Sunday, 24 February 2013

20th and 21st February – Welcome Back Wild Dogs...and the Rain!!!

Photo of the Day
The wild dogs return...just a day late for my guests that wanted to see them...but glad to have them back!

20th February Morning Drive
 (Chad and Grant)
1 x leopard (Tingana female) – Argyle, Lover’s Leap
1 x leopard (Umfana male) – Vielmetter, Double Highway
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Vielmetter, Back Nine’s
1 x elephant bull – Vielmetter, Double Highway
1 x buffalo bull – Java, Java Dam

20th February Afternoon Drive
(Chad, Grant and Andrea)
2 x rhinos
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Peru, Lion Pan
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Java, Airstrip
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Java, Peter Pan Access
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Java, Plains Rd
1 x buffalo bull – Argyle, Mfene Crossing
1 x buffalo bull – Peru, Lion Pan
1 x buffalo bull – Java, Java Dam

21st February Morning Drive
(Chad, Grant and Andrea)
2 x leopards (Rockfig Jnr and her son) – Vielmetter, Double Highway
1 x buffalo bull – Java, Java Dam

21st February Afternoon Drive
(Chad, Grant, Andrea and Shaddy)
14 x wild dogs – Peru, Inkwazi Access
1 x leopard (Tingana female) – Argyle, Argyle Dam
1 x leopard (Argyle Jnr’s boy with impala kill) – Peru, Snare Rd
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Peru, Peru Entrance Rd
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Peru, Voel Dam

Daily Synopsis
Slowly slowy...that is how im doing catching up on these blog posts from the last few days!  Actually sitting in Johannesburg updating this, wondering what the guys and gal are seeing out there – no doubt loads seeing as I left the reserve for a day!

These two days were quite good, to say the least, and quite wet!  Once again, we received a heavy downpour that got the rivers flowing and complicated matters for us once more!  While the north only got 36mm of rain, the catchment areas got 70mm or more, and the Nhlaralumi was pumping on the 21st.  The 20th was a lot drier, and we had a very nice day that began with me checking the areas around Argyle Dam for the leap of leopards.  Seeing old tracks for Tingana (Argyle Jnr’s girl), I didn’t pay much attention to them until I looked up and saw her lying low on a termite mound next to the road!  What a stroke of luck!!!

She was close to the road, and didn’t run – amazing how she has changed in less than 2 weeks!  She did soon move on as she spotted a waterbuck, and then disappeared.  As Andrea was desperate for leopard, I spent some time trying to relocate, and we managed to do so and found her sitting in the grass.  She was very chilled and casually walked behind a bush with her tail held aloft, but we didn’t see her come out the other side, so went around...and around...and around...and around.  She vanished!  Andrea still came into the area but sadly was unable to relocate on the leopard.

I ventured more south, seeing some great little things on the way – impalas, carmine bee-eaters, and a curious business of dwarf mongooses.  At Java Dam we found a buffalo bull that had lost his eye, and very recently by the looks of things!  Ouch!!!

As usual, the zebras and giraffes were all around Java Airstrip as I went in search of elephants, but every elephant herd seemed to evade me!  Only when I was heading home did we get to see a lone bull, and a small group of elephants; it was while watching them that Marka radioed to tell me that he had another leopard, Umfana male, about 500m from my position, so I went to see him, but all I saw was his backside as he walked down the very rocky No Name River and disappeared.  My time was up, so we headed back to the lodge for check outs and to prepare for the afternoon drive with some new guests.

The afternoon started off warm and sunny, but the wind picked up and the clouds soon came rolling in; it turned out to be a bit of a quiet afternoon, and again, I was perpetually frustrated by disappearing elephants! 

Grant found elephants, buffalo and rhinos in close proximity to one another, but as I had already seen a buffalo in the Sohebele River, I decided to go for his rhinos and elephants...we enjoyed waterbuck, impala, zebra and giraffes on the way, and arrived to find the rhinos grazing in the area still, but the elephants had vanished...again.  After the rhinos moved behind a bush, we drove around to relocate them, and just like the elephants and the leopard this morning, they too had vanished!  Just wasn't my day today!!

We went for a drink stop in the Nhlaralumi with a nice herd of waterbuck and a troop of baboons, before moving back towards the lodge; the trip back was a tad quiet, but we did find a chameleon.

Just as dinner was ending, the heavens opened and the rain came down hard, and combined with the strong wind, it was almost raining horizontally!  It was enough that in the morning the Nhlaralumi was again flowing bank-to bank, and once more all our crossings were closed.

It was still winding in the morning, so the game was quiet to say the least, but we tried anyway, even with no off-road driving.  The good thing with rain is that it brings out the smaller things, so we enjoyed snails, chameleons, tortoises and even some smelly terrapins!

Driving around on Java and Vielmetter produced very little game – impalas, giraffes and a nyala – but some wonderful scenery as we stopped for drinks on a stretch of the flowing river.  Grant and Marka had found Rockfig Jnr and her son, but they moved along the Machaton River and were lost quite quickly.

I tried the area anyway, but had no joy – luckily I bypassed Java Airstrip on the way back to the lodge and were spoilt with impala, zebras, wildebeest and a very large grouping of some 21 giraffes!  It has been a long time since I have seen that many giraffes together, so spent a lot of time watching them before going back to the lodge.

The afternoon was considerably better though, thanks mostly to one Johannes Mkhari who clearly took the right medicine today!  He tracked down wild dogs, a leopard with a kill and also found breeding herds of buffalo and elephant all within 3km of one another!!!

Needless to say, this caused a lot of interest, so Grant and I avoided the rush and chilled a bit more in the north-east, and just as well, as Grant found another leopard for us as he was following up on some alarm calling guineafowls, the same guineafowls I was heading to follow up on!  Prior to that, I had seen warthogs, impalas, waterbuck and a quick glimpse of a hyena.

The interesting thing with the leopard was that the guineafowls were sitting alarm calling in a tree with an eagle!  Usually the eagle would make them alarm on its own, but the fact they were up in a tree meant that there was a more serious ground threat, and that threat was Tingana, and again, she was relaxed enough to allow some nice viewing, despite spending her time in a mopane thicket.

The wild dog sighting was now quietening down, so Grant headed there first and I took my time enjoying zebras (a rather large group of 19 on Piva Plains), impalas and waterbuck before moving to the wild dogs once Grant was done, and while getting in last, we had a great sighting as the pack of 14 ran around playing with the remains of their latest impala kill!  What a treat to see them – and even more so for the guests that arrived from Kruger today, as they had actually seen “our” pack of 30 dogs in the Kruger too!

It was getting dark, so we left the dogs and went for a drink before moving back to the lodge for a much drier, but equally enjoyable dinner in the boma.

I hope the wild dogs stick around for a while now!


  1. Nice sightings Chad. I must say Tingana is a beautiful looking leopard, one of many in the timbivati :-).


  2. Another great blog and thanks for being here in Johannesburg when updating. Very very special visit to Johannesburg. Thanks so much.