Hi again, and apologies for the condensation of three days worth of blogs into one post, but due to the fact that I had a co-pilot of the last couple of days sitting alongside me in the front of the Land Rover, my cameras took a back seat, and I only tommy my small camera out on drive yesterday afternoon and this morning.
Thursday was a windy day, which didn’t do us a great deal of favours, but whilst I enjoyed a bush walk with guests from Giraffe’s Nest back to Geiger’s Camp, the guides on drive had mixed fortunes. The Western Pride had pitched up on the tarred access road, just by the Ingwelala bridge, and it appeared that all nine members had reunited – Angie got to see them in the morning, but as the morning wore on, they moved off into the bush, and the visual deteriorated quickly. A rhino and calf, elephants and buffalos occupied the rest of the morning for the guides before we had a large group check-in in the afternoon. The group arrived having already seen elephant, giraffe, lions and a male leopard on their drive in! As a result, we took it easy in the afternoon and bumbled around in the north checking to see if Shongile would pop out, seeing as her tracks were still around Geiger’s Access. We spent some nice time with a lone elephant bull near Giraffe’s Nest before making our way towards the northern boundary hoping that the lions would pop out again. Angie found the rhino and calf, but our group went for the lions that had indeed decided that the tarmac road surface was the most comfortable spot to enjoy the afternoon, even if it attracted a much bigger audience than we were used to. We shared the sighting with several other vehicles, but the lions were unperturbed and simply slept off the evening. Kevin found Ntima male leopard resting up a tree near Nkombi Pan on our western boundary. We stopped for a late drink and were joined by a hyena and a giraffe; combined with the short sighting we had of a buffalo bull, impala and kudu earlier in the drive, it was a pleasant start to the groups stay. Marka also had a herd of elephants not far west of the lodge.
Friday showed much better weather conditions, and the drive started off with the good news that the nine lions of the Western Pride had not only returned to our area, but that they had also just managed to pull down a large buffalo cow near Voël Dam. It drew a lot of attention, so I actually avoided that area for the morning, knowing that they would be around in the afternoon. We checked Argyle Dam and saw impala, waterbuck and hippos before going to see a rhino and calf grazing in a nice grassy area next to the road. After a cup of coffee at Java Dam, we had three sightings of lone elephant bulls as we searched for a breeding herd that had been seen earlier in the day – we also added giraffe, impala and kudu to the list before locating on a herd of 50-plus elephants that appeared to be slowing making their way towards Mbali Dam; it was a very relaxed herd, and we had some lovely time with them before parting ways and making or way back to the lodge for breakfast.
With lions on the menu for the evening, I took it easy in the north and waited for the day to cool down, hoping for more action later in the afternoon. A herd of elephants had moved from Geiger’s Crossing to the south, but they were oddly nervous, and after Marka relocated them, we actually opted to bypass them and carry on with the drive. Hippos, waterbuck, impala, bushbuck, two elephant bulls feeding in the Nhlaralumi riverbed, a herd of kudus, a buffalo bull, a nice group of zebras, a hippo with a terrapin on its head as well as some giraffes kept us occupied as me meandered towards the lions. Nearing the area, vultures could be seen dotted all over the show – the largest gathering I have seen for some time. Even ore interesting though was news that a breeding herd of buffalos were also making their way towards the dam where the lions had their kill. We arrived to find several hyenas prowling around the outskirts of the sighting as most of the nine lions lay spread out, fat-bellied near the kill. Three lions were feeding. After some time, the sounds of the buffalos alerted the lions to their presence, but soon the herd picked up on the scent of the lions and came closer to investigate the scene; some of the young lions tried to hold their ground, but the confidently advancing herd soon sent them running back to the relative safety of the rest of the pride on the kill. This still didn’t deter the buffalos, and the front members of the 100-member herd advanced to within 3-4m of the lions – the adult lionesses held there ground and resumed feeding, giving an agitated snarl to the buffalos as they got to close. The hyenas also started getting interested, but after a few minutes of this stalemate, the intensity dissipated, and having had a great view, we decided to make space to let another set of guests come in and see this awesome scene. We made our way towards the Nhlaralumi for a drink in the darkening conditions, and got mobile to a sky full of stars, as well as the news that a large male lion had run in and chased the Western Pride off their kill! They made a hasty retreat back to the north whilst the male ate on what little meat was left on the carcass. This is not an ideal scenario for our pride, who had – until now – not had any negative encounters with any other lions in our area. What is not ideal either is the fact that they have rejoined with the other two adult lionesses, one of which is lactating and no doubt has cubs hidden along the Nhlaralumi north of our area. With some luck though, she will not be too tolerant of the sub adults, and send them packing back to our area. Marka also found a nervous leopard during his drive, and we passed more elephants and some buffalo on the way home to round off an enjoyable day in the bush!
My last morning drive for a couple of days was a chilled affair – we wanted to go and see if the male lion was still around, but soon heard that his tracks and left the area and moved west into Klaserie; there was no further sign of the Western Pride, so we assume they made it all the way back to Ingwelala. In fact, it was a generally quiet morning unless you were looking for elephants. We enjoyed five separate sightings over the course of the morning; the nervous herd of some 20-odd elephants near Geiger’s Camp, two elephant bulls on Piva Plains, three bulls feeding in a mopane woodland, a small herd digging and drinking in the Nhlaralumi riverbed, and another large bull on the way home. We interspersed this with sightings of impala, kudu, giraffe, warthog, waterbuck, a hippo out the water, crocodile and duiker before closing down for the groups last drive. Angie and Goodman tracked down some rhinos, but overall, it was a bit quieter than usual today.
Again, I am off drive for a night before returning to the fray tomorrow afternoon, so I guess I will update you then!