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Magical Madikwe and Friends


lmSA84

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Marks

Fantastic nighttime visitors!

To be so close to a roaring lion is one of my most-desired experiences. It was only last year, despite several safaris, that I ever even heard the sound in person.

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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

xelas

Great sightings! Myself I was not very good at after-sunset (or were the after-sundowner) waterholes observation. My excuse was that I do not have a proper spot light ... although there was one in the luggage :) !

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TonyQ

Great sightings. Well done for staying (almost) awake for those sightings. A thrill to see a first leopard - and then a Serval - wonderful.

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michael-ibk

Very productive nighttime indeed. Love the Serval!

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Big_Dog

Wonderful little jackal pups. :)
And a good night at the waterhole indeed! Don't worry about the fuzziness of Serval pics, night photography is no piece of cake!

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Peter Connan

Leopard is great, but that Serval! Wow!

 

And a lovely Jackal sighting too. Nice.

Edited by Peter Connan
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pomkiwi

@ImSA84 Excellent photos of some impressive sightings. I'm also enjoying the narrative - thanks. Respect for being able to stay up at all - I'm always fast asleep by 11pm if I'm up at 5am!

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Sangeeta

These are the best hyena silhouettes I have ever seen! What a lovely report & so glad your night-time perseverence paid off.

 

The Pilanesberg dam shots are beautiful as well.

 

Congratulations on the baby news too :)

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FlyTraveler

Great trip report and sightings, thanks for sharing! We also saw the three males coalition and the unusually large lioness (she was about 180 kilos, normal lioness would weigh about 120 kg.). The three male lions were on the go or "mobile", as the guides would say. Back in September there were four Cheetah brothers in Madikwe. We saw them once in the southern part of the reserve and on the next morning - about 60-70 km. to the north.

Congratulations on the baby news!

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lmSA84

@@FlyTraveler @@Sangeeta - thank you for the congrats on our baby and kind words on the trip report! I suspect that the arrival of our little one it will be our last trip for a while so we were just thrilled that Madikwe was so productive for us!

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lmSA84

@@pomkiwi - it was knackering but I have to say that I now have a bug for it now!

 

You see so much that you wouldn't normally get half a chance to see. I've looked around though and other then the two KTP overnight hides there don't seem to be too many options - not sure that they're baby friendly either :)

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lmSA84

@@xelas I sympathise with your plight! The sundowners are soo tasty and yet not compatible with nighttime spot lighting.....it's a hard life :D

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lmSA84

Day 4

 

Given the night before we opted to sleep in the next day and skip the morning drive.

 

We enjoyed a nice leisurely start to the day taking in breakfast next to the watering hole and then engaging in a spot of bird watching.

 

The lodge is an excellent birding spot and I got some chances for a few close-ups - although none of the photos were great given my lack of skill and the dappled light conditions.

 

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Crimson-breasted shrike

 

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Chinspot Batis

 

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Whilst I was birding I was also trying to get a good shot of the resident tree squirrels

 

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As I was doing this, something quite extraordinary almost happened!

 

I was standing on one of the walking paths between the lodges with my camera focused in the thick bushes above, trying to get a shot of the squirrels in the foliage. Given the density of the bush it was proving pretty fruitless

 

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Whilst I was doing this, I heard a rustling over head from my left, at the same time the squirrel made a mad dash for it and a brown arrow shot through the foliage just missing the squirrel!

 

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The arrow was a female boomslang!

 

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She only had just missed the squirrel and it would have been a quite a scene if she had got it! I spoke to Zebe later about the event and he was quite surprised, commenting that he wasn't aware of any prior record of a boomslang predating (or attempting to predate) tree squirrels.

 

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Who knows ultimately if was a true attempt at predation or potentially another action - maybe it was reflective of how poor hunting conditions had become for boomslang in the dry conditions - nevertheless, it was fascinating to see

 

Afternoon

 

That afternoon we headed out particularly late about 5pm - this was both for the heat and owing to our request to do more of a night drive then an afternoon. In Madikwe they don't offer true night drives but what they can do is to get permission from the park administrators to be out till around 8.30-9pm.

