Rangers Diary 16 – 22 September 2012

Elephant herd on the open area by Brandon Birch
Elephant herd on the open area by Brandon Birch

Sunday

We were awoken to the ominous sound of very heavy rain, that didn’t let up till mid-morning. We had no option but to cancel our morning safari and wait for the rain to clear.

In the afternoon, the skies were still heavily overcast, but the rain had abated, so we decided take a risk and head out. A couple small groups of elephants were the first thing we saw, with one group having an absolute ball in the mud. The youngsters were so involved with their games that they barely noticed the presence of the vehicle. We were on the lookout for buffalo, and found a nice-sized bachelor group of around 15 individuals on Vuyatela. We then decided to go south, and were scanning the area for wild dog tracks, when a sighting of Ntima, a female leopard, was called in. We were fortunate enough to see a nice interaction between her and two hyenas that had come around to see if she was hiding a meal. After investigating the area and having satisfied themselves that was no easy meal to be had, the two left the scene, leaving the female leopard in peace.

Monday

After all the rain we’d had up until Sunday, Monday morning was bright and clear, which meant that there was potential for a great morning drive. We were not disappointed, as within five minutes of leaving the lodge we had spotted tracks for the wild dogs, leading in the direction of safari donga. The tracks were very fresh, and we followed them off-road towards a large termite mound that had been freshly dug. Rounding the mound, we caught sight of the pack and enjoyed a good hour with them, watching the pups at play. After spending time with the dogs, we went off towards the east and had multiple sightings of elephants and buffalo. The other rangers called in sightings of Lamula, a young male leopard, towards the south, where he had impala kill. He was lying in a thicket on the edge of a gully system, so we decided to come back in the late afternoon/evening to see if he would come out.

The afternoon started off well with a sighting of a big herd of elephants, about 60 of them, coming down at intervals to the big dam in front of the lodge. Elephants and water are a great combination for a special sighting, especially when the youngsters play in the shallows. The weather being warm, we checked the waterholes and found one of our big bull rhinos in a mud wallow, enjoying his mud bath. Multiple sightings of general game such as zebra and giraffe slowed our progress down towards the young male leopard, and it was only after dark that we arrived at the sighting. There we found not one leopard – but three! The female leopards, Ostrich Koppies and Ntima, had joined the young male, who was not allowing them close to his prize. The females were very entertaining, and put on quite a show of growling and calling, and generally showing their displeasure at each other’s presence. This was interesting to see, especially since they are mother and daughter. All in all, an absolutely superb day!

Tingana and Moya - Leopards mating by Brandon Birch
Tingana and Moya – Leopards mating by Brandon Birch

Tuesday

This morning we found two buffalo bulls while on our way to see what had happened to the three leopards from the previous night. There was nothing to be seen at the kill site – even the carcass was no more. We continued searching, and eventually found Ntima walking around a fair distance north-west of the area she had been in the night before. She was not doing much and we moved on. There was no sign of the other two leopards. After our coffee break we came across an amazing and unexpected sighting. It was the two leopards, Tingana and Moya, together, close to the northern boundary. We have never seen Moya in that area. She was enticing Tingana to mate with her, which he did several times. We were even more excited when we noticed a fresh young giraffe kill close to them. We think that Tingana probably killed the animal, and Moya tracked him down and shifted his attention towards her. There was hardly anything eaten from the giraffe. This was a fascinating and promising discovery.

On the afternoon game drive we returned to the leopards. They had fed a little bit, and were still mating. Tingana looked very tired and rested for long periods. He was probably more interested in the kill, but Moya had other plans for him. We also found a large herd of elephants. The leopards were exciting to see, but the highlight had to be when we found the group of 14 wild dogs again after they had just killed a grey duiker – a mere snack when shared between 14 hungry mouths.

Wednesday

We had a lovely start to the morning safari when we spotted a rhino bull on the airfield as he was heading down to a pan holding rain water, for a morning drink. A big herd of about 20 wildebeest were there to share the watering hole with the rhino, who gave clear signals that he wasn’t going to be sharing the water source with any other animals until he had had his fill. The wild dogs were on a neighbour’s property, and we were fortunate enough to watch them hunting, although they missed nabbing their breakfast by a mere whisker. They then took us to where they had hid the pups, and we watched as the whole pack greeted each other after being separated for a couple of hours. Morning safari ended with Moya, a female leopard, and Lamula, a young male leopard, walking together. We watched in amazement as they mated, as it was just the day before that she had been seen mating with the male leopard, Tingana!

