Lately, every day I wake wondering if today will be the end of our rather splendid run of game viewing, and every day I am quite delighted to be able to report back that the answer is “no, it wasn’t today!”
Kevin and I were heading south to go and see how Duma male lion and the old scrappy male were doing on their buffalo kill, but in the end, neither of us ended up getting there! Nthombi female leopard popped up on the southern portions of Java, and as I hadn’t seen her for over two months, and maybe only once in four months, I couldn’t not go and see her. We passed a small herd of elephants and a lone elephant bull in addition to impala herds on the way south before finding her walking right towards a marula tree that I comment on literally every time I drive past saying “one day I will see a leopard in that tree”…today was that day! Nthombi is looking great, and showing signs that she may be pregnant again, which might explain why she has suddenly returned to her usual territory after such a long absence; if memory serves correct, she did the same thing just prior to the birth of her last son, Mondzweni. Anyway, she climbed the tree in front of us and went to rest – sadly the cloudy ate up the sun as she did so, so my perfect photos were not so great, but it was still lovely to see! We carried on and found impala, giraffe and then a herd of buffalo along with a welcome cup of coffee. My guests were very keen on rhino, so we opted to follow up on some tracks rather than going to see the lions so late in the morning, and after passing more impala and zebra, a short tracking stint led to us enjoying a sighting of a male rhino before making a turn for home. We passed another couple of elephant herds and some beautiful male kudus as the clouds broke and the temperatures rose. Other sightings for the morning included the pack of wild dogs still up in the northern parts of the reserve, buffalo and elephant herds in the west, and hyenas and vultures around what was left of the Western Pride of lions buffalo kill from yesterday – they headed south into Ingwelala, but with some luck, they will return to our concession over the coming days.
Although, as the afternoon showed, we are not a one pride area for a change (although, of late, we were more a “no pride” zone!). The afternoon saw sightings four sightings of lions – the three Ross lions just on our southern boundary, and the two Sumatra males further south, but we opted to go see Duma and the scrappy male instead, so made our way down through the reserve toward them. We began on a hot day and soon found some elephants resting in the shade near Argyle Dam, and as it was starting to cool, they moved to the riverbed and had a splash in the muddy water before we left them to it. Yet again, Piva Plains was full of live – hundreds of impala, some waterbuck, warthog and zebras a little further away too. Along the Nhlaralumi we had several elephant sightings; a large bull drinking near a herd of giraffes and a troop of baboons, a mother elephant and calf drinking at Mbali Dam, another herd of elephants swimming in Mbali Dam, and another couple of elephants along the route. We found nyala, a rhino and calf and a crash of hippos where we decided to stop for drinks before carrying on towards the lions. We arrived at a good time as several dozen vultures gathered in the surrounding trees, a dozen hyenas lay about waiting for their turn, and Duma was just stirring and moved out into the open – we had a lovely sighting of him and then the scrappy male came and joined him at the kill; Duma didn’t even react and just watched as he ate. Some hyenas tried to come closer but Duma promptly chased them off; it was a lovely sighting, but we were now rather far from the lodge and decided to head back; luckily it was a good drive back and we passed a herd of elephants and Inkanye female leopard on the way back to round off another splendid afternoon!
I wasn’t the only one that had good afternoon; Richard saw Machaton male leopard that had stolen Inkanye’s kills as he was feeding on! In the west, two unknown female lions were found resting near Voel Dam, and during the afternoon they caught a Kudu that was still alive and struggling when Andries arrived! There were also sightings of other rhinos, buffalo and elephants around the reserve, as well as great general game. All in all, just great being out there!