Monday, 30 April 2012

29th April: Ellie's And Buff Around Nearly Every Corner.

Pic Of The Day.
Morning Drive.

( Grant, Shadrack, Marka & Herold.)

Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / Motswari – Motswari Airstrip Rd.
Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / Motswari – Xinatsi Dam Rd North.
Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / Peru – Shabalala Rd.
Elephant ( Kambakus) / Peru – Termite Rd.
Elephant ( Kambaku) / Motswari – Barnes Post.
Buffalo ( Breeding Herd) / DeLuca – Mpela-pela Pan.
Buffalo ( Breeding Herd) / Karans – KNP Corner.
Buffalo ( Breeding Herd) / Mbali – Mbali/ Java Rd.
Buffalo ( Breeding Herd) / Peru – Shabalala Rd.
Lion ( 3 x Sohobele Males) / Karans – Majavi Dam.

Afternoon Drive.

( Grant, Shadrack & Herold.)

Buffalo ( Breeding Herd) / Peru – Voeldam.
Buffalo ( Breeding Herd) / Mbali – Java Dam Rd.
Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / Peru – Hippo Rocky Rd.
Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / Borneo – Sumatra North/ South Cutline.
Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / Motswari – Motswari Airstrip.

Daily Synopsis.

Waking to a Leopard calling in the drainage line beside my room I was keen to get out there as it is still something outstanding on our Christmas List along with Buffalo and Giraffe. The latter two were going to be the mornings priorities but they could always wait a little while. So setting off from camp we headed directly to the North and began our search reaching the area I thought I heard it calling from we found tracks for a large male Leopard. This was not exactly good news, as the chances of finding it were very low and I decided not to expend the energy on finding it only to have it run away after a few seconds. So it was back to Plan A and we turned South but before leaving Motswari we bumped into a small breeding herd of Elephant. Never passing up the opportunity to spend time with these gentle giants we parked ourselves in the centre of the herd and sat with them for the next hour while they went about their feeding and interacting. It is the beauty of having guests stay an extended period of time, you can sit and spend time with things and actually observe their behaviour and not have the pressure of trying to find everything in a two day period.

With the Elephants eventually getting mobile we took our leave and headed in the direction of where Marka had left the large Buffalo herd the night before. With other stations in the area doing most of the leg work before we arrived we had only to check one road to find what we were looking for. It happened coincidently that we would find a lone female Giraffe on a road that we were checking for the Buffalo and while sitting with her we could hear them bellowing in the valley below us.

Our arrival to them was further delayed when we ran into another herd of Elephant, this time it being a far bigger herd. You would think we would bypass them but the Buffalo were going nowhere fast so we once again took the opportunity to sit in amongst the herd as they inquisitively approached us to within touching distance. With them being a little more mobile than the last lot they passed us quiet quickly and we got away sooner. 

The anticipation of finding our Buffalo was put on hold once more when we rounded a corner to find that we had a flat. Stopping to fix it we had everyone overboard but standing on the side of the vehicle as the Buffalo had now made themselves visible and were heading straight in our direction. Changing the tyre as quickly as possible we were all back on board as they began closing around the vehicle, they had also been joined by two Elephant Bulls who had sneaked onto the scene. They all seemed very unperturbed about us and went about their business of grazing hardly paying us any attention. It was the same impressive herd we saw two days ago and must number around five hundred. We once again chose to enjoy this very impressive sighting and did not feel the pressure to move off and respond to other sightings, of which there were a fare few. 

The rest of our morning was a chilled affair having a cup of coffee and finding a nice herd of Kudu.

Herold chose to head to the East and had himself quiet the morning, first finding a large breeding herd of Elephant, followed by a herd of Buffalo. Being in the same area as the Sohobele Lions were heading in during the night Herold figured they would not be far away and sure enough it was not long before he found them. Unfortunately they crossed into Kruger trying to position themselves to the East of the Buffalo and set up an ambush. Lets hope they get around in time and chase them back our way as it would be nice to have them around a few more days. I'm sure the guys will follow up this afternoon. It is interesting to note that between all the guys out this morning we found four herds of Buffalo, it's no wonder the Lions are back.