This afternoon was extremely hot, so we headed and straight towards the waterholes to check for any animals coming for a drink. It paid off straight away, as we managed to find a couple of elephant bulls and a couple of buffalo bulls together at a pan. The buffalo were resting in the water, while the elephants were taking long drinks. We then got news that the wild dog pack was up and on the move, so we headed towards them, hoping for some action. The dogs didn’t disappoint and as we got there, the hunt began. They had a herd of impala in their sights, and the pack flew after them, pulling one down right in the open. We sat and watched as the adults quickly polished off the female impala, before heading back to the pups, where we watched as the adults regurgitated meat for them.

Female leopard (Ntima) by Brandon Birch
Female leopard, Ntima, by Brandon Birch

 

Thursday

This morning it took a while before we managed to see anything, as it was fairly cool out. But, once the sun had started to warm things up, the animals came out. We first found a large herd of about 50 elephants feeding. There were a lot of young bulls present in the herd, and a disagreement between two of them got all the others going as well. They were running around and chasing one another, screaming, pushing over trees and bushes, and generally acting like naughty little boys. The females were not impressed with their antics, and moved off, taking their younsters with them. One of the bigger males ran down into a drainage line and chased two old buffalo bulls out the other side. On the way back to the lodge we came across a pair of leopards, Lamula and Moya, crossing a large open area. They were not mating, and the female was giving the male a lot of distance as she followed him. Lamula finally decided to rest in a small dry riverbed, and Moya decided it would be safe to rest on the bank above him.

The afternoon was very warm, and it took a while for us to have any sightings, but what an afternoon it turned out to be! The mating leopards had been found again, rhino were in a mud wallow off Arathusa airstrip, and a big herd of elephants were fun to watch. We located Ntima, a female leopard, and enjoyed watching her stalk a herd of impala. Unfortunately they moved off before she could get close enough for a kill. She then posed like a supermodel for us on a termite mound in the afternoon light, while watching the big herd of elephants slowly drifting towards her. Eventually they got so close that we thought the elephants were going to stand on her, until one of the giant beasts realised that something was amiss and sounded the alarm. Poor Ntima was chased from her comfortable spot on the termite mound into a nearby gully system by the upset herd. A fantastic sighting, none the less!

 

Friday

 

We searched for the leopards this morning, but found none of them. We found buffalo bulls and various herds of elephants. After our coffee break, we headed north to see what we could find, and were happy to come across Karula as she was moving through a dense area. We do not see her all that often anymore, and were very pleased with our sighting of her. Hopefully she will have cubs again soon as she is an excellent mother with a flawless record of raising her cubs to independence.

Our afternoon game drive produced a sighting of Londoz, the impressive dominant rhino bull in the area. We were also treated to a sighting of Salayexe, who killed a scrub hare and was then chased up a tree by two hyenas.

Wild dog by Brandon Birch
Wild dog by Brandon Birch

Saturday

This afternoon our viewings started off quickly with a sighting of a large herd of elephants on the airstrip. We sat with them as we watched the sun rise behind them. We then managed to catch up with the wild dog pack again. A few of the adults were covered in blood, and the puppies all had full stomachs, so they had all obviously fed during the course of the morning. That didn’t stop the adults from heading off on another hunt, and it wasn’t long before we watched as the pack pulled another impala apart. Once the adults were done feeding, they headed back towards the pups, who were now all full of energy and were playing all over the show. While the adults found a shady place to rest, the youngsters investigated the vehicles, giving us great close-up visuals. They were clearly as curious about us, as we were about them.

Our afternoon game drive started with us seeing a rhino bull resting in one of the mud wallows, not far from the lodge. After the enormous animal had covered himself thoroughly with mud, he moved onto a large open area where we watched him graze for some time. Next we found a herd of elephants enjoying a fun and games in the mud in a deep drainage line. It was a great sight, as we sat above them and looked down on them. Seeing a small herd of resting buffalo bulls wrapped up the afternoon safari for us.

And that brings to an end yet another spectacular week! Remember to visit our Facebook albums to see more photos from our game drives.

Until next time,

The Arathusa Team

Share this:
SEARCH OUR BLOG
RECENT POSTS: CATEGORIES: