Friday, 28 February 2014

27 - 28 February

  Parasitism has many forms.
  The most common definition that can be used is: “A species which thrives on the lifeblood of a host- be it actual blood or the mineral and water rich cambium layer- and does so to the detriment of the host, often leading to the mortality of the aforementioned which the parasite cannot survive without”.
  While many living in modern urbanization suffer only from bed mites, fleas and the occasional colleague or distant relative, creatures in nature are constantly at war with these parasitic invaders.
  There are many ways in which animals have adapted to the battle for health and survival, some of which can be seen in almost every single sighting.
The red-billed oxpecker with its modified bill, used to comb through the hair of grateful herbivores to extricate ticks lying against the animals’ skin is but one example. Another prominent technique is to roll in mud and then basking in the sun which allows the mud to cake. Once hardened, animals like warthogs, buffalo, rhinos and elephants will make use of favoured rubbing posts to extricate the hardened mud and any parasites trapped therein.
  Just yesterday we took great pleasure from observing an old buffalo bull. Riddled with ticks and swarmed by flies, he rolled and splashed in the smallest of mud pools right next to the road and our vehicle.
Occasionally standing up, he would horn the surrounding vegetation, be it from frustration or simply an act of dominance, it always ended in a loud splash as he unceremoniously belly-flopped into the pan where he yet again proceeded to roll about and thus ensure a wide-spread, full-bodied lathering.
  Later that very afternoon, two leopards surfaced from the undergrowth. While Jaces found Karula walking down Gowie Main like she owned it, I sat with Kwathile as she walked through dense vegetation and eventually crossed Triple M.
Having successfully notched leopard off the list, we made our way to Big Dam where we toasted a lavish sunset with beers in hand.
  Elephants were dispersed throughout the area this morning, as they have every other morning of late, but what truly captured our attention and pretty much the drive in its entirety was the ever elusive Styx pride who had finally come out of hiding to lie up and lollygag the morning away.
Even the approach of two oblivious giraffe was not enough to draw them from their reverie, barely piquing enough interest for the lions to raise their heads and lazily watch them pass-by
The cats were certainly not in the opportunistic mood so often portrayed by their kind!
Our interest satiated, there was nothing left but to turn around and trek home. The scent of bacon strong in our nostrils J


26 February - 27 February

26 February
Afternoon drive

The heavens opened for our afternoon drive allowing for good visibility and great photos, as we headed out a small herd of ellies moved east in front of the lodge we sat a short while when we spotted wild dog tracks heading north from the western side of the lodge. We followed for a while but they headed into the northern territory but lucky for us the pack of wild dogs came back south and found a good spot to relax right on the side of Gowrie main a couple of metres west of our drive way. We spent quite some time with the pack watching the juvenile dogs playing around, jumping and plying, wrestling each other and just being puppies. We enjoyed the sighting in the sun as yesterday afternoon was a wet experience with the pack. After a good amount of time the dogs got up and went running in each direction first east then west for a while then suddenly north we decided to leave them as it was hard to keep up with the fit dogs. We moved off to get a nice spot for sundowners, but to our surprise the dogs came running down the road in a southerly direction calling as they ran. But then again they turned north and ran back! What a chase!
27 February
Morning drive

We barely got on the vehicle and spotted a big bull elephant in our open area. We headed out and watched the big bull elephant feeding as the sun rose in the east making a great start to our day. The morning started chilly but got nice and hot as the morning passed. The game was scarce but elephant sightings were plentiful. 

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

25 February - 26 February

25 February
Afternoon drive

Due to the dark and heavy clouds we decided not to take our cameras with us. But as murphy has it we needed it! We started in the east with plenty of plains game such as water buck, impala, blue wildebeest, kudu, giraffe and many more. We headed east as we received good news! A pack of wild dogs were hanging around simbambili dam! We headed west in a hurry to try and miss the rain. On our way we bumped into a herd of elephant, due to excitement we did not spend much time with them for we wanted to see the dogs! A mere hundred meters or so from the pack, the heavens opened and we were soaked in a couple of minutes! The rain did not deter us as we watched the pack of ‘painted wolfs’ were cuddling up with each other to get warmth as they were being hit with drops. We decided to leave them and head back east in hope of dry land. There were also a couple of dagga boys seen and a big bull elephant with massive tusks protruding from his upper lip, in the southern parts. As we entered the east the rain had followed us, none the less we found a big bull hippo walking across the road in search of good grazing grounds. Shortly after we found Mvula the big male leopard, (Ironically, as Mvula means rain in shangaan. He was given the name due to the fact that the first time he has been sighted was in the rain.) And followed him thru the thick bush but eventually made it on to the main road witch made for a beautiful full view of his immense size and beauty. Lesson learned never leave your camera, come rain or shine!

