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Magical Madikwe and Friends


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@@Terry - funny you should mention them! You'll see them shortly.....unfortunately, pre-release.


@@pomkiwi - thanks. Most photos have been taken with Nikon's AF-S 80-400, f/4.5-5.6 G ED VR.


There has also been some cropping - for example on the baby elephants in the mud

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Magical Madikwe and Friends   It’s maybe worth me starting with a little bit of my background, as it sets some context for our trip.   I was fortunate enough to be born in South Africa, living mos

As I mentioned above, our trip to Pilansberg was about both wildlife and relaxing so we actually only made one afternoon excursion into the park. The afternoon we chose was on Jan 2nd and by 3pm it lo

Afternoon drive   That afternoon we would head out at about 15.00, in the blistering 42c heat!   We headed into the South West of the park towards the Tau Dam and unsurprisingly, given the heat, t


Day 2


That morning we made the customary 6am start and headed down towards the Madikwe West airstrip.




That morning would turn out to be another scrotcher - even in the early morning it would start pushing towards 30+.




That morning was generally quiet with only the occasional plains game, elephants posing in the early morning lights and the near ubiquitous white rhino.






It's fantastic to see rhino doing so well given the recent spate of poaching in South Africa. Zebe - (our excellent guide and pictured below) was saying that they were doing well enough to consider stocking other reserves.




Whilst the rhino are doing well, Madikwe's cheetah are not doing so well. @@Terry - in his excellent report showed a clan of four cheetah brothers who typically resided in the West of the park.


These brothers were highly successful hunters and comfortable with vehicles making them a real draw for the West of the park. However, they were unlucky in love. Without a clear dominant male, they were unable to mate peacefully - resulting in the death of two female cheetahs.


The tough decision was subsequently made to split the clan and move the brothers to other reserves. The result is that during our time at Madikwe, the reserve had only two cheetah. Both of whom were residing in the East of the park.


The park however, has active plans to address the situation with a number of female cheetah scheduled for introduction and two brothers - who have recently been released, as @@Terry mentioned above.


The two brothers have been transferred from Phinda and were in the boma serving a quarantine period.




It's never great seeing animals in cages - even if it's temporary.




We would visit these brothers once or twice on game drives as the rangers were being asked to make the occasional trips to the boma to help acclimate the brothers to vehicles.






The real highlight of that morning's drive was down at the airstrip where a pair of black-backed jackal kept their den and smaller litter.




That morning the parents were out hunting and the cubs were enjoying a doze in the early light.




Hey - what you looking at!




Driving back from the airstrip we came across a bachelor herd of zebra and then we experienced one of numerous tire punctures




Zebe took no prisoners when it came to his tires - he would drive that vehicle through or over anything to get a good sighting.




Lunch at Motswiri is served by the pool in the shade. The water of the pool attracts numerous birds including...


Red-billed Quelea




Red-eyed Bulbuls




Paradise Whydah - which frustratingly would never come close enough for quality photos...




and the highlight...a Puffback



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I am happy you got to see the new male cheetahs. Hopefully when the new female cheetah arrive, all goes well and sometime in the future you can post pictures of the baby cheetahs and have bragging rights that you saw their father first.


It is amazing to see Madikwe so green. I truly had doubts it would ever recover from the drought enough to ever be green again.


Love all the birds you were able to see around the camp waterhole. You picked a beautiful time to go!

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I am really enjoying this - the elephants in the mud, the rhinos, the kudu.


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Afternoon drive


That afternoon we would head out at about 15.00, in the blistering 42c heat!


We headed into the South West of the park towards the Tau Dam and unsurprisingly, given the heat, the afternoon started slowly.






The highlights in the early afternoon were a lone male giraffe...




...,white rhino and her calf...




...and an unusual sighting of a lone female waterbuck




In the end we actually spent most of the early afternoon following a large buffalo herd as the moved through the thick bush between two sections of road.




It's always challenging in the thick bush to get a true sense for the size of the herd but Zebe thought it was probably around a 100






We were all struggling in the stifling heat, so after following the herd for 30-40mins we made an early pit stop in the shade.


