Tuesday, 19 June 2012

18th June – Ever Been Curious about What an Elephant’s Tail Smells Like?

Photo of the Day
Umfana male after walking up to an elephant and sniffing his tail!

Morning Drive

(Herold and Chad)

5 x rhinos

1 x breeding herd of elephants – Java, Peter Pan Access

Afternoon Drive

(Grant and Chad)

1 x leopard (Shindzuti male) – Peru, Giraffe Kill Rd

1 x leopard (Umfana male) – Vielmetter, Entrance Dam

2 x elephants – Vielmetter, Entrance Dam

Daily Synopsis

While everyone was heading to work at the start of a new work-week, Herold and I headed out into a slightly chilly, but beautiful winter’s morning drive.  The game was a bit on the quiet side today, but we still had a fair morning.

Herold had spent a good part of the morning unsuccessfully following up on tracks and impala alarm calls indicating that Makepisi or Shindzuti male leopards were around Mbali Dam.  I had decided to check the east for rhinos and lion, and headed towards the Kruger Boundary.

Not far from the lodge a lone hyena was ambling down the road but soon moved off into the bushes and out of sight.  Checking towards Kudu Pan, all we had luck with was a pair of steenbuck, and even out towards Majavi Dam was dead quiet; but there is always beauty in such silence and stillness!

Hyena on the move
Eventually, we found some rhino droppings and tracks from last night, but Petros and I weren’t convinced that it was for too many rhinos, but we began tracking and within a couple of minutes, we found a crash of five rhinos, but sadly, they were on the Kruger side of the boundary.  Although we got to watch them for a few minutes, it was right into the sun and they slowly moved south and a bit deeper into the Kruger, leaving us to go and enjoy some coffee, hoping that they would come back, but sadly, this wish didn’t materialise, so we enjoyed the hippo at the dam instead.

Checking Borneo and Scholtz is always nice to feel so alone and isolated, although we were so alone that all we saw for about 45 minutes was a herd of impalas!  It was however a very nice sighting of a herd drinking at a waterhole.

Impalas drinking at zebrawood pan
Johannes had tracked down a rhino and small calf, but they weren’t playing along, so I headed towards a herd of elephants that had been seen near Java Camp in the morning, and managed to find them down near the Machaton Riverbed.  We then spent about half an hour enjoying the herd, some individual coming within touching distance of us!

Breeding herd of elephants, including a young male sniffing Petros
Heading back to the lodge for a delicious breakfast, we saw a big herd of wildebeest and a dazzle of zebras chasing one another around on Java Airstrip, but besides that and a massive warthog, it was a bit quiet.

Java Airstrip - the "mini-Serengeti" for a few moments there this morning!

In the afternoon, I decided to stick in the east looking to see if the rhinos had come back, as well as to try find the lions that had been reported chasing zebras on the Kruger Boundary earlier in the day too.  As it turned out, I ended up having a rather ridiculous drive that involved way too much driving, but in the end, it was worth it!

I started out checking the Kruger cutline, but found no sign of anything.  Even impalas were scarce; whilst Majavi Dam had double its hippo population since the morning and now hosued two hippos – each imitating the other; so one splattering of dung was reciprocated by the other, then the large yawning displays were exchanged a couple of times – probably just ensuring that each hippo stuck to his half of the dam.

Displaying hippos at Majavi Dam

I then went to try track the lions, and having driven the block and finding no tracks leaving, I thought the trackers might get lucky, so I dropped them off and then went to explore the south-eastern corner, hoping for rhino, or maybe an aardvark.  All I got was mopane trees and a message that the lions had chased the zebras straight back to Kruger!  So off to pick up the trackers and then I headed back north to check Majavi Dam for the fourth time today, and for the fourth time today, it was empty.

I headed back towards the central regions and was about to stop for drinks when Grant found the leopard that Herold couldn’t the morning.  I was heading there, only to hear that rather than being Makepisi, it was the shier brother, Shindzuti, and I wasn't going to chance it.  Then Marka radioed that he had found Umfana male leopard resting in a tree at Entrance Dam...this wouldn’t have been an issue if I was still in the south, but I was already back in the north!!!

My drive had been so quiet that I asked the guests if they wanted to go, despite it being a 25 minute drive south; they agreed, and so off we went, arriving at a sighting that definitely saved the day.  I almost didn’t make it there, as another leopard was found – the third within 10 minutes in the north – and this one had a kill; well, technically, not a kill, as the impala wasn't dead yet!  A male leopard was reported killing an impala near Motswari airstrip, but as it was almost dark and going to be a negative sighting soon, I skipped – and just as well, as a pesky hyena arrived and stole the whole impala from the poor leopard that ran off.

Regardless, I arrived to find Umfana drinking at the dam before he showed an interest in some rustling trees on the side – I thought it was guineafowls, but soon heard the breaking branches and realised it was a couple of young elephant bulls.  Umfana had laid down not 4m from the one of them, and lay watching him.  Unbelievably, he then got up and crept right up to the elephant, lifting his chin as high as he could to literally sniff the elephants tail!!!

Umfana male watching an elephant before going to sniff its tail
I could not believe how close he managed to get – and half expected him to jump on the elephant, but instead he turned around and walked back to the water with the elephant being none-the-wiser!  All I can think was that this was some sort of leopard game of “Truth or dare” that caused him to do it, as no sane leopard would have done that; either that, or he was just really curious as to what an elephants tail spelt like!!!  He lay at the water for a bit before moving across the riverbed.

Yawning, then resting, then moving again...very indecisive tonight!

We followed for a while longer, but he soon lay down and posed for us before moving back towards Entrance Dam and we left him in peace.

Umfana posing for us - a beautiful boy indeed!

Heading back to camp was dead quiet, and we only saw two hyena cubs outside the den as we passed it heading home, but as no mother was present, we didn’t spend much time with them.

Grant enjoyed about 40 minutes with Shindzuti, which is a very encouraging sign, and hopefully he will get as relaxed as Makepisi soon!

Back at the camp, the guests got to see four buffalos feeding in the grass in front of the chalets!

So, I am not sure what my plan is for tomorrow, but hopefully I come up with one soon, or better still, hope that nature messes up whatever plans I make and spoils me/us with something special once again!


  1. WOW, what a great sighting of Umfana male Chad... That is pretty funny behaviour from him ;-)


  2. I still maintain that elephants are magnificent but baby elephants just do it for me - the cutest things alive. The most majestic to me though is not the lion but the leopard whom I think should be King of the Bush!! As always Chad, thank you! I juct can't wait everyday to get onto your blog!