Sunday, 1 April 2012

31 March - Riders on the Storm

Photo of the Day
Morning Drive
(Herold, Shadrack & Andrea)

Leopard (Kuhanya female)/ Motswari – Motswari airstrip
Elephant (Kambaku group) / Argyle – Hennies Road

Afternoon Drive
(Marka, Herold & Andrea)

Cheetah (mother and cub) / Vielmeter – just north of Double Highway
Elephant (Breeding Herd) / Vielemeter – Back Nine
Buffalo (Breeding Herd) / Vielmeter – Back Nine

With Marka writing an exam this morning, and myself only getting new guests in the afternoon, I took Marka’s guests out for the morning drive. The earth was crisp and clean from last nights rain, with roads cleared of old tracks. We were surprised by a small clan on hyena on Motswari airstrip. Being the inquisitive creatures they are, they came close to the car to investigate us. We had a lovely sighting before they sauntered off into the bush.

I was about 500m from the airstrip when Herold called Kuhanya in on the airstrip. We had completely missed her, although she was tucked in a tree when Herold found her. Doing a quick U-turn, we headed back and got brief views of her before she crossed the airstrip and headed into thick bush. Despite our efforts to follow her, she snuck away, while we struggled to follow her over a steep drainage line.

Moving along past Argyle Dam we found a female hippo out of the water. As we got closer we could see she was bleeding from the back, next to her was a tiny, new born baby. She must have given birth earlier this morning! She was very protective but we managed to view her from a high vantage point as to not put any pressure on her and her new offspring. It was then smallest hippo I have ever seen, and was trying desperately to get out of the water onto the bank, but kept getting stuck in the mud. She had chosen a shallow area to give birth so the little ones head was well out of the water. It was a very special sighting.

The Simabavati guys called in a small group of bull elephant so we responded to that and watched the Ellies for a while before stopping for a drink break. En route home, we came across three Waterbuck, one being a very young and running all over the place. It finally settled near mom, and I managed to get a snap or two.

The afternoon brought a new family of guests and I set out with high hopes. Two cheetah had been called in just north of Double Highway, and I was delighted. Although I have had wonderful sightings of cheetah in the past, I have yet to see them here in the Timbavati and so I immediately headed down south. Almost every station on drive was responding to the cheetah and we all knew it was touch and go. I explained to my guests and rushed down Western Cutline, barely stopping for anything in haste to get to the cheetah. However, when it was finally my turn to enter the sighting, the last station lost visual of the two cats. Despite our efforts to relocate, they had moved off and we were unable to find them. It was bitterly disappointing, especially because we had travelled so far to view them. Herold managed to get into the sighting before they disappeared but Marka and myself were unlucky.The storm clouds were once again building, and lightening started to flash around us. Heading back through Vielmeter responding to a breeding herd of elephant, we came across a breeding herd of buffalo first. The wind was up and the rain was slowly starting to fall so the herd was quite skittish and we did not view for very long.

 The elephant herd was directly north of the buffalo and we attempted to view them as well. One large bull in musth blocked our path a bit and so after looping quite far around we watched a young male feeding for a bit. The herd was a bit disturbed though and we could hear a lot of vocalization so leaving them in peace, we headed homeward before the storm hit.

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