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Small things, babies (and some dogs) - 5 nights at Kambaku River Sands (Timbavati, South Africa) in the summer


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That is a truly monstrous kudu (in the best possible way), as well as a really unique tortoise.

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In which I confirm that rhinos have very good hearing


In the afternoon we headed off and decided to see what we could find on foot. We were in a more open area with a lot of dry vegetation. A warthog saw us as we saw him and headed off at speed. After about 20 minutes JJ motioned to us to be very quiet as he ahd spotted a pair of rhino in a wallow some 100m ahead. We then inched forward over the next 10 minutes until we had halved the distance.

We moved behind a small bush stepping over a confusion of fallen twigs.



At this point yours truly, concentrating on not stepping on a twig brushed against a branch of dry leaves which duly rustled. 


The rhinos lept up and were clearly trying to locate the source of the noise.  We made ourselves very small (5 of us crouched behind the same small bush).  The rhinos turned and faced in our direction - at this point I was hoping all I'd read about poor eyesight was true...




After a coupleof minutes that felt closer to hours they trotted off




Once heart rates had settled and I'd aplogised to my companions we headed back in the direction we had come.  We had a lovely sighting of a pair of giraffe but it was difficult to get a good view through the vegetation.






After a really interesting and exciting hour we returned to the truck. We all really enjoyed the tracking on foot. A combination of good sightings and poor weather prevented any more however. Hopefully I will get some opportunities in the future.

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The rhino encounter was a truly heart stopping moment which will live in your memory for ever.  It is SO difficult to creep through the bush silently. Glad you are all OK .

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Before seeming to share some deep secret with us


the Kudu was clearly trying to share the secret of walking silently!  a Zen Kudu @pomkiwi or perhaps it knows what England's batting is like?

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Anybody noticed the lack of cats?


We were now on our seventh drive and the more attentive reader will notice the lack of cats so far.  As far as i was concerned I would take 2 good encounters with dogs in place of several sightings of resting lions (I'm a bit less sure when it comes to leopards though :)) JJ however was getting a little concerned as apart from a sighing of a leopards tail on the first evening we were essentially feline free. JJ was not alone in his concern - every time we met another car there was a conversation about lions with much shaking of heads and shrugging of shoulders.

We did see the giraffes we'd seen from the ground from the car.




I'm no expert in lion dynamics but from what I can gather there had been a power stuggle with two brothers moving in and the existig pride becoming fragmented in the process. In any event the current situation is that the lions are very mobile and there is a lack of cubs related to the new males killing off the previous generation.


As the light fell a radio call made JJ smile. Ten minutes later he looked very relieved.






A large male was dozing.  A short distance away a female was doing much the same but looked unimpressed at our interuption.






The male got up and moved - but not for long






We hoped the audience meant there was a kill close but I think they were just hopeful



As it got dark we played with a spotight






Then we headed off as it became clear the lions wern't planning a move any time soon. 


Just a leopard left to find....

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Great report, really enjoyed catching up! Fully agree that those Dog sightings more than make up for a lack of Cats. Great Elephant pictures, the little one is very precious. Fantastic Drongo series! And yes, that walking stuff really gets to you, doesn't it?

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Peter Connan

@pomkiwi, from 1973 (incidentally the year I was born) to his passing in 1989 my grandfather owned a piece of land in the Klaserie, less than 5km of crow-flight (of the straightest kind) from where you were. 


I can count the number of holidays NOT spent there on my fingers. Often, we went there 4 or more times a year. Yet, my first lion sighting happened in my 15th year. My first leopard sighting much later, probably 24-25...


Since those early days, the large cat population in this area has really picked up. Consequently the smaller cats and the Jackal have suffered, and probably also the Hyenas.


What is fascinating though is that in the early days we used to hear lion far more often than in later years when they became more common. When I was a little boy, we heard lion most nights.

