Sunday, 1 July 2012

29th June – Shongile On Heat!

Photo of the Day
Elephant greeting!

Morning Drive

(Chad and Grant)

2 x rhinos (skittish males)

1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Java, Crossing Below Java

1 x breeding herd of elephants – Argyle, Rudi’s Rd

1 x elephant bull – Peru, Timbavati-Umbabat Cutline

Afternoon Drive

(Grant, Shadrack, Grant and Chad)

1 x leopard (Shongile female) – Motswari, Ingwelala Cutline

2 x rhino (mother and calf)

1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Java, Java Camp

7 x buffalo bulls – Jaydee, Nkombi Pan

1 x breeding herd of elephants – Motswari, Camp

1 x breeding herd of elephants – Vielmetter, Jaydee Access

1 x breeding herd of elephants – Vielmetter, Sweetwater Southern Access

1 x elephant bull – Jaydee, Khona Bobesi

4 x elephant bulls – Argyle, Argyle Dam

1 x elephant bull – Motswari, Airstrip

Daily Synopsis
This morning was the last drive with my guests, and we still needed lions, but knowing just how poor their performances had been of late, I wasn't too hopeful that they would conveniently show up...and they didn’t!
In fact, the morning was reasonably quiet for us, but still enjoyable – we managed to find ourselves some impalas and a large elephant bull in the cloudy morning conditions; we spent some time watching as he uprooted a couple of small trees to feed on the tender roots.

Elephant bull
Leaving him we found a large male giraffe on Piva Plains as well as the resident impalas before heading to the Nhlaralumi and checking along its course for some leopards and hopefully an elephant or two, but instead we only found the resident trees.  We stopped for coffee in the riverbed – upon the request of Kieron, the leopard-hearing guest of mine, and then spent almost an hour sitting in the warming glow of the sun digging holes on the sand seeing if we could find some water, but alas, much like our lions, even the water was scarce!

Giraffe bull enjoying some acacia trees
As the morning warmed up, so did the animals, but it was already late, so we couldn’t spend nearly as much time as we wished with all the animals; starting with a big herd of kudus, waterbuck and impala on Makulu Plains.

Then we went to go and see two male white rhinos, but they were a bit nervous this morning and didn’t allow up to get closer than 50m, so it wasn't a fabulous sighting, but still nice to see them – in fact, it was a bit of a rhino morning in that area, and there were 9 rhinos seen in four different sightings.  We actually ended up watching the zebras more before having a good discussion on the state of rhinos in the country; ideal for the group that was arriving in the afternoon!

Zebras and rhinos
Heading campward, we passed another herd of zebras, waterbuck and even a breeding herd of buffalo slowly filtering into the Machaton Riverbed.  On Java airstrip, we found a lone black-backed jackal resting in the sun before he got up and trotted off.  The drive ended quietly, only seeing warthogs and impalas before arriving back.

Buffalo, black-backed jackal and kudu herd
The rest of the day was a busy one as we had a large group of guests arriving for the weekend that included some of the top rhino authorities in the world, as well as some of the top cricketers in the world!  South African Breweries (SAB) were hosting the group at Motswari for the weekend as part of their corporate social investment programme, with specific attention being paid to rhino conservation and getting their sports ambassadors involved.

The real event is tomorrow when the group heads out to assist with micro-chipping and tagging three rhinos in area, but you will have to read all about that in the next blog!  Today just saw them arriving and settling down at the lodge, and whilst enjoying a cold beer upon their arrival, a nice breeding herd of elephants kindly obliged by popping into the open clearing opposite the camp to feed before making their way to the waterhole for a drink – they could not have timed it better if they tried!

(sorry, I have to insert a real time comment now – how many “offices” allow you to look up from your computer and find a troop of monkeys and a nyala bull to be feeding in the bush 15m from you!)

Once settled in, the group enjoyed their lunch before we departed a tad late on the afternoon drive, and immediately went to follow up on the elephants; Shaddy found them on the airstrip, so after a slight detour, we joined him and had a lovely sighting of the herd with a couple of young calves.

Elephant herd near the lodge
It then turned into a bit of an elephant afternoon with another couple of sightings of elephant bulls around Argyle Dam and Motswari as we drove around – we would have spent time with the hippos had Johannes not radioed to tell me that he had managed to locate the leopard that he had heard calling near his camp; sadly she was just 20m inside of Ingwelala on the boundary, but she was static on a termite mound, and so Shaddy and I headed to the area and managed to get there in time to see her.

At first it looked like Kuhanya, as Johannes had suggested, but when she turned to glance at us, it was the unmistakable face of Shongile.  Whilst driving there, the guests had asked what a leopard’s call sounded like, but they didn’t have to wonder long, as Shongile soon began calling, and she repeated her rasping, saw-like call three times for us before she got up and wandered down into the Nhlaralumi riverbed and out of sight.  Her constant calling and pricked ears waiting for a response were a clear sign that she is in estrus and seeking out a male, but clearly none were close by, so she will have to continue her search – hopefully the Machaton male heads this way soon!

Shongile resting on a termite mound (apologies, i didnt have space to take my big 500mm lens, so had to use the 200mm instead)
We then moved back to the airstrip for a drink stop to enjoy the darkening sky as an elephant stolled off into the distance, but following that, we headed straight back to camp where we enjoyed a presentation outlining some very interesting and sometimes disturbing facts about the rhino poaching crisis in South Africa, but again, more on that tomorrow!
Elephant bull at sunset

So, be sure to check up then for a great blog update!


  1. Thanks Chad. Looking forward to the next blog! Beautiful and well written as always, thanks again!

  2. Reading the blogs i'm saving to visit one day.
    Love to see the elephants!