Monday, 31 October 2011

30th October: Slowly But Surely.

Pic of the Day.
Morning Drive.

( Grant, Herold & Petros.)

Lion ( 3 x Sohobele Males) / Karans – Top Rd East.
Lion ( Xakubasa Ngala) / Argyle – Great North.
Buffalo ( Dagha Boys) / Peru – Hippo Rocky Rd.
Buffalo ( Dagha Boys) / Karans – Twin Peaks.

Afternoon Drive.

( Grant, Herold & Shadrack.)

Rhino ( Unknown Female & Calf)
Lion ( 3 x Sohobele Males) / Karans – Top Rd East.
Leopard ( Kuhanya & Unknown Male) / Motswari – Motswari Airstrip.
Buffalo ( Dagha Boys) /

Daily Synopsis.

Being my guests last drive everyone was up and amped for it and we made sure we weren't going to miss out this morning. Having not visited the Sohobele Males since they had killed their Buffalo we decided to head in their direction hopefully catching them earlier enough while they should still be feeding. As the morning warms up they tend to find the closest bush and go to sleep. It would appear the “veld” has flushed green overnight with all the trees in full bud and the green of the new grass breaking through the brown soil. We knew we were getting close when we found five Hyena's all resting at a nearby pan, they clearly come from Kruger where they don't see to many vehicles because as we approached they stood and drifted off back towards home. Arriving at the place of the kill the three brothers were lying in the middle of the road full bellied and out for the count. Apparently we were not early enough and looking at them they must have fed throughout the night, now suffering severe indigestion. Sitting patiently with them paid off when they became uncomfortable and started shifting around one roused himself enough to drag himself and his stomach to the nearest bush while another mustered up enough energy to walk to the nearby dam for a drink of water. While watching him we could swear we saw the water level drop as he drank for ever. Once finished he could not muster the energy to walk back and simply collapsed by the waters edge, leaving his two brothers to guard the carcass from the fast mounting vultures. Realising this would be as much activity as we would see we left them to their days digestion.

Being in an area that Rhino frequent we checked a couple of their favourite spots but to no avail. We did however find tracks for our large pack of Wilddog though. Unfortunately they were heading South and the tracks appeared to be made from the day before. We are sure with that many youngsters in the pack that they do not stray far and spend a fair amount of time down in the South East, we will have to keep a better eye on the area from now.

While we had limited success in the East the guys had better luck in the West and shortly after picking up tracks for Lions trying to hunt Buffalo they found the three young White Lions resting on the road clearly exhausted from their efforts. As is with any White Lion sighting it generates a lot of interest and we decided to let things calm down before heading in their direction. There was not a lot to fill the time between our decision to hold off and visit the Lions and we had to turn to the smaller things. In this instant it was the wonder of the Mtebele Ant that kept us suitably occupied until we could approach the sighting. As was to be expected getting to the sighting late, and maybe the fact that they had tried to kill a Dagha Boy during the night had also something to do with it, that they lay in nearly a comatose. The only time they raised their heads in our entire stay was to acknowledge our arrival. None the less it is always great to see them and although they are still looking very skinny it would appear that they have in fact had something to eat as their bellies had a slight curve to them. With the bush thickening up fast it should provide more cover and hopefully it will aid them in their hunting. Spending some precious time with them we eventually had to leave as our time had run up and we were once again making no friends in the kitchen.

