Friday, 15 February 2013

12th and 13th February – Dreams Do Come True!!!

Photo of the Day
One of SIX cheetahs found in the east on Wednesday!

12th February Morning Drive
(Chad, Peter, Grant and Johannes)
1 x lion (Machaton young male) – Tanda Tula, Giraffe Plains
1 x leopard (Rockfig Jnr female) – Vielmetter, Elephant Dam Rd
1 x leopard (Argyle Jnr’s boy) – Argyle, Leadwood Access
4 x rhinos
1 x rhino
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Java, Sjambok Pod
1 x elephant bull – Motswari, Airstrip
2 x elephant bulls – Motswari, Camp
1 x buffalo bull – Kings, Cheetah Plains

12th February Afternoon Drive
(Chad, Grant and Johannes)
2 x lions (Mafikizolo males) – Karans, Bush Braai
4 x rhinos
1 x rhino
1 x buffalo bull – Scholtz, River Rd
1 x buffalo bull – Jaydee, Nkombi Pan

13th February Morning Drive
(Chad, Grant and Johannes)
6 x cheetahs (mother and 5 cubs) – Karans, Bottom Rd
1 x elephant bull – Karans, Bottom Rd
1 x elephant bull – Peru, Entrance Rd
2 x buffalo bulls – Motswari, Giraffe Pan
1 x buffalo bull – Scholtz, Kudu Pan

13th February Afternoon Drive
(Chad, Grant and Johannes)
1 x leopard (Nthombi female with duiker kill) – Kings, Little Ridge
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Vielmetter, Lower River Rd
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Vielmetter, Double Highway
1 x buffalo bull – Scholtz, Kudu Pan

Daily Synopsis

What a blog entry to mark our 1,000th blog post since we started blogging in 2009!  And I don’t even know where to begin, but I guess Tuesday morning would be a good starting point?

Heading out following 7mm of rain during the early hours of the morning, we were soon reaching for our own rain coats as a drizzle started, but luckily it didn’t last long and the clouds made for a stunning backdrop for a stunning elephant, Classic, as he fed on our airstrip.

I was again looking for rhinos, so moved to the south via the eastern section of the reserve – heading to the west we saw impala, waterbuck and even some necking giraffes (just for you Julian, if you are reading this!). 

Cutting back towards the Nhlaralumi, I went to check at one of the river crossings where I had been stuck to see if my sunglasses were still there, but they weren’t...what was there was a rhino!  As we pulled out the crossing he surprised us by running out of the bushes nearby, but he was on a mission, following the scent of something and eventually went running off, so we left him.

Johannes had relocated on a group of four rhinos nearby, so I went to join him and spent good time watching the crash graze around the vehicle before moving on to go and see a leopard that Marka had again found. 

It was Rockfig Jnr was up in a marula tree, but in an area that was still quite wet, and after about 20 minutes I eventually made it into the sighting and we got to watch as she just lazed and posed for us before moving back towards the camp.

Once again the trip past Java was very productive with lots of giraffes, zebras and wildebeest.

My trusty tracker, Petros

My guests still had one request for the afternoon – hyenas.  As there had been some of the giraffe carcass in the morning, I planned on heading there late and just having a chilled drive...starting on our airstrip again we had a lovely group of warthogs feeding in the sunshine. 

Along our northern boundary we didn’t see all that much besides impalas, but we did tick off a nice herd of giraffes and a couple of zebras before moving south along Argyle Rd to Nkmobi Pan where we found a lone buffalo bull chilling next to the water.

Grant was tracking some rhinos, and we managed to bump into them feeding along the one river a crossing...that Grant told me was crossable...needless to say, I was once again reaching for my towrope; I could almost attach it with my eyes closed I’m getting stuck so regularly now!  That is 7 times in the last 4 weeks!!!  We moved around to a crossing further south before coming back to the same crossing for an early sundowner for Caroline’s (our new intern) birthday...the rhinos even made an appearance and spent the time grazing on the opposite bank!

We then went to see if the hyenas had come back to the carcass, and luckily they had, so we watched as they rolled around in the sand, splashed in the water and then went to feed on what looked like rather putrid meat!

The trip back home was a bit quiet, with more giraffe and a white tailed mongoose showing themselves...Grant got lucky and found that our hyena den now has two brand new cubs, while Johannes had a great afternoon in the “quiet” east, finding himself a buffalo, a rhino and the two Mafikizolo male lions!

It was purely because of Johannes’s efforts that I decided to move into the area to go and look for the lions, especially as John said he heard lions roaring there during the night.

We found leopard tracks, impalas and some zebras, as well as a short jackal sighting, but no sign of lions.  We checked Kudu Pan before going back through Kudu Pan Clearing.  Looking at it in the morning light made me think of a recent blog post I saw for another reserve of a cheetah sighting they had, and I thought to myself how nice it would be to have cheetah around...but I guess I think that every time I drive this area, and I know I have often envisaged finding a cheetah sitting on one particular mound – a mound that Grant found a cheetah on last year, much to my annoyance.

Passing groups of impalas, but still seeing no lion tracks, some light coloured animals caught our attention up ahead, on a termite mound.  On “my” termite mound.  “Lions?” I asked Petros, but he didn’t answer and kept staring ahead in a fashion that lets me know he has seen something that is not just impala.  I stopped and picked up my binoculars and raised them to my eyes, quickly focussing on the mound.  I think I might have forgotten to breathe.  I answered my own question with a resounding “no!”...these weren’t lions...these were cheetahs, and a lot of them!

