Tuesday, 24 July 2012

22nd July – I Love it When a Plan Comes Together!

Photo of the Day

Hyena cubs at the den

Morning Drive

(Chad, Andrea, Herold and Shaddy)

7 x lions (Machaton Pride – 3 x lionesses and 4 x sub-adult males) – Java, Crossing Below Java

4 x rhino

2 x rhino (female and female calf)

1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Vielmetter, Hide Dam

2 x buffalo bulls – Mbali, Western Cutline

Afternoon Drive

(Chad, Andrea, Herold and Shaddy)

7 x lions (Machaton Pride – 3 x lionesses and 4 x sub-adult males) – Java, Java New Airstrip

1 x leopard (Makepisi male) – Peru, Mbali River Rd

4 x rhino

1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Vielmetter, Western Cutline

1 x breeding herd of elephants – Peru, Xinzele Rd

3 x elephant bulls – Motswari, Camp

Daily Synopsis

Sunday turned out to be a pretty special day; not only for some amazing achievements for South African sport (Hashim Amla being the first South African to score a triple century in the cricket test against England, and Ernie Else winning the British Open of golf), but an equally good day for the guides and guests at Motswari too!

I once more headed out short a few guests, but I had one main mission; to find rhino!  I headed south to where the crash of four had been seen yesterday, and was almost convinced I was going to find Machaton male leopard after we had his tracks walking through the camp in the early hours of the morning.  In typical fashion, his tracks hit Western Cutline and he went straight south, eventually turning off down his next favourite road; White Syringa.  We stopped following them and enjoyed a couple of buffalo bulls, kudu and impalas in the early (and very chilly) morning.

Buffalo bull and mongooses

Resuming with mission rhino, we checked the roads surrounding where the rhinos had headed yesterday, but found nothing – this was because they had turned back west, so Petros started tracking from where they were last seen yesterday evening...about 2 hours later he finally caught up with them!

In the interim, we had stopped for some coffee at Java Dam, and on getting mobile again, heard that Andrea had found a herd of buffalo at Hide Dam, so we scooted off down there for a rather impressive sighting of the massive herd from the south –the first portion had already drunk and moved off where hordes of buffalo started moving in from the south – there is not much like seeing 600-700 buffalo heading for water!

Massive herd of buffalo at Hide Dam

The herd gathered around Hide Dam and as some finished drinking, others arrived, and we sat enjoying and taking in the scene.

Amazing scenes at Hide Dam

Carrying on back north to see what Petros was up to, I realised that his radio battery had died!!! Luckily I managed to, with an innovate series of questions and clicks, get his location, and was making my way there when I could see where he had been tracking the rhinos – luckily for us, we managed to actually find the four rhinos on our way to pick Petros up (he had of course located them ages ago himself!). Having returned from the Kruger, the four were not totally at ease and moved off when we tried to get a bit closer, so I took my three guests in on foot, and while the rhinos were running off at first, we got into a good position and had a nice view of them before they moved off again and we left them to it.

Giraffe and her calf

The others got to see the Machaton Pride of lions – on Java of all places!  These lions haven’t been this far north for three years, but clearly the presence of the Ximpoko males in the south drove them here – a pity that they are so far away from the missing young male!  In addition, they also saw the rhino and her calf in the west.

We then went for a walk after breakfast and enjoyed some hippos, a crocodile, waterbuck and impala before a short rest and getting ready for the afternoon drive.

With one of the guests that had missed the morning, I set out a plan of action for the afternoon; go relocate the rhinos, then down to the herd of buffalo and the hyena den, and end off the day with the lions.  Simple.

Departing from camp via Argyle Dam, things got off to a good start – impala, massive crocodile, hippos, waterbuck, and kudu around the dam, and then a journey of giraffes a bit further away.

Hippo, crocodile and giraffes near Argyle Dam

Turning attention to phase one of the afternoon plan, we went to see if we could find tracks for the rhinos; we did better, and found the four of them standing just next to the road!  This afternoon they were much better and we got a rather good sighting of them before leaving them to move to phase two; some zebras added a welcomed bonus to the plan.

Crash of rhinos and a dazzle of zebras

The buffalo herd was moving east from Hide Dam, straight past the hyena den, so we actually ended up having the two in the same sighting!  Three of the cubs were out, and just watching them sleeping there and sniffing the air that was full of the scent of buffalo was quite special!

Irresistably cute hyena cubs!

As usual, the little ones then got inquisitive and came up to the vehicle and sat chewing on my land rover tyres for a while!!!

Curious hyena cubs

We then went back to the buffalo herd, but I am not convinced it was the same large herd from the morning, as I think they might have split?  Either way, while watching them, we could hear the adult hyenas calling excitedly at the front of the herd so raced around and got to see them, but sadly they didn’t have a kill, and their cackling was more to do with a greeting ceremony; the hyenas moved on as the buffalo bulls approached, and we left to go have a drink.

Rockfig hyena clan and a herd of buffalo

This was about the only time that things didn’t go as planned; the lions were now on Java Airstrip, and not many people were going there, so there was a chance they would be left unattended; I thus went there first, but as predicted, spent so much time with them that we missed the drinks stop again!

Still, it was worth it; while it was not my best every lion sighting, it was indeed one of my best lion experiences!  The lions were hunting, and as it was dark, it meant sitting with lights out.  With only a crescent moon providing light, we could barely make out the shapes of the lions as the disappeared from view.  With ears straining, we heard the impalas alarm calling; but it wasn't over, the ambush had been set up and soon there was the sound of hooves running everywhere!  I was waiting for the “death grunt”, but it never came; the lions had missed.

Machaton pride on the prowl

They regrouped and we followed as they made their way to the old airstrip, but catching sight of a herd of wildebeest on the airstrip, we turned off and sat in darkness again as the lions once more set up the ambush.  In almost complete darkness we sat silently as we could hear the one lioness edging ever closer to us.  Her shape slowly became visible, and she was stalking right towards Petros; at less than 2m away, Petros put on his light, and on seeing this, the lioness then decided to change route (much to Petros’s relief).  She walked literally up to a metre from the side of the car, walked along the side, and then under the back of it and in the darkness we could hear her footsteps  walking off.

Resting after a failed hunt
Deciding to stay an extra few minutes, we soon heard the wildebeests bolting of in all directions, but sadly for the lionesses, there was once again no success, and after regrouping, they all took a well deserved rest on the airstrip and we moved on back to camp; hearts all beating a little quicker, and absolutely thrilled with the day; we didn’t even mind that Herold had found a leopard after his drinks break!

The fantastic day was finished off with some delicious wine and a scrumptious dinner in the boma – so good that even a genet popped in to see if there were any left overs!

1 comment:

  1. wow what a ride. thank you for taking me along Chad. I don't think I have ever seen rhino horn so sharp and shiny in any other shots. I still love the baby hyena and how they start brown and then get their spots. Thank you for taking me for a ride this evening. I so enjoy my times with you and the other guides~