Saturday, 19 January 2013

17th and 18th January – A Year Later...

Photo of the Day
The gorgeous and shy Xindzuti male leopard

17th January Morning Drive

17th January Afternoon Drive
(Chad, Grant and Andrea)
1 x leopard (Xindzuti male with an impala kill) – Peru, Sohebele Dam
1 x leopard (Shongile female) – Motswari, Airstrip
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Motswari, Sean’s Clearing
1 x elephant bull – Motswari, Camp
2 x buffalo bulls – Mbali, Broken Dam

18th January Morning Drive
(Chad, Grant and Andrea)
1 x leopard (Rockfig Jnr female) – Vielmetter, Elephant Dam Rd
2 x rhinos
1 x elephant bull – Motswari, Southern Access

18th January Afternoon Drive
(Chad, Grant and Andrea)
3 x lions (Ximpoko, Mabande and Machaton lioness) – Tanda Tula, Ridge Link
1 x leopard (Java Dam female) – Scholtz, River Rd
5 x rhinos
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Kings, Argyle Rd
2 x elephant bulls – Kings, Concrete Crossing
1 x elephant bull – Motswari, Camp
1 x elephant bull – Scholtz, River Rd

Daily Synopsis

With the rain over the last few days, we were all joking about a repeat of the 18th January 2012, when we recorded record flood levels, but luckily for us, the threat of rain was delayed a few days, and we stayed dry, well, reasonably dry anyway!  It is hard to think that the floods were already a year ago, and despite the devastation, Motswari and the Timbavati did marvellously to overcome a tough and trying period to end up in a position that we possibly didn’t think possible a year ago to the day. 

So while not as memorable, the days we had were still rather good ones!

Andea, Grant and I headed out in the afternoon after Peter ended a rather quiet and wet couple of days with his guests, and this left us with no off-roading in the afternoon, but luckily for us, this wasn't an issue!

I started off heading to Piva Plains as I waited for a guest link-up and started well with impalas, waterbuck and zebra on the clearing.

After collecting the guests, we saw some more waterbuck as we headed towards where Xindzuti had an impala kill up a tree on the banks of the Sohebele...being Xindzuti, I wasn't sure we would actually have a good sighting of this nervous male leopard...I was wrong!

On arriving he was walking away from the kill in the tree, but I guess walking is better than running!  Not following off road, we had an on-off visual, but he turned and went back to the tree before n almighty growl came out the bush and he emerged from the long grass with a hyena in tow, but managed to shoot up the safety of the tree while the hyena waited below.

After some time he began to feed and gave us a lovely sighting before I moved off to make space for Andrea.

Not far down the road we found two buffalo bulls and in the east ticked off more zebras and impalas before moving towards a herd of elephants that were feeding just off the road near Xinatsi Dam.

We went to stop for drinks and a lovely sunset on our airstrip and the impalas on the southern end began alarm calling, but didn’t look too fussed.  Then the ones closer alarm called.  Then the francolins behind us alarm called, and we knew that there was something close by, so after packing up we went in search of the mystery predator, but found nothing on the first loop...luckily, we persisted and soon caught up with a leopard walking along the airstrip!  It was the gorgeous Shongile and we had a good view of her before she moved off into the bush and we left her to be – not bad for a restricted afternoon!

The next morning saw us remaining dry and back to off-road driving.  I checked the north before planning on going to look for rhinos.  In the north we had steenbuck, impala and some wonderful zebras fighting and a very relaxed giraffe that came walking only 3-4m from our Land Rover – it was something that I was really not used to (having a giraffe that close) that I actually got a bit nervous, much to the amusement of Petros and the guests!  It was a weird giraffe, and almost seemed to have a third horn growing from her head!

Hearing of some rhinos further south, I moved in that direct and went to follow up, and found them resting along the banks of a drainage line.

Andrea had done well to find Rockfig Jnr leopardess sleeping up a marula tree and had a great sighting before the leopard came down and went off, allowing Grant to follow her before she went under a terminalia bush and went to sleep...bugger!  I had already committed myself to head there, and hoped she would move out, but sadly it was a long trip for nothing and we had barely a 1 out of 5 visual of her, but despite lifting her head to groom occasionally, she wasn't in the mood to do anything, so we left her and headed back to the lodge for breakfast.

The afternoon started dry for about 1 minute before the heavens opened and dropped 15mm on us in as many minutes as we sought cover beneath a tree at Argyle Dam watching hippos and the waves of rain coming and going.

Then the sun came out and warmed us up, as well as shot the humidity levels up!  We checked on Xindzuti, but he had finished his kill and moved on, so we were a bit out of luck, but did enjoy waterbucks and impalas grazing under a full rainbow!

The southern stations found the Mabande male lion near Tanda Tula and invited us down, so we all took them up on the offer and moved south, but it was a quiet trip, with only a wildebeest and impalas being ticked off.  Even on Vielmetter we struggled to tick off kudus and impalas, and found an empty terminalia bush where Rockfig Jnr had been earlier!

Stopping for an early drink at Elephant Dam, we were treated to a great show from the hippo that had moved in as he splashed about, and even did a roll for us after Jake asked him to; a Hippo Whisperer?

Carrying on south after drinks, we enjoyed a host of birds feasting on the termites that were emerging, clearly sensing the coming of more rain!  We then moved into the lion sighting and found Mabande fast asleep.  He was so sleepy that even when a lioness approached him, he didn’t wake up until she actually sniffed him then he jumped up in delight, followed her for a few steps before realising that Ximpoko was standing watching him from nearby!

The all went to rest again, but knowing these lions, it wasn't long before it was time for them to start roaring, and just after 7pm all three lions began an almighty roar right next to our vehicle – yet again a magical moment!!!

As magical was watching the thousands of winged termites leaving a mound in the middle of the lion sighting!  An added treat was bumping into a crash of 5 rhinos on the way back home, but being dark we couldn’t shine the light on them.  It was a long way back, but so worth it for that roar!

So the termites think it is going to rain tomorrow...the weatherman thinks so too, but then we know his track record!  Let’s see what happens...


  1. Honestly Chad, I do not think my eye would see these settings as clearly and focused as your pictures are. What an absolute delight to view them. Thank You for sharing your talents!

  2. Love the beautiful rainbow shots. However top prize goes to the rolling hippo - really fantastic. Thank you so much, Jake and Chad for that

  3. Stunning pictures Chad!!

  4. Wow! Awesome pics as always. Viv