26 February
Morning drive

It was a cold dark morning. Plains game was plentiful. But unfortunately the pack of dogs headed north and Mvula did the same. So we spent the morning tracking for big game. We found a bull elephant on gowrie main but he was a bit shy and stayed in the thick bushes on our way back the droplets fell but never a bad day in the bush veld!


Jaces bornman

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

24 February - 25 February

24-25 February 2014
  Animal interaction is the next logical step in game viewing.
It is one thing to watch wildlife go about their day-to-day activities, but another to watch various species interacting with one another for example; lions and leopards or, leopards and hyaenas, which was the exact case both yesterday and today.
  Early yesterday morning we were watching Thandi (female leopard) resting up in a Marula tree where she lay on her guard, keeping a wary eye on Mvula (male leopard) who happened to be lying at the base of the very same tree.
Almost like a Mexican standoff the two leopards watched one another when suddenly hyaenas entered the fray and chased Mvula up the Marula and startling Thandi in the process.
Aggravated by the notion of Mvula’s close proximity she hissed and growled leaving no chance of misinterpretation for Mvula. The message was clear, stay away from me!
Eventually the tension began to subside and Thandi closed her eyes to rest. That was a very big mistake...
In three amazing bounds Mvula took the fractional advantage in Thandi’s poor judgement and sprang from his perch onto a parallel branch, then without breaking stride leapt to the next limb and in one final leap launched himself onto Thandi. Before she realised what had happened he gave her a mighty swat with talons raking the side of her face and all she could do to escape his wrath was to plummet from her perch and fall a staggering eight meters to the ground below. Unfortunately she did not land with any elegance and crashed to Earth landing on her back and side with Mvula landing on top of her.
Here fortune favoured her. If it were not for the hyaenas sprinting into the fray she would have been pinned down and at Mvula’s mercy. AS it were, he saw the hyaenas closing in and jumped off Thandi and up into the very same Marula he had just fallen out of giving Thandi the split second she needed to run away.
Concerned that she maybe injured we left Mvula and searched for her. We soon found her up a different Marula, about a hundred meters away. She seemed to be okay, and without serious injury other than to her pride.
  Last night we returned to the scene but couldn’t find any sign of either, though other guides returned after sunset and found Mvula feeding on a waterbuck carcass nearby.
  By this time we were already deep in the western sector where we first found the Robson’s male leopard, extremely skinny it looked like he hadn’t had anything to eat in at least two weeks. His stomach arched and nothing but skin between it and his spine. He was extremely skittish which leads me to surmise that he may well have been ousted from his territory by another male and was now beginning his life as a nomad. We left him as he disappeared into the rhino ring block.
  As we drove down in to the Manyeleti riverbed we found Tingana (male leopard) walking up and down the riverbed itself, nose glued to the ground as he followed the scent of a female that had walked through the area, the only evidence thereof was her tracks left behind in the soft sand.
We spent the remainder of the evening with Tingana as he searched and searched, regularly waling within centimetres of the vehicle doors and repeatedly calling in his deep gruff voice. A sound reminiscent of a woodcutter’s blade sawing through a particularly hard piece of wood...
  This morning started off without respite when we found a massive male leopard on the Kruger Park boundary as he walked northward and eventually disappeared over the rise.
  We headed westward from Kudu corner and soon found Mvula again, this time drinking water from a temporary pool of rainwater. Once his thirst was quenched he lay up next to the pan but was soon interrupted by a hyaena charging through the bush straight towards him!
He gave way and ran down into the Mulwanini riverbed where we found him lying down and panting, his full stomach protruding uncomfortably around the sides.
Once again his interval was short-lived as two hyaenas pursued him down into the riverbed and chased him up a thin Tamboti tree where he balanced his paunch precariously on some rather flimsy twigs.
He looked terribly uncomfortable but I can’t say I felt sorry for him, not after the way he treated one of his ladies yesterday... His comeuppance a just reward!
  Other then leopards two of the Styx lions were found in Safari donga and one of the Majingilani male lions seen heading south from Londoz boundary.

