Monday, 28 February 2011

27th February: Getting the Job Done.

Pic of the Day.

Morning Drive.

( Herald, Elliot & Grant)

Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / Peru – Woza Woza Cutline.
Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / Vielmieter – Nyosi River Rd.
Elephant ( Kambaku) / DeLuca – Deluca Access.
Rhino ( 4 x Unknown Rhino)
Leopard ( Kuhanya) / Argyle – Mangovo Rd.
Lion ( 3 x Mahlatini Males) / Scholtz – Fungwe Rd. East.

Afternoon Drive.

( Herald, Elliot & Grant)

Buffalo ( Breeding Herd) / Peru – Woza Woza Cutline.
Buffalo ( Dagha Boys) / Argyle – Timbavati/ Umbabat Cutline.
Leopard ( Argyle Male) / Argyle – Timbavati / Umbabat Cutline.
Lion ( Mahlatini Males) / Scholtz – Scholtz River Rd.
Elephant ( Breeding Herd) Mbali – White Syringa Fallen Tree.

Daily Synopsis.

Keeping to our word, we headed to the far South and the last place the Mahlatini Males were seen the night before. Herald and Elliot were still in search of Rhino and a return to the West and South would be in order.

Our morning was very quite with us only seeing a nice herd of Zebra and a couple Hippo's, but our goal was to track the Mahlatini's

We drove roads that we thought they may have walked along or crossed during the night, so as to make up time and distance on them, but came up empty handed and had to return to where they were last seen the night before. It appeared we were in for the long slog! Tracking is extremely exciting for a guide and more so for a tracker, but for a guest it can be extremely boring and frustrating if you don't involve them in the process. Going through the process with my guests I found it became as much a challenge for them, as it was for us.

Picking up their tracks heading to the North, Jacky and Clearance, our apprentice Tracker, followed the tracks on foot on the Eastern bank of the Sohobele River, while we checked on the Western bank. We found they used Repair Dam wall to cross the river to the West. It looked like they were still following the Buffalo Herd, whos' tracks we had found earlier to the North West. Jacky and Clearance continued on foot while we checked the surrounding area. As time passed we started to broaden our search as we were coming up empty handed at every corner. Jacky and Clearance were still on the tracks but the going was tough with the ground being very hard and rocky, as well as the bush being very thick in areas. Last thing you want to do is follow tracks into a thickly vegetated area that don't come out, it's career limiting! So what the trackers do, is to circumvent the area and try pick up the tracks on the opposite side of the thickly vegetated area. Having run out of roads to check and double check, we decided to take a coffee break and leave it to the proffesionals and hope they would have better luck.

Returning from our break, Jacky was quick to contact me and ask my whereabouts, as he and Clearance had found them some time ago. Heading in their direction we picked them up on a nearby road, from where they took us into the sighting. The three males were again resting in a Mopane belt not offering the greatest of views, but the sense of achievement made up for the lack of visual. It is always great to watch a tracker at work and to be part of the process makes you appreciate the difficulties, frustration, patience and overall skill involved!

Living up to their namesake again!

Herald had a rather frustarating morning as he always found himself in the wrong place when it came to the Rhino found. First Elliot found four in the North West while Herald was in the South West, but they were skittish and had been lost by the time he was approaching the area. The Southern stations then found Shangula, a large male Rhino, a little further South of where Herald had just come from, he too could possibly be related to me! He did however find Kuhanya resting in a Marula Tree on his way home, that never happens to me!

My afternoon was to be like Heralds morning! We set off wanting to locate the breeding herd of Buffalo that the Lions were following. Now you would think this would not be a difficult task, given it is a herd of around a hundred and fifty animals, but it proved more difficult than the Lions themselves, and far more frustrating! We headed to Sohobele Dam on a tip that they had crossed Western Cutline to the West and should be around Sohobele Dam or on the surrounding plains. Arriving at the dam we found Hippo, Waterbuck and a massive Crocodile but no sign of our Buffalo, so heading to the East we checked the entire area, driving back and forth between the dam, the plains and the cutline trying to make sense of it all. We eventually decided the best thing to do was back-track to where we last had tracks in the morning. Taking some effort and time to get there, we arrived at the spot, only to receive the news that a large breeding herd of Buffalo had just been found on Sohobele Plains! It was going to be one of those afternoons for us! Turning around and suffering serious dejuvu, we once again back-tracked, if that's what you can call it if it's now your third time, to find the Buffalo milling around the plains.

Finishing with the Buffalo we responded to Argyle Male who had been found stalking a Buffalo calf, that was mysteriously found with three Dagha Boys, we not sure why, but it was not bad company to be keeping. Even the ever tough and powerful Argyle Male agreed and abandoned his hunt. A number of stations got to see this prime specimen, and definitely our biggest and most dominant male Leopard, as he made his way through his territory. The way our afternoon was going we should have expected what happened next, or should that be, what didn't happen next, or for the next hour! Arriving to him resting in a hollow in amongst the grass out in the open, we could not believe our luck, this should be a great sighting filled with fantastic photographic opportunities. Pushing our luck we pulled up a short distance from him as he looked very relaxed with our presence, so relaxed in fact, that he didn't even raise his head at our arrival, hmm............... a little peculiar! Running through his history with my guests and really talking him up, I thought he would wake from his apparent nap to showcase himself. After twenty minutes he still had not moved a muscle and the only tell tale sign that he was alive, was that his chest expanded and contracted at every slow deep breath, clearly in a deep sleep. After a further ten minutes we started to think he may be comatose, but luckily he rolled over to change sleeping positions before we had our volunteer pull at his tail. We decided to give him a further fifteen minutes during which time the sun would have set and he was sure to have got active, he is a Leopard after all, nocturnal, nocturnal, nocturnal! The fifteen minutes came and went, and the only movement was that of his paw trying to shoo away the pesky flies! Allowing him another fifteen minutes to redeem himself we sat in darkness waiting for him to revive himself. Having now sat with him for over an hour all we eventually got to see was him sitting up, looking around, deciding it was not worth the effort, and slipping back into his coma, flat cat on the floor!

