Final curtain

Last day of bush for some time, getting out of here for a bit of holydays.... getting out but not without a last game drive, just a small one, just down from camp also to meet Micol and my friend Barbara from Selous, just time enough to see Evander and Holy, my sweet girls waiting in mbagi with their cubs in a lazy afternoon.


The kopjie

I stayed in camp basically all day. Only around five thirty I went out to explore the kopjie close to camp. It is one of the most stunning place I have seen. The view is breathtaking and the boulders such wonderful sculptures. With the light of the sunset shining on them the place veers from stunning to magical and is difficult not to be enchanted.


Three cats

What a day... I tried to join Owen early morning but we missed each other so I was going back, then Steve called me, he was driving guests and spotted the kwihala pride not far from camp. They were feeding on two giraffes, a mother and a calf. I went to have a look and in the super light of the morning was great fun to see the cubs feeding. To my surprise even Evander, Holy and their cubs are there, they eventually joined their natal pride again... The calf is already finished but the adult has still a lot of meat, females and one males every now and then join the cubs for a chunk of fresh meat.

After one hour I went back to camp, started packing my stuff. Around midday Ayoub called me, there is a leopard on a rain tree in the sokwe forest. I take Sophie and drive down... the leopard is a beautiful male and he is resting, eyes open, on a branch.
Then he starts looking around, he stands and turns on the branch, now he is facing me and looking far... he sits again but watching around. We stay like this for a quarter of an hour and then he stands again, watching. Eventually he climbs down and starts walking in the forest. I follow from far, he goes in the thick a go around and stop close to some impalas. I wait, the leopard is coming but then the vervet monkeys spotted him and started their noisy alarm call. I do not see the leopard but I know he is there, and the same is for the impalas,they are nervous and bark their alarm every now and then. Suddenly they all bark, they must have seen the cat, I don't but after some minutes I heard the dik dik alarm call in some bushes behind me... the dik dik is seeing something that from my perspective I cannot see. From the posture of the small antelope is obvious that the leopard gave upon the impalas and is walking back in the bush.
I also go back to camp.

In the evening I went for a sundowner with my friends Kim and Riaan from Mwagusi... and we had a cold one watching a cheetha female resting after she fed abundantly on an impala ewe. She is so bloated that is not even funny, she lays down chasing flies with the tail, she seems she cannot even walk with that belly but as the darkness came she actually did and wandered off and so did we, my friends and I.


Another day with Owen, we definitely bring luck to each other so better sticking together. We found part of Two forests pride laying in the river bed not far from where the buffs drank yesterday. They are lean.. 4 females and one male.
The big boy immediately made us aware of way he was hanging out with the girls, within 2 minutes after we spotted them he mated loudly with the female and then they both disappeared in the shade of the bank...what we had then was a usual placid lion's sighting.. but it changed in a second.. one female spotted a giraffe coming to drink.. it is around 200 meters far but the lioness started stalking... giraffe's head down, lioness walks fast and stealthy, giraffe's head up, lioness freeze. Another lioness spots the giraffes and goes off in the opposite direction around a grassy island in the river bed... she walks fast, almