Thursday, 17 May 2012

16th May: The Sohobele Boys Come Of Age!

BE WARNED: Not for sensitive viewers.

Pic Of The day.

Morning Drive.

( Grant & Chad.)

Elephant ( Kambaku) / Karans – Timbavati/ Umbabat Cutline.
Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / Argyle – Vyeboom Dam.
Elephant ( Kambaku's) / DeLuca – Drongo Drive.
Buffalo ( Dagha Boy) / Argyle – Vyeboom Dam.
Leopard ( Ntombi & Cub) / Kings – Ridge Rd.
Lion ( 3 x Sohobele Males) / Motswari – Kevin's Camp.

Afternoon Drive.

( Grant.)

Leopard ( Ntombi & Cub) / Kings – Ridge Rd.
Leopard ( Machaton Male) / Peru – Hamerkop Rd.
Elephant ( Kambaku) / Peru – Giraffe Kill Rd.

Daily Synopsis.

WOW, WOW, WOW........................................................ Sorry have no other words for our morning but WOW! Best I start at the beginning. It all began like every other morning in the bush with a cup of coffee and a whole lot of built up anticipation for what the day may hold, little did we know what we were in for. We chose to head off to the West and follow up on an Impala that was found in a tree along the Tsharalumi Riverbed, this was no ordinary dead Impala in a tree as it had a Porcupine quill sticking out of it and since no other animal was seen around it, it was the major suspect in the Impala's demise. Now there would be a special sighting, a Porcupine up a tree feeding on a Impala, something my guests had definitely not seen yet.

Chad had chosen to head South as he wanted to visit Ntombi and hopefully get lucky with her cub being present. On our way out West we bumped into a couple young Hyena's that were very inquisitive as to the car and spent some time close to us investigating this strange beast. Loosing interest in us they turned their attention to two Duikers that they pursued and tried catching but being rather flat footed they lost out and returned to playing with one another. While we sat with them we could hear Elephant trumpeting to our North and when we left our furry little friends we decided to head North and see if we could find our Elephant. Now I know you all thinking what happened to the Porcupine and the Impala and I know Jacky and I are very easily distracted but we are not that bad! While we spent time with the Hyena another station checked up on the Impala and found that it was still up the tree but no Porcupine was present, instead there was a very shy male Leopard that disappeared into the riverine thick vegetation on their approach. Hence us heading off in the Elephants direction.

Finding tracks heading South we thought we had missed them and were in the process of turning around when we saw another massive herd approaching Vyeboom Dam. At first I estimated fifty plus but as they kept on coming and coming it was more in the region of a hundred. Being Jacky's and my favourite animal we were in total heaven and it looked like we knew where we would be spending the rest of our morning. It was a double bonus as we picked up that our little injured Elephant was part of the herd and it was looking in great shape. Still unable to put weight on its front left foot it would hobble after its mom but it appeared not to be in any pain and if anything only struggled to keep up. We immersed ourselves in the herd as they went about feeding and sand bathing. Being so near and with them paying us very little attention it felt as we were part of the herd, truly a magnificent experience. While sitting with them I received a very broken, static radio call from Ephraim who works in the workshop at Motswari. At first I could not hear a thing he was saying and then only picked up the occasional words, Lion, Buffalo. Peaking my interest I repositioned trying to get better signal but I think being in amongst the herd the disturbed our transmission. Repeating his message I picked up a little more and repeated it back to him a number of times to make sure, it must have confirmed to him that I'm simple, and after finally getting a position I said I would head in that direction once we'd finished with the Elephant. Not wanting to leave so special a sighting on the off chance that the Sohobeles, and we all know them, were in the process of killing a Buffalo, we sat tight and enjoyed our special sighting. Anyway we would more than likely turn up and they would be watching Buffalo as opposed to killing one, as there are no herds in the area at the moment and that leaves only Dagha Boys which would be a little beyond their capabilities.

With our Ellie's moving off we turned further North to go check up on our Sohobele Boys. Nearing the camp that had phoned us with the information one of the caretakers came out to tell us that three Lions had indeed injured a Buffalo right at the entrance of their camp and that we must drive around to view them. Approaching their entrance we found the three Sohobele Boys sitting watching a Buffalo that was resting against the camp wall. Just as we had thought! However on closer inspection we found that all the manes of the Boys were blood tainted and it appeared that they had in fact tried to kill this Dagha Boy. Finding ourselves a good position to watch from I proclaimed to our guests that this would be the place that we would spend the rest of our morning. At first glance it did not appear the Buffalo was that injured it was only when it tried standing that we noticed the pained movement and damaged area around the tail. Who knows how long this had been going on but the Buffalo looked considerably weakened from it's experience. While the Buffalo stood and contemplated it's next move the three boys continued to rest and showed no particular interest. It was only when it began to move that one pricked up and moved to flank it, the others continued to remain sitting. With the Buffalo fatally moving away from the camps fence the Lion was able to manoeuvre around to the far side and when he ran up and jumped up onto the Buffalo's back the remaining two brothers shot into action and joined him from the opposite side. With all three of them hanging off the back of the Buffalo, none of them wanting to risk the horns on the opposite end, they were all stuck in a stalemate with the Buffalo standing his ground legs locked, lions hanging off. This continued for a fair while until two of the brothers slipped down and took hold of his legs, here they were able to unbalance him and pull him to the side. Shacking them off one last time the Buffalo appeared to be getting the better of them but the boys returned with momentum and knocked him down. Once fallen over they all positioned themselves to anchor him down, we expected one now to go in for the throat which was exposed but they all chose to hold on to the mid and rear sections. I cant describe or do any justice to the sounds that emanated from this sighting but to say the air was filled with growls and ghastly bellowing. We know thought the Lions would hold their position and wait for the Buffalo to weaken and then go in for the throat but once again we were wrong and they began to tear at the stomach and feed while the Buffalo was still alive. I don't even think you can imagine the noise. This was nature at it cruellest, raw and real. I looked into the Buffalo's eyes and realised that it was not going to give in easily and that this was going to take a while. The Lions continued to feed on him alive opening up his stomach eventually and tearing out the innards, we thought this would be it but not and the Buffalo continued to kick and bellow. I think we all felt for the Buffalo and wanted this to end as quickly as possible but yet it clung to life. I even heard from the back of our vehicle somewhere, someone say, “ please head towards the bright light now.” When I noticed the Lions had penetrated through to the vital organs I knew it was not long now and I mentioned to my guests to look at the Buffalo's eye's as they had began to roll back in the sockets and then they returned to their normal position and began flickering from side to side, with one last lift of the head the eyes rolled back and the head sunk to the ground as all life escaped this once magnificent creature. It is amazing that at the exact time of death a total silence fell on the bush, the wind died down, their was no noise from the birds or any other living creature, this included two cars full of people who dared to breath, it was eerie. From the point that the Lions jumped onto the Buffalo to the time it drew it's last breath was nearly exactly forty minutes, a true testament to how tough these unbelievable creatures are. I think we were all a little shocked at the brutality of it and writing this up now has made me really realise what I actually witnessed this morning. I'm torn between being extremely sad for the Buffalo and extremely excited that our once Sohobele Boys have come of age and are now truly Sohobele Males and look to follow in their great fathers footsteps.

We remained with them until they took a break and moved off to a nearby tree to recoup from their epic morning. Heading for coffee ourselves we wished we had something a little stronger.

Not knowing how how we were going to match our morning drive we set out with the attitude that we did not know what was in store for us this morning and therefore we did not know what awaited us this afternoon, there could be something just as great around the next corner. We decided to head to the South for a change of pace and scenery but along the way we remembered that there were tracks heading East for our relaxed Rhino female and her calf, so being able to afford the distraction we headed on a detour to the East and see if we could get lucky were Chad had not been able to on morning drive. We located on the tracks but following up on them proved fruitless as we lost them in the thick, long grass of the plains. As a consolation though we did get to view a nice herd of Zebra. 

Once again turning our attention to the South we continued on our way but our drive turned very quit and we found little else but a Warthog and a Steenbok. 

Reaching our Southern boundary and very close to were they had Ntombi and her cub this morning we received news that they both had been relocated and that there were not many stations responding so we could visit if we wanted. Not having seen the youngster our last visit we decided to pop in and take a look. The area where they were though was very tricky as it was on a very steep, rocky hill that dropped down into the Tsharalumi riverbed. On arrival we found both mom and cub up the tree with the remains of their Impala kill but when another station pulled out the sighting the youngster took fright and dashed off into the long grass never to be seen again, well not by us. With a very limited view of mom and with other stations now responding we did not stay long and chose rather to head for a peaceful sundowner in the Tsharalumi riverbed further North. 

After an extended break we resumed our trip back up North wanting to swing past a Impala that was found in a Weeping Boerbean. The same Impala that was suspected to be killed by a Porcupine. It now had been moved further to the East of where it had been in the morning. Arriving in the area we picked up the carcass very easily and there in the tree with it sat a large male Leopard. We new he would not run off, as he had done on three occasions now, as underneath him were five Hyena waiting eagerly for any morsel that may fall. Coincidently two of them happened to be the youngsters we had spent time with this morning. They were still up to their shenanigans and chasing after one another play fighting, they even roped in one of the older Hyenas and all three of them were running laps around the nearby dam. Tiring of their game of chase they turned to a little fishing and chased after the trapped Barbel in a small pool of water that was still in the dam. During all of this Machaton Male showed very little interest in the Hyena and us as he slowly drifted in and out of sleep. He only perked up when the Hyena's decided they could not wait any more and began eating away at the trunk of the tree. Had we had the time this possibly could better our sighting from the morning but looking at the size of the tree and the slow progress the Hyena's were making we thought they were being a tad optimistic. With them all dozing off again we took our leave and headed back to the lodge.

All in all the afternoon was a fair effort and definitely did not feel like the hangover drive both Jacky and I expected.


  1. Wow, that must have been harrowing to watch- I don't think I could have handled it. But as always I'm glad the Sohobele boys are doing well and now have themselves a substantial meal.

    Tammy Lee

  2. What a truly fabulous day !!! What sighting - you are right that seeing better would be very difficult

  3. Amazing thanks so much for sharing this with us. Life is hard here sometime but this gives a real look at true life in all its rawness and glory.

  4. Very sad that the Buffalo took so long to die but this happens all the time we just don't see it

  5. Wow, it's not often that pics like your sequence bring my emotions to the fore as I know that nature is hard and that is life. But that shot of the buffalo's eye rolling back really hit a nerve. You guys were really lucky to see something like this and capture the action.

  6. Heck, that buffalo kill would have taken some watching - I'd have found that hard. No wonder there was silence afterwards, I feel that just reading about it. Life is tough in the bush, and for the lions to take on an old bull buffalo was about as tough as it gets. Those boys are going to be difficult customers as they get older and take over a pride. Thank you for letting us glimpse this through your pictures and commentary.

  7. Grant, I think you captured the sentiment of the day beautifully. It was a fascinating, horrifying, but amazing thing to witness and Mike and I are still talking about it. I think we were both affected by it in different ways--Mike more affected by the cries of the buffalo, and for some reason I seem to be haunted by the smell of it all, which seems odd, but I am!

    Regardless, it was really incredible to witness the true nature of these magnificent creatures. We don't think we could have ended our safari at Motswari on any better note. Thank you for being the one to give us that experience! I'll let you know when we get the video footage up!

  8. Wow, this is my first viewing of your blog. I found it in someones link on facebook. What an amazing day. I recently saw on some animal channel about lions taking on a bull and taking it down. But there were i believe 7 of them. Of course , they did not show much. For some reason the actual taking it down was not as disturbing to me as seeing the Lions full of blood. Not the neatest of eaters are they.

    What a wonderful place you have there. It would be a dream come true to be able to do a safari. My camera would be so busy. I love the closeups you took. You make even the hyenas look cute and cuddly. Thanks so much for sharing your day, and i look forward to following your blog now that i have found it.

  9. I love this blog. The pictures today were amazing, even the fresh kill. I think we sometimes take for granted how powerful and majestic and raw these creatures are, here in civilization. Thank you for sharing.

  10. Wow! They are some of the best pictures I have ever seen, well done! although very very sad to see that poor buffalo and as you say what a strong animal. Nature is very cruel but necessary. Not sure I could have sat and watched and heard that.


  11. What a day!
    I've just finished painting a picture of one of those three Sohebele 'boys' and I've made him look so innocent!
    Thanks for all the blogs, it keeps us going until the next time we come to Motswari!!


  12. Baby Zebra SOOOOOOO CUTE!!!!!