Friday, 7 December 2012

5th December – Our Blue-Eyed Beauty !

Photo of the Day
Thumbela - the gorgeous blue-eyed princess from the south - my first sighting of her in over a year!!!
Morning Drive
3 x lions (Ximpoko and Mabande male with unknown female on a buffalo kill) – Jaydee, 1st Sharalumi Crossing
1 x leopard (Thumbela female) – Tanda Tula, Ridge Rd
1 x rhino (Mtenga-tenga)
3 x elephants – Motswari, Southern Access

Afternoon Drive
3 x lions (Ximpoko and Mabande male with unknown female on a buffalo kill) – Jaydee, 1st Sharalumi Crossing
3 x rhinos
3 x elephants – Motswari, Southern Access
1 x buffalo bull – Peru, Lion Pan

Daily Synopsis

Today is my last day on drive for the next week and a bit, so I am sure that Andrea will most likely be on blog duty for the next while, so im sure you can expect a stunning collection of images from her as usual!

As far as my day went, well, it was a goodie!  It began in glorious sunlight, and with the cicada beetles buzzing, we knew that we were in for a hot day as we went in search of the young male leopard near Buffalo Pan, and having been there for the last few days, I was mildly confident we would find him.  Along the way, we saw waterbucks, lots of impalas and also a lone hyena as we searched around – the presence of vultures and bateleurs still confusing us as to what was around, but our efforts proved fruitless. 

Impala babies, hyena and zebra

On hearing that a leopard had been found way south, I made the bold decision to head in that direction; now I would not have done this for just any leopard, but as it was the blue-eyed Thumbela, a stunning cat that I haven’t seen for over a year, I had to go!  The decision seemed to be the right one when Patrick from Kings located on the two Mabande male lions with a buffalo kill on my route, and these massive males needed to be visited!

Arriving, we found the collared boy in the riverbed near his buffalo, and he was without doubt the bloodiest lion I had ever seen!  His face and mane were totally covered in blood from the recent feast as he lay panting a few metres from the kill.  The bigger male then showed up, but as they were in the company of a lionesses, that male only had one thing on his mind, and it had nothing to do with a dead buffalo!

Blood-covered Mabande male lion with a buffalo kill

Proceeding south we didn’t pass all that much general game, but did see impalas, warthog and giraffes before seeing a lone male rhino resting under an acacia tree in the middle of a big open area, but in the heat, he was not going to be doing much so we moved on.

male rhino resting in the shade

Frustratingly, the leopard sighting was not a good one, and her position in the thickets on the banks of the Machaton Riverbed made it extremely difficult; then she crossed to the opposite bank as I was approaching, so I raced around, but had no luck relocating for some time, but as I was about to give up we found her on the bank, and had no sooner gotten into position when she went back to the opposite bank.  I was leaving when Marka spotted her, and suggested I go all the way back around, and despite knowing it wasn't going to get better, I took a chance, but there was no sign of her...bugger.

I was going to check one more area in the last place she was seen, and there, at the top of a large Jackaberry, was the reserves most stunning leopard...the blue-eyed Thumbela!


She posed wonderfully as we clicked away and sat in awe of her beauty, but as the time was running out and we were miles from home, we had to leave and head back, but we did manage to see some elephants as we arrived back at the camp, meaning that we was 4.5 of the Big 5 this morning!

Elephant near the camp

With only two guests in the camp this afternoon, we took a very chilled drive, and started at the dams near the lodge sure that some animals would be bathing; starting in front of the lodge, we had the same three elephants splashing about in the camp dam!

Elephants at the camp dam

Argyle Dam didn’t produce much, but we saw hippos, waterbucks and impalas in the area, as well as a nice relaxed herd of wildebeest on our airstrip.

Moving towards the Nhlaralumi, we drove and saw more waterbuck, some male kudus, giraffe and a lone buffalo bull in a mudwallow!

Vultures waiting near the lions kill, plus kudus, buffalo, impala and giraffe

I wanted to go and follow up on the rhino and calf, and Petros went on foot from where they were last seen, and soon enough radioed to tell me that he had located them, so in we went to enjoy a great sighting of the two of them as well as a large male rhino following them about!  It is wonderful to see how relaxed they all are with the vehicle, and they came grazing within metres of us!

With lightening and clouds building slowly in the north, we went and stopped for a drink, but the storm developed rapidly, and soon enough, the wind was gushing, and the only blue patch of sky was right above us, so we packed away and headed back north as the clouds got darker and darker.  As we were close to the lions, we went and watched them for a while, with the collared male feeding and the big male still shadowing the lionesses every move, albeit with a lot more aggression this afternoon!


Lions still on their buffalo kill

The lightening storm then stole the show as we headed off east, and still the clouds darkened in the north.  This wouldn’t be an issue if I didn’t need to head straight into the storm.  Dave radioed me, sounding concerned, but we were dry and loving the spectacular display Mother Nature was show-casing.

Then we turned straight north and the storm looked daunting.  We could start smelling the rain, but 4km from the lodge, everything was 2.5km from the lodge, a few drops started hitting us, but it was nothing.  Then we got to 2km from the lodge, and it was like driving into the Victoria Falls!  To say it was bucketing down would be an understatement, and I could barely see!  Luckily I had taken my sunglasses with, so I could put those on to stop my contact lenses from getting flooded out, but the rain was so hard I could barely see more than 5m in front of us, but we pushed on, and on, and soon the lights of the camp offered us some hope, but we were so wet by now it didn’t matter!!!  On looking at the rain gauge, we understood why!  50mm of rain in just over half an hour, and it stopped on 76mm by the end of the evening – luckily though, my guests thought this was the most amazing thing, and I couldn’t disagree!

Black skies ahead!

Even with the dinner venues being rained out, we made a plan and with enough bottles of wine, we forgot how wet it was around us as we enjoyed some great food and company to close off another very successful few days for me!

I trust that you will all still keep checking up on the daily blogs over the coming weeks before I return to duties neeexxxxtttttttt Sunday!

Until then, enjoy!



  1. Sexy Leopard, bloodied Lion, sleeping Rhino and drenching storm... All in a day's work... Enjoy your break, Chat. Looking forward sharing experiences with Andrea.

  2. Envy. Envy. Envy - man what would I give to be young and leading the life you lead: even with your leopard scare you had a while back

  3. As usual, Chad - a fantastic blog, and photos, that have we all enjoy and appreciate so much. I do not start my day now without my trusty cup of coffee and a good perusal of your blogs and pics. Thank you so much for sharing this us!

  4. just another awesome blog with .... ta ta ta taaa ... the real beauty of timbavati. No not Chad thumbela. The pic of the day is my pic of this year. Txs chad.

  5. it gets better and better , if that were possible. What a spectacular beauty is Thumbela. One could fall in love with those eyes
    Thanks for a good weekend of adoration
    Margery Mauritius

  6. I'm curious, is Thumbela old enough to have cubs?

  7. Thumbela!!!
    What a beautiful sight Chad. The only leopard I've seen with 4 kills in 1 tree ;-).
    She sure is an amazing cat and my favourite!

    You sure did see a bloody lion as well :-)
    Lovely sightings and another great day in the Timbavati.
    Enjoy the break Chad.


  8. Those pictures of the Lion with all the blood on him reminds me of the Orcs in Lord of the Rings. As for that blue eyed beauty, STUNNING