Wednesday, 15 February 2012

12th February – New Baby Rhino!

Photo of the Day
The gorgeous Nthombi
Morning Drive
(Andrea, Chad and Johannes)
10 x wild dogs – Motswari, Airstrip
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Java, Peter Pan Access
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Jaydee, Vielmetter-Alberts Cutline
2 x buffalo bulls – Java, Terminalia Rd

Afternoon Drive
(Andrea, Chad, Grant and Johannes)
1 x leopard (Nthombi female) – Kings, Airstrip Rd
2 x rhino (female and 3-week old calf)
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Jaydee, Jaydee Access
1 x elephant bull – Java, Vielmetter-Java Cutline
1 x buffalo bull – Java, Whitey’s Rest

Daily Synopsis
Luckily only 10mm of rain fell last night, so there was virtually no impact on the morning’s game drive...well, not any negative ones anyway, but the cool, cloudy weather brought with it something most guides always hope to find on such cool, cloudy weather days...wild dogs!
It took Andrea all of 1 minute to find them, as she had no sooner left reception when one came dashing past her, but was lost at high speed.  We circled the area, and after hearing from the staff that the dogs had run through camp, we went to the airstrip, and soon joined Andrea who had just relocated the pack – now sadly down to just 10 dogs – standing on the airstrip watching our lone wildebeest.  Luckily they left him alone (I’m still upset they killed a wildebeest calf on the weekend!) and carried on north along the airstrip, making for a great sighting.

Wild dogs on the airstrip - great start to the day!
We eventually left them as they headed up along the road towards Motswari Private Camp, but they crossed over into Ingwelala and we all carried on with drive.

On the move
Thandi at Motswari Private Camp, was lucky enough to later see the pack just after they caught an impala less then 10m from the verandah of the camp!  The dogs moved off from that kill, but the lucky guests staying there at the time were privy to see them return later in the morning and finish it off just in front of them, from the comfort of the camp!
While with the dogs, we heard that Nthombi leopardess had been found walking around down south, and we decided to all go see her, but sadly she crossed south of Double Highway, so that made it a bit more tricky for us; but luck was on our side, and her missioning led the guides to a kill, so we had a chance, and still headed down, even though the visual wasn't great.
We enjoyed a slow drive south, passing Argyle Dam to see if the lions were still there, but found nothing.  There were impalas, waterbuck, some ground hornbills, a herd of kudus and a lone giraffe as we eventually arrived at Lily Pan (more a dam now – with a hippo too!) to join Andrea for coffee.

Impala and giraffes
Having half decided to leave the leopard sighting, we were then informed that she was mobile back to Vielmetter, and we tried our luck anyway – my main intention for going was because I knew she was going back to her cubs to suckle them, and that could be special if she brought them out!
Sadly, something was conspiring against us, and as I was trying to join Giyani, she went down into the Nhlaralumi and disappeared down the bank, but straight towards the rocks where she has the cubs hidden (so I’m told from the King’s Camp guides) – I waited at some rocks, not even sure if they were the right ones, but we saw nothing and eventually left as it was getting late.
Johannes had found some elephants that we stopped to watch on the way home as they fed on marulas, but besides that it was a lot of driving this morning for relatively little reward!

Elephants eating marulas
The afternoon was an enjoyable one for the guests, but a slightly challenging one for us guides, as driving a group on three vehicles and making sure the guests all got to see the same stuff was a bit of a challenge, but we succeeded!
I started off heading east, and as expected, found a nice herd of zebras and impalas on Kudu Pan Clearing – Kudu Pan itself was a sight to see – its pretty full, so full in fact that it covers the road!

Zebras on Kudu Pan Clearing
Carrying on in the east, besides dinging my tow bar a few times, there was little to speak of...well, besides impalas.  Johannes had a buffalo on Java Airstrip, but as seems to be my luck of late, it had moved off before I got there, but I wasn't too fussed as Johannes had found us a rhino!  I headed there, seeing more impalas and zebra on Java Airstrip.

Impalas and zebra on Java Airstrip, with the expansive Timbavati rolling out to the horizon
I would say Johannes had found us two rhinos, but a 3-week old baby rhino calf is barely big enough to be classed as a rhino!!!!  Yes, one of our female rhinos has given birth, and this is the youngest rhino calf any of the guides have ever seen in our area, and the smallest one I have ever seen!

Tiniest baby rhino calf we have ever seen - maybe 2-3 weeks old!
It was so small we could barely see it above the grass!  The mom was quite chilled, but baby was a bit unsure of us, so we didn’t put pressure on them – this was only its second proper exposure to vehicles, after one vehicle saw them this morning!  It wont take long before the calf is as relaxed with us as mom is, and I cannot wait to watch this little calf grow up!

Can't wait to watch this little guy/gal grow up!
Tiyani did make me laugh, as when the calf eventually popped out of the grass, his first words were  “sjoe, its ugly!”
Leaving the rhinos, we headed west hoping to get lucky with Nthombi who had managed to disappear as one guide left the sighting and another pulled in – a matter of a minute and she had left the kill and was gone!  Luckily for us, as we arrived on Double Highway she was located in a nearby marula tree, and Kings Camp invited us to take the guests in to see her, so we did just that!
She was looking in great shape, but the fat belly and comfortable tree didn’t produce much action when I was there, and she just rested.  Later on though, Grant and Andrea watched as she jumped down and headed back to the kill, but it was dark, so they left her.

Nthombi resting her fat belly high up in a marula tree
Heading to sundowners, we saw a small group of elephants, then arrived at Nkombi Pan just in time to enjoy a beautiful sunset!

Elephant herd before enjoying a sundowner at Nkombi Pan
Heading home I chose to drive Argyle Rd – I don’t like using the tarred road, but we were late, and I knew we had a chance of seeing the hyenas at the den – luckily the gamble paid off, and we found them on the road – six hyenas all in all, including three cubs that were very fluffy and cute, and immediately changed the guests’ perceptions of hyenas!

Xinatsi Hyena Clan at their den site on Argyle Rd
Carrying on all the way to camp on Argyle Rd didn’t produce much luck, but the guests were happy with what they had seen, and thankfully, the weatherman’s predictions for more rain were again wrong, so we stayed dry (never thought I would be happy for it not to rain here!).
This is also my last blog for a while – I am off for my weeks leave in a couple of days, and then actually on a two-month sabbatical of sorts (to finish the long overdue coffee-table book and get the ball rolling on my Master’s thesis) – I will still be based at the lodge, but busy with other things, so Grant and Andrea with keep you up-to-date on all the happenings in the reserve, and I will chip in from time to time too!!!

So take care everyone and will catch up again soon!
Chad Cocking