Thursday, 27 December 2012

25th December: A White Christmas Tail.

Pic Of The Day.

Morning Drive.

( Grant, Chad, Herold & Johanness.)

Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / Argyle – Horizon Rd.
Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / Argyle – Tsharalumi River.
Elephant ( Kambaku) / Argyle – Great North.
Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / Mbali – Rocky Rd.
Rhino ( Mtenga-tenga Male)
Leopard ( Argyle Jnr) / Motswari – Argyle Dam Rd West.

Afternoon Drive.

( Grant, Herold, Johanness & Giyani.)

Rhino ( 2 x Males & Female)
Rhino ( Female & Calf)
Buffalo ( Dagha Boys) / Motswari – Wisani Crossing.
Buffalo ( Dagha Boys) / Motswari – Giraffe Pan.
Buffalo ( Dagha Boys) / Argyle – Mfene Crossing.
Leopard ( Argyle Jnrs Female Cub) / Argyle – Mfene Crossing.
Elephant ( Breeding Herd) / Argyle – Buffalo Pan Access.

Daily Synopsis.

Well hello there, Grant back and blogging for the next week while Chad takes a well deserved break, thanks for the good times mate, enjoy your leave. First up I'd like to wish all of you a very Merry Xmas hope that you had a great day shared with friends and family. So we could have run with two titles for today's blog, the second being “ The Hangover, Part 3,” but you'll discover why we chose the one we did all in good time.

Having had the most incredible drive the previous afternoon Jacky and I chose to head out to the East on morning drive, slow things down a little. Little did we know that we would nearly bring it to a complete stand still! It got off to a good start though with us finding a marauding colony of Matabele Ants. Known for their vicious and ruthless attacks on Termites we were about to witness one such attack with a stream of Matabele Ants approaching a group of Termites that were collected around a vent of their mound. This would be the first time for me to witness such an event as it normally occurs at night and within the Termite Mound itself. The tenacious Ants approached the Termites without a care and began methodically attacking them on all fronts. The Termites reacted quickly and within seconds the soldiers were on the front fighting back. At this stage the battle was in limbo but it soon swung towards the Matabele Ants with numbers being on their side. While it took a few Ants to distract each Termite soldier, other Ants would run in and grab a worker Termite and carry them off in the opposite direction. With all available Ants carry off their prize and more soldier Termites arriving on scene the Matabele Ants turned and fled and it all came to an end as quickly as it had begun.

Always nice to witness animal behaviour and I first for me, we moved on with high expectations for the day. Three and a half hours later the highlight was still our Ant encounter at the beginning of drive, although we did pick up on a nice herd of Elephant and had a brief sighting of Argyle Jnr sitting in a Marula Tree on Motswari's airstrip shortly before closing down. Our drive out East was a very quite affair and although it was very pleasant it still felt like the major hangover of our drive the previous afternoon in which we managed to see the “ Big Six!” So not having much to say about this mornings drive I thought I'd tell you a little about yesterday afternoons. 

This story actually began last week Thursday night while retuning from our local pub. We were on our way home when not far from the Timbavati control gate we saw the distinctive shape of Lions walking down the road in our headlights, twelve to be exact. On getting closer we discovered that two of them were White and therefore we were looking at the Giraffe Farm Pride. We slowly followed them as they made their way North occasionally stopping to admire them as they sat and rested beside the road. They finally turned to the East and disappeared out of our sight. Extremely excited that we had seen the White Lions I was a little saddened as I knew that the following day two of my regular guests, John and Val, would be arriving and have been visiting Motswari since 2007 in the sole hope of one day seeing these amazing animals. On Friday I received news that the White Lions had killed a Buffalo not far from where we had seen them the previous evening. This was great news, not because we would be able to see them, as we could not, but because they looked like they were in need of a good meal.

