Saturday, 26 January 2013

23rd and 24th January – Tough Going, but Getting There...

Photo of the Day
Rockfig Jnr in the stunning greens of summer

23rd January Morning Drive
(Chad and Marka)
2 x rhinos

23rd January Afternoon Drive
1 x leopard (Xindzuti male) – Peru, Xikhari Rd

24th January Morning Drive
2 x lions (Ximpoko and Mabande males) – Kings, Ridge Rd
1 x rhino

24th January Afternoon Drive
2 x lions (Ximpoko and Mabande males) – Kings, Ridge Rd
1 x leopard (Rockfig Jnr female) – Vielmetter, Vielmetter Access
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Scholtz, Mananga Cutline
3 x elephant bulls – Scholtz, River Rd
1 x elephant bull – Scholtz, River Rd
2 x elephant bulls – Scholtz, River Rd
1 x elephant bull – Scholtz, Kudu Pan Link

Daily Synopsis
As can be seen from the rather sorrowful list of sightings above, the last few days have been tough to say the least!  The ground is still so wet that off-road driving is not possible over the majority of the reserve, several properties are still closed, only two of sixteen river crossings on the Nhlaralumi are open, the Sohebele and Machaton Rivers are not much better (so our traversing is highly fragmented) and the bush has thickened up so much that even giraffes and elephants disappear in seconds!

Yet, despite this, just being out there and seeing the rivers and drainage lines flowing, the water seeping out of the ground and the abundance of smaller creatures (snails, spiders, tortoises, terrapins and a load of birds feasting on the insects) that meant that drives always had something out there, even if it wasn't the larger animals that I was so desperately in search of!

Wednesday morning started with a gorgeous sunrise over a slightly misty bush, but soon the heat pushed through and the day warmed up quickly!  I was heading south (wisely avoiding Moeniejag crossing that trapped me yesterday) and moved past Java Dam towards the airstrip – it was dreadfully quiet and only impalas and waterbuck popped up during the trip.  On Java Airstrip we got to enjoy a sighting of three of the hyenas from the Rockfig Clan as they rested on the airstrip, including the first two cubs born at the den last year, both were looking in good shape!

Carrying on south, we found a few more impalas as well as a small group of zebras and giraffe, but again, the bush quickly swallowed up that sighting!  A little further on we arrived in an area where two rhinos had been earlier, but as they had moved into a wet area, we set off on foot with our one guest and tracked them down and ended up having a lovely sighting of these giant animals of foot from about 25m away, and neither of them were aware of our presence as we sat quietly and watched them – quite a cool experience!

Hearing leopard roaring while watching the rhinos, we checked the area and found fresh tracks, but they led to nothing so we stopped for a cup of coffee with two hippos at Elephant Dam.  Making our way back to camp we cautiously avoided one or two dubious river crossings before making it home, but it was very, very quiet on the trip back, and even impalas were avoiding us!

The afternoon saw me getting two new guests, and we set off at a leisurely pace in the north checking the Wedge for elephants, but we found the bum of a waterbuck and some impalas before moving to Argyle Dam where the hippos and birdlife kept us company, as well as the impalas, naturally!


Hearing that two rhinos were found in the west, I moved in that direction slowly, finding a lot more impalas and some more zebra bums and a few distant giraffe before I tried looking for elephants in the western mopane woodlands, but I found nothing but mopane woodland!  At least there were rhinos, no?  Well, no.  Petros tracked them off the western boundary, which compounded my frustrations for the afternoon, and indeed the week!  A hyena walking down the road was about the only highlight this afternoon so far.

So I did the next best thing and stopped for a drink.  Resuming afterwards I went to check where the giraffes had been alert to something earlier in the day, as well as something that caused the squirrels to alarm call.  We found nothing there, but on the other side of the river, a snorting waterbuck told a different story, and Petros’s keen eye soon picked up the back of a last!  It was Xindzuti, and he was in a dry area, at night, and surprisingly gave us a rather good sighting, even pausing to groom before moving off; we left him, but had to return to help relocate for another vehicle, and then made our way back to the lodge, seeing about 6 or 7 hippos out of the water on a nice clearing, but time was up, so we headed back to camp for a wonderful dinner under a starry sky.