With the afternoons temperature reaching thirty six degrees it was no wonder that the first half of drive was exceedingly quiet. I guess it also had to do with the fact that we had so many sightings over the past week that in comparison it was a quite afternoon by our new standards. We set off in search of Leopard, although we have seen three in the last two days they have all be very brief and the one that wasn't was after dark without a spotlight. So all we are lacking to wrap up some amazing sightings is one of our relaxed Leopards that we are renowned for and any one of these would do. 

We headed to the North West and checked the area around Vyeboom Dam and when coming up empty handed we continued on our Northern boundary to Voel Dam where we were spoilt to yet another breeding herd of Buffalo. This time we watched as they made their way to have their late afternoon drink before heading off to feed until dark. While sitting with them we received news that a herd of plus/ minus a thousand had made it's way into the Tsharalumi riverbed and were drinking from pools stretching over a number of kilometres. Quite the sight I'm sure but having seen the herd in the morning and once before that, we chose to continue our search for Leopard. Our afternoon was to be relatively productive with us finding, Steenbok, Sharpes Grysbok, Zebra, Giraffe, Kudu, Civet and Waterbuck, and lets not forget, Elephant, that seem to be around every corner of the reserve at the moment. 

Checking all the usual haunts of our spotted residents it appeared they too had left the area on the long weekend as we came up empty handed. Not even a track or sign anywhere to be found. Lets hope they return tomorrow but failing finding them I'm sure there will be plenty out there to keep us enthralled.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

28th April: A Family Reunion!

Pic Of The Day.
Morning Drive.

( Grant, Shadrack, Marka & Johannes.)

Lion ( 3 x Sohobele Males) / Motswari – Matomani Rd.
Elephant ( Kambakus) / Motswari – Motswari Southern Access.
Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / Peru – Shabalala Rd.
Buffalo ( Breeding Herd) / Peru – Shabalala Rd.

Afternoon Drive.

( Grant, Shadrack, Marka & Herold.)

Lion ( 3 x Sohobele Males) / Argyle – Argyle Dam Lookout.
Leopard ( Shindzuti Male) / Java – Java Dam.
Leopard ( Makipi's Male) / Java – Teminalia Rd.
Rhino ( Mtenga-tenga Male)
Rhino ( Female & Calf)
Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / Motswari – Motswari Airstrip.
Buffalo ( Breeding Herd) / JayDee – Tamboti Pan.

Daily Synopsis.

Setting out on drive on the most perfect autumns morning, cool, clear and not a breath of wind. I received a message from our neighbour informing me that he had seen the three Sohobele Male lions the previous evening sitting on our Southern Access road. Now were Chad has his Leopards I have my Lions and although the Timbavati Pride are very near and dear to my heart the Sohobele Males have to be my firm favourite. Their story is one of pure courage, determination and the ultimate will to survive. They have overcome all adversities thrown their way from being orphaned way before their time, split from one another for extended periods of time, to walking day and night in search of a meal and recovering from the many mauling they received at the tooth and claw of other Lions. So to hear that all three of them were here on our doorstep, all my plans for the morning went out the window and become solely focused on finding these long lost friends. I knew exactly who to call to come help as he must be the one other person that could possibly love them more than me, Johannes. On calling him he had already got wind of the message and was already on his way to the area. Both he and I checked to the North East of the camp, while Marka checked further to the East to make sure they had not turned back to Kruger. It was not long before I found where they had been chasing a large male Buffalo. Johannes also had found where they had trailed behind that same Buffalo further to my North West. This was good news as they were heading deeper into our traversing area. Johannes and I went onto foot to determine exactly the direction they were heading. We found were they had relocated on the Buffalo and split into hunting formation. The Buffalo had continued to the West so Johannes and I returned to the vehicles and while he checked to the North, I proceeded to check further to the West. With the ground being very hard after the recent rain and somewhat rocky we painstakingly patrolled the area looking for any tell-tale sign of their presence. On reaching our Western boundary I turned to the South and started to check towards the airstrip. Johannes meanwhile had found a track further to the North heading in a North Westerly direction, this was not good as it was heading directly towards our boundary. Johannes proceeded to check the boundary road but did not come up with anything and was on his way back to the last tracks that he had seen to start following up from there when he heard Impala alarm calling further to the North than where he had just checked. Ever aware of his surroundings and the tell tale signs he contacted me to let me know that he was heading to check on the alarm call and that I must not go far. Sure enough two minutes later he contacted me to let me know that he had found them and we were in luck as they were now making their way South back into our traversing area. Not leaving anything to chance I rushed in his direction to find one male walking majestically down the road towards us. The other two had just left the road as they had seen a herd of Kudu and were once again on the hunt. Not wanting to disturb them we sat as they set up their ambush unfortunately one of the females got wind of them and let off the loud alarm bark. With their cover blown the three of them once again set off South through a nice open area that afforded us a good view of them. Although they looking a little on the lean side, story of their lives, one can see the gene's of their father, the great Sohobele Male, starting to blossom and given time these youngsters while develop into majestic males like their dad. With a lot of interest being shown in the sighting we would soon have to make space so others could also enjoy them. Shortly before we left though they went into hunt mode again and set up an ambush on two Warthog. This time they came very close to pulling it off and had the one brother been in position in time I'm sure they would have pulled it off. I was glad to see nothing has changed with them and they are still ever the opportunists, so not that different to your Leopards there Chad. It has been the major factor in their survival. I tried to figure out the last time I saw them and came up with it nearly being six months, lets hope they hang around a few days so that we can enjoy them.