Whilst we were taking our sundowner I got chatting to Zebe and I have to admit I started getting a bit depressed.... :(


It's a bit embarrassing to admit it now (given how well everything eventually turned out! :)) but I was grilling Zebe on the state of the park and the answers were concerning me.


Madikwe has always been known for Wild Dogs, and the park is still a good sighting location, but the numbers are dramatically down following a rabies outbreak in late 2014 / early 2015. Currently, there is now only one pack with a litter of 7 pups. These dogs though tend to stay in the West of the park and will often leave to hunt on the adjoining private land making sightings challenging.


This news came on top of the news that they were in the process of adjusting their cheetah population, so other then the pair in the boma we were again unlikely to see them.


I then started pushing on leopards - "what are our chances like" and Zebe kind of gave me a look and he said..."well no one quite knows how many there in the park but it's probably 20 or so of which 6 are habituated enough to allow viewings so we'll try and get lucky".....


Ok, that's reasonable so what about lion, there are lots of them right!? I said.....Zebe, I think could sense my nervousness and said "Oh don't worry about that, there are 45 or so and we have seen them everyday....except for the last two....which is very unusual!


Ahh...I couldn't believe it! The lion had disappeared as well..... :(


Zebe gave me a cheeky smile and told us not to worry...he knew a spot. It soon became clear that Zebe had been pulling my leg a bit because no more then 15mins down the road we came across this lone male snoozing by the side of the road. Apparently he had been there all day...






This male is one half of a pair that are known to be very effective at hunting buffalo. I have to say that he was very accommodating of our photography.




Just chilling...




After watching this guy for 20-30mins it was clear that he had no intention of moving so we decided to head off and catch the sunset over the Tau Dam again.


As we arrived at the dam we were met by a majestic sight of the buffalo herd that we had followed earlier in the day, coming in for a well deserved drink






Accompanying the buffalo were the same hyena pack as yesterday




Watching the interplay between the hyenas, rhino and buffalo in the fading light, with the hyena's calling, was just magical!






As beautiful as this scene was - the best was yet to come!


As we were waiting the hyena gradually lumbered around the dam and right up to our car. Realising the chance that this presented, Zebe moved the car down the bank and positioned us at the bottom - creating a lovely scene with the last rays of the setting sun silhouetting the hyena pack above us.






The scene just got better and better as the rays stretched across the sky








I took maybe a thousand photos...but eventually it did have to end...





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Awesome report, with a really nice intro too.
Sorry to hear the wild dog and spotted cat front was lacking, but at least predators as a whole weren't!
The sunset hyaenas...hugely envious! Fantastic stuff!

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Love your hyaena silhouettes

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@@Big_Dog - thank you! The lack of dogs was disappointing but the cats turned up in spades and really made up for it :D

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Gorgeous hyena silhouettes (had to chuckle at the "conjoined hyena" in the second one).

Excellent lion portraits, too.

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Ooooh, aaaah, the sunset colours and the shaded hyenas ... what a moment you have been able to capture! #5 in series is my favourite!

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Fantastic shots of the hyenas in silhouette...that is a guide who knows his job well and has an eye for angle / light. Such a rare set ! Look forward to the rest.

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That lone hyena shot against the suns rays is classic. I bet there are many pro's who would love to have got the chance to photograph that.


So glad you got your lion after being teased by your guide. I think we all know that feeling of am I going to go home to all my friends and family with out picture proof that I saw a lion?


All lovely :)

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Wonderful pictures of the sunset and the hyenas! Truly beautiful! I like your male lion photographs also.


Interesting how every safari is so unique. We did not see any spotted hyenas when we were there in Madikwe and you have them in abundance.


I believe we saw the buffalo herd in the same location as you did, but then the landscape looked like it had burned. What a difference rain makes in the scenery!


It is good to see Madikwe so beautiful.

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Peter Connan

Congratulations on your wife's pregnancy and thanks for what is an excellent trip report so far!

