So, after a lovely two week break down at the coast, I am back in the bush and was delighted to hear that – as usually occurs – when I was away, I missed out on some great game viewing! The best of the lot was the afternoon I arrived back and the guides and guests had witnessed the six Timbavati Pride members trying to take down a giraffe, but despite trailing the poor thing for about 6km during the night, they failed to bring it down. Also, the wild dog pack was around and even sniffing out their old den site. Tshwukunyana male leopard, Ntima male leopard and Klakisa female leopard were found in a sighting together. The Sumatra lioness was seen stealing a kill from Xiviti male leopard. The two big male lions from the west were seen on a buffalo kill at Voel Dam. Mating rhinos. Inkanye female leopard catching a scrub hare. The list goes on!!! Luckily, I am happy to report that little has changed since my return, and the first afternoon saw the six Timbavati lions found near Mbali Dam, as well as loads of elephants out on the reserve.
My report begins with me heading out to the east on my first morning game drive in rather crisp, winter-like conditions; my main purpose was to find the Timbavati Pride that I was sure would make their way back to this part of the reserve, and together with Robynne we checked the area. I found tracks for a lone lioness, and whilst checking to see if she was part of the pride or the lone Sumatra lioness, I came across some impalas; it was whilst watching them and talking about the alarm calls they amen if predators are close by that the unmistakable rasping call of a leopard emanated from the bush a few hundred metres east of us; talk of the devil! As my guests had been on safari in east Africa before and never seen leopard, this was high up on their wish list, and they got more than they bargained for when we managed to locate not only Xiviti male leopard, but also a small female following him as he was on mission sniffing and scent-marking around. Thinking it was a shy leopard, we gave her space, but eventually she popped out into the open and I realised that I need not have have been so cautious, as this was our own Inkanye female seen all the way out in the east for the second time in a matter of weeks. We followed the pair as Inkanye did her best to impress Xiviti, and we were fortunate enough to witness one mating session. Hyenas were drawn in to the alarm calls of impalas that erupted when the pair walked into a herd of them, and after a short stand off the hyenas moved off and so did the leopards. Robynne had found the six Timbavati lions on the trail of a herd of buffalo not too far north of us, and as the pride and injured one of the buffalo calves, I thought that we could be in for a sighting of note; Robynne left for an early check out and I arrived to find no buffalo and no lions. An hour and a half later and with only one buffalo and one elephant bull to show for our efforts, we left the area. The only tracks we had were for two of the pride, but it didn’t appear as though they were the same lions, so in the afternoon Difference and Lot went off to track from where the lions had actually been seen, and soon enough, arrived at the same tracks for the two lions we had tracked earlier in the day. Sadly, another two hours later and we were still lioness. In fact, we closed down at camp lioness, only to hear that minutes after we closed down, the seven members of the Western Pride were located just 1km north-west of the camp…I guess you win some, and lose some! I had a relatively quiet drive, and saw hippos, impala, warthog, a lone elephant bull and a gorgeous sunset in the east, but none of the zebra or wildebeest I had hoped for. I was heading back to camp a little early due to the lack of action when the shape of a leopard lying flat on the road emerged out of the darkness; it was Shongile’s daughter. Knowing her to be nervous, we hung back, and as she lay flat again, I decided to go closer, and she wasn’t moving – excellent, i though, but then the reason why became obvious when we spotted a lone male impala standing in the shadows; he moved across the road into a thicket, and she used this opportunity to move a little closer. We sat with out lights out until we eventually heard him alarm calling to signal that he had seen her in the bright near-full moon conditions, and when we turned the lights back on, she was gone. It was a brief sighting, but as our third leopard of the day, we were still happy and closed down at the camp in good spirits; so good in fact that i stupidly promised my guests giraffe, hyena, rhino and cheetah tomorrow…good luck me!
The other guides saw the Western Pride, the active hyena den site, lots of elephants in the north and west, and could hear wild dogs feeding on a kill on the western side of the reserve, but as the light was all but done, didn’t have any luck in finding them. Maybe tomorrow?