Waking up at midnight with a howling wind outside, I definitely wasn’t looking forward to heading out on morning drive when my alarm sounder at 05h30, as I knew that there were likely to be very few animals waiting for us. Four hours later when I returned for breakfast, I had been proven 100 percent wrong! My mission was to head out west to see if the Western Pride had returned, and so I angled towards our northern boundary but soon got temporarily distracted by a herd of elephants and waterbuck on the airstrip, but the elephants moved off into a thicket, so we carried on – hearing that the tracks for the Western Pride had indeed come back into our concession, but as there were already two vehicles in the area following up, i moved towards Argyle Dam and spent time watching birds, hippos and waterbuck before it was announced that the pride of lions had been found, and I slowly moved towards them, passing impalas as I did. The pride of nine (no cubs today) were looking in need of a good meal again, but their main concern was staying warm, and although there wasn’t much action, it was still lovely to see all nine lions squeezed under a bush trying to beat the cold! Having had a good sighting and achieved the mission for the morning, I carried on without a real plan, and was rewarded with more impala, zebras, kudu, steenbuck and waterbuck in the north. Crocodiles and some good waterbirds along the Nhlaralumi kept me busy until I heard that the southern stations had found a pack of wild dogs, and as there wasn’t much attention being shown to them, I decided to make the long trip south…as usual, everything then came out! Impalas, giraffes, impalas, zebras, impalas, kudus, impalas, impalas, impalas! It has been a while since I recall seeing so many impalas as i made my way south; there we saw more giraffe, impala, kudu, wildebeest and yes, impalas before arriving at the wild dogs that had finished their impala kill and were now on the move to the west – it was our pack of eleven, but when they stopped briefly to drink, I noticed that there were only ten individuals, and no alpha female – the fact that they ran straight past the water and carried on west proved that they alpha dog had given birth, but sadly it appears as though it is to the west of our reserve and in the Klaserie somewhere, which means that they won’t be returning to den in our concession as we had hoped, but we still hope that they visit frequently to hunt, and that they have the same sort of success they had last year raising five of the six pups! We left them to it and carried on home passing impala, wildebeest and giraffes, as well as Ntima male leopard casually strolling through the bush on a windy morning! Lions, leopard and wild dogs in such awful wind – what a lucky morning we had! After some time with the leopard, we carried on back to the lodge and passed an elephant bull before arriving back for breakfast where a herd of elephants joined us at the trough!!! What a fantastic morning in less than ideal conditions; elsewhere Kevin managed to track down the two Machimba male lions in the east after they had made a journey of at least 16km from where we heard them last night – they sure can move those lions!!!
Having had such a fantastic morning, I turned off the radio and headed east in the hope of finding rhinos and the lions that Kevin found this morning. It began with a stop at Giraffe’s Nest, followed by a stop to to look at a gorgeous puff adder spread out over one of the two-tracks. We moved east towards the Kruger boundary but saw very little besides impala and a herd of wildebeest before heading south along the Kruger cutline. Carrying on back west, we enjoyed solitude and the anticipation of finding something special, but despite patches of green grass and lush bush, the animals avoided us – we checked where Kevin had seen the lions but only found a small herd of elephants, so we carried on towards one of the dams for a drink with hippos – it was whilst we were there that we heard the lions roaring where we had been checking, so after finishing drinks, we headed back there and turned off to listen for the next roar…ten minutes later, they roared back where we had just come from, so we shot off in that direction once more, and turned off again to listen, but when they roared, we realised that the lions were still approximately the same distance away but now even but further south indicating that they were very mobile and clearly on a mission and that we were never going to catch them, so we cut our losses and headed home passing kudu, impala and a herd of elephants along the way. Elsewhere, Brad got to see the same wild dogs from this morning (and I missed out on another pack in the east – the pack denning in the Kruger), which made me wonder if my morning ramblings about them denning were correct? The Western Pride were around until they got up and moved north into Ingwelala, and Marka found Shongile female leopard just north of the lodge with a duiker kill; something to follow up on tomorrow 🙂