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@ImSA84 Another vote of thanks for the hyena shots. Lovely pictures

Edited by pomkiwi
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Yes, add me to the legion of fans of those hyena silhouettes. Those are just fabulous. Really enjoying this!

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@ImSA84 - an African water hole always provides some brilliant interactions and yours with so many of the better known animals in one sequence must have been amazing to see. And then the hyenas on that ridge in silhouette. Lovely stuff.


kind regards



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Lovely pictures of the lion, but the hyena sunset pictures are superb

Excellent guiding, excellent photography!

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Love the Hyena sunsets, wonderful!

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Game Warden

Echoing all the comments about the hyena shots. Stunning!



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@@Marks @@xelas @@bushbaby @@wilddog @@pomkiwi @@Alexander33 @@TonyQ @@michael-ibk - thank you all for the kind comments - it was really down to luck and the guide


@@Peter Connan - thanks for the congrats - I hope you're enjoying the report even half as much as I enjoy so much of your photography


@@Game Warden - a double thank you for the kind comments and for running this platform for us all to share and enjoy

Edited by lmSA84
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@@Terry - I suppose that's what keeps us all coming back and back. We actually saw that herd there the following day so maybe it isn't a surprise that they were in a similar location when you passed by.

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@@deano - we were very fortunate at the waterholes throughout our stay.


The lack of rain and the heat we're big contributors as they have only had a quarter of their usual rainfall and they set record temperatures when we there - over 55c!

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Day 3


The next morning we headed out even earlier then the first morning. This was to try beat the heat which was forecast to reach record highs of circa. 57c during our 3rd and 4th days in Madikwe.


That morning we headed down to the airstrip region again.






We came across small groups of white rhino, elephants, zebra with their young foals and this Lanner Falcon.


It was too far away for anything other then a record shot.




Whilst we photographed the falcon, an adult jackal returned to feed their small pack.


The cubs absolutely mobbed the adult, licking and sniffing its mouth till it gave up it's mornings catch








It's hard work being a jackal parent!




After watching the jackals enjoy their breakfast we headed off down the road to the park headquarters which has a small watering hole.


At the waterhole, enjoying the early morning light were these two impressive male lions.




These two are part of a coalition of three brothers but the third male was no where to be seen.




Nice mohican!




The lions were staring over at a mixed group of blue wildebeest, zebes and impala - all with new borns.






Our chances of seeing any hunting action though were slim. The watering hole is flanked by large electricity pylons that make an excellent safe haven and sunning post for the local baboon troop.


They kept a constant beady eye on the lions - sounding the alarm every time that they lifted their heads




With the heat already building we decided to head off for breakfast and our customary mid morning nap.




That afternoon whilst enjoying lunch in the company of a few elephants at the lodge's watering hole I got chatting to a couple who were regular visitors. They lived in Gaborone and did 3-4 trips a year to Motswiri.


They explained that if they could they would always stay at lodge 3 or 4, on account of the view of the waterhole. Just the night before, in fact, they said that they saw a male leopard around 10pm - just as they were going to bed.


Now luck would have it that these folks were returning to Gaborone that afternoon and unbeknown to us Zebe had arranged to swap our room with there's - no.3.


This was big news for my wife and I!! This we reckoned was our best chance of seeing a leopard. :D


That afternoon we moved into our new room with a view.




No sooner then we had a large herd of eles arrived.




Now don't get me wrong I enjoyed watching this family of eles only 10 or so metres from our balcony but what they did to the waterhole had me distraught - they almost emptied all of it!!! That was meant for my leopard. :angry:






Still concerned that our leopard sighting chances had been ruined we headed out on the afternoon drive. We headed out a bit later then usual to try mitigate for the 50c heat.


We didn't have to go far before we came across this pair of lioness.




All be it that you can't see it in the image this pair we're actually right out front of the Mooifontein lodge, catching some shade from one of the lodges decorative saplings - hence the reason you can see a metal wire in the top left of the image.




