Sunday, 4 November 2012

3rd November – Cat Fight...Machaton Male Lays into Makepisi!

Photo of the Day
Machaton male and Makepisi male having a fight at the top of a marula tree!

Morning Drive
2 x leopards (Machaton male and Makepisi fighting at the giraffe kill) – Mbali, White Syringa Lin
1 x rhino

Afternoon Drive
(Chad and Herold)
24 x wild dogs – Peru, Machela Pan
4 x elephant bulls – Motswari, Airstrip
7 x buffalo bulls – Motswari, Ingwelala Crossing

Daily Synopsis

Waking to another gorgeous blue sky, we headed out as the lone vehicle from the lodge and decided to go and check up on Makepisi and see if he managed to regain his kill; we went past Argyle Dam and saw the hippos, as well as impalas and waterbuck on the clearing.

Nearing the site of the giraffe kill, we saw a lot of hyena tracks as well as one hyena heading in that direction, so we knew the chances were slim to none of finding the leopard with anything!

Hyena on its way to Makepisi's kill

We pulled in and saw the kill at the base of a marula tree, a sign that a leopard had tried to hoist it, but the hyena was back on the kill; then I looked to the left and spotted a leopard slinking off into the bush, and almost immediately realised that this wasn't Makepisi, but rather Machaton male!

He walked into a dodgy mopane thicket, and while not running away, he kept moving – I then realised my best chance to see him would be to go and sit and wait at the kill with the hyenas.  When we arrived, he was standing in the bushes about 15m from the kill watching the hyena!

Machaton male watching the hyenas eating the giraffe kill

The hyena wandered off to go and greet another clan member, but Machaton didn’t take the chance, and when both hyenas arrived to eat, the leopard moved off, so we sat watching the hyenas feasting.

A short time later, a lot of growling and screaming came from the south, and we looked up to see not one but two leopards shooting up a marula tree, and based on how the one was literally “pooping” himself, we realised that it was Machaton going after Makepisi, but a hyena had ended up treeing both of them!

As we approached Machaton moved down, but was quickly chased up another tree by a hyena and Makepisi stayed at the very upper branches of the marula tree, not ready to come down yet.

Machaton and Makepisi up different marula trees

The hyenas then resumed feeding on the carcass and we continued to watch them as the impalas alarm called at Machaton a hundred metres south.

Polishing off the carcass

Making our way out of the sighting, delighted with what we had seen, things got a load more exciting!  As we approached Makepisi, he began a whimpering growl, and looking up, we saw Machaton striding confidently towards the tree.  Makepisi knew what was coming and he had no escape!

Machaton scaled the tree and the two engaged in a rather raucous fight at the top of the tree on the flimsiest branches that could not support both of their weights.  Makepisi lost his footing as he was swinging around with his paws, but managed to get a grip on a small branch before that too gave way and he fell about 8 or 9m to the ground, luckily landing on his feet and shooting off at speed as Machaton descended in a more conventional way and was straight after him!!!  A hyena then too joined the chase and came within centimetres of Machaton, distracting him and hopefully giving Makepisi enough room to get away!  We didn’t even try and relocate, but instead let our hearts calm down and headed a bit further south for rhino.

Machaton returning to get his message home to Makepisi

There was a lot of general game on the Java Airstrips, including a herd of more than a dozen zebras, 17 wildebeest, giraffes, impala and warthogs, making for a lovely scene in the glorious sunshine.

Good general game on Java Airstrip

We eventually made it to the rhino and got to watch Nhlangula resting on a termite mound ala leopard-style!

Nhlangula male rhino

Making our way east we went and stopped for coffee at Hide Dam and enjoyed more impalas and zebras in the area before making our way back to camp.

Our bushwalk was a good one, and besides impalas and nyala, we got to see a couple of elephant bulls on foot.

My afternoon mission was a simple one, to go and see the wild dogs that Andrea and Jacky had found for us while they were out doing bushwork after Johannes had reported seeing them on the tar road; as they were resting at a mudwallow, I knew that they would still be there in the afternoon. 

I took it very easy in the north, and while I didn’t find the elephants that had been swimming at the camp dam a bit earlier, we did find their dung and watched dozens of dung beetles moving the dung away!  The fresh buffalo tracks on top of the elephant tracks soon led to a group of buffalo bulls, but they were in a horrible area and didn’t make life easy for us, so we moved past Argyle Dam where hippos, impalas and waterbucks filled the landscape.

Buffalo and waterbuck

It was getting later in the afternoon, so I headed to the west to see the dogs, and we bypassed quite a lot of general game in the form of kudus, steenbuck, many waterbuck and impala, and some zebras too.

We arrived just as the dogs were waking up and began interacting, but after a few minutes the adults moved on and the youngsters all followed...sadly they went into one of the thickest blocks in the reserve, but we managed to keep up, but in that mopane, they weren’t going to find a meal, so as it got dark, we left them and went for a drink back in the north.

Wild dogs!

The drive back to the lodge was quiet – only Petros saw a civet, but besides fireflies, there was nothing out there...but still, it was a wonderful day and we all ended it off feeling very satisfied!  I had the evening off, and was so satisfied I popped to town for a pizza, and saw rhino, buffalo, elephant herds, hippo, and hyena on the way in and out...after a whole pizza, my stomach was also mightily satisfied!

My Highlight of the Day
Yeah, I will give you one guess!!!  Seeing two leopards fighting up a tree definitely ranks up there as one of my top sightings!


  1. Hi Chad,
    Excellent pictures as always, stop keeping all the Timbavati Leopard’s on the Motswari side, pass onto Ingwe please! :)

    Take care!

    Fanie Potgieter

  2. Wow!!!!! Really nice!!!! Thank you all :)

  3. Fighting leopards and a pack of wild dogs - how I wish I was there. Thanks for sharing, Chad.

  4. Wow - what fantastic sighting - two leopards fighting and a pack of wild dogs. Man, you are truly lucky. Fantastic pictures as always