Thursday, 12 January 2012

10th January – As if By Magic!

Photo of the Day
Rhino splashing in the mud

Morning Drive
(Chad, Shaddy, Grant and Herold)
10 x lions (Machaton Pride – 3 lionesses and 7 cubs) – Tanda Tula, Vulture Crossing
2 x rhinos (relaxed females)
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Scholtz, Kudu Pan Rd South
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Peru, Voel Dam
1 x buffalo bull – Tanda Tula, Machaton Dam
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Jaydee, Makulu Dam
8 x elephant bulls – King, Sibejane Rd
1 x elephant bull – Argyle, Great North
1 x elephant bull – Vielmetter, Vielmetter Access

Afternoon Drive
(Chad, Shaddy, Grant and Herold)
3 x lions (Mafikizolo Pride – 2 males and 1 female) – Vielmetter, Bluewaxbill
2 x rhinos (relaxed females)
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Scholtz, River Rd
1 x breeding herd of buffalo –Mbali, Giraffe Kill Lookout
1 x buffalo bulls – Viemetter, Vielmetter-Alberts Cutline
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Jaydee, Tamboti Pan
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Peru, Elephant Crossing

Daily Synopsis
This is not the first time I have started off a blog about how our lions frustratingly all wither leave the area together, or, as if by some magic force, they all come back together!  After a frustrating four days of having no lions at all, suddenly we had four potential prides to follow up on (Mahlathini males, Machaton Pride, Mafikizolo Pride and the Xakubasa White lions) on Tuesday morning!
I decided to head east in the morning, but only as a slight detour to the south that was so productive yesterday morning, and as you shall see, equally so today!  There wasn't a great deal about, but we ticked off some impala herds before coming across a breeding herd of about 100 buffalo near Scholtz camp that we spent some time with.

Buffalo herd
Herold had then picked up tracks for lions coming from where the Mafikizolo’s had been yesterday and began tracking them to our direction.  Grant picked up tracks for lions coming from the north, but turning back north, and Shaddy had tracks for two of the Mahlathini males coming from the north, moving through the central regions.  We all began our own tracking, and I picked up tracks for Herold’s lions, so assisted him.  It was then decided that these tracks were not worth following up on, and that the trackers should rather go help Shaddy with the impressive Mahlathini males, so Herold took them there.  Over an hour later, it was realised that the tracks were one and the same!!! 
I had left the trackers to do their thing on foot and moved south as per my own mission.  There was not a great deal about, and I went to check on the leopard with his wildebeest calf kill, but found nothing there, so carried on just as Giyani found some rhinos nearby, so I pulled in to join him, and spent time watching them grazing about.

Tanda Tula then invited us to go and see the Machaton Pride down on Tortillis Plains, so I headed over there, and enjoyed some nice sightings on the way, including a group of elephant bulls in the company of a female and calf, as well as some zebras, but not much else.

Elephants and zebras
Sadly, the lions had moved down into a steep and tricky portion of the Machaton riverbed, and there was no access to them, so we had to view them from the high bank, and to make matters worse, they were fast asleep!!!  Still, we got to see them, and they were looking in good shape!

Machaton Pride resting in the Machaton Riverbed
I headed back north to have some coffee, bypassing a buffalo bull at Machaton Dam, but again, not much else in the far south.  Giyani had better luck on his way home, and found Rockfig Jnr leopardess who had gone back to her den site – still hoping she moves the cubs further north to Vielmetter soon!
The trackers had no luck with the lion tracks, and lost them in the dry, hard soils of the east, but at least they had a mission for the afternoon, and I headed back to camp, only ticking off impalas and a couple herds of kudus on the way.
I drew the short straw and had to go drop the trackers off in the east, but Shaddy hung around for a while to help out, and they soon found tracks for the male lions heading straight for the buffalo herd I found earlier in the morning.  Long story short, after an afternoon of tracking, we were still unable to locate them, and when the trackers walked into the buffalo herd as darkness was falling, they decided to call it a day!
So, a failure of an afternoon?  Of course not!  I headed off to look for elephants and giraffe, and got lucky in relocating a few giraffe that were near a herd of elephants not far from Makulu Dam.

Elephant and giraffe
The elephant herd moved to a mud wallow, and we spent some quality time with them watching them as they splashed about in the mud!  It was a very entertaining sighting that was probably the highlight of the afternoon!

Elephant bath time!
Grant, trackerless too, spotted some lions chasing wildebeest from several hundred metres away as he drove over a ridge, so he rushed over to relocate on the Mafikizolo youngsters!  They had not moved far last night, and were looking like they had eaten – possibly a leopard’s wildebeest kill?  They moved to a mud wallow to drink, but settled there for the afternoon. 
Knowing they weren’t going anywhere, I headed over to see some rhinos in another mud wallow (clearly mud wallows were the place to be today!) as they lazed about cooling themselves off, and splashing about, totally oblivious to the sad news that another 8 white rhinos had been poached in the Kruger National Park the last couple of days!

Rhinos also having a mud bath
It is sad that such amazing animals can be so ruthlessly shot for the horn that grows on the front of their face.

Ignorance is bliss - totally unaware of the demise of their species
Leaving the happy sighting, we moved over to the lions, and found them still resting near the wallow, fat bellies and breathing hard.

Makifizolo youngsters also resting near a mud wallow
As darkness was approaching, we left them to go and fetch the trackers and have a drink at Scholtz Big Dam before carrying on homeward, still checking around for the male lions that had walked across the entire distance of the reserve last night and this morning!  We found the buffalo, but despite checking the area, the thick bush of the east made it a fruitless mission – we did see a nice pearl-spotted owl, and Petros could see a black-backed jackal that ran off.

Pearl-spotted owl
Going to bed to the sound of falling rain, 14mm in all, I was awoken to the sound of a lion calling in the middle of camp...without ruining what is bound to be a good blog later today from Grant, here is a picture from the morning’s drive...although, that wasn't the main surprise!
Mahlathini males make a return...see tomorrows blog!
I am currently sitting back in Johannesburg uploading this as I am on my monthly leave, so I will leave the blog in the capable hands of Mr Murphy!  I hope that you all have a fantastic week wherever you are in the world, and look forward to sharing some more stories when I return next week!
Take Care


  1. Thanks for the updates the last few weeks Chad, I enjoyed it a lot, as I am sure a lot of other people did to. Enjoy your well deserved leave.

    Great update once again.

  2. We continue to enjoy your beautiful pictures Chad. Have a good break and we hope to hear better news about Kuhanya soon.
    Thank you
    Sue and John