I rejoined the game drives on Sunday afternoon in very windy, and not completely pleasant conditions, and based on how quiet the morning had been, I was pleasantly surprised at how the drive turned out. One thing the wind did do, was to make hunting conditions great for the leopards, and whilst taking guests from Geiger’s Camp to the airstrip, Goodman and Angie found a drag-mark for a leopard’s kill on our cutline – having guests needing to catch a flight, they couldn’t follow up, but after dropping them off with their charter flight, they went back, and now found a second drag-mark over their tyre tracks! This led them to finding a large female impala kill, as well as a young kudu kill a few hundred metres apart from one another, right in the heart of Shongile’s territory. In the afternoon, one of the guides followed up, but there was no luck locating her at the kill, but later on in the afternoon, she was found returning to kill, calling for her cub. Limiting it to just the one vehicle with her, she soon moved back east, and was followed to the Sohebele Riverbed where she was lost going into a thicket – possibly hiding her cub – and she never emerged. The guides left the area and we hoped that she would return with the cub the next day. Elsewhere, Marka tried to head south to see Duma male lion, but he was sadly lost just as he was trying to get into the sighting, so it was rather frustrating for him, especially as he had headed quite far south to try see him. I spent my afternoon in the east, and ticked off impala, kudu, warthog, wildebeest, steenbuck, duiker, some rain (a few drops), a nervous buffalo bull and a lot of wind! We eventually headed towards Argyle Dam for a sundowner and enjoyed a spot out of the wind where we could see some distant hippos, a croc and a family of waterbuck. Henry also had a sighting of a young male leopard stalking impala in the east, and with the windy conditions, he had a good chance of getting lucky during the night.
Monday morning was equally windy, and possibly equally as quiet for most the morning until things picked up later in the morning. There was no sign of Shongile at either of the kills until Kevin had a very, very poor visual of her in a tight drainage line nearby, but it was barely a sighting. A herd of elephants in the west crossed back out to the west, whilst I had better luck with an elephant bull in the north, as well as impala, nyala, waterbuck, zebra, giraffes and a herd of buffalos at Buffalo Pan – imagine that. Whilst reposition to get a better view of the buffalo, Difference spotted the skittish Leadwood young female leopard running off into a thicket nearby – she was clearly stalking impalas in the area, and despite them seeing her again and alarm calling, we couldn’t see her. At the very end of drive, Marka found a rhino and got to see Nthombi female leopard on a baby impala kill in the south, but that was about it.
Tracks for two male lions came into our area from the south, and after drive Goodman and Difference went to track them, and although they made progress, it required a return to the area in the afternoon, so I shot down south to Java to drop them off on the tracks again. Henry followed up on reports of a drag mark in the central region and found Ntima male leopard that had just lost his kill (a relatively large male waterbuck) to hyenas, and he wandered over to a large knob thorn and ascended that to assume the sleep position where he remained for the remainder of the afternoon. Nthombi leopardess was still on her impala calf kill in the south, and Shongile female leopard was found drinking at Giraffe Pan before walking around calling for her cub – this is not a good sign, and we suspect she now might have lost both cubs, despite the hyenas not having arrived at either of her kills. As she was searching for the cub, Robynne left her alone and carried on with her drive. We saw a few impalas and a herd of elephants as we scouted the area for the male lions, but the hard soils made tracking difficult, and eventually with the light fading, we gave up and decided to head towards Ntima. He was still fast asleep, and we spent a long time with him until he eventually woke up and climbed down to go and see if the hyenas were still on his kill – we followed and saw just how large the male was (a two year old male), and even with four hyenas munching it, there was still quite a lot left! After some great time with that sighting, and with it being dark allergy, we headed back to the lodge for an enjoyable boma dinner. Henry came across a female large-spotted genet in the middle of giving birth to her pups, but after she moved away and revealed exactly what was happening, he left and closed off the area for her to return – an incredibly rare sighting indeed! Kevin had an unidentified leopard on Java too, a rhino and some elephant too in the south, but besides that, there wasn’t a great deal to talk about on a rather gloomy and windy afternoon.