With my new guest not arriving before afternoon game drive and my old one's not having seen Rhino yet we decided to dedicate the afternoon to finding one. We would try a little something different this afternoon and not head West where our relaxed Rhino tend to be but rather head to the East where we often see lots of tracks but very few Rhino and when we do they are very skittish and tend to run off. We had a plan though! Heading off South East we started to become a little concerned as we were not picking up any tracks, let alone any fresh tracks that we could begin following up on. This got worse when we received the news that Tshangula, our large relaxed male Rhino, was found in the West. On the complete opposite side of the reserve! Sticking to our plan we continued to the South East this was soon rewarded when Herold contacted me to let me know he had a distant visual of a female Rhino and her Calf. Accelerating our arrival into the area we found Herold who pointed out the tip of a horn two hundred metres away in amongst some thick bush. Only taking twenty minutes to point it out to my guests and with half of them still not able to quite see it, it was time for the plan! Jacky, myself, Victor, Amalie, Elea, Fabrice and Marion disembarked from the vehicle. All having been to the bush hundreds of times between them, this was to be their first ever approach to Rhino on foot. With the wind slightly off our back and the mother Rhino's attention focused on the vehicle, we first headed to the West to get the wind in our favour. Walking a wide loop we slowly and silently made our way around. Fortune favoured us on this occasion and the Rhino's attention was still fully focused on the vehicle, and the origin of the last loud noise, and we were able to slip in behind them. Finding a nice vantage point to view them from we could see mom looking to the North while her calf had actually lay down and was taking a nap. After all getting a good view we decided to push our luck a little further and approached closer. Once again we got ourselves into a good position and were able to view them nicely. Shortly before extracting from the sighting mom became aware of our presence, she was not completely sure of what was up and erring on the side of safely chose to move off steadily back to the East. All in all it was a good approach and a great way to spend the afternoon.

After a well deserved and very relaxing sundowner we made our way slowly home. Shortly before closing down we received a message from Johannes that he had found two Leopards very near Motswari's Airstrip, unfortunately he had lost them in the thick vegetation that surrounds the airfield. Herold took a chance and went into the area to try relocate which I will have you know he did very successfully. Not being far behind him I joined him in the sighting but only got a visual of a Hyena galloping in and chasing the Leopard. Having lost them once more we tried for a short while to relocate but with no joy. It wasn't until we headed back to the airstrip on our way home that we bumped into Kuhanya who was highly mobile after the male she was seen courting earlier. She would pause momentarily to call out and then head off nose down following his scent. Thinking the male is one of our skittish males, and the fact that the light draws the Hyena's attention to the area, we decided to let her go on her way alone and not disturb the honeymoon couple any further.

Later in the evening while we were at dinner we could hear the alarm calls of the Vervet Monkeys in camp, it meant she was not far off. We will follow up in the morning.

27th September – Cat Fight: Nthombi Attacks Thumbela!!!

Photo of the Day
Nthombi attacks Thumbela at Elephant Dam!
Daily Synopsis
Sorry for taking so long to get this post up, but I have been struggling enough to get the current posts up, that I just haven’t had time!
Im on leave now, so doing a bit of catching up, and here is the first post of some amazing photographs submitted to me by one of the Sharalumi guests, Peter Velleman, of an exceptional sighting that he witnessed while out on drive with Johannes.
The sighting started off pretty ordinarily following the young Thumbela leopardess late in the morning as the day was heating up, with little action expected.

It was then that Johannes spotted Nthombi, the areas dominant female leopard that was sitting watching Thumbela, the intruder in this case!
Slowly she stalked over towards Thumbela who appeared unaware of the territorial leopard approaching until it was too late!

Nthombi spots Thumbela and starts approaching while Thumbela remains unaware of the danger
The two engaged in a heated fight, with teeth and claws being flashed all over the place – the younger and smaller Thumbela clearly being taught a lesson!

FIGHT!  Nthombi takes on Thumbela!
Fortunately, it was just a “lesson-teaching” fight, and Nthombi didn’t push through her size advantage on Thumbela, who was trying her best to act submissively, and perhaps it worked?

Nthombi walks away as the victor while a submissive Thumbela makes off to the south
Thumbela ran off to the south, while Nthombi went to have a drink at Elephant Dam – a calm end to the excitement of the morning!

Nthombi having a drink

Thanks so much Peter for letting us share these stunning pictures!

Sunday, 30 October 2011

29th October: The Boys Are Back In Town!

Pic of the Day.

Morning Drive.

( Shadrack, Herold, Giyani & Petros.)

Lion ( 3 x Sohobele Males) / Karans – Top Rd East.
Elephant ( Kambaku) / Karans – Corkwood Drive.
Rhino ( Unknown Male)

Afternoon Drive.

( Grant, Herold & Petros.)