Monday, 24 February 2014

23 February - 24 February

23 February
Afternoon drive

Fresh new faces on the vehicle always make the first drive exited! And exited was an understatement as the drive turned out to be spectacular! A mere ten minutes out of the lodge we stopped to view hippos and some wonderful birds such as giant king fisher, pied kingfisher, African jacana, water thick knee, buffalo weaver, green backed hereon and pied wagtail to name a few. Shortly after the bird show, fifty meters north we came across a dagga boy relaxing in a small splash pool like pond right next to gowrie main, but once again our feathery friends got all of the attention. A couple of red billed ox-peckers, scrambling around on the buffalo pecking away, eating the external parasites found all over the exposed body. The show was short lived as a small herd of elephant just west of the buffalo. We passed the herd while they were still south of the road to avoid the sunlight in our eyes, we stopped directly west from where we were we sat and waited a few seconds and watched as the herd emerged out of the thick bush veld, to our amazement a baby elephant no more than eight months old, showed its little face but it too was surprised to see us. After the herd headed north we headed west. Upon arrival we came across the styx pride doing what lions do best… Sleeping! Even in their sleepy daze, they were spectacular and great to watch. Every now and then the one lioness stretched in such a manner with her paws crossed it made her look harmless. But let not the feminine feline side fool you. Right after we stopped for a well-deserved celebratory sundown

24 February
Morning drive

The morning seemed to hold many promises as everyone was eager to start the early morning. Once we started the drive we moved west of the lodge, not knowing the surprises awaiting us. First we came across Umvula, a beautiful and large male leopard, up in a marula tree, sleeping off his night adventures; he had a waterbuck calf hoisted in another tree opposite of him, which attracted four hyenas in search of the diseased. While we were pondering over Umvula, a small movement to our left caught my eye… thandi! A beautiful female leopard showing a lot of interest in the large, powerful male, she attracted him to the floor and swapped places as she climbed the marula tree with ease. We left the two cats just to bump into two other leopards on the western side of gowrie main. Karula and her cub were strolling along as we gazed upon them. Her cub constantly rubbing against her, to show his bond with her. We followed them right up until they headed north. We headed back east to stop for our morning coffee. A spectacular morning with four spectacular cats! Can’t wait to see what the afternoon holds for us!

Jaces Bornman

22 February - 23 February

22 February
Afternoon drive

We decided to head to the west of the reserve on the afternoon game drive, it was a wise decision as we encountered, over four hundred buffalo moving north! We spotted them from a distance in the thick bush veld. We chose a good spot, switched off the engine and played the waiting game. One by one, the breeding herd started to reveal its true mass, we sat in the middle of the congregation as the slowly grazed along.  As we sat patiently, enjoying the amazing view of the bovines, we spotted something quite rare. A genetic variation of the Cape buffalo, it had a pigmentation variety thus causing it to be speckled! We soon after decided to leave the herd as they were grazing about. Right after we stopped for a lovely sun downer, we headed back east towards the lodge. Right as we were about to turn in to go back to the lodge we received good news! The two Matiba male lions were just east of the lodge! We headed straight for the sighting and enjoyed the visual! Slowly giving tell tail signs that they are about to move after their siesta in the open plains, constant yawning, licking and cleaning themselves, but well worth the wait! As the one mail got up he moved off south but the other stayed put allowing us to get one spectacular show! As the two males were vocalising in full breath showing their strength and dominance thru sound! Yet another amazing day in the amazing bush veld.

23 February
Morning drive 
This morning was a hat trick for overcast weather! But this allowed us to focus more on the plains game, as the big game where hiding. We headed to the hyena den to try our luck and see if the cubs were out, and lucky we were as one female was lazing about and all four cubs were playing around the den biting sticks and wrestling each other like siblings do. Shortly thereafter a tower of giraffe also made for good conversation as they were browsing on buffalo thorns, showing off their fourty centimetre long tongue, wrapping around the branches pulling off the succulent leaves. A buffalo bull was also present, grazing on the long grass in a shallow pond. On our way back a baby flapped necked chameleon strolled across the road flaring his colour changing skin as we looked upon his tiny size.

Jaces Bornman

Saturday, 22 February 2014

21 February - 22 February

21 February

Afternoon drive
The bushveld holds unexpected surprises every day! This drive was no exception! As we headed out from the lodge we heard a tree squirrel alarm calling in the drainage line in front of the lodge. We went in to investigate! On our arrival we found a Walberg’s eagle perched in a dead marula tree, unfortunately not the leopard we were hoping for, but interesting none the less. We headed west from the lodge, shortly after despatcher we came across a herd of elephant. Slowly grazing and feeding on the grounded marula fruits, under the marula tree. We spent some time watching them feed and waited for the opportunity to watch them drink water, as they were heading towards the large body of water just south of them. Our patience was rewarded! They came straight to the dam, but they were not alone, a dagga boy was relaxing in the water were they wanted to drink. The elephants did not let this deter them as they chased the buffalo out of the water. To everyone’s surprise the elephants did not drink from the dam, but rather headed over the dam wall. Our entertainment was about to start! For the elephant is a heavy beast witch can weigh up to 7 000kg, and the elephants know this as they devised a cunning plan to go down the steep slope without putting too much pressure on the joints… body slide! It looked like the elephants enjoyed themselves, as they slid down the muddy slopes. It showed the cunning minds of the elephant, and made for great entertainment for the whole vehicle!  Kids and adults alike! Just comes to show that even the mighty elephant can have jolly good fun!