Xindzuti male leopard

Thursday started out with me heading south with just two of my guests, and after enjoying the sunrise over the African Bush, we bumped into a male rhino standing in the middle of the road – good start to the day!  He eventually moved south and crossed the riverbed that caused me so much consternation a couple days with absolute ease and we left him in peace after he headed off into the bush to mark his territory.  Further along the road we ticked off a couple of giraffe sightings as we sat and listened to some lions roaring in the very distance. 

Checking Vielmetter in the south for elephants (my one guest’s 6th drive with no elephants!) we came up empty handed but did find more giraffes, kudu and zebra, as well as another riverbed that decided we were too heavy and sunk in!  Yip, twice in three days I was bogged down, so I stopped (quite involuntarily if im honest) for a cup of coffee and waited for Giyani to come from Java to pull me out, which he did with ease. 

The good news is that the southern stations had done very well to track down the Ximpoko and Mabande male lions, and Kings extended an invitation to go and visit them, so being in the general area, I moved towards them after checking the central regions of Vielmetter without much luck.

Despite being late and hot, we had a brief glimpse of one of the lions walking about before flopping down, and Ximpoko sat with his head up most of the sighting at least allowing my guests a good view (mine was obscured by a bush, hence the photos!).  The trip back was a long one that didn’t produce much, but it was a morning drive that took the pressure off the afternoon for the arrival of my new guests.

I had one wish for the afternoon – see roaring lions.  What to do before then was still going through my mind when we were told that we could access the east through Karans, and having not been there for ages, I took this opportunity to go and see what was going on – a brave move for a guests first safari, but it paid off!

We saw steenbuck, a load of orb-web spiders (much to the delight of my guests!) and found our first elephant in ages!  A lone male that fed and put on a show for us!  A little down the road, we also had a sighting of an African wild cat in the day which is always a treat.

Hitting Scholtz River Rd, we found where all of our elephants have been hiding the last day with three separate sightings of elephant bulls as well as signs for a herd in the area, and some more steenbuck and a lone hippo.  Hitting our southern boundary we then enjoyed some giraffes and Petros collected a bunch of sourplums for us to try before we made our way back west to have a drink before going to see the lions – a herd of elephants interrupted plans on the way and we sat watching the herd splashing about in a small mudwallow, with one little calf trying his hardest to get out of the mudwallow, but he kept slipping back in...eventually he got out, only to turn around and walk straight back in as the lure of the mud was too much!

Moving on, we sped up to make our sundowner spot in time, but as usual, the animals pitched up – I didn’t even stop for the impalas (bad, I know, but I’ll watch them tomorrow!) but did pause for the zebras for a while.

Approaching the drink spot I wanted, another animal planned to interrupt it...this time it was a leopard!  Yip, we bumped into the gorgeous Rockfig Jnr as she was walking down the road in a very casual fashion.  She sat and watched her world for a while before moving off into the bush and we carried on.

Rockfig Jnr

As time was running out, we passed on a proper drink stop and moved to the nearby lions, the timing was perfect, and as usual, these lion had just woken up about 20 minutes after sunset, and one had moved to the road while we were trying to locate him.  They began roaring in time, but sadly we were between the two males without actually having visual of either, but knowing them, it was only ten minutes before the next roar, so we found the bigger boy and sat with him until they roared again – pure magic!

Delighted with the first drive, we made a move for home, not seeing much as we raced back, but everyone was in high spirits and we had a wonderful Boma dinner and enjoyed great company until past  1am in the morning before we all headed to bed for a little nap!


  1. Great drive indeed Chad. Can't even remember the last time I was with roaring lions...

    Hope it gets better for you guys and that you do not "sink" again ;-)


  2. Wonderful, Chad and Petros. I'll never forget the two roaring lions and the raising of the hairs on the back of my neck. Oh, and I'll never forget the 1 AM discussions. We were very well "refreshed".
    Rich & Sue Rhodes