Friday, 4 January 2013

03rd January – The Perfect Drive

Photo of the Day

Umfana male

Morning Drive
(Chad, Grant, Peter, Shaddy and Herold)
2 x lions (Sohebele males) – Jaydee, Makulu Dam
1 x leopard (Argyle Jnr’s boy) – Motswari, Ingwelala Cutline
4 x rhinos
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – De Luca, Drongo Drive
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Jaydee, Makulu Crossing
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Peru, Klipgat Crossing
1 x buffalo bull – Borneo, Zebrawood Pan
1 x breeding herd of elephants – De Luca, Nyati Dam
1 x breeding herd of elephants – De Luca, Bateleur Drive
1 x elephant bull – Motswari, Southern Access
1 x elephant bull – Motswari, Xinatsi Dam Rd South

Afternoon Drive
(Chad, Herold and Peter)
29 wild dogs – Kings, Double Highway Concrete Crossing
2 x lions (Sohebele males killed baby buffalo) – Java, Confluence Crossing
1 x leopard (Umfana male) – Vielmetter, 2nd Sharalumi Crossing
4 x rhinos
2 x rhinos
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Mbali, Buffalo Kill Rd
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Java, Confluence Crossing
10 x buffalo bulls – Argyle, Western Sohebele River Rd
1 x buffalo bull – Java, Tamboti Wallow
1 x buffalo bull – Peru, Giraffe Kill Rd
1 x elephant bull – Peru, Mbali Dam
2 x elephant bulls – Argyle, Crossing Below Argyle

Daily Synopsis
Cant believe I haven’t blogged since last year!  But here I am, in 2013 and I trust that you all had a marvellous Festive Season and a wonderful New Year!  We are all looking forward to sharing the magic of Motswari with you over the coming year, and the way it has started,it is bound to be another fantastic year in the Timbavati!

I received some new guests as soon as I arrived back from my leave, so I was straight in it – luckily while out on bush work in the morning, I heard of a load of sightings that significantly reduced the need to stress in the afternoon, and finding a crash of rhinos whilst out doing bushwork was a bonus (combined to the elephant, rhino, buffalo, lioness and 29 wild dogs I had seen the last two days just driving into and out of the reserve, I couldn’t believe that there was a struggle for animals last week?).

Regardless, I had far too good a drive for my first outing with new guests, and set the bar extremely high!  We had two herds of buffalo, big elephant bulls, a herd of elephants join us for sundowners, Umfana male leopard with a duiker kill, the two Sohebele male lions walking after one of the herds of buffalo, and even Rockfig Jnr leopardess on the way back to camp – so needless to say, I was never going to match that success this morning.

Umfana male leopard from yesterday afternoon

My mission was for rhinos, but on hearing that Shaddy had tracks for a pride of lions coming in from the east, the lure of finding a nice pride was too big, so I headed in his direction, enjoying kudu, impala, waterbuck and a couple of large elephant bulls before I got to the area.

Checking the massive block to make sure the lions didn’t cross out, we found a herd of elephants and a herd of buffalo, but no lion tracks, so Petros joined Difference and they spent the rest of the morning tracking the lions in a rather thick, densely vegetated area which was slow going, but they persisted and eventually located the lions.......frustratingly the lions saw them and dashed off, not to be seen again – it was the Timbavati lionesses and their cubs, but the area was just too difficult to get to to follow up least the Sohebele brothers were found still following one of the herds of buffalo, so something for the afternoon.

The rest of my morning involved appreciating trees and solitude, as the animals in the east had other ideas rather than showing themselves – we did see some kudu, a lone wildebeest, a hippo, impalas and steenbuck, as well as a buffalo and a hyena at a drying pan before bumping into another elephant before breakfast.

The afternoon was well, perfect.  Amazing drives happen, but not always that often, so having a drive where everything just works out is something to treasure, albeit if it gives a slightly wrong impression about how “easy” safaris are to some guests who got to see the Big 5 and wild dogs on their very first outing in Africa!

There was a lot about in the morning, most of which I missed out on as I was in the east, but after a very warm day, it made sense to check the waterholes and riverbeds, and almost unbelievably, all the animals played along.

Starting out with impalas as we moved towards the Sohebele, we soon found our first large animals – a group of ten buffalo bulls chilling in a mudwallow.  I then skipped Argyle Dam and the elephant bulls there in favour of going south for the main sighting of the afternoon, the wild dogs that were sleeping in the Nhlaralumi on our southern boundary.  The trip towards the Nhlaralumi was not too bad, and we saw impala, kudu an steenbuck before coming across an elephant bull in musthe as we joined the Nhlaralumi – needless to say he wasn't as happy to see us and came for us, so off we sped and carried on along the river course.  Next we had another buffalo bull in the bud and everything seemed to be going great.

Just a bit up the road at the next bit of water, we had a crash of four rhinos, so spent time enjoying them as they fed and rested in the shade.

Just on the opposite side of the Nhlaralumi, there was a large herd of buffalo, and they weren’t alone, as in their midst were another two rhinos that went and joined some of the buffalo in another mudwallow!

Unsurprisingly the next mudwallow also housed a lone buffalo bull, and a few hundred metres further along there was another large breeding herd of buffalo...and they too were not alone, as a little behind them were the two Sohebele male lions!



I spent time watching them as they watched the buffalos, moving periodically to make sure the buffalos didn’t get out of sight – I was sure that they wouldn’t make a move until nightfall, and as we were still a while from the wild dogs, after a good sighting we moved was the only regret of my afternoon, as not long after we left, the two lions managed to catch and kill a baby buffalo from the herd while Peter and his guests were with them!

This was not the end of the world, and as I was heading into the area of the wild dogs, two other stations responded first, so to kill time I went and visited Umfana male leopard that was resting at, you guessed it, a pool of water along the Nhlaralumi riverbed!  That meant that we had now seen the Big 5 all along one little route along the riverbed, without having to make a single detour, and we still weren’t at the main event for the afternoon, the wild dogs that were still resting in the Nhlaralumi a kilometre or so further south.  The leopard wasn't overly active, but did pose beautifully and groomed a bit before we parted company and moved to the dogs.

Our timing was great, and the pack had just gotten mobile and were heading east along our southern boundary, so we got to follow them as they gave chase to a small duiker antelope, but lost it and then carried on trotting along the road to the open areas along the Machaton riverbed.

They moved off at one stage, but we relocated them before it got too dark to follow and they still hadn’t managed to find a meal, but still, we were all in our element considering just what a great afternoon we had enjoyed!

If that wasn't enough, we added to this some hyenas at the den site and a chameleon – all in a day’s work I guess?

Im not looking forward to the hangover tomorrow though!


  1. Absolutely stunning images Chad.

  2. Awesome sightings and pictures. Appreciate if u could answer these questions:
    What camera body and lens were u using?
    Approximately how far were the leopard & lions from the vehicle?

    1. Hi Ramesh

      Chad here, thanks for the comments and questions - i use canon 1DmkIII cameras with 500 f4 and 70-200 f/2.8 lenses, as well as 17-35 and 24-70mm lenses as back-up...we usually within about 10-20m of the animals, but it all depends on the environment and the animal - we try give them as much space as possible, but they often walk right past the vehicle!

      Andrea also blogs and uses a 7D with 100-400 f/5.6 lens, and grant uses a 550D and a 55-250mm lens to get his images...hope that helps!

  3. awesome drive Chaddo!
    great shots in there...

  4. Great Pictures,Wonderful day Chad.
    Happy New Year to all at Motswari!
    Sue and John R