What we saw, see below for what Chad's camera saw!

Our timing was somewhat off for the afternoon but by the sounds of things Elliot and Herald were spot on, with them seeing Argyle Male active, the Buffalo Herd on the move and the Mahlatini Males resting beside a small pan. Lets hope our our timing improves tomorrow!

27th February – Starry, Starry Night....and other Random Things!

Photo of the Day
Argyle Male - what a beauty!
Daily Synopsis
Why Hello!!! I haven’t done this for a while, but decided to post a blog update of my last week’s worth of ‘activities’ that I thought you all might enjoy!
Starting off with the most current news, and that being a little staff bumble yesterday evening with Dave and Thea.  We went out hoping to find Kuhanya leopardess, but she had moved on from her morning’s resting place, west of Argyle Dam, but it didn’t bother us much, as a bit further west, Grant was sitting watching Argyle Male, so I went and joined him.
Sadly though, he was not in any mood to do anything, and lay very contently in the grass a few metres from Grant’s vehicle, not even raising his head when I pulled in to join Grant – it is amazing how relaxed he has become!!!  Both Jacky (Grant’s tracker) and I commented on the fact that Argyle male now behaves like our dear old (and legendary) friend, Mangadjane!  I stuck around for a while and eventually the brute of a leopard that is Argyle male rose to his feet, walked past the car and stared intently into the bush.  It was clearly too much for him and he went back to sleep!!!

Grant's guests and Argyle male leopard
Being the perfect evening, I decided to head to the airstrip to try my hand at photographing the Milky Way...I didn’t really succeed, but here is what I got – a little more practice needed I think!!!  Still, to try and capture the real beauty of the stars at Motswari is almost impossible, but I hope these photos give you some idea of what a magical sight it is!

An amazing starry night at Motswari: stars to the west, an impala herd with the Milky Way above them, a dead tree framing the myriad of stars, and our trusty Land Rover parked beneath a canopy of stars
Rewinding a bit to last week, I took a few days off to be with my family on Ingwelala, the adjoining reserve to Motswari, and also treated them to a night at the lodge!
High Tea at Motswari

Game Drive Time - Raffaela and one of the Mahlathini male lions

Coffee break at Entrance Dam

Coffee time at Entrance Dam - Note Chad drinking Mom's Tea (mom the one making the tea!)

Petros, Carmen and Ekki at Buchner Koppies for a sundowner

Could have explained the slight headache the next day!

DAve in action at in the Boma for the evening meal
We struggled a bit for game there, and on our two drives at Motswari, but still had a great deal of fun, especially as the main purpose f our first drive into the depths of the reserve were for something far more important than a rhino!  I would like to congratulate my brother and his girlfriend on their engagement in a truly wonderful setting!  All the best guys!
...the answer was 'YES!' in case you were wondering - well done brother!

Petros reaching new heights

a magical setting for a special moment

The champange never went to waste!

Me and my family enjoying a special afternoon!
Besides that, here are a few of the photos I got during the week...
Impala ram in the last light of the afternoon

one of the Xinatsi Clan hyenas

a secretary bird - the first time i have seen in the reserve!

Thousands of queleas gathering at a dam on Buchner

red-billed queleas

the rush to the water!

drinking time

Another 'terrible' end to the day - This is Africa!

Shy Jacaranda Pride male lion roaring on Motswari Northern Access

Impala ram's with a breeding herd of elephants in the background

Breeding herd of elephants drinking at a small pool in the Nhlaralumi

Another breeding herd of elephants making their way to a dam with a storm approaching in the background

Despite the brewing storm, we only got a few millimetres of rainfall
Lastly, going back almost a month, I received a few photos from some guests that we hosted at the end of January, that joined us for our Motswari Zebra Hungry Lion Football Club practice session, and I thought I should share them with you!  Thanks to Steve and Peter  for the photos!
Motswari Zebra Hungry Lion FC (click on the photo for a larger view) - Back row from left to right: Stephen, Johannes, Thandi, Jackie's wife, Grace, Dave, Tiyani, Peter, Patrick, Tim, Elliot, Marka, Chad
Front Row: Pedro, Sinah, Eugenia
(i just want to know why i am the only one who dressed up like a zebra????)

Motswari Zebra Hungry Lion FC (click on the photo for a larger view) - Back row from left to right:
Thandi, Jackie's wife, Stephen, Grace, Dave, Tiyani, Peter, Patrick, Tim, Elliot, Marka, Grant
Front Row: Johannes, Sinah, Pedro and Eugenia

The supprters! Thania, Tembi, Grace, Petunia, Jackie's wife

Elliot "Ronaldo" Mgiba and Dave

The game slowing downa  wee bit!

Chad, Eugenia, Thandi and Peter

Peter and Elliot
Well I am heading back to Johannesburg for a week’s break – I look forward to hearing about what I miss while in the Big Smoke!
Take care until next time!