Lion ( 3 x Machaton Females & 7 x Cubs) / Kings – Little Ridge.
Lion ( 3 x Sohobele Males) / Karans – Top Rd East.
Buffalo ( Dagha Boys) / Mbali – Buffalo Kill Rd.
Elephant ( Kambaku) / Vielmieter – Double Highway.

Daily Synopsis.

Unfortunately not having gone on drive myself this morning, as my guests chose to enjoy a relaxed morning sleep in, I did not get any photo's and can only pass on what was recounted to me. With the weather being overcast and the distant rumble of thunder to the North it looked liked the lie in option was the one, this was further justified when it began raining. Not being a heavy rain the guys stuck it out and were duly rewarded when they found the Sohobele Males on a fresh Buffalo kill. So our hypotheses from the day before was right on the money and they had killed a large female Buffalo from the herd that we had seen at Majavi Dam two nights prior. From the amount that they have eaten it looks like they may have killed it yesterday morning, maybe during the storm. On hearing that they missed out on Lions my guests were a little disappointed but they need not worry as there is a fair amount of meat still on the carcass and they will be there for the next couple of days.

Chatting with the guys it would also appear that a number of other animals have made a re-emergence with there being Elephant and Rhino out there. Lets hope this trend continues throughout the afternoon, when we will certainly be out there.

With the afternoon once again clearing and the temperaturesrising we decided to stick to water and meander along the Tsharalumi River to the South, see what would come our way. Wee started with a very nice herd of Giraffe which was followed up with a number of sightings of Waterbuck and Impala in different states of activity. We stopped off at Sohobele Dam for a little birding where we racked up some nice water birds. We also added the beautiful Tawny Eagle, which is once again nesting to the West of the Dam, to our ever expanding list.  

The mammal list was becoming a little more difficult to add to but we did manage three new species in the afternoon. The first was that of a Sharpe's Grysbok, this antelope is very similar to a Steenbok but is nocturnal and it's coat is flecked white as aposed to being solid rust. The second addition came a while later when we where much further South where we found ourselves a nice family of Banded Mongooses going about their afternoon rummage. Our reason for being so far South was actually to visit our third and final new addition, the Machaton Pride. Earlier in the afternoon we received an invitation from Kings to come down and visit the resident pride of the South. Having spent the last couple of days in the North we took the opportunity to head to new territory, that and the fact that it has been some time since we have last seen the pride and it would be great to see how they are getting on. Arriving at the sighting we found the pride spread out resting in amongst some Flaky Thorn Acacias. The were semi active with the majority of them heads up and while we sat with them they did get up and move around before settling in to what must have been perceived as a more comfortable position. Shortly before leaving they were all so comfortable in fact that they barely opened an eye to acknowledge our departure.

After yet another glorious sunset and sundowner we made our way back to the lodge. Along the way you could see the almost instantaneous effect the rain has had on the insect life with every size and shape of goggo ( insect) out and about. This in turn has wakened the Chameleons from their winter dormancy and we found ourselves a nice Flapped Necked Chameleon to round off what was a pretty great drive nicely!

Saturday, 29 October 2011

28th October: Our First Summer Thunderstorm.

Pic of the Day.
Morning Drive.

( Grant, Shadrack, Herold & Giyani.)

Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / JayDee – JayDee River Rd.

Afternoon Drive.

( Grant, Shadrack, Herold, Giyani & Petros.)

Buffalo ( Dagha Boys) / Mbali – Mvubu Crossing.
Leopard ( Gijima Male & Unknown Male) / Motswari – Xinatsi Dam Rd West.

Daily Synopsis.

Waking around four to the distant sound of thunder and looking to the north from my window I could see we were in for a big storm. It was not long before the wind picked up bringing with it the cool chill of immanent rain. As five o'clock rolled around so did a massive thunder storm unleashing all its fury. Sheets of rain fell horizontally onto the ground which at first absorbed it all like a huge sponge but it soon became to much and the water began to flow under the force of gravity. If the sheer force of the wind and rain were not enough to marvel at, there was the incredible lighting show that was well accompanied by the rolling thunder, to round off the perfect African thunderstorm.

