Friday, 17 February 2012

16th February: It's All About Timing.

Morning Drive.

( Grant, Shadrack & Herold.)

Elephant ( Kambaku) / Motswari – Motswari Airstrip.
Leopard ( Umfana) / Vielmieter – Back Nines.
Leopard ( Unknown Male) / Peru – Woza Woza Cutline.
Rhino ( Maria & Calf)

Afternoon Drive.

( Grant, Shadrack & Herold.)

Elephant ( Kambakus) / Argyle – Vyeboom Dam.
Elephant ( Kambakus) / Argyle – Argyle Dam.
Elephant ( Kambaku) / Buchner.
Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / Motswari – Timbavati/ Umbabat Cutline.
Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / Buchner.
Rhino ( Female & Calf)
Rhino ( Male)
Buffalo ( Dagha Boy) / Buchner.
Buffalo ( Dagha Boys) / Argyle – Vyeboom Dam.

Daily Synopsis.

Leaving the lodge this morning Jacky and I were a little lost on where to go, so when in doubt we always head to Argyle and Sohobele Dam and hope that inspiration comes to us along the way. Arriving at Argyle Dam shortly before sunrise we sat on the dam wall watching the Hippos playing in the water alongside us while a golden sun rose behind a partially clouded horizon that fragmented the morning light across the sky in rays, perfect photography light so we headed off in search of a suitable subject. Driving around the dam we found a couple of Hyena's still chewing on the hide of the Buffalo carcass from a few days ago they still had company in the form of a number of Hooded Vultures.

Carrying on to Sohobele Dam across Phiva Plains we decided that we would head through Mbali to Java and go in search of a herd of elephant that was seen late yesterday evening heading to the West. Having finally made a decision it was not long before it all changed, typical. While sitting with a lone male Giraffe we heard a Leopard rasping not to far to the South of us and when we went to investigate we found tracks for what looked like a young male, unfortunately his tracks went both East and West. While pondering which of the two was the fresher set we caught a break as he began to call to the South East of us. Heading off in his direction we picked up on his tracks again but it was not long before we once again lost them as he walked off into a very thickly vegetated area. We decided to drive a loop and still believed he was in the block that we were circling. Returning to where we had first found the tracks we saw him walking down the road towards us sniffing around the area intently. On approaching him he once again changed direction and headed back to the North. Losing him yet again we pushed on and relocated his tracks in a drainage line beyond which we found him slowly walking down the road. He once again moved from the road, not running or even picking up his pace but just avoiding the attention. While we tried to find an open area to follow he slowly slipped away in the long grass leaving us with a view of his back and tail.

Whilst we were having our little adventure Shadrack was having his own as he had also picked up on a young male Leopard. Lucky for him it was Umfana, Ntombi's relaxed son, who was walking slowly down a drainage line hunting. Shadrack had headed into the area to follow up on the mother Rhino and her calf that he had seen after dark the evening before. The two of them were found by a station responding to the Leopard sighting and Shadrack had not been far off. With both these sightings on the go we decided to head to the South.

Our luck and timing was not to be with us this morning though as first the mother and her calf disappeared into the thickly vegetated Machaton Riverbed and it was not possible to follow them and then the Leopard walked into a very thick overgrown Raison Bush and did not come out. All that could be seen of him was a spot and his tail and only having half a tail meant not much. I think I heard it being described as a zero out of five sighting. We decided to take a coffee break and see if our timing or luck would improve after a drink but returning to drive we heard that Shadrack and Herold had relocated on the Rhino and her calf but again lost her as she moved into a very difficult area. I guess it was not to be our morning but we all have drives like that and things change so quickly, lets hope to prove that theory right on afternoon drive.

So with only two of our guests still with us and having been here four nights we decided to head back up to a property we traverse in the far North for a change of pace and scenery. We were taking a gamble as Ntombi had been found with a Impala kill late in the morning but we had faith that she would get it up into a tree by nightfall and we could visit her in the morning. The beauty of heading up to the far North East is that it's this massive expanse of open bush with breath taking vistas of endless bush and no one else, you have the entire place to yourself, just what we felt like this afternoon.

It's very hit and miss on the wildlife front as sometimes you will go up there and not only see no one else but you will not see any living thing, apart from the flora that is. The initial part of our drive was a quiet one but that could have been due to the hot, humid conditions and as things cooled down we started to pick up on things. First we found ourselves a Dagha Boy resting in a dam, no big surprise there. As we followed the river to the North it was a bit of a learning expedition as well, as many of the roads have been washed away and getting around the property has now become quite the challenge. Arriving at a sight that once was a very impressive dam we found the dam wall had been washed away and now there was only a tell tale stream running through the dam. It was here though that we could smell a Bull Elephant in musth and then here him feeding in the thick vegetation in front of us but before we could see him Jacky pointed out a massive Rhino Bull off to our right. This has to be one of the biggest Rhino I've ever seen not only in body size but in horn length, certainly in the Timbavati. With not many vehicles travelling this area we expected him to run but I guess when you are as big as he is you have self confidence and at first he stood and watched us and then once evaluating the situation he non nonchalantly turned around and slowly walked off up the bank. We decided to push our luck and follow him for a short while. Getting upwind of him we were able to get within thirty metres of him where we killed the engine and sat very quietly as he stood and once again sussed out the situation. 

After about a half hour of watching him and the sun fast approaching the horizon we decided to take our leave as we still wanted to get to one of the best sundowner spots in the Timbavati, and our main reason for visiting. Along our way there we once again found our Bull Elephant who is in either early or late musth as he totally ignored us and continued his feeding as we watched.

Getting to our sundowner spot proved a little more difficult than we had anticipated but we did finally make it, unfortunately it was minutes after the sun had set but hey the view was still outstanding and we enjoyed a very relaxed and chilled sundowner surrounded by the African Bush and it's choir.

Herold had chosen to head South for the afternoon and with new guests he was keen to show them our new arrival. So he headed to where he had left the mother Rhino and her calf in the morning and tracked from there. They did not have to work hard as they had moved only a short distance from where they had been to a nearby mud wallow where they must have spent their afternoon. Shadrack in turn decided to stick to the North and every time I did get radio signal I would hear him calling in Elephant, so it sounds like he had himself a pachyderm filled afternoon, nothing ever wrong with that!

Shortly before closing down at the lodge I heard that Ntombi had hoisted her large Impala kill into a tree so it looks like our gamble may have paid off. We will have to wait for tomorrow mornings drive to find out.

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