 

Our target was a small dam where a lioness, who had three small cubs, had made two warthog kills.

 

On our way down to the dam we came across a new born elephant and momma.

 

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By the time that we arrived at the dam the lioness had wondered off into the thick bush. Cars had been waiting around the area all day in the hope that she would bring the cubs to feed but they hadn't had any luck.

 

We initially tried to follow the lioness in the hope that she would give us a glimpse of the cubs but we lost her. In the end we returned to the dam to wait - hoping that she would return.

 

At the dam two jackals were already stealing small chunks from one of the carcasses...

 

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...whilst a couple of rhino enjoyed a customary mud bath...

 

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...not the most elegant of entrances.

 

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We also had the pleasure of watching a Spotted Dikkop pair and their young brood...

 

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....until the light faded away.

 

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In the early dark Zebe told that it was time to go...that he had something else to show us.

 

Apparently, it had been a real predators delight of an afternoon because as I had been watching the boomslang and the lioness had been making hay with the poor warthogs, a young male leopard had surprised a young kudu bull.

 

One of the advantages of having permission for a later drive is that when all the other cars leave, you are left with the sighting all to yourself.

 

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The young male pictured here is called Sampson and he is one of Madikwe's comparatively habituated leopards often allowing long sightings. He had actually made this kill in the early afternoon and had fed for much of the late afternoon.

 

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Despite the kill being right next to a large tree - given the kudu's size it was clear that he couldn't move it off the ground.

 

After feeding for a while longer he moved off slightly for a well earned clean...

 

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...and a cat nap.

 

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We thought it best not to disturb him any further and we made our retreat.

 

On the way back Zebe thought it worth while to see if the lioness had returned. When we arrived at the dam we were greeted with the sight of a small black rhino family with a young calf. The light didn't allow any photos and they were very skitish but still great to see.

 

As we circled the dam we passed one of the warthog carcasses - but still there was no action.

 

When we got to the second through it was clear that mom had returned...

 

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...but still no cubs

 

As mom fed though she would stop every few second and look over left shoulder, sometimes emitting a small call and it soon become clear why....the cubs were just a 100 yards or so off.

 

One by one they came to join mom...

 

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...number two..

 

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....all present and accounted for!

 

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We watched mom and the cubs for a bit, all the while hearing the rustling of the black rhino family just behind us. It was magically.

 

Eventually it was time to go though and we made our way back to lodge.

 

On the way back we came across this Rufous-cheeked Nightjar...

 

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...and then an awful smell! Something had clearly died right next to the Motswiri camp gate. Zebe explained that it was almost certainly the spotted hyena - I hadn't realised how incredibly potent their smell can be.

 

Almost right on cue we rounded a bend and there they were...with another kill! This time a bull impala

 

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The hyena were not in an accommodating mood they and took the carcass rapidly off into the undergrowth.

 

What a night though! Before that drive I had seen all those predators but I had never seen them feeding - let alone to see all three feeding in one night!

 

There was more to come though.....given we returned at around 8.45 we immediately sat down for dinner. Once we were done it was about 9.45pm and we were beat.

 

Before we went to bed though I wanted to take one last look at the waterhole to see if the leopard might be there...what I saw though wasn't a leopard it was another small cat....maybe the serval had returned.

 

I raced back my table grabbed my camera and told the other guests to come quick - we all hassled over to the viewpoint and turned on the spotting light - then it's ears became clear - it was a Caracal!!!

 

For the life of me I couldn't get my camera to focus in the light / distance but still if you squint your eyes and kind of turn your head at the same time...you can kind of see it!

 

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All in all it was another fantastic day! :D

Edited by lmSA84
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lmSA84

@@FlyTraveler - thanks for info - I hadn't realised just how big that female was! 180kg puts her on the low end of a fully grown male.