The rest of our morning was a chilled affair with us taking in all things great and small. We also headed to the East to visit the Kruger boundary, always a point of interest, as well as to find Zebra in the open clearings of the area. They kept us waiting though and it was not until the final cleared area that we found them and in the nick of time as well, as they slowly made their way into the surrounding Mopane to feed on the lush grass in the shade.

Both Johannes and Marka found themselves a nice herd of Buffalo as well as a huge herd of Elephant to bring to a close a very successful morning for themselves. Something I'll be keen to follow up on this afternoon.

Our afternoons mission was to head to the West and try follow up on the Buffalo herd that had been located this morning. Having chosen our route we slowly made our way in that direction but we then got news that another station was driving that route from the South so a quick change of plan was in order. I always say things happen for a reason and on this occasion it became apparent rather quickly. Heading on our new route I received a message from Marka informing me that he had found Shindzuti at Java Dam. On our new coarse we only had to make a minor adjustment and we were on the bush highway in his direction. It did not take us long at all to get into the area but unfortunately this rather shy Leopard had become mobile from his resting spot in a tree and was now walking through some very thick stuff, only reminiscent to stuff I've ever seen when playing golf. We got to see him literally for a minute or two before he disappeared away into the surrounding bush, clearly not wanting to be seen. While trying to relocate on him we received an invitation to go visit Mtenga-tenga, our large male Rhino, or the female and her calf in the open plains in the South. Not having any luck in finding our Shadow, that is what Shindzuti means in Shangaan, we took our leave and took up the offer to head South and visit the Rhino. We chose to head for mom and her calf as the two of them are always a special sighting and this afternoon was to be no different. As we sat there with them our little White Rhino seems to be having an identity crisis as she thinks she is a Black Rhino with her browsing on a small tree. It was hilarious to watch as she gummed the tree and finally when it was not to her taste she used it to scratch an itch. A little tree for a little Rhino. 

Having had the most awesome sighting it was time to head for sundowners but before we could get to recount the days adventures we bumped into Mtenga-tenga Male who was making his way across Eagle-Owl Plains following the scent of the other two. We sat and watched this impressive juganaught in the days fading light and it was one more story to be added to a day filled with excitement and adventure.

I nearly forgot to mention a very awesome experience we had on our drive home. Nearing camp we were checking the airstrip to see if we could find Kuhanya but instead we found a herd of Elephant hanging out in the open. As we do not view Elephant at night as we do not shine the light on them we chose to switch off all our lights and radio and sat with them in the pitch dark using our other senses to experience the moment. As our eyes became adjusted to the light we could make out their impressive shapes next to the vehicle and as time passed and they got closer we could make out details on their face but the noises and smells were what made the experience and it will be something that I do more often now as our presence did not interfere in any way and they went about what they were doing as if we were not there. I couldn't think of a better way to finish off the perfect day.

At this rate I can't wait to see what tomorrow holds!