Thursday, 12 April 2012

11th April: It Doesn't Get Better Than This!

Pic's Of The Day.

Morning Drive.

( Grant, Herold, Andrea & Robin.)

Elephant ( Kambaku's) / DeLuca – Deluca/ Luttig Cutline.

Afternoon Drive.

( Grant, Andrea, Robin, Marka & Godfrey.)

Elephant ( Kambaku) / Motswari – Xinatsi Dam Rd West.
Elephant ( Kambaku) / DeLuca – DrongDrive.
Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / Peru – Giraffe Kill Rd.
Wilddog ( 19 x Pack) / Java – Peter Pan Access.
Cheetah ( 1 x Female & 2 x Sub Adults) / JayDee – JayDee River Rd.
Rhino ( 1 x Male, 3 x Female & Calf)

Daily Synopsis.

While sitting at morning coffee before drive John recounted how he had heard Lions roaring the entire night North of the camp. He mentioned that they were slowly moving from the East to the West. With all of us very keen for Lion we formulated routes that would cover the area but shortly before actually setting out on drive we heard the roaring for ourselves. It sounded as if they had turned around and were now headed back to the East. Quickly changing our plans we headed in the direction of their calls. This happened to be in exactly the same area that Herold and I had spent our entire afternoon drive the day before looking for Leopard. I hate to think what our guests think about their guides and trackers orientation skills.

As we checked the identical route as we had driven the night before, Andrea joined us to help while Herold also put his guests through the same thing again. Needing these Lions we scoured the area with a fine tooth comb looking for any sign or track of them, but with a herd of Impala and Wildebeest sitting unperturbed on the Ingwelala airstrip it looked unlikely that we would find them and they more than likely were still on our Northern neighbours farm. This did not deter us from continuing to check all the areas we could to the North East but as suspected we all came up empty handed. Well almost Andrea did find herself some Elephant Bulls and Goodman and I had found tracks for a male and female Leopard, more than likely the one's that we had been looking for the night before. Guess we should have stayed out a little later.

With no where else to check we all went our separate ways. Herold continued to the North East up to Buchner where he hoped to get lucky with the Timbavati Pride or the Maghlatini Males. He was taking a big chance but the reward would be well worth it and it nearly did pay off as he and Difference found fresh tracks from the morning for the two females and their cubs. Unfortunately they tracked them following a Buffalo herd which had crossed into Kruger and out of our traversing area, better luck next time chaps! Andrea turned her attention to the Tsharalumi River and headed off to where we had Makipi's the night before hoping to find another kind of cat. Goodman and I headed to the North West hoping it may have been different Lions calling that side, one can only hope. While approaching Vyeboom Dam we received a message from Robin that he had fresh tracks for three Lions further to the South, more than likely the Mafikizolo Pride. Hearing that he had help in the area and being some distance from us with a very limited amount of time we chose not to head in their direction but carried on up in the North fulling our drive with lots of general game and birds of prey which included, Waterbuck, Giraffe, Steenbok, Kudu, Bateleur, Brown Snake Eagle, Juvenile Dark Chanting Goshawk and a beautiful Marshall Eagle.

As would be Murphy's Law, shortly before closing down at camp for brunch a report came in that the Mafikizolo Pride had been found. With absolutely no time available and miles from the area both Andrea and myself could not respond but Robin was nearby and he headed in their direction. Herold being on his last drive before leave and with his guests not having seen Lion he had no option but to go, even if it did cost him his life at the hands of the kitchen staff. Closing down we hoped that the Lions would still be around in the afternoon. It was only much later that we learnt that neither Robin or Herold got to see the Lions as they had moved off into a very thick area and disappeared. It's going to be back to the drawing board for this afternoon.

With Chad leaving the reserve this morning the afternoon drive held a lot of promise. Only joking mate but you did mention to me before leaving though that all the animals would return on your departure and you were not far wrong.

We once again tried for the herd of Buffalo to the North East of Motswari and for the forth time headed straight back to the same area. I thought it best to mention to my guests exactly why we were returning so as they may not think that I had lost the plot completely. As with all our previous trips we had little success in what we went there for but we did find a very chilled Elephant Bull that put on a show for us while he went about trying to get at a particular type of herb. Sitting with him some time we finally decided that we should go as we still wanted to try follow up on Makipi's and his brother around Mbali and this would all so put us in a good position to respond to the Mafikizolo Pride if it was relocated.

On our way South we were about to cut through Java to Mbali to start our Leopard search when we received a message that a pack of Wilddogs had been located not far away. We were aware that some of the guys were tracking them but did not think that they would locate on them that quickly. Once again being lucky enough to be close to the area we put our plans on hold and responded to the dogs, after all it's not everyday you get to see this endangered species. Making our way into the sighting we found them lying all over the place and it was difficult to find a spot to approach from as they seemed to be everywhere. A final count had them at nineteen, which is a very impressive pack especially when you get to see them get mobile and start running in their distinctive line as we did soon after joining the sighting. As you can imagine the sighting attracted a fair amount of attention so we did not stay long so as to give everyone a chance to get to see them before the sun set, as we do not view them after dark and with the spotlight.

Karma must have been at play in what happened next, as no sooner had we made space for the next station and was heading back to continue with our original plan a message came across the air that three Cheetah had been found less than five minutes away. Being perfectly positioned and with everyone else still trying to get to the Wilddog we could make our way straight to the sighting. On our way there I mentioned to Goodman that we were on our way to see Cheetah, I wish I could have taken a picture of the disbelief and amasement written all over his face. This was soon replaced by excitement and I'm sure I looked pretty much the same at hearing the news. It is not often that you get to see both of these endangered animals let alone in the same afternoon within fifteen minutes of one another. Finding them sitting on the sand in the middle of the Tsharalumi made for a great picture but I was not quick enough as they got up and ran off to the opposite bank. Making our way around they were lost in a drainage line before we could get back in to see them properly. With the light failing fast we rushed around the area trying to relocate and our perseverance paid off with us finding them to the West of where they had been slowly walking on the road towards us. Killing the engine we sat quietly hoping they would move into a clearing not far from us, we never expected them to walk right up to the front of the vehicle, hesitate and then head back slowly to the riverbed in the East. It easily rates as one of my best Cheetah sightings ever, certainly the best in the Timbavati. 

With the adrenaline hitting an all time high it was time for sundowners settle the nerves and give us time to appreciate the incredible afternoon we had just had.

Who knows what we'll see tomorrow, we wait in anticipation.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Grant what a great end to the day!
    Sue and John