 

We would have loved to see the cheetah brothers but they had been removed from the park by January. My understanding is that they have been split up but I'm not sure where they are being transferred too.

 

I loved the photos from your report at Tau lodge. It was a part of what gave me confidence that Madikwe would work for us.

Edited by lmSA84
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FlyTraveler

@@FlyTraveler - thanks for info - I hadn't realised just how big that female was! 180kg puts her on the low end of a fully grown male.

 

We would have loved to see the cheetah brothers but they had been removed from the park by January. My understanding is that they have been split up but I'm not sure where they are being transferred too.

 

I loved the photos from your report at Tau lodge. It was a part of what gave me confidence that Madikwe would work for us.

 

I have never seen such a massive lioness before, almost the size and weight of a male. My report is kind of in the beginning, will try to find time to complete it some day... Great sighting from the last post - the leopard with the prey, the lions with the cubs and their prey, the boomslang and the spotted hyena carrying the prey...

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deano

@ImSA84 - Great sightings. I am still laughing at your night-time mosquito net exit Fawlty Towers moment but definitely worth it for the sightings you had. I always feel like those from your room are quite special when its just you and your partner in the middle of the night. You are right about the size of that lioness - a beast but still gorgeous. Really liked your lioness and three cub pictures.

 

kind regards

 

deano.

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Alexander33

What a memorable afternoon/evening: leopard with a kill, lionness and Cubs with a kill, boomslang (!) with an almost-kill, black rhino, caracal. Wow! Madikwe is definitely measuring up.

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Tom Kellie

~ @@lmSA84

 

The most recent installments to your Magical Madikwe trip report are delightful!

The water pool story and resulting images illustrate the value of being in the right place at the right time.

Leopard...serval...caracal! Time to look into bookings at Motswiri Camp!

The lion with two elephants behind is a nice shot.

To be so near a boomslang hunting a tree squirrel, and record it — terrific!

Madikwe has been on my mind since visiting Sabi Sands. Your trip report increases my interest.

Thank you!

Tom K.

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michael-ibk

Wow, what a night. That Leopard killed the Kudu?!? Impressive! Also, that Squirrel would be quite a catch for a Boomslang. And a Caracal - just wow again! :)

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Marks

Boomslang and a little dikkop, what great finds (not to mention the other big ticket sightings, of course!).

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TonyQ

@@lmSA84

What a day. Your late start paid dividends with the squirrel and snake, and the night viewings were excellent - and to finish with a Caracal - superb!

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lmSA84

@@deano - thanks - it was quite a ridiculous scene with my wife shouting at me in hushed tones to be quite, whilst I feel out the bed half naked & blind! I'll be more prepared in future.

 

Completely agree that there is something different about watching game from your room - it always make me dream of a retirement home in the bush!

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lmSA84

@@Tom Kellie @@Alexander33 @@TonyQ - thank you for the comments - I think the heat and lack of rain really amplified our chances of seeing these lucky sightings.

 

@@michael-ibk - Sure did! The leopard took it down near a tree that's often known to sleep in. No one saw the kill but the first car that spotted him arrived very shortly afterwards as he was apparently still panting heavily.

 

The first car reported that the carcass was too heavy for the leopard to even move at all. They found no drag marks other then marks from the original skirmish so it appears as he ambushed it right next to the tree...maybe even from the tree!?

 

@@Marks completely who needs cats when you have spotted dikkop chicks!

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lmSA84

Day 5

 

I've been alluding all report (with all the subtly of a rhino in heat...) to how the temperature had been building and building...well day 5 was meant to be the winner and it didn't disappoint. It peaked at an all time record high for Madikwe of 57c!

 

It was 52c in the shade.

 

Knowing this would be the case we set out super early.

 

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The morning would be quite but nevertheless enjoyable. The real highlights for me were at the start and end.