The contrasting size of these two full grown lionesses was stark. The female on the right is huge by comparison and well known to the local rangers. Apparently she has an angry temperament and is known to occasionally charge vehicles.


Almost on cue she gave us the look....and we decided to heed our warning :o




Given the heat the afternoon was slow but we did come across a Kori Bustard which was a real highlight for me. We actually saw another two of these birds in the following days but not once could I get a really decent shot.




Towards the end our drive we came across this magnificent lone male lion.




It turns out that this male is the third member of the coalition of brothers that we had seen in the morning. When we found him he was about 3km from where we saw his brothers.






As the sun began to set he put on a real show for us - only 5m from our car he put on an inspiring display of roaring!




I won't bore you with too many photos of roaring lions - still images just don't do it justice.


On the way back we popped in again to see the lioness.....it transpires that her mood hadn't improved






When we returned to the lodge for dinner we were greeted with some fortuitous news! Between the elephants and heat the waterhole had almost completely gone dry and so Zebe had it re-filled!! :)


With fresh sweet water, record high temperatures and a lack of alternatives due to the low rainfall, my wife and I were convinced that tonight would be special!


So we made a plan to stay up all night and stakeout the waterhole from our room :ph34r: . We told Zebe our plan and he though it was excellent idea - to aid us in our quest he even had one of the spotter lights especially charged and taken over to our room.


Our plan was quite simple....we positioned the room's armchair in front of the opening to the patio doors, to it's right we placed two side tables, to hold the camera, binos and spotting light. All we had to do was wait...taking turns to sleep.


My wife planned to take the first watch from 21.00 - 23.00 and then I would take the second watch to 02.00, at which point we would probably give up.


Honestly, it was hard to fall asleep...knowing any moment that something could be there...but I did start to drift off.


It must have been in this half dazed state that I suddenly found myself being summoned...."quick quick it's here"!.....Now this is the point at which I can offer some advice to anyone else who would attempt this..1. If you wear glasses just keep them on....2. If you're sleeping in a bed with drapes or mosquito net - work out beforehand how to get out of it rapidly in the dark.


I say all of this because my attempt to get rapidly out of bed, blind, through a mosquito net, in the dark...was like a scene out of Faulty Towers! By the time I had untangled myself and recovered my dignity...the leopard had disappeared - he had stayed no more then 20sec before a big buffalo had come in and scared him off. :(


Still my wife had seen her first leopard and that's honestly what counts....and so I went back to sleep. It was about 22.15.


I probably shouldn't have bothered though because no more then 5mins later....quick, quick he's back....and this time he stayed.






He's a sizeable male leopard and well known to the lodge given that he has been visiting the lodge's waterhole to drink for well over a year now. Since we have returned I have actually seen other trip reports from Motswiri that have him arriving whilst the guests were enjoying dinner.




Interestingly, despite his size and propensity to drink at the lodge's waterhole, he is otherwise very rarely seen and not habituated at all - when he is spotted the tends to melt away into the bush immediately.


This was a real highlight for us and honestly if we didn't see anything else during our stay we would have been thrilled...but no more 30mins later, just before we were due to swap my wife called out "come quick, this is something different".


Even through the binocs it was hard to make out in the light what was going on but something was definitely moving. It took a few minutes to emerge, only taking a few steps at a time before stopping and scanning around but when it did there was no confusing it...it was a serval.




It was clearly very nervous - only ever taking 2-3 sips before looking around again but it stayed for a while and afford some lovely views, even if the light made photography almost impossible.






These photos were definitely the best of a pretty fuzzy bunch.


We unfortunately, didn't get any other decent photos of our sightings but before I gave up at around 02.30 we had fleeting sights of a lone lioness (she unfortunately looked very ill), brown hyena (which only my wife saw), the male leopard again and a large spotted eagle owl.


Suffice to say I slept very well once I finally snuck into bed.

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@@lmSA84, lovely lucky Serval sighting, so much great night time action, pity we're always too tired to stay awake to watch and listen. Phew, those temperatures.

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