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@michael-ibk Thanks for your comment - glad you're enjoying it. @Peter Connan I wonder if the dynamic of bigger cats was changed a lot when they took the Kruger western boundary fences down in the early 1990s? Doesn't really explain why lions were heard much more before the fences came down though.

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Peter Connan

I doubt if the pride's ranges are big enough to overlap (and we didn't notice a sudden increase, just gradual change), but it probably had an effect in terms of how often loose males come looking for trouble.


In the days when the Kruger still culled elephants, there were obvious and massive temporary shifts in elephant numbers. When the Kruger culled, the small reserves were absolutely overrun with ellies. A week after the cull ended, they were all gone again.

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Weather - and a few more small things

The morning was damp from overnight rain.


A very large land snail was waiting at reception  - I realise I should have added something for scale but it was about the same size as my hand:



Aplogies for the picture quality - there is a reason I don't use my i-phone for low light photos.


The sky looked threatenig - us Brits know a little about rain:




The sunrise was pretty but threatening, bringing to mind the saying about red sky in the morning being a warning for shepherds.






Sure enough we were soon wrapped up:




We set off through a quiet morning bush - I never quite work out how the animals get away with being so picky and hiding away when it is too sunny, too hot, too cold, too windy or too wet :)


We did find a flap-necked chameleon.DSC_2449.thumb.jpg.3bd6cdba74f8b7dd52a057b06e75f7a0.jpg




The claws are very effective and surprisingly sharp




Anyway it was time to go and find a leopard (we hoped)

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A damp leopard


It continued to rain. Word on the street (or at least on the radio) was that there was a leopard moving through the area not too far away. We spent the first part of the drive trying not to get too wet and stopped briefly with a lone elephant who seemed much more relaxed that those we met yesterday.




A lone white rhino was also in a quiet mood (probably because I safely wrapped up where I couldn't cause any trouble).






After an hour of fairly intense searching we located our leopard :D




Who proceeded to move away into dense bush







After a while she found a small branch to climb on which also gave me the opportunity for some portrait shots:






We were extremely lucky to spend over two hours with this leopard and fro much of this time we were the only vehicle. I'm afraid that if you don't like leopards the next few posts may be a little boring....


Edited by pomkiwi
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Perpetual motion


The weather improved to the point that it was mainly drizzle and only occasional heavier bursts of rain. By this stage,about 30 minutes after first sighting her, the other vehicle had departed and we were left with the leopard on our own for about 90 minutes.


She was on the move almost continuously.  Most of the time she appeared to be preoccupied sniffing at various pieces of vegetation and sometimes marking. Our guess was that she was patrolling her territorial boundaries and dealing with the washing away of all the previous scents by the rain.






Much of the time she was moving through thick bush and we would lose sight her for a minute or two before she would emerge into a clearing or sometimes crossing the track. It was interesting be able to capture a series of images showing the nature of the movement. In particular even when jumping and trotting over the track it was clear how much of a role the tail played in maintaining balance.


















Occasionally she would stop and demonstrate the flehmen grimace, presumably having picked up the scent of a male in the vicinity.








On occasions the speed that we lost sight of her provided an excellent demonstration of the effectiveness of her camouflage.




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Tree time


Eventually the focus of the leopard seemed to change. She was no longer marking territory but made for a tree from where she appeared to search the surroundings.





This tree wasn't tall enough to keep her for long so she come down.









After another loop around some dense bush we found her climbing a sturdier vantage point springing from branch to branch.






She settled allowing some classic portrait opportunities albeit in very poor light.















Climbing down from the second tree was interesting to watch in that after turning around she seemed almost to walk down the near vertical trunk before springing away into the bush














There followed another period of following through and around thick wet bush.


Edited by pomkiwi
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I absolutely love reading your sequence of the leopard. You were indeed fortunate to spend such a long period of time with her. 

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@Ritsgaai Thank-you. There will be one more leopard related post and then we will move on :)

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Last of the leopard posts


@Pamshelton3932 liked the previous post when I stated that we had only one more leopard post and then we'd move on - I can feel the relief but before then.......