 

The highlight at the start were these Southern Pied Babblers - a lifer for me....

 

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....a very co-operative old dugga boy..

 

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....finally a warthog that would stay still - we had really struggled to find a Steebok or warthog that would stay still and close enough for a good photo...

 

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....and finally some playful Zebra with foals

 

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The end of our drive was punctuated with an appearance from Motswiri's resident Klipspringer.

 

We had been told that were around but I had searched all week at the lunch intervals with no luck.

 

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After breakfast I spent much of the rest of the afternoon bird watching from behind our glass fronted bungalow.

 

The extraordinary mid-day heat forced all the birds into the shade, some of the best of which was right next our bungalow, and seemingly they can't see through the glass to the bungalows. The result was like having your own mini-avery right next to your bed.

 

Violet-backed Starling

 

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Cape Glossy Starling

 

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Willow Warbler

 

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Cardinal woodpecker

 

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Crested Francolin

 

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European bee-eater

 

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...and this Little Bee-eater which was soo hot that it found shelter in the bar right next to where a few of us were sitting

 

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The heat wasn't just affecting the birds but also pushed a steady stream of antelope and elephant to the watering hole

 

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Afternoon

 

For our last afternoon drive we had arranged another late evening / night drive. Our hope was to try find anyone of Brown Hyena, African Wild Cat, Aardwolf or Aardvark - a reasonable list I know!!

 

Our thinking was simple - Zebe had recently observed that a number of borrows in the South of the park had signs of recent activity so he wanted to hunt for Aardwolf or Aardvark - my wife on the other hand was looking for Wild Cat in the hope that she could then claim to have seen all of the cats of Madikwe on a single trip (assuming that you count the cheetah) and I was hoping for a proper Brown Hyena sighting.

 

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Our drive started fortuitously enough with lovely scenes at the waterhole near the park headquarters...

 

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...and then a real treat for me - Red Hartebeest. They were a bit too far off and moving for good photos opps but these were also on my wishlist and up to that point we had not observed them.

 

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Accompanying the Red Hartebeest were the customary Zebes and White Rhino

 

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Our luck though started to change...as a huge wind storm began to envelope us from all angles. It was a bizarre experience. The wind that was rushing past us was incredibly warm - it was almost like holding your face right into a blowing hairdryer.

 

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In the distance we could see and hear that the wind was accompanied with some localised showers

 

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Initially unperturbed by the weather, our next pit stop was to check in on the Kudu carcass. We were hoping to see if the leopard had returned (despite the amount of meat still on the carcass he hadn't been seen all day) or maybe if something else had been attracted in by the smell.

 

When we arrived it was clear that the leopard wasn't there but that I had been sent a gift from the Madikwe gods...

 

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Not the most attractive of scenes but Brown Hyena had long been on my bucket list :D

 

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It was while watching the hyena feed that we got a call from the lodge. Unbeknown to us that whilst we had experienced a part of the wind storm it had been much worse up on the ridge where the lodge is located.

 

The storm had ripped through the lodge's main reception area tearing art off the wall and smashing much of the glass & china which had been laid out for dinner. It had also given many of the relaxing guests a terrible fright. Given the state of the lodge - we agreed that the right thing to do was to curtail the drive and return.

 

Whilst we missed out on a chance to search for our other targets we were treated to a few Springhare - all moving too fast for a decent photo.

 

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Thankfully the storm died down over night and that morning as we packed to leave, we were treated to one more scene from the waterhole

 

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Edited by lmSA84
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Tom Kellie

~ @@lmSA84

 

What a wealth of terrific images in the latest installment!

There are “resident Klipspringer”?

Incredible!

The two starling images are very nice, as is the warbler.

A bee-eater in the bar! What a sight!

I love the kudu at the waterhole...and the rhino!

A brown hyena? What an experience you enjoyed!

Thank you so much for sharing these with us.

Tom K.

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