Wednesday, 4 July 2012

03rd July: Oh King Of The Jungle Where Fore Out Thou!

Pic Of The Day.
Morning Drive.

( Grant, Andrea, Herold & Shadrack.)

Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / Peru – Giraffe Kill Rd.
Elephant ( Kambaku's) / Buchner – KNP Corner.
Buffalo ( Breeding Herd) / Java – Java Dam Access.
Leopard ( Rockfig Jnr) / Vielmieter – Back Nines.

Afternoon Drive.

( Grant, Andrea, Herold & Shadrack.)

Buffalo ( Breeding Herd) / Java – Java Dam.
Elephant ( Kambaku) / Peru – Flooded Crossing.
Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / Java – Java/ Mbali Rd.
Rhino ( Female & Female Calf)
Leopard ( Rockfig Jnr) / Vielmieter – Back Nines.
Leopard ( Argyle Jnr & 2 x Cubs) / - Sohobele Dam.

Daily Synopsis.

With the reserve being pretty well covered Petros and myself decided to head up to Buchner in the far North East corner and try our luck up there in the continuing search for the King of the Jungle. It is always a gamble as you are so far away from everyone and everything you basically commit yourself to what you find yourself, just the way I like it! The isolation is worth the trip alone and anything else you find is a bonus. On two previous occasions we narrowly missed out on a large pride of Lions, so we were hoping that this time round we would be lucky. Approaching the area of vast vista's and sketchy radio comm's we began to zig-zag through the property keeping our eyes peeled for anything and everything. The first half was to be very quit with us only finding the tracks of “ what could have been,” but no tangible sightings if you don't include the lone Steenbok or couple Impala hidden in Mopane shrub. Reaching the Kruger boundary we turned South intending to stop for coffee on the koppies but before reaching them we found ourselves a very impressive herd of Bull Elephant hidden in amongst the Mopane on the Kruger side. From the little we could see there was one massive tusker and it would be worth our while waiting to see if they headed across the boundary to a nearby pan. So heading back North we stopped for our Morning coffee at the KNP corner which offered us not only great views of the surrounding area but it also allowed us to keep an eye on the progression of our Bull herd. Even from this far distance we could make out our big tusker and it appeared we would be in luck as they headed very slowly towards the cutline. Shortly before wrapping up coffee our majestic mammals crossed the boundary and accelerated their pace towards the water.

Packing quickly we headed off in their direction and caught up with them around the pan. We were not to be disappointed as the tusks on one particular individual were huge. Initially they shied from the vehicle and we had to manoeuvre a couple times to get into a position they were comfortable with our presence, you would have thought it would have been the other way round. Sitting with them in a clearing of thick riverine bush we got ourselves a great view and when they moved off into the really thick stuff we moved around back to the pan knowing the eventually would come to the water. Sitting at the pan it was a further fifteen minutes before the emerged from the opposite side of the wall and begun feeding on the trees alongside the pan. When one eventually made it's way to the water it seemed to trigger all of them into action and they all found themselves a spot around the pan to drink. The massive tusker chose not to join and we think he continued down the drainage line while the others provided us with a terrific sighting. Finished drinking they slowly returned to feeding in the direction of the “ Big Boy.” 

We took this as our opportunity to head off and start our trip back to the lodge. As we entered into radio range it sounded like the rest of the Motswari gang had themselves as good morning with them first finding a large breeding herd of Elephant and then located on Rockfig Jnr who made a guest appearance from the South. Shadrack was lucky enough to be with her when she killed a Steenbok which should keep her in the area until at least this afternoon, we may even get a view of her cub. Something to look forward to on this afternoons drive.

Receiving two new guests for one night the pressure was on to try and find them as much as possible in their two drives to try offset the disappointment of having lost a day due to flight delays. Having a good foundation from this morning we set off directly South in the direction of the Buffalo Herd. We thought we could then swing by the Hyena Den and finally onto Rockfig Jnr and should time allow try fit in the Elephant as well, so plan formulated time to put it into action. Heading straight South we received news that the Buffalo were still resting in the same spot as they had been left in late morning but as we got closer we received word that they had now stood and turned to the West making their way towards Java Dam for their afternoon drink. Instead of catching the back of the herd and then having to bush-bash we decided to head straight for the dam and get ourselves into a good position knowing that it would not be long before they arrive. All set up we could hear the approaching herd and see a cloud of dust not far off. It was not long before the first trail blazers broke from the surrounding bush they seemed to hesitate on getting into the clearing and were a little wary of our presence but with the pressure of five hundred others behind them wanting water they were pushed on towards the dam. It was an amasing sighting as hundreds and hundreds of Buffalo came streaming out the bush across the clearing and then around and into the water all jostling for the best position. Eventually the dam was a sea of Buffalo and you could no longer see the water. We must have sat there a half hour and by the time we left they were still spilling out the bush as if there was no end. Being so many the area could not handle the capacity and so when the Buffalo had their fill of water they had to move off to the East to make room for the others. 

Knowing we were on a tight schedule we had to make a move as already we had overstayed our time. Pushing onto the Hyena Den we were once again going to spend a little more time than allocated but then how can you not when you have all three youngsters out and mom sitting by keeping an eye. As she was present on this occasion the youngsters were their curious selves and it was not long before they were alongside the vehicle sniffing and then chewing what they could on the side of the vehicle. The older two's antics even intrigued their younger relation who also approached the vehicle but then would run back to mom at the smallest disturbance. It's courage is growing day by day though and I'm sure in the next few weeks it's going to be a handful. Like the Buffalo we were pushed from the sighting, which was a good thing as otherwise we would still be there, as others were keen to respond. 

Not being far from Rockfig Jnr we headed in her direction but on entering the sighting we found that not only was she lying up in a pretty inaccessible riverbed but she had chosen her position well in the centre of a Common Spike Thorn thicket so all you could see was her lying on her back. Sitting with her a while we hoped that she would get active as it was now getting late but apart from swishing away a couple of flies she remained in her well hidden spot showing no other signs or intentions of moving. 

A little disappointed we pulled out the sighting to make room for another station as it was a one vehicle sighting. No sooner had we left we received news that she was up and dragging her Steenbok carcass up a tree, quickly checking that nobody else was responding to her, we made our way back. By the time we once again made our way into the tricky riverbed she had placed her carcass up in the fork of an Apple Tree and as we came to a stop she made her way back down the tree and promptly walked off out the riverbed. This was turning out to be a definite Murphy's Law moment, all the signs were there, getting ourselves once again out the riverbed we began to follow her but this was very short lived as she turned and made her way along a impenetrable drainage line that there was not following her through. Lucky for us we knew where she was heading and we quickly drove around to Hide Dam to wait for her to pop up for her drink. We approached the dam just in time to find her walking up the wall and to the waters edge where she crouched in typical Leopard fashion and began drinking. We sat with her a while enjoying the sighting of her drinking with the last shards of the days light slowly disappearing behind her, once gone we were left in darkness and decided to head on our way for a drink of our own.

Not having got around to everything we had planned there is a fair amount of work left for us to do in the morning but with Herold and Shadrack having found Elephant and Rhino on their afternoon drives we have at least a starting point to look from in the morning. We'll be attempting the triple so lets hope that the Elephant, Rhino & Lion all know about our plans! I'll be leaving you in the more than capable hands of Andrea for the next couple of days until I return to drive on Friday, until then, ciao!

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