They moved off immediately, and I feared that they were skittish having come in from the Kruger, and they were moving into an area where off-road driving still hadn’t been opened.  But I radioed the property manager and asked if off-road driving was allowed; he said no before asking me what I wanted to follow.  I don’t think he was expecting me to say “six cheetahs!”  he very kindly allowed me to follow them to the next road, and actually an adjacent property, so I carefully drove through the bush, and soon saw that they cheetahs weren’t that nervous; the mother and most of the 7-8 month old cubs were quite chilled.  I managed to get to the cutline and wait for them there...

This was the point when I was most gobsmacked as one cub came stalking to within 3m of Petros!  Un. Be. Liev. Able.  Really!  Then we sat and watched as six cheetahs walked down the road before crossing into the bush, and we kept up with them as they walked to a small open area near a waterhole in the east, but made space for Grant and Johannes to enjoy, and by the sounds of it, enjoy they did!  All the guests were absolutely delighted, and could see from all of our reactions what a rare and special sighting this was!!!  None of us had ever seen so many cheetahs together in the Timbavati...and of all the places to find them, it had to be in the east (and almost an identical spot to where I found the 30 wild dogs for the first time last year!).

On an absolute high, we carried on through the east hoping to find elephants, but after coffee, we continued and don’t think we even saw an impala, but it was so great just driving in the east with no pressure, and enjoying solitude out there, driving on roads that disappeared because they were overgrown with grass – a wild feeling that epitomises the east, and its the reason we spend many quite hours driving around there seeing very little, because we know that something magic could be waiting around the next corner!

Moving back towards Argyle Dam, things picked up and we saw impala, waterbuck, zebras and hippos before closing down at the lodge, with all of us still beaming!

My new guests were after cats, and only staying at the lodge for one night, the pressure was on.  It was a chance to go out east again, but those cheetahs had to be there somewhere, so with everyone once again loaded on the Land Rover, we moved off in that direction – I had a route planned in my mind, but then we met one of the camp attendants on his tractor, and in my best broken Shangaan, I asked him where my cheetahs my amazement, he began explaining to Petros exactly where he had seen them with a kill!!!  Could we really be this lucky?  We saw a lone buffalo, impalas, wildebeest, zebra and giraffes as we approached the area, but I didn’t want to waste time, as I wanted to find these cheetahs again...sadly, it was too good to be true, and we found the remains of the kill, but they had moved on.  We tried searching for them, but the ground was hard and we couldn’t find any tracks...the area was also so thick that it would have taken an even greater miracle to find them in that mopane...dejectedly we left the area (later hearing that they had indeed crossed our southern boundary and made another kill at around the time we were looking for them) – still with loads of zebras and impalas on the Scholtz airstrip, the trip wasn't in vane.

We saw the mother hyena, but no cubs as she lay well obscured by the bushes, but we didn’t stay long as we had a leopard to go and see.  Eventually we got into a sighting of Nthombi as she fed on the last remains of her duiker kill up a marula tree before climbing down and eating the scraps off the floor – the guests were again delighted, so we moved on and went to have a drink before making the trip back north.

We tried to look for another leopard with a kill on Java Airstrip, but the only spots we found were on the many giraffes there, and the only cat we found was a baby African wild cat, which in itself was an even bigger treat, as I had never seen a small one before!  It posed for photos before sneaking off.

Arriving back at the lodge, we were still all smiling from the morning, and it was a day that reminded me just why I love the Timbavati so much!  Hope you enjoyed reading about it!  im back on drive on the weekend, but will keep the blog updated until then!



  1. Always a treat to read your Blog and even better with a great Cheetah sighting.

  2. What a stunning blog and most appropriate for the 1000th blog. It been a while since I read the blog and just wanted to say I miss you guys, the pics and the stories about your experiences in the bush. Please be safe. Till later.

  3. Chad as you rightly said we are absolutely green with envy - totally unfair

  4. As you so aptly put it "this is what dreams are made of". Well captured.....thanks for sharing your dreams for all to see.

  5. Wow awsume thanks for shareing :-)

  6. Waouhouuuu, fantastic pictures !!! :-)

  7. Seeing your work is like taking a holiday -thanks

  8. We ran into Mora and Julian in Capetown on their usual good form, and I am sure they will check out the blog: your photos are terrific, and I am sad we did not see cheetahs, but still delighted by our experiences. Apropos your raybans check out clic!

    1. Thanks you for your photos. MERCI

    2. Hey Helen!

      Thanks for looking, and also sorry that i didnt get to share this sighting with you guys! Even saw necking giraffes!!! Alain and Caroline were still with me, and loved it...they enjoyed it so much that they almost came back to Motswari from the other lodge they went to visit :) Glad you got to see Julian and Mora down that side too...i never got to cape town this week, maybe next week though! Have fun and good luck for the conference :)

      Hahahaha, thanks so much for the link for the glasses :)


  9. Glad you all liked this post, and thank you all for your continued support, wonderful comments and loyal following of the blog - makes all the effort well worth it!

    Here is to the next 1,000 posts!

  10. Congrats on 1000 posts Chad... What a way to do it!
    Love the blog as always, and thanks for all the updates.


  11. Hi Chad,
    I just saw your report of our trip last Wed. We really enjoyed it very much, as well as the dinner with you ! Thanks for the womderful photos !,!

  12. I was redirected to this blog via the WildCard mail of 7 March in which some of your leopard photos were published. Amazing pictures, absolutely love your work and the posts!