Tuesday, 10 July 2012

09th July: A First.

Pic Of The Day.
Morning Drive.

( Grant, Andrea, Marka & Shadrack.)

Lion ( 3 x Females & 3 x Males) / Peru – Sohobele Dam.
Leopard ( Argyle Jnr) / Mbali – Sohobele River Link.
Buffalo ( Breeding Herd) / JayDee – Den Rd.
Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / Java – Java - Mbali Rd.
Elephant ( Kambaku) / JayDee – Madala Crossing.
Rhino ( 3 Skittish)

Afternoon Drive.

( Grant, Marka, Shadrack & Herold.)

Leopard ( Mbali Female) / Peru – Tawny Eagle Rd.
Leopard ( Argyle Jnr & 2 x Cubs) / Peru – Xinzele Rd.
Lion ( 3 x Males & 3 x Females) / Peru – Long Rd.
Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / Motswari – Tsharalumi Access.
Rhino ( Male)
Rhino ( Male)

Daily Synopsis.

Top of the morning to ya all. Waking to clouded skies it did not hold a lot of promise for photographic opportunities but at least it was warm and the animals should be out and about earlier than usual on the cold winters mornings. A ray of hope was cast when the sun began to rise as it pierced through the blanket of cloud and showered us in golden light. The animals began to play along as well with our six visiting Lion being found at Sohobele Dam. If that was not enough for the area Marka found Argyle Jnr a little down the road as well. Not that we saw either of these as both Shaddy and myself decided to head out West and follow up on the breeding herd of Buffalo from the previous evening and also see if we could get lucky with a Rhino or two.

It looked promising as we picked up on tracks for a male Rhino very early and from the signs it was very fresh, unfortunately it was heading North towards our traversing boundary and after following up quickly we found that the tracks had in fact crossed out. Still early days, we proceeded South along our boundary were we once again had the misfortune of finding where a herd of Buffalo had crossed to join the Rhino. From the state of the dung on the road they must have just crossed, this was confirmed when a station within viewing distance of us further down the road saw members of the Mafikizolo Pride cross behind still trailing the herd from the day before. Making our way to where they had crossed we could see nothing of them at all. It appeared that the Klaserie was the place to be this morning.

Thinking we had lost our Buffalo herd to the neighbours we still continued to the South hoping that something might cross into our reserve. It was then that Shaddy contacted me to let me know that he had found another Buffalo herd not far from where we were. Heading in his direction we found the herd rousing themselves from their evenings rest and starting to feed towards a nearby pan. With the light failingus on this occasion and being in a shrubby area we did not find many photo opps but sticking with the herd they eventually started to present themselves and by the end of it we had ourselves a great sighting of first a dominant male thrashing a small Knob Thorn Tree followed by a full on fight between two huge males. I unfortunately could not take that many pictures of the fight as I was to busy trying to keep us out of the middle of it. From what we saw there is no ways you want to get caught in the middle of them. The fight eventually ended with the loser turning tail and running while the victor chased in hot pursuit goring him a number of times in the rump.

After all the sudden action it was time for a cup of coffee and we chose the nearby pan hoping that we would be joined by the herd a little later. Coffee came and went without our visitors and on our way back we found that they had chosen to head further to the South East and forgo their morning drink. We are sure they will do an about turn later in the morning to quench their thirst. The rest of our morning was very productive with us finding a wide variety of general game. We also found ourselves a beautiful Elephant Bull that had dug himself a well in the middle of the Tsharalumi River and proceeded to drink and bathe from it.

We later caught up with a small breeding herd of Elephant that allowed us to join the herd for a short while. We could not spend to much time with them as breakfast was once again calling. On our way home we received news from Marka that he had a brief visual of three Rhino but on seeing him the moved off into thick bush. Somewhere for both Shaddy and myself to follow up this afternoon, maybe they will be a little more relaxed with us on foot. We wait and see.

