Saturday, 3 November 2012

1st and 2nd November – Leopard Kills a Giraffe, But Loses it to Hyena!

Photo of the Day

Makepisi male watching a hyena eat his giraffe kill!

1st November Morning Drive
(Andrea, Herold and Johannes)
3 x lions (Machaton lioness and two young males) – Kings, Cheetah Plains
1 x leopard (Nthombi female) – Kings, Ridge Rd
3 x rhinos
4 x elephant bulls – Motswari, Sharalumi Access
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Motswari, Sharalumi Access

1st November Afternoon Drive
(Chad, Andrea, Herold and Johannes)
24 x wild dogs with impala kill – Java, Crossing Below Java
3 x lions (Machaton lioness and two young males) – Kings, Little Kariba
1 x leopard (Machaton male) – Peru, Malongo Rd
4 x elephant bulls – Argyle, Mfene Crossing
1 x elephant bull – Motswari, Camp Dam

2nd November Morning Drive
(Chad, Andrea, Herold and Johannes)
3 x lions (Machaton lioness and two young males) – Vielmetter, Steep Sharalumi
1 x leopard (Nthombi’s boy) – Vielmetter, Steep Sharalumi
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Java, Tamboti Link
4 x elephant bulls – Motswari, Southern Access Access
1 x elephant bull – Motswari, Southern Access
1 x elephant bull – Motswari, Ekuvukeni Access
3 x buffalo bulls – Motswari, Ekuvukeni Access

2nd November Afternoon Drive
(Chad and Herold)
1 x leopard (Makepisi male with giraffe kill) – Mbali, White Syringa Link
3 x rhinos
6 x elephants – Motswari, Camp Dam

Daily Synopsis
Well, almost posted on time, but another double blog, so sorry for that!  However, on Thursday morning my guests decided to have a sleep in (well, those that weren’t awake for a 3:15am transfer!!!), and I just knew that a leopard would pitch up....and sure enough, together with the southern stations, Difference and Herold tracked down Nthombi female!  Together with three rhinos and the three Machaton lions, these sightings made for quite a good morning for the guests and guides.

I rejoined drive in the afternoon with a new set of guests, and after enjoying some elephant bulls feeding along the banks of the Sohebele River near the lodge, I headed towards Java to follow up on tracks for the wild dogs from this morning...the trip south was frustratingly quiet, and besides two or three herds of impalas, there was little else on offer.

Elephants and impala on a quiet start to the drive

The wind had been howling all day, which made finding tracks difficult, but we eventually found some in Confluence Crossing, but it didn’t appear to be for the whole pack, and they were from early in the morning – we circled the areas to the east, and came up with nothing, so then tried to the west, but also found nothing...serves me right for commenting “how hard can it be to track down 24 wild dogs”....I soon answered that with “very!!!”.

Receiving an invite to head further south to view the Machaton lions again, I took them up on it, not wanting to be left stressing for lions again.  However, the wind did a marvellous job of keeping the animals at bay!  The plains that had been full of game yesterday now had only a few impalas and a couple of duikers, but not nearly what was around yesterday!  Still, it had three lions sleeping on one of the openings, so we went and enjoyed the three still-fat lions as they rested off their indigestion – there was a bit of life, but all three then rolled back down and went to sleep, leaving us with a long trip back home.

Fat-bellied Machaton lions

The trip almost got a lot longer when my car’s battery died after a late drink stop, but some wonderful pushing skills exhibited by my guests got us push started and we headed back to the north.

The answer as to where the wild dogs had gone soon got answered when we bumped into the pack busy eating an impala right next to the road!  It would have been an amazing sighting, but as it was dark, the sighting was unfortunately a “negative loc” as wild dogs are sensitive to spotlights and are vulnerable in the dark.  We did watch them for a couple of minutes, but that was mostly because the pups were tugging on a piece of the kill in the road and refused to move off of it!

Carrying on to the camp, we passed impalas and wildebeest, but not much else to mention.

Friday morning started off with monkeys alarm calling for an hour and half north of the camp, but Herold and Difference checked and found nothing; Andrea also operated in the area and foud some buffalo bulls and a couple groups of elephant bulls that we also saw as we headed to follow up on the wild dogs with Johannes.

"Classic" the elephant bull

Again, how hard could it possibly be?  After impalas, kudus, giraffe and a couple groups of zebras, I dropped Petros off on some rhino tracks and carried on helping Marka and Johannes with scouting the area for the dogs.  The hyenas and vultures in the area indicated that something was around, but no amount of searching led to anything!

Zebras and giraffe calf

We stopped for a cup of coffee having added a giraffe and calf to our list, but not much else.  Trying the area one more time, we received word that a leopard had been found not all that far from where we were, and so I continued to the area; sadly the leopard was sleeping in thick bush, and as I was waiting for Johannes to pull out, the leopard got up so I hung back for a bit when I looked up and saw three lions ambling down the Nhlaralumi riverbed in our direction!  While I had known that the lions were in the area, I thought they were further south, so that was an added bonus!

Machaton Pride surprised us with a visit north!

Johannes then told me to rather leave the lions and come see the leopard as it was now a good sighting and he might disappear!  Luckily for us, Nthombi’s boy behaved and we ended up enjoying a good, relatively active sighting of him.

Nthombi's boy in his favourite spot

After moving around on the rocks, he found a nice shady spot and went to sleep there before we made space for Herold and Marka.

Nthombi's boy and Machaton lions within 200m of one another

The trip back north was not overly productive, but we were a bit late, so did drive a bit quicker – we did see two more groups of zebras and a herd of wildebeest, as well as two trackers!  Unfortunately Petros and Diff gave up on tracking the rhino after following it for about 4-5km, realising that it was likely to be one of the skittish males from the east...guess we needed to leave something for the afternoon!

In the afternoon, we went and tried the northern sections for some rhino, but my plans were altered early on in the drive when Herold radioed to tell me that he had found a rather unusual sighting, but as it was not going anywhere and on a property where only a few of us could access, I decided to carry on with my drive; there was not much around, but I knew that there was something interesting waiting, so still enjoyed the solitude of the north, as most people these days seem intent on doing all their drives in the south!

We saw plenty of impala, displaying korhaans, fish eagles, waterbuck, steenbuck, duiker, water monitor, dwarf mongooses and banded mongooses as we slowly headed to Herold’s sighting. 

Approaching we could see a mother giraffe staring intently to the east, and in a tree nearby was a leopard, Makepisi male.  But this was only half the story, as at the base of the tree was a hyena eating Makepisi male’s kill....a baby giraffe!!!  I didn’t believe Herold when he told me that he had found a leopard with a giraffe kill – it was something I had heard of only twice in our reserve before, but never seen...but sure enough, it was true!

Makepisi male and the hyena that stole his kill

The hyena was sleeping next to the kill and Makepisi jumped down as we approached and walked about before going to sleep.  Only later did he go back to investigate to see if the kill could be retrieved, but with the hyena on guard, he didn’t make a move.  I do however think that, if he chased two lionesses off his kill a couple of weeks ago, he will definitely try and get this one back during the night!

We left this scene, but as we drove out, the mother giraffe was silhouetted against the setting sun, and for once, I actually felt truly heart-sore at her loss.  I did get a lump in my throat as we drove away, but had to coarsely remind myself that this is nature, and a very harsh part of it.

We spent time watching waterbucks fighting on Piva Plains before having a drink at Argyle Dam, and were spoilt when two hippos got out of the water nearby and went to feed – we followed them after drinks for a while (not having to push start this time!!!) and then carried on back to camp, finding a couple of chameleons on the way!

Waterbuck bull play fighting on Piva Plains

The evening ended off with a wonderful dinner on the deck as a hyena kept coming to the spotlight to eat the mopane moths attracted to it!  I enjoyed this until three hyenas did the same outside my room at 1am this morning, but had a fight in the middle of their feeding!  If its not the elephants keeping me awake at night, then its the hyenas....i guess it could always be worse!!!

My Highlight of the day(s)
While seeing Makepisi and his kill was spectacular, my favourite was bumping into the pack of wild dogs feeding on their impala kill in the road on our way home on the first evening – great to see them active, but just knowing that such a large pack of these endangered animals is in our area is a treat....hopefully some daylight sightings tomorrow!


  1. Most beautiful spots and stunning pics, like always. Thanks Chad. Welcome back Andrea. Hope your break and birthday was joyful.

  2. Please wish Andrea a belated but warm birthday wish