Friday, 16 March 2012

15th March: An Epic Morning!

Pic Of The Day.
 Morning Drive.

( Grant.)

Leopard ( Makipi's Male) / Peru – Old Gate Link Rd East.
Leopard ( Klakiso Female) / Peru – Old Gate Link Rd East.
Buffalo ( Breeding Herd) / Argyle – Hyena Pan.
Lion ( White Timbavati Female & Jacaranda Pride) / DeLuca – Argyle Rd.
Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / Motswari – Northern Access.
Elephant ( Kambaku) / Motswari – Motswari/ Ingwelala Boundary.

Afternoon Drive.

( Grant.)

Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / Vielmieter – Entrance dam.
Lion ( Mafikizolo Male) / Ntsiri – Argyle Rd.

Daily Synopsis.

So after our adventures the previous evening we sat at dinner hoping to hear our friend call for his brothers during the night but it all was quiet except for the distant howling of Hyena and the occasional calling of the nightjars that were hawking insects in the nearby riverbed.

With two of my guests choosing to sleep in rather than join us on morning drive, we knew we were in for something exciting we just did not know what or where. Setting off before sunrise our plan of action was to check around Motswari before heading to the West in search of Rhino and anything else that came our way. It has become some what of a ritual of Jacky and mine of late to stop at Argyle Dam and watch the Hippo's while the sun rises unobstructed in the background lighting the water in a golden hue, medicine for the soul.

As the sun climbed quickly into the sky we continued our journey West. With other stations having now got mobile the calls came in for various tracks around the reserve. The direction and region we were heading in we received a message that both fresh female Leopard tracks and then Wild Dog tracks were found while following up on the Leopard. With another station heading into the area we decided to continue our journey West where we found fresh tracks and the spot where a herd of Buffalo had spent the night. We all now had something to follow up on. We first checked our traversing boundary to the North to make sure that they had not crossed out but instead found where they had crossed in, this was good news. Returning to where we had started we began checking the roads to the South. Along the way we ran into the stations following up on their respective quarries. We all seemed to be heading in the same direction. Whilst heading back to the West we caught a glimpse of a dark shadow moving in amongst a particular thick section of Mopane after giving it a closer examination we had found our herd of Buffalo, it was now only a question of how were we going to get to them. Jacky knowing a road further on that should intersect their path of travel took us in its direction. While making our way there we became distracted by the giggling of Hyena, it does not take much to distract Jacky and I, and before we new it we had backed up looking for the source of the commotion. With one of our guests catching a glimpse of a Hyena we set off road to investigate. No sooner had we crested a small mound there in front of us stood ten Hyena's squabbling over the remains of something. We could not see anything but we could certainly smell the distinctive smell of intestines and stomach content, this kill was fresh. At first we thought it may be a baby Buffalo from the very nearby herd but we, sorry Jacky, once again became distracted with a Leopard he noticed trying to slip away from the scene. Choosing to follow him he initially sped off but then once clear of the attention he slowed up and began to circle back eventually coming to rest in a drainage line in amongst some Mopanes. It was only then that we recognised it as Makipi's and we approached closer. Spending some time with him we eventually left to go watch the Hyenas squabble over the remains.

Arriving back in our original position we found a number of Hyena had moved off and were resting in the shade while a few others were still tugging away at the skull and horns of a fully grown Impala, no wonder Makipi's was still hanging around. We sat within a couple metres of the Hyena and watched transfixed as they went about their business.

As we were about to leave a Hyena approached from the opposite side of our vehicle and about the same time we noticed something splattering on the ground. At first we did not pay much attention but then it happened again now this was peculiar and as we simultaneously looked up into the tree for the source we were faced with another Leopard rushing down the branch in our direction growling venomously, teeth bared. Truth be told this made me and all my guests flinch as it was completely by surprise. We soon realised that her anger was not directed at us but more at the Hyena on the opposite side of the vehicle. This brought the other Hyena back to beneath the tree to investigate at which she began to urinate and defecate all over them showing her displeasure at being tree'd in this smallest and thinnest of Mopane Trees. Once she had finished her vent and realising it was Klakiso, Makipi's mother, we backed up to give her space as she does not like vehicles and is a very skittish Leopard at the best of times. It is amasing that she went so long without revealing herself and just goes to show how unbelievably patient they are. We could not believe we had been so absorbed in the Hyena that we missed a Leopard sitting on top of us, TWICE! With the Hyena's losing interest she saw her gap and quickly made a break for it. Before the Hyena knew what happened she was out the tree and joining her son who had now moved a little to the North along the same drainage line.