22 February
Morning drive
Yet another nippy overcast morning at Nkorho. Nevertheless it made for a good morning drive! Just a couple of hundred meters east of the lodge, the two Matimba male lion coalition was resting in the grass! These were two very impressive lions. Beautiful manes and large body size just showing the immense power of these big cats! We headed off leaving the beasts to their peace, and came across a bull elephant which was not happy with our presence! It trumpeted and shook its head long before we approached. Giving all the signs, using body language, that he is not pleased with our presence. Respecting the animals space we waited for him to move off before we made our way back to the lodge. Nothing like a good adrenaline rush to start off your morning!
Jaces Bornman

Friday, 21 February 2014

20 February - 21 February

20 February

Afternoon drive
What an exhilarating drive! We headed off west in search of the styx lion pride, after a hour or so we found the pride taking a catnap in the long grass, yawning every couple of minutes making for wonderful photo opportunities. After watching the big cats being lazy we moved off for more exiting animal sightings, and exiting it was! 2 buffalo bulls (dagga boys) relaxing in the fresh cooling waters of big dam as they ruminated in peace. Shortly thereafter, a mere two hundred meters north west, we came across a male leopard named Lamula, walking along the road. We moved off the pathway allowing for a breath-taking view of the majestic cat as it walked past us, not even taking notice of our presence, marking his territory as he progressed. We left the magnificent leopard and headed off for sun downers, but before we could do so we found a small herd of elephant with two calfs roughly four years of age. After enjoying the elephants doing what they do best, we stopped for sun downers, but we had company! Small but beautiful, the large plated lizard enjoyed our company as much as we did theirs. The coldblooded reptile was basking in the last bit of sunshine absorbing the heat off the rocks witch they laid upon. Making for good entertainment for the kids to watch the lizards scurry about trying to get the best spot! We headed back to the lodge all smiles on the game viewer as we stopped at the lodge.

21 February

Morning drive
 The night produced a beautiful thunderstorm with plenty of life giving rain! The morning was overcast and cool, animals were scarcer, but Mother Nature always provides. We enjoyed the presence of waterbuck, warthog, impala, blue wildebeest, zebra, common duiker and kudu. Elephant and buffalo were the majority of large animals, but once again the smallest got the most attention! A young male flapped neck chameleon walked along the road and made for interesting reactions and good conversations. Never overlook the small things as they can sometimes offer the most!   

Greetings Jaces Bornman

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Sighting in our open area

Another beautiful, sunny day here in the bush. Great to have seen the male Lion on the webcam in the early hours of the morning. As the vehicles left the lodge for game drive the guys found the herd of Buffalo just north of our open area. Unfortunately the Lion was nowhere to be found... He might be resting in the shade not too far from the herd. We also had some Elephants just west from here and lots of general game around our open area...Zebra, Wildebeest, Warthog, Impala and Kudu.

18 February - 19 February

  Knowing full well a pack of wild dogs were lying up in the midday heat close to Nkorho, we stayed in the east and bumbled around, biding our time and waiting for the draining heat to abate.
The crepuscular canines most active at dawn and dusk, they made their appearance before 6pm, running down Gowrie Main straight past the Nkorho sign and on to our open area where they lay down and watched our resident herd of wildebeest. They eventually decided it wasn’t worth the energy and headed northward straight on to Torchwood, furry white tails the last thing we saw as they disappeared in the long grass.

Leaving the dogs behind, we stopped at Kudu corner in the hopes they would return for a drink of water before heading into the Kruger Park. Alas, we were not met by dogs, but we did gain great pleasure from visitations by first a lone buffalo bull, then as the sun set, a breeding herd of elephants. Not too shabby I’d say...

  The guests woke this morning a little sad that this would be their last safari before heading off on new adventures untold. So, in true Nkorho fashion we did our utmost to give them a final drive to remember!
First we managed to see a wonderful group of giant odd-toed ungulates, but thereafter we made a beeline for the west where purportedly, Tingana was atop a Maurla and straddling an impala ram in the early morning light.