Fast forwarding to yesterday morning I once again received news that the White Lions were seen and once again they had killed themselves a Buffalo but on this occasion it was on a property far closer to us and that we could possibly organise a visit to. Arriving back from drive I immediately phoned the lodge to try organise a visit. Having met the owner once at one of our meetings and occasionally out on drive I gave him a call to ask the massive favour. Chatting with him on the phone and explaining my situation he said that we were more than welcome to visit in the afternoon. With permission organised I set off to inform John and Val and our other guests that we would be leaving early on afternoon game drive. I was able to disguise the reason as I informed them that we needed to be back at 19h30 sharp for Christmas Eve dinner and as we were late every night since they had arrived I'd rather set off early. Heading out in soaring temperatures was not much fun but at least Jacky and I knew wait lay ahead. Our long drive South got off to a good start with us finding a herd of Elephant hanging around the lodge not drifting far from the water. Not loosing focus we steadily made our way South visiting all the waterholes along the way. We were quite surprised not to find more and we passed a number of drinking spots that had no animal in sight, I guess they all chose to hide in the thickest shade they could find. We did however respond to a Rhino that was at Elephant Dam resting in the mud, on our arrival he got up and caked in armour-plated mud he slowly made his way East. Leaving him we continued on our way finding Buffalo Bulls resting in the next waterhole we passed. Reaching the main entrance road we checked we all had our passports and turned South for the long drive. It took us another 45 minutes to get into the region of the sighting and then we waited for the traversing stations to visit before getting ourselves into the line up. Sitting in the shade of a Knobthorn Tree we listened as the sighting developed. At first all the Lions were spread out around a nearby dam and none of them were at the kill itself but as the afternoon cooled off some made their way up to the kill, this would include the older White Female. Sitting patiently our timing could not have been better as we were called into the sighting in the afternoons last light. Approaching the sighting we started to pick up on lots of Vultures and one tree in particular looked like a Christmas Tree decorated with them. Arriving on site we found five Lions fighting over the remains of the Buffalo kill and in the thick of things was the White Female standing out for all to see. Stopping and turning to Val I wished her a Merry Christmas. I wont lie, a tear or two was shed, I'm still not quite sure if it was at the enormity of what she was looking at and the realisation of a life long dream or it was just her husband John up to no good again! I can say though for me this was one of those moments that I got into guiding for, extremely special and something I'll remember forever. The sighting itself was incredible as there were five Lions fighting over the remains while the rest of the pride lay spread out around the nearby dam, some of them drinking while others rested. In total we counted fourteen. A little way away we could see another group of Lions resting and in amongst them sat the young White male. Sitting up on his hind legs he looked exactly like a Snowman with his little white head and black nose and then this massive white belly. If this was not all enough there were a few Buffalo sitting in the centre of the dam not daring to move from their safe haven. Sitting with them as long as we possibly could we eventually had to make space for the next station. On our way out we found another female moving away from the area. Informing an approaching station he told us the story of what had occurred in the morning as the Lioness that we could now see was in fact from another pride called the Ross Pride. Apparently they also had a Buffalo kill very nearby and both prides came together with the Ross pride eventually being chased off. I was told that the Giraffe Farm Pride numbers 18 were as the Ross Pride only numbers 10 and it is no wonder they gave way. So in total in the area we had 28 lions. Riding the high of our visit we started the long trip home. 

The Snowman.

The bush was not finished with us though and shortly before reaching the main entrance road that would take us North we bumped into a pack of Wilddogs. Sticking with them for as long as we could they eventually crossed our boundary to the West and into Klaserie. Just as well as our time was fast running out. This was once again stretched shortly before reaching the lodge, actually on Motswari's Airstrip to be exact, where we found Shindzuti Male hunting Impala. Unfortunately I think our lights gave him away as the Impala began alarm calling and he moved off. We followed him a little but with the clock ticking into overtime we headed back to the lodge and thus brought an incredibly epic drive to an end. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Nicola and Bryce of Kambaku Lodge for making dreams come true and to their guides, Steve and Van, for all the help in making it happen!

Back to the present and afternoon drive we set off in hotter conditions than the day before. Hoping that the mornings quit drive was a one off after weeks of great game viewing every day we set off expectantly despite the heat. Not being under much pressure to deliver as we had seen some amazing things both big and small Jacky and I chose to drive the roads less travelled hoping to help the others out while they covered the more productive regions. The beauty of having no agenda was that we could spend as little or as much time as we wanted with what we found. It is normal when you sit with something for a while that things start to happen and you pick up on interesting interactions and behaviour as we discovered this afternoon. With not much braving the heat we spent lots of time with what we found and enjoyed some quality time with a very relaxed herd of Impala and their youngsters, something we don't often get to do. After good sightings of Waterbuck, Warthog and Buffalo we again spent a fair amount of time with a herd of Wildebeest on Java airstrip. While our route proved fairly productive the rest of the guys had a good afternoon and added Rhino and Elephant to the wide variety of General Game. Johanness went one better and spent some time with Argyle Jnr's Female cub unfortunately she moved off North across our traversing boundary into Ingwelala. None the less it was good to hear that she seems to be a little more relaxed with the vehicles and did not bolt for cover on being discovered. 

With the sun approaching the horizon and us finding ourselves on Java airstrip we stopped for sundowners looking over the lowveld towards the escarpment. It looked like we were in for a special sunset but a storm moved in quickly along the mountain and swallowed our sun. Although we missed out on a painted sky it was replaced with another light show in the form of lightening which was just as impressive. Fearing a closing in sky we returned to camp after another great day in the African bush.


  1. Belated wishes for a Merry Christmas and how I envy your wonderful life. May 2013 be even better than 2012

  2. A very unexpected Christmas pressie and at the top of my list... who would have guessed that Santa was really Grant in disguise, can't stop smiling. Big thank you .