Needless to say the show ran a little late and we had to delay drive. Not surprising when we got out there a number of rain rules came into effect with many properties being closed for the morning and there was no off road driving on those that did allow access. These precautions are put into place to limit the damage the vehicles could have on the now very waterlogged and soft soil.

This made for a very challenging morning but it is how game drives are conducted in many reserves, the Kruger included. It's back to “ Old School,” you see what you see from the road. The plans from the previous evening were to follow up on the Sohobele Boy's as well as the herd of Buffalo we found late in the evening, half hoping they would be together. This plan unfortunately was washed away with the rain. Driving the areas we could, it was not long before we picked up on Leopard tracks, these were fairly fresh as the tracks indicated that he had walked at the tail end of the storm which ended only twenty or so minutes before we set off. Despite all our efforts though he used the riverbed to his advantage and eventually proved to elusive for us slipping across our Northern boundary before we were able to catch up with him.

With not much else out and about apart from a small breeding herd of Elephant they became the mornings main attraction. It could also have been the fact that it is the first herd of Elephant that we have seen in nearly a week. Our morning started quietly but as the clouds began to lift we started to pick up on more general game as they ventured out from their rain shelters and we had nice sightings of Kudu, Waterbuck, Wildebeest, Steenbok, Hippo and Zebra.  

The rain also brought out a number of interesting insects and I'm sure after these rains we can expect a whole bunch more. With an increase in activity at the base level of the food chain we can expect it to filter all the way through.  

After a warming cup of hot chocolate we took our turn in visiting the Elephant. At first it was a very poor sighting from the road as they were feeding in a thickly vegetated section of riverbed. Sitting patiently things improved and eventually they made their way out of the riverbed and next to the vehicles. Who says you need to go off road!

With the clouds breaking and the sun coming out things got steamy very quickly and we took this as our cue to head back to camp for brunch and to spend a lazy afternoon by the pool.

The afternoon drive could not have started under completely the opposite conditions to the morning with it being blue bird skies, sunny and sweltering. With many of the properties having dried up sufficiently to be reopened we looked forward to busy afternoon. We headed to the North with a plan to eventually cross slowly to the West and then head South in search of Rhino, still believing that this weather was conducive to big game. Things started off slowly but we picked up on a fair amount of general game and some of the smaller things like tortoises and terrapins. With my guests having an interest in all things big and small my job is that much easier. Unfortunately it's not the same for everyone and with it being very quiet on the cat front the guides are under a fair amount of pressure at the moment. Chatting with them along drive there were stories of only having seen Steenbok, Giraffe and Kudu, with no signs of anything that resembled a predator. I kept reminding them things can change in a heartbeat, to which they responded it better had quickly as there hearts were close to stopping.

With the sun disappearing behind a cloudless horizon we stopped for a very chilled sundowner in the Tsharalumi Riverbed. On resuming drive we headed along the riverbed intent on finding Leopard. Running out of time and place's to look we decided to visit a place Victor, a guest of mine, calls Magic Pan, as a last ditch effort. As we approached the pan the ever vigilant Jacky called out Ingwe! Looking to my left there stood a sight for sore eyes, Gijima Male. Slowly following him into the bush we found that he was following another male Leopard who was walking fifty metres in front of him. At first I thought it was a female and was tempted to leave him and bridge the gap as I thought it would be more relaxed and a more reliable sighting but then Jacky pointed out that it was in fact another male. Not knowing who he was and the fact that Gijima Male was showing no interest in us at all we decided to stay put until the others arrived. Having had a great sighting of him we moved off slowly to let others all get a turn. As you can imagine he was pretty popular! We did spend a little of time trying to locate the other male but he appeared to have vanished into the night, so unfortunately we don't know who he was. It could possibly have been Vyeboom Dam Male his brother or maybe his dad Argyle Male, or even another skittish male that has popped up in the area that the guys refer to as a Cheetah, because every time you see him he is running at full speed into the bush.

Finally finding a cat we returned to camp for dinner, need I add we were all a little late. I wonder if this is the turning point and tomorrow all our animals will have returned, we wait and see!