It certainly was all it was reported to be, out on the edge of Simba open area with golden light almost making Tingana glow, he was still shuffling is kill about, trying to find the most comfortable and safe place to leverage it.

Hanging the impala over the main fork of the Marula, Tingana hopped out the tree, satisfied that his kill was safe. A good thing too, as there were two hyaenas milling about at the base of the tree, waiting for a costly mistake.

Once Tingana had settled in some shade to escape the morning heat, the hyaenas opted to do the same and moved off to the edge of the open area, maybe just a little too far from the kill for as they lay-up, the kill came crashing down, landing on the ground with a loud thud!

Like a lightning bolt Tingana sprang into action, sprinting out of his hidey-hole and grabbing the impala by the throat. With no time to waste he took two great strides and a single giant leap, clasping the trunk of the Marula with talons as sharp as a surgeon’s knives.
In another two bounds he was already in the first fork of the tree, and moments later, high up in the canopy and totally safe from the hyaenas.

What a sighting to behold, I can sincerely say I have never seen such a swift and powerful response. It is this that ensures the health of a great survivor. By his actions Tingana will maintain his health and dexterity and thus, remain king of the west.

  The trip home was no less eventful. First, on Triple M north Karula was found walking down the road. By the time we got there she had already moved off on to Vuyas but no matter, because just a little further down the road was Mvula, the reigning champion of the east.
He wasn’t interested in anything but patrolling his territorial boundaries having come from Double M boundary and walking all the way up Triple M, scent marking and ensuring that no other leopards were encroaching in to his area.
 At one stage he picked up the scent of a female, possibly in oestrus as once he picked up her scent, he exhibited flehmen gesture- a sheepish grin-like curling of the upper lips, exposing the large canines and front teeth, this gesture is commonplace amongst most male mammals when discovering females ready to be mated with.
After three phenomenal walk-bys we left Mvula walking up the road and headed home, a great sending off for the departing guests.


Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Wild dogs At Nkorho

The wild dogs gave us a beautiful sighting on our driveway. Beautiful animals with the Alpha Female leading the pack back into the bushes having a sneak peak at our Blue wildebeest in our open area. 

17 February - 18 February

 Monday afternoon never truly gathered pace. We on a single stretch of road, found female leopard and her cub’s tracks, a male leopard track (walking in the opposite direction) and a lone male lion’s tracks, also heading in the same direction as the female and cubs.

Luckily, the lion veered off and headed eastward while Shadow and her cubs made headway for 2nd windmill and the Marakene riverbed. A little later on we found her tracks sans the cubs, indicating that she had likely left them somewhere in the drainage line and was now off to hunt for the next few days, unless of course favour is kind and she makes a kill sooner.
This is not unusual behaviour for leopards and young cubs can be left for days at a time while their mothers are out hunting.

It is during this time that cubs learn to become independent, initially hunting small game like mice and rats, then migrating on to larger prey like francolins, hares, mongoose, et cetera.

  While the evening before presented a bounty of general game and some exciting birds like the African black duck, a female white-faced duck with multiple hatchlings in tow ( I think we counted a total of eight ducklings), Steppe eagle and Bateleur. This morning was once again, a different kettle of fish.
Within minutes of departure a staff member driving out the reserve made a quick call to one of the camps stating a pack of wild dogs was presently running down Gowrie Main and straight towards Nkorho.
This worked out rather nicely as we were in the east, so driving westward we got our first glimpse of dogs running straight towards us, the sunrise directly behind and shining on the dogs with a golden brilliance.
Ignorant of our presence we watched in awe as the entire pack ran right past the side of the Cruiser, thrilling the guests and leaving all with sheepish grins of delight.

We turned around and followed the pack for a few kilometres as they ran along the road, only stopping occasionally to investigate various scents that only their noses could pick up.
Eventually, about half a kilometre from the Nkorho driveway they veered northward into Torchwood and lay up about 120 metres into the block to sleep the remainder of the day away.
Hopefully this afternoon will bring them back to the man road and past the Nkorho sign where we can then get some shots of Nkorho wild dogs!

  Last but not least, Bahuti (young male leopard) was found sleeping next to a small pan behind a dam wall. He lay there, yawning and occasionally glancing about when a bush rustled, or bird traipsed through the grass, but in the end, went completely flat cat and like the wild dogs, began his heat-of-the-day siesta.
  We took this as our cue and elected to walk the remainder of the distance from Fig tree back to camp looking at various tracks, dung, scats, tress with their uses, butterflies and birds.
By the time we got back to camp the temperature was already a feisty 26 degrees in the shade leaving only ice cold water and a hearty breakfast ahead.