Wednesday, 17 October 2012

14th and 15th October – The Beast is Back – Argyle Male Comes Home (almost)!!!

Photo of the Day
The Beast is Back - Welcome Home Argyle Male!

14th October Morning Drive
(Chad, Grant, Herold, Andrea and Shaddy)
3 x lions (Machaton lioness and two sub-adult males) – Jaydee, Tamboti Pan
1 x leopard (Argyle male) – Java, Java Access
1 x leopard (Mbali female) – Mbali, Moeniejag Crossing
1 x rhino
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Jaydee, Tamboti Pan
3 x buffalo bulls – Mbali, Moeniejag Crossing
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Peru, Giraffe Kill Rd
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Jaydee, Makulu Rd
1 x elephant bull – Peru, Elephant Crossing
1 x elephant bull – Jaydee, Ndlovu Rd
14th October Afternoon Drive
(Chad, Grant, Andrea and Shaddy)
2 x lions (Jacaranda lionesses) – Peru, Russet Rd
2 x rhino
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Scholtz, Hidden Away Wallow
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Vielmetter, Mangawaan Rd
1 x elephant bull – Scholtz, Zebra Entrance Rd
15th October Morning Drive
(Chad, Grant, Andrea and Shaddy)
1 x rhino
10 x buffalo bulls – Vielmetter, Lower River Rd
4 x elephant bulls – Peru, Mahlolwa Clearing
15th October Afternoon Drive
(Chad, Grant, Herold and Shaddy)
2 x lions (Jacaranda lionesses) – Mbali, Buffalo Kill Rd
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Argyle, Rudi’s Rd
1 x elephant bull – Peru, Xinkovanini Rd North
6 x buffalo bulls – Mbali, Woza-Woza Cutline
10 x buffalo bulls – Vielmetter, Steep Sharalumi
1 x buffalo bull – Vielmetter, Lower River Rd
3 x buffalo bulls – Motswari, Car Park
Daily Synopsis
It’s late.  It’s a double post.  And, its my last post for a while!  Yip, my latest four week cycle in the bush has come and gone, and I head on leave tomorrow (well, technically, I am actually already back in Johannesburg, sitting in bed typing this now!), leaving Grant to look after the blog for the next week until I return!  Once again, my apologies for the number of double posts and delays in posting the blogs this month, but between non-stop driving, and frustrating internet connectivity, it has been a bit of a challenge, but I still trust that you have enjoyed what has been posted!
This last post is quite a good one, even if I say so myself, and mostly for the animal that stole the title of the blog post, my favourite leopard in the world, Argyle Male!
It was my guests last drive on the fifth day of their stay, and while they had seen some good things, two days of dodgy weather did keep the animals at bay, so to end of on a drive like this was a real bonus – not least because the weather was a calm, cool, and cloudy morning – perfect for game viewing!
I began checking the east which had been closed for the last couple of days due to the rain; there were tracks for rhino, and a herd of buffalos, but in general, there was not a great deal out that side as we headed down south hoping to get to the hyena den.  Giyani was also making his way that side when he spotted a large male leopard in a tree near Java.  He approached slowly, thinking it was Machaton male, and knew that he would just run off in the day time.  But the leopard seemed to relax immediately.  I suggested that the guides kept it a one vehicle sighting, but Giyani said the leopard looked very relaxed, and he wasn't sure which leopard it could be, but it was definitely not the young Umfana.  Andrea went to join him, and the leopard came down the tree, and I thought that that was the end of the you can imagine my surprise when Andrea radioed to give me the identity of the leopard....hesitantly, she said “I think it is Argyle male???”  As she had never seen him, she was totally going on Jackie’s ID, and having spent years watching The Beast, I knew that they were likely to correct, and I immediately headed in that direction to confirm this for myself!  Could it be?  Had the largest leopard in the Timbavati returned home?  Well, we had never seen him on or near Java, but at least he was a lot closer than his present haunts some 30km away!
Not long after, I arrived to join Herold, and as we approached the leopard lying in the grass, I instantly recognised my old friend – Andrea was right, it was Argyle male!!!  He hasn’t been seen for over 4 months, but here he was, back, and looking like a machine!  Wow, he is in fantastic condition – fat bellied, muscular, not-so-pretty, but then no fighters ever are!  He was sporting a few healed scars, and I wondered which leopard was brave/stupid enough to even contemplate messing with him!  Okay, he is aged, at around 11-12 years old, but he still looks in tip-top shape!

The ever impressive Argyle male leopard

We followed him as he walked around and posed on a few termite mounds, and was great to see that he has not lost any of his trust in our vehicles.

Sadly, I realised he was walking into an area that had been temporarily closed for off-road driving following the rains, so I made space for the other Motswari stations that were coming; luckily, Argyle was obliging and scaled a marula tree right on our boundary, so he went to sleep there and spent the rest of the morning up there!

I was making my way towards a herd of elephants (that have been as scarce as leopards the last few weeks), but when a call came in that the three Machaton lions were following just behind a herd of buffalo about 10 minutes from my position, I went to join the station that had located them.  Sadly, the lions were sleeping, so I felt a touch aggrieved, but soon the mother got up and followed the sound of the nearby buffalos; the young males then followed her.