Our afternoons intentions were to head straight South to the Hyena Den and if they did not play along we would return to look for the three Rhino Marka had found in the morning. We should have known that having an agenda was a bad idea and should rather let the bush dictate our afternoon. Having said this no sooner had we left camp than we received a message to let us know that Mbali had been found. Throwing all plans out the window we immediately responded and headed off in her direction. She and I have missed one another on a number of occasions of late and I'm still to see her since the floods so being a little selfish I wanted to respond to her to see how she is doing, anyway she is the “Grand Dame” of our Leopards and my favourite! Nearing the region where we had been tracking Argyle Jnr and her cubs the previous day and being aware that she had dropped them off in the rocky outcrop I kept an eye open for them every time we drove past. On this occasion I saw something dart off onto the rocks and on closer inspection we found it to be the young male cub. Killing the engine and sitting very still we hoped he would reappear from his hiding spot behind the bush. It was not long before he did and he appeared extremely relaxed with our presence as he walked out into the open in front of the car. Watching him cross to our right it drew our eyes up the road and there in the middle of it sat his mother and sister. They too seemed awfully relaxed, so much so that we thought we would try our luck and get a little closer which they did not mind. Not pushing our luck we still stopped a fair distance off wanting mom and cubs to be comfortable with us. No sooner had the young male greeted mom they all stood and started to make their way along a drainage line. With our sighting being fairly stable we took our name off responding to Mbali, as protocol dictates. I guess old lady we'll catch you another day! Following both mom and cubs we hoped that mom had returned to collect them to take them to a kill she had made as she purposefully walked in a Westerly direction. Keeping our distance we followed behind getting great views of both mom and cubs, when we did encroach to close she was quick to let us know turning and snarling at the vehicle, we only made that mistake once! She walked us through some very tough and thick vegetation but this was interspersed by clearings here and there that we got to see all three of them clearly. With Mbali very nearby and it being more of a stable sighting all those that responded headed in her direction leaving Argyle Jnr and her cubs all to ourselves. We took advantage of this and spent nearly the entire afternoon with her, it's not that often you get a glimpse into the life of a Leopard! With the three of them eventually coming to rest in a deep drainage line mom sat at the base of a Maroela Tree while the two cubs explored their new surroundings. The male cub is far more adventurous and a lot more relaxed, so much so that he came to within fifteen metres of the vehicle, more curious at our presence than afraid. The female also relaxed from the time we arrived but still kept a watchful eye on us and would not venture far from mom. When they moved into thick grass to lie down we decided to head off and let them rest.

With not much light left in the afternoon we chose to visit the six Lions that were nearby . Opposite to the Leopards we found them fast asleep on our arrival but as the sun started to melt into the horizon they began to rustle themselves from slumber and slowly get active. It is amasing how relaxed they have become with the vehicles in the few days that they have been back now and totally go about ignoring us now. We sat with them until they got mobile and while they headed off to the East on the hunt we took over their spot for our sundowners, who wouldn't they had chosen a spot high above the river overlooking the Sohobele Plains.

If that was not enough of an incredible afternoon, one more surprise lay in store shortly before closing down at the lodge. As we neared Maroela Pan we saw this dark, low, long animal in the distance of our headlights. Getting excited we accelerated towards it as by the vague shape that we could make out it looked like it could be a Pangolin. This excitement was short lived as we fast approached the now furry animal, so it was not a Pangolin, so what was it? With its bum towards us and it's head hiding in the grass all we could make out was the shape and it's stumpy tail. To me it looked like a giant rat and when it finally did make a dash for cover we could positively identify it as a Giant Cane Rat, not quite a Pangolin but still as exciting as this was a first for me in the Timbavati!

Closing down after a magnificent day in the bush we wonder what firsts lie in store for us tomorrow. 


  1. Reading this blog and looking at the stunning photos is a highlight for me each day. Thanks so much for this. It certainly fires my deep longing to be in the bush.

  2. Wonderful - we are transported to Timbavati and look forward even more eagerly to our visit in September. We hope we have a few stunning days and nights when we are there as you so vividly portray

  3. AWESOME photos!!! Leopards are beautiful!

  4. What amazing photos and wonderful descriptions. :)

  5. Fantastic

    Roll on October when we will be back with you

    Sue and Andy UK