed to the East. Not knowing whether we were coming or going we decided to drive around the area and check all her favourite haunts and Maroela Trees. While doing this we found a collection of Hooded Vultures and White-Backed Vultures sitting in a tree. With no tracks for anything in the surrounding area, not even Hyena, we were unsure of exactly where their interest lay. Once again we set off on foot and scoured the area but to no avail, maybe they were merely sunning themselves after finishing off something that was not to far away.

Having exhausted all our avenues in the area and hearing that they had found Umfana, Ntombi's two year old son, in the South we reluctantly decide to head in his direction. Don't get me wrong he is a beautiful Leopard and actually one of my favourite but it is such a long way to drive and it totally upsets the intended tempo of the drive. He was making his way to Entrance Dam for a drink and the guys suspected he had a kill in the area which was promising news as this would keep him around long enough for us to get there. Nearing the sighting we heard he moved off East into the Machaton Riverbed, this is a very difficult area to try follow a Leopard and this was taking on the same ominous course of events as the previous evening. When we heard that he went static and sat down we thought our luck had changed. Well that is until we pulled into the sighting which was a one vehicle sighting and even then you could see about five spots when he wanted you to, otherwise you only saw a moving stick that kept pace with the rhythm of his breathing as he lay flat in the thick lush riverine vegetation. We spent the next forty five minutes sitting with him patiently waiting for him to stir. Having drunk and recently fed he was in for the long haul and we eventually left him not being able to count it as a Leopard sighting. We even gave him a second chance when we took a coffee break not far away just in case he got mobile but by the end of the morning the last station left him in exactly the same position as we had partially seen him.

That blur is him!

Can you see the chick?
With things getting hot rather quickly we decided to head back North on the Eastern side checking all the dams, wallows and pools along the way. We did not have much luck until we reached Kudu Pan where we found a nice herd of Zebra, a large group of Impala and one Wildebeest around the pan. Leaving the pan to head North we saw something black moving on the horizon and as we approached one another we realised it was a herd of Buffalo. Looking at their posture you could tell immediately that they were heading for the pan as well. So turning around we headed back so that we could position ourselves on the South Eastern side and watch their approach. As they got closer they broke out into a trot and came splashing into the water. As the sound of the water reached the rest of the herd they accelerated and you had them all running for the pan to try secure a position. All shapes and sizes were jostling for position first to drink and then to wallow. It was an amazing sighting as the entire herd squashed themselves into the pan with water and mud flying everywhere. Unfortunately I was only able to get a few shots as the battery of my camera died but on a positive we now know what is chasing the animals away.

 Starting drive under typical summer conditions, hot, sticky and humid! We headed straight for the water hoping to catch larger game like Buffalo and Elephant as well as some general game around the water. With this heat none of the cat family would be about until much later. It was not long before the continual stream of Elephant sightings started being reported over the radio. Not only were they back but they were back in quantity with both breeding herds and bulls being found around nearly every corner. Not to be out done Buffalo were to be found around every other corner. We had nice sightings of both Dagha Boys and Elephant Bulls. The general game was not as forth coming and between our large game sightings we had a couple of quiet periods. Our intention for the afternoon was to head down the Eastern side of the Tsharalumi hoping to get lucky with one of Klakiso's youngsters, failing this we wanted to arrive around the area of Elephant and Entrance Dams after drinks in the hope of relocating on Umfana, the spots of who we had seen in the morning. Not getting lucky with the two youngsters we drifted to our South Western corner biding our time till things cooled off. 

Hearing there was a very large herd of Elephant nearing Elephant Dam, what the chances, we decided to head off there but shortly before arriving at the dam we received a message from Giyani who was at the dam that he had Ntombi, Umfana's mother. Finally we were in the right place at the right time and we were able to join him as she made her way to the dam to drink. With an extremely full belly and breathing heavily there were no doubts that she had or has a kill in the area. There was also a hyena that was resting half in and half out the water that added to the suspicions. We sat with her as she took a long drink and then followed her as she wandered to the back of the dam to rest. It was while she was lying down that we noticed that her nipples are swollen and that she in fact is lactating. This is great news as now it looks like both Rockfig Jnr and Ntombi have had there cubs and hopefully it will not be long before they will introduce them to us. Something to look forward to in the near future! While trying to leave the sighting we were momentarily delayed when we could not get the vehicle to start, the key would turn but nothing would happen, it was totally dead. Wiggling the key around and playing with the steering wheel we eventually got it going and manage to pull out the sighting. Not thinking much of it and knowing that the new Land Rovers were prone to this ignition fault we returned to the Hyena at the dam and switched off. Big mistake as this is where we sat for the next hour with the Hyena while other vehicles came and went responding to Ntombi. She was at least considerate enough to come back over the wall so we could watch her from the far side while taking our sundowner stop in the car waiting to be rescued. Finishing our drinks we once again checked everything and we all took turns in trying to turn the key. It was eventually Jacky who had the magic fingers and got us started. Learning from our mistake we headed off back to Motswari and when we stopped along the way it was a conscience effort to remember not to switch off the car which in this industry is instinctive. You should see me on public roads when first going on leave! By the end of drive four different Leopards had been found, I guess our spotted friends are back, lets hope they stick around.

Just to let you guys know this will be my last blog entry for the next week or so as Chad returns from long leave and I head out on my days off. Thank you for all the support the last three weeks it has been fun and I'm sure Chad is revived and looking forward to getting out there and bringing you all his amazing stories and pictures. As he will be starting to drive from Friday there will only be a sightings update until then with full updates and stories resuming from Saturday. I'd also like to take this chance to wish you all a very happy, safe and fun filled festive summer holiday! Till next time, Ciao!


  1. Thank you for your blogs, Grant!
    Enjoy your leave!


  2. Thanks for all the updates Grant!
    Enjoy your leave, and hope you have a happy festive season as well.
    Great pictures of Ntombi. Can't wait for all the cubs to show themselves.

    Till next year :-)


  3. Every morning I appreciate your daily stories and great pics !
    Thank you for your nice blog.
    Say hello and big hug to Marka, 'Mister Leo' ;) We were to you at the end of August.

    Regards from Brussels