18 April 2017

If I thought yesterday afternoon’s drive was a tough one, then I had another thing coming with Tuesday morning’s drive, which ended up being one of the most frustrating drives I have had in a long time. It started out positively that some lions had been heard roaring in the south, close to Java, but their roars had moved east, and their tracks disappeared back into no man’s land in the east. I was heading south anyway, and found a small herd of buffalo that were resting on another winter-like morning – it was only a small herd, but more buffalos that I had seen for a while! My guests and I had been talking about wild dogs at dinner last night, and when I heard that a pack was found in the south, I started heading in that direction – it was a fairly stable sighting as I made my way towards the area, but the wild dogs then got active and moved westward towards the Nyosi riverbed where they were lost crossing over – as my guests had asked about their chances of seeing wild dogs yesterday afternoon, I was putting in extra effort to find them this morning, so headed to the tarred road knowing that they would be coming out there, but with it being the end of a long weekend, there were a couple more vehicles on the road than I liked seeing, so headed back to our reserve where another pack of wild dogs – 11 of them – had been seen crossing east, deeper into our area; despite having checked the area earlier, they must have run behind me, and as i was moving into the area to check, they were found not far ahead of me, but as I arrived, they crossed the Nlralumi to the east, and I had to race around, almost getting stuck in the first riverbed crossing I attempted, so I needed to do a bigger loop. We made it around towards Elephant Dam where they were heading, and found two of the wild dogs highly, highly mobile to the north – we followed as best we could, before finding one more dog, but they were on such a mission that we had no chance. Tracks and circling vultures let us know roughly where they were, but our time was up and we needed to head back to the lodge for checkouts. We did find a nice sighting of a large herd of elephants digging for water in the Sohebele riverbed on the way home, but in general, it was just an all round frustrating morning.

The afternoon was luckily only frustrating for one fact – that the wild dogs were found with a fresh impala kill in the very area that I had told Brad to go and look for them. That being said, with my new guests, we enjoyed a lovely afternoon that didn’t involve rushing around. We started slowly with impalas and some birding before finding a herd of elephants that we followed to the Sohebele River and Piva Plains – there we found another herd (and there were still two other herds in the immediate area that we didn’t see). Following sightings of impala, warthogs, and giraffe, we arrived at the hyena den again and enjoyed a lovely time with the that were a lot more active than they were yesterday morning, with all the young showing much more confidence in the presence of vehicles than they were even yesterday; it won’t be long before they stop paying even the slightest bit of attention to us. We carried on as the sun set and moved towards the Nhlaralumi Riverbed and stopped for a drink in the gorgeous setting as the sun set on another day. Moving home, I decided to head towards Java Dam to see if our leopards might be in the area still, and quite surprisingly, I found a leopard that wasn’t one of the ones I was expecting! It was a large, semi-relaxed male moving right in the heart of Tshwukunyana’s territory. We followed for a while until he went and lay down in the grass, and we managed to get a good view of him (even if the grass was a bit long); he then got up and moved off coming right past the vehicle before moving into the darkness, sadly before Marka could get into he area. After failing to find the big male, Marka left and located on Tshwukunayana male leopard not too far from where the big male had been – perhaps sensing the intrusion, Tshwukunyana was very vocal and scent-marking vociferously. It was a good surprise to end of a day that started in less than ideal fashion!