"Our" leopard moved on and just as we thought we'd lost her we looked upwards.




We had the opportunity to take a lot of portrait shots as she draped herself over a large branch in classical fashion.






She almost fell asleep at one point.




I played with a black and white conversion.





Finally she decided to move off and we saw one more graceful descent before she disappeared off. We decided not to follow.














It was 2 hours and 1 minute since we first saw her and for the final 90 minutes we'd had the sighting to ourselves - a real privilege.  JJ complained that it was one of the hardest and longest pieces of tracking and following he had done and I felt inclined to believe him as much of the time we were criss-crossing very dense bush and taking a guess where she might emerge. We felt very fortunate.

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I love all leopard posts. Probably my favorite cat. 

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@pomkiwi your 3rd and 4th pics in post 66 are stunning, well done on finding the leopard.

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On ‎24‎/‎03‎/‎2018 at 1:32 PM, Peter Connan said:

@pomkiwi, from 1973 (incidentally the year I was born) to his passing in 1989 my grandfather owned a piece of land in the Klaserie, less than 5km of crow-flight (of the straightest kind) from where you were. 


I can count the number of holidays NOT spent there on my fingers. Often, we went there 4 or more times a year. Yet, my first lion sighting happened in my 15th year. My first leopard sighting much later, probably 24-25...


Since those early days, the large cat population in this area has really picked up. Consequently the smaller cats and the Jackal have suffered, and probably also the Hyenas.


What is fascinating though is that in the early days we used to hear lion far more often than in later years when they became more common. When I was a little boy, we heard lion most nights.

@Peter Connan1973 is a very good year.

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Some bigger and smaller things


In 1973 I was in the second year of senior school.....:unsure:


We left the leopard and were already close to breakfast time.


A rock monitor had found a comfortable place to hide.



Mrs PK was clear that a cup of tea was required despite the proximity of breakfast and we stopped at a likely looking spot.  What we hadn't realised was that there was a small waterhole around 100m away and a giraffe came to drink.






At the same time a dung beetle was moving house and partner to a new location.







A steenbok posed nicely.



A small family of elephants saw us off.




All in all it had been a superb morning and we all smiled through breakfast.

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Wonderful leopard encounter! Looks like it was worth the laborious tracking.

The rock monitor and elephant photos are also really well-composed and pleasant to look at.

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A quieter drive (inevitably) follows


Thanks @Marks. The afternoon drive was a quiet affair.


A hammerkop flew in over a waterhole providing some BIF practice.







A pair of lionesses woke up briefly but then went straight back to sleep.



The baby theme continued with an elephant




A wildebeest photobombed a young zebra posing nicely




All in all a quiet afternoon and evening - not a bad reminder not to take the morning we had enjoyed for granted and rather relaxing as well.

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Peter Connan

What an incredible leopard sighting!

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Nearly done - our last morning


We woke up to a grey, cool, damp and windy morning. In general all reasons why guides will tell you animals will not be easy to spot. We also felt we had been reasonably well treated by the safari gods so far. So we headed off without any great expectations. 


To be honest that was probably sensible.  It was already well past dawn before we saw our first animal:




A little later a giraffe was nicely highlighted by some weak sun



This elephant was not pleased to share his reserve with us




We took the hint and then saw some vultures and eagles gathered - we headed over in the hope they had intelligence on a kill.  In the end we couldn't find anything but amused ourselves with some time watching the eagles fly:









It is interesting to note the small frontal cross section when in the cruise:





There was a great reluctance to share a perch






We then met a much more relaxed elephant who had enjoyed a dust bath.




All the above had taken over 2 hours and we decided to head off to the museum that is in the park headquarters in the Timbavati. I was beginning to sort out my packing mentally but once more was to be reprimanded for a lack of faith as one more surprise awaited us....

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Good choice to go eagle-watching, looks like they would have been fun to observe.

Looking forward to the surprise!

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