We took this as our cue to leave and get back to the task at hand, find our Buffalo. Having spent the last hour and half distracted we were back at square one but we did know that after all the commotion on our side they had not come in our direction so we headed back to where we had first located there tracks. This time we actually found them heading to a mud wallow for their mid morning cool down. 

Watching as they took turns in mud bathing we received news that the White Timbavati Lioness had been found on the tar road North of camp. Having had a good sighting of the Buffalo and a nearby herd of Zebra we thought this would be a fitting end to an already epic morning.

Not everything can go your way though and as we pulled into the sighting we discovered that the pride had taken shelter in a Mopane thicket leaving us with a partial view of them and when they chose to lie down we were left with a white coat which could have been anything. Not quite the ending we were looking for but the herd of Elephant on the way back to camp made up for it.

Who knows what the afternoon has in store for us but we can only hope it is half as good as this morning.

Our afternoons objective was a semi simple one, semi being the Rhino we still needed to find and simple being the Giraffe that we should. Not having travelled South in a number of days it was a time for a change of scenery and also a good place to look for Giraffe. There had also been a sighting of our mother Rhino and her calf a lot further South but we hoped that the guys in the South would follow up and then we would be in a position to respond, unlike this morning.

The first part of drive was very quiet and our first mammal only came after thirty minutes driving and this was in the form of a Bushveld Rat, nothing to be shunned as it's not something you often see. We then proceeded to find ourselves a family of Dwarf Mongooses which are always nice to see and at least our sightings were getting bigger. We thought we had struck gold when we found a herd of Impala staring fixedly in a one direction but their behaviour lacked the alertness of a major predator. With some of them advancing forward to investigate we saw one spring into the air as if he had stepped on a landmine. Our curiosity got the better of us and we went in to investigate. It was not long before we had Jacky sitting right back in his chair squealing something about a massive Black Mamba the thickness of his forearm. It unfortunately slipped away into a hole in a nearby termite mound before I got a chance to photograph it, but it was huge. I dared not go any closer for fear of Jacky sitting back with me in the passenger seat telling me how I would have to look after his family if anything should happen to him. You can only imagine how many times I've heard this story.

After our no-were-near death experience we continued South to find our Giraffe at Hide Dam. We were in for a treat as this particular male was not shy and he proceeded to drink from the Dam with us sitting right there next to him. Unusual in the fact that this is one of the times that they feel most vulnerable but he walked straight up to the water and began drinking without giving us a second glance. With him finishing off his drink we took our leave having found our simple. 

Our drive then took on a chilled atmosphere and when the White Lion was called in we did not even consider racing off to try see it. We had planned to swing by the spot they had been in the morning later in the evening but they obviously got mobile a little earlier, oh well. Still holding out for Rhino we headed to the West where our best chance lay but with the light failing us fast we ran out of time and decided to enjoy sunset over a drink.

Resuming after sundowners we headed up our Western Boundary along the tar road. It's amasing how much is attracted to the tar road after dark and we found ourselves, a Large Spotted Genet, our Hyena's from this morning sitting outside their den, an Egg-Eater Snake and one lone Mafikizolo Male Lion walking down the middle of the road. Needless to say all these distractions delayed our arrival to the White Lion which had now become mobile and headed out of our traversing area to the North. After the special day we had ourselves this did not phase us in the least and we headed back to Motswari knowing how lucky we had been. Who knows what tomorrow holds.


  1. WOW... GREAT day Grant!
    Stunning leopard and hyena sighting...


  2. Feel speechless after reading of the last two days adventures!
    Ferocious lion and black mamba, not forgetting the leopard in the tree above you, definitely time we returned to Motswari!
    Take care Grant,
    Sue and John