Machaton pride following behind the buffalo herd

She walked to within 70m of them and sat and watched, but she seemed to be calculating and waiting for the right opportunity – not easy when you are one lioness again 250 buffalos!  How she does it, I don’t know, but she is managing to keep these boys alive – while they are skinny, they are far from dire straits and have a chance of making it!

We watched for a while, but as many other stations were now showing interest, we eventually made space for them – later in the morning the two young males killed a steenbuck and polished it off in 5 minutes before the mother caught a baby buffalo, only to be chased off by the herd, that successfully rescued the calf.

We enjoyed coffee with a lone elephant bull close to where the herd had been earlier before going in search of hard is it to find 25 elephants?  Apparently, quite!  We tracked them for quite a few kilometres before eventually catching up with them, and had a lovely view of a mother and her weeks-old calf!

Coffee with an elephant
Seeing the rest of the herd in the distance we positioned just off the road as they walked towards us – all dozen-and-a-half giants walked within metres of us as they silently made their way towards Machaton Cottage for a morning drink at the trough!
It was a fabulous way to end off a great morning as we headed back towards we had all been in the same area, three of us headed up on Western Cutline...only the third vehicle, Herold, spotted the leopard that had been lying in the bushes at Moeniejag Crossing!  And even then, it was some good spotting from his one guest that let them see her!  A bit annoying, but this soon disappeared when we arrived back at the lodge, and literally seconds later the heavens opened – 14mm in an hour that left Herold and Difference a bit wet!

Elephant herd drinking at Machaton Cottage

In the afternoon I got a new set of guests, my lat for the cycle, so I had a nice chilled afternoon – things should have been nicely set up, but the rain messed us around a bit; I was aiming to go and follow up on either Argyle male or Rockfig Jnr and her cub that had a kill on Double Highway, but got side-tracked with tracks for a herd of buffalos that I soon located at a little mud wallow in the east.

Buffalo herd at Hidden Away Wallow
Others had followed up and found no sign of any of the leopards, so when two Jacaranda lionesses were located, I opted for those healthy looking girls over the Machaton lions near Elephant Dam. 
Driving around we ticked off impalas, zebras, waterbuck, kudu, steenbuck, a lone young elephant bull and a load of eagle species.

Elephant, zebras and a lone waterbuck/unicorn!

We then arrived to join Shadrack with the two lionesses fast asleep in the middle of the road; but the yawns and stretches soon indicated that it was almost time to wake up.

Jacaranda lionesses resting in a very convinient spot!

And that they did!  Moving into some golden light, they were in a playful mood and chased one another around, biting tails, pawing one another and just putting on a great show! 

My guests wished to move on, so we did, and went to enjoy a spectacular sundowner as the dipping sun splashed a palette of colours over the parting clouds; soon the gorgeous Milky Way was sparkling above our heads as we headed back to the lodge.

Playful sisters

The next morning my mission was to find some giraffes and rhinos, so I headed south, optimistic in finding them; sadly, it was like someone has stolen all of our animals over night, and where yesterday they had been plentiful, today there was nothing!
We did see a few herds of impala, some kudu, squirrels and eventually a large herd of giraffes.  We also spent time looking at the vultures that were still sitting around the old elephant carcass, but the hyenas were not even there anymore.

Giraffes, kudus, squirrels and vultures from the morning drive
Our trackers spent most of the morning following up on tracks for a male rhino that ended up walking a circle before time ran out – luckily in the north, another rhino had been located so I headed to go and see him as he rested in a mopane woodland – so while it was a quiet and slightly frustrating morning, we did achieve our mission.

Buffalo and rhino late in the morning

In the afternoon, I didn’t plan on travelling far, and was hopeful that a leopard would show up in the north – but the animals had different ideas!  The general game was much better, and we saw a load of impala, quite a few kudus, and then a nice herd of elephants.


Hornbills, kudu and elephant herd
Carrying on in search of leopard, we saw another large elephant bull, more kudus and waterbuck.

Kudus and elephant bull

Trying along the Nhlaralumi for leopard or even the Jacaranda lionesses, we checked all the favourite haunts, but came up empty handed, so headed to Argyle Dam to view the hippos and crocodiles, and to enjoy a sundowner; sadly another vehicle had beaten us there, so we went to Lover’s Leap and watched yet another glorious day end over Motswari!

Hippos at Argyle Dam

The trip home only produced a bush baby and some buffalo bulls at camp, so that leaves me with a lot to do tomorrow morning to find some spots on a cat!

But, you will have to read Grant’s blog to see how that went!

Until next week, enjoy and thanks again to everyone for all the views and wonderful comments!





  1. Thank goodness that I will never put together a book with Chad's pictures. It will be thicker than the book on "how to understand women". Thank you for bringing it to our PC's, Chad. Enjoy your week's leave.

  2. I'm so happy that Argyle male is still alive and healthy. He's one of my favourite leopards too. We're coming in January, so it'd be great if he pops up when we're there.

    Tammy Lee

  3. Chad,
    What a brilliantly glorious end to your cycle. These pictures are truly magnificent. It difficult to understand how you seem to out do yourself every time you post. We are all so spoiled now because of your talent. You do yourself a injustice because you make it look so easy. We all know it's not easy and you are truly rare indeed. Thank you. Carol Amante