Tuesday, 18 December 2012

17th December – Wonderful Wild Dogs!

Photo of the Day
Rockfig Jnr getting groomed by her "cub"
Morning Drive
(Chad, Andrea, Peter and Shaddy)
2 x lions (Ximpoko and Maande males with male kudu kill) – De Luca, Drongo Drive
2 x leopards (Rockfig Jnr and male cub with impala kill) – Vielmetter, Double Highway
1 x leopard (Nthombi’s boy with Rockfig Jnr’s impala kill) – Vielmetter, Grasslands Rd
3 x rhinos
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Vielmetter, Double Highway
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Vielmetter, Entrance Dam
1 x elephant bull – Jaydee, Tchwala Rd
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Vielmetter, Vielmetter-Alberts Cutline
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Peru, Voel Dam Northern Access

Afternoon Drive
(Chad and Shaddy)
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Peru, Voel Dam Northern Access

Daily Synopsis
I once more headed out with just Victor and Elea with our intentions being to go south to see Rockfig Jnr and her cub on their kill, so off we bumbled along Western Cutline while the others worked the north, and they did well – a crash of rhinos, a herd of buffalo and the two Mabanda/Ximpoko male lions still by the kudu kill!

Down south we also had a good trip, and ticked off impala, duiker, steenbuck, giraffe, a lone wildebeest and a herd of elephants before arriving at the leopard sighting.

To begin with, Rockfig Jnr had just managed to salvage some of her kill from a hyena and was heading back to where year-old boy was waiting – she soon found him and they groomed and cleaned one another before moving to a shady spot near to where they had a baby impala safely hoisted up a tree!

Rockfig Jnr and her boy

I spent close to an hour with them before Shaddy arrived to take over, but I should have stayed a bit longer – they two went to drink before returning to the original kill, but found company!  A third leopard had arrived and was feeding, but as it was Nthombi’s boy, he soon jumped down and went and hid nearby as the other two leopards fed and rested – what a treat to have three leopards in one sighting!

I made my way back north and ticked off another elephant before an enjoyable sighting of the three rhinos.  It was heating up, so I made for camp, and while we failed to find the buffalo herd, we did see zebra, impala, waterbuck and some hippos to round off another good drive!

Andrea and her VIP Birthday Guests enjoying some rhinos

My afternoon mission was to head south to go and spend time with the wild dogs that have been hanging around there the last few days, seeing as I missed out on them yesterday, and well it was worth the wait to say the least!  My afternoon actually started about a bit earlier when Grant informed me that Giyani had seen a leopard up a tree just outside camp, so he and I went to look, fully expecting it to be the skittish young male whose tracks are always around, but to our pleasant surprise, it was none other than Shongile as she lazed about in a glorious fashion atop a marula tree.  After a while she clumsily jumped down (okay, it was a high tree, but still, it wasn't very elegant!) and wandered off to the east, so once on official drive, we checked the area for her, but had no luck; nor did we manage to relocate on the two male lions that had now finished off their kill and moved on.

Leaving the area we moved south stopping for a few birds on the way before coming across a small portion of an elephant herd feeding in the shade of some large trees.  We joined them in the shade and had a wonderful sighting as several individuals came and fed only a metre or less away from the Land Rover, and as you know by now, that is always one of my favourite experiences!!!

Continuing to check Java, we found impala and warthogs, but not much else until we arrived at a large herd of buffalo that were heading south away from Entrance Dam; some individuals made use of the natural mudwallows in the area to coat themselves against the hot sun.


As the afternoon pushed on, I decided the time was right to move towards the wild dogs that were not all that far away from us now, hoping to get there as they got active.  It was a bit of a surprise to find that by the time I bumped into the stations with the sighting, the dogs had already covered some distance.  After a few minutes I went to join the sighting, only to be told as I arrived that they had all moved across the Machaton River to the opposite bank, so now I had to race around to the eastern side, but there were no dogs, so continuing to circle the area I eventually managed to find a few of the dogs, and slowly more joined the party as they raced off at high speed after impalas!

It was amazing to go racing through the bush with them, but eventually they hit a thicket and I lost them, then found them, then totally lost them...i wasn't prepared to give up, and circling the plains once more, we found one dog running back to the east, and once more we sped after it and soon enough, all seventeen adult wild dogs emerged and went racing off south...i guess we had to follow!

We lost them again, but their excited yelps helped us locate them and off the headed towards a mudwallow, some covered in blood; from the wallow, they led us to where the pups were super excited to see them and ran around begging in an attempt to get some regurgitated food; although this was a bit strange as the pups were already feeding on a large impala carcass!

While watching, the adults once more raced off after some prey, so we left the pups and went to follow the action, and based on the sounds, they had caught something, but on catching up with them, we were in for a real treat!  They had found a small herd of wildebeest – the adults of which were just too big for the dogs, but amongst the four large beasts were two month-old calves, and they were now in the sights of the dogs.  The yelping as they ran around the wildebeest that stood their ground drew in the whole pack, and soon all thirty dogs were wimpering and whining as they moved in to make a kill, but the wildebeest were having none of it!

The adult males would charge in the direction of the dogs and chase them off while the two mothers stood their ground with their calves at their side.  At one point all adult wildebeest moved to chase the dogs, momentarily leaving the calves alone, and this almost opened the door the dogs needed, but they failed to take the opportunity and the wildebeest regrouped and gained confidence and went after the dogs more aggressively!

We sat spellbound by this spectacle, and while it was too late to take good photos, it was still incredible to watch the “stupid” wildebeests’ survival instincts; I have so much more respect for them after that sighting!  Luckily the story ended well for them, as somewhere along the lines, the pack of wild dogs caught a baby impala, and this excitement drew them away from the wildebeest and they slowly left the family in peace and returned to their meals!  We paused to watch the last colours of sunset fade before making a turn for home; Shaddy had joined me in this sighting and enjoyed it equally, but he had the added bonus of finding Umfana male leopard on his way home; but after a sighting like that, not even a leopard was going to top it for us!

Cant wait to see what tomorrow has in store for us!


  1. WOW Chad, I don't know quite where to start :-)
    Awesome 2 days!!! Seeing the magnificent 7 yesterday with Andrea's help of course ;-)

    And today's wild dog sighting sounds quite spectacular, I wish I was there to witness it with you guys.

    And I must say, Rockfig Jnr's cub is looking great with those blue eyes... Great pictures all over.


  2. Uff, what for great post.
    Awesome pictures.


  3. like Rockfig jnr pic's. Just another set of awesome pic from chad.