Friday, 22 June 2012

21st June – Hate it When the Weatherman is Right!

Photo of the Day
The handsome Makepisi male leopard resting near his stolen kill

Morning Drive

(Shadrack and Chad)

1 x leopard (Makepisi male with Mbali’s impala kill) – Java, Java Dam Access

1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Karans, Middle Road

2 x rhinos (female and young calf)

Afternoon Drive

(Shadrack, Grant and Chad)

1 x leopard (Makepisi male with Mbali’s impala kill) – Java, Java Dam Access

1 x breeding herd of buffalo – De Luca, De Luca Trough

1 x breeding herd of elephants – Peru, Wilken’s Way

2 x elephant bulls – Motswari, Argyle Rd

1 x elephant bull – Peru, Argyle Rd

1 x elephant bull – Argyle, Argyle Rd

2 x rhinos (female and young calf)

Daily Synopsis

Waking up to gusty winds blowing outside my door, I immediately went to check the weather site to see just how windy it would be today, and sadly, it was not going to be a calm day, but knowing the weatherman, I still held out a lot of hope that he would be wrong. Sadly, he wasn't.

As the morning began, the wind continued, and it lasted most the drive, not making for the most pleasant conditions – the winds were not shocking, but enough to keep the animals hidden, well, at least from me!!! Shadrack again had a much better morning that me; he located a large breeding herd of buffalos in the east while I made my way to follow up on Mbali and her kill near Java Dam, seeing only a giraffe and calf and impalas on the way. Finding nothing in the area, Petros and I went on foot and soon located the kill beneath a marula tree, but no leopard. We drove around a bit, but figured that she would be resting in the thick bush in the wind, or at the dam drinking, so we checked there, but found nothing.

Giraffe and calf and impala herd
Carrying on then to the hyena den, I was not extremely hopeful in this weather, and I guess I should not have been upset when I found nothing. So off I carried on to check for elephants; surely they wouldn’t mind the wind? It was not my morning, and all I found was impalas and a welcome cup of coffee in the protection of the shaded Machaton River where Petros had brought our guests a monkey orange to enjoy.

Hearing that Shaddy had relocated a leopard near the kill, I headed in back that way...but it wasn't Mbali! No, Makepisi male, a leopard about 14 years younger than Mbali, had come in and stolen it from her, but he was moving about a lot, although seemingly posing wonderfully for Shaddy – up and down termite mounds before eventually grabbing the kill and hoisting it up into a marula tree! He then moved off, and after driving to the area seeing kudus, impalas and a herd of wildebeest, arrived to see about three spots of a leopard! I was most disappointed and decided not to even spend time as he resting in a thicket, choosing to try again later or tomorrow.

Wildebeest on Java Airstrip
I wanted to follow up the buffalos, but heading through the east on an old road that was a favourite haunt of the rhinos, Petros laughed at me telling me I was dreaming if I thought I would find rhinos here as they went back to the Kruger. A minute later we were watching two rhinos!
White rhino cow and calf
It was the relaxed mother and her 3-month old calf, and despite being in an immensely thick mopane woodland and in the blustery wind, they were reasonably relaxed; the calf ran off once followed by mom, but after that, we viewed them at a distance of about 40m until they walked off, then we decided not to pressure them and head back to camp in the wind!

Eventually the young calf started to show itself
The afternoon saw the wind dying down, and this was clearly reflected in the sightings! I headed out east to try and relocate on Shadrack’s buffalo herd from the morning, and it took about 5 minutes to come across them at De Luca Trough, although, based on the size of the herd, it actually appeared to be a smaller and different group; either way, it was buffalo, so we enjoyed some time with them before carrying on.

Breeding herd of buffalo
Passing through Karans just produced impalas, but once more, no zebras. I then found fresh tracks for the rhino cow and her calf, and as Grant was intending to follow up on them, I let him know, but about 30 seconds later, Petros spotted them in a very thick mopane area (no surprises there!!!), and we watched from a distance as we waited for Grant to get in the area, but the thick vegetation did not provide for good viewing.

I then decided to go and look at Makepisi male at his newly acquired kill, especially as he was not lying on a termite mound...and boy, am I glad I went!!! We arrived just as the sun broke out from the clouds, bathing the bush in a splash of colours, and to have a leopard resting on a mound in that light was a dream.

The gorgeous Makepisi male posing like a champ!

All the guests and I clicked away in delight at the sight of this indescribably handsome young male leopard as he posed for us.

Could not have asked for better light...or a better subject!

We spent some good time with him, but let Grant and his guests in before the light disappeared, and all the guests were treated to a wonderful sighting of this boy.

Leaving the area, we rounded a corner and bumped into a dazzle of about a dozen zebras making their way towards Java Dam, so spent time following them until we realised that they were not actually going to Java Dam, but rather the airstrip, so we just enjoyed them feeding next to the road and bathing in the dust before making our way to enjoy some food and drinks of our own near a male giraffe.

Zebra herd and lone male giraffe trying to hide!

After sundowners, I decided to make use of the luck that I seemed to be riding this afternoon, and needing lions and not having any around, I decided to go check the tar road. Making our way towards the western boundary, we found a herd of elephants that had eluded everyone else this afternoon, but it was already dark, so we didn’t spend much time with them once they moved off the road.

We also got to see a large-spotted genet and the usual scrub hares, but arriving at the tar road, my hopes were still high; sadly, they were unfounded, at least from a lion-finding point of view! We did see three different sightings of male elephants, impala, steenbuck, genet and wildebeest as we went, but no lions.

As my guests only have one more drive tomorrow before departing, the pressure is now on to find something that even remotely looks like a lion...and as they have been quite scarce the last three days (even in the south), I am not holding my breath on completing my mission...but I won’t tell the guests that!


  1. Fabulous!
    I'll be reading blogs and books to figure out where (exactly) and when (month) to visit Africa. Lots to plan. Love all the wildlife, but l-o-v-e the Leopards!
    Great blog...thanks!

  2. Brilliant as always Chad, and I hope you had better luck today, but the weather in Jozi is miserable to say the least - hope yours is better!! Thanks again. Zenda
    P.S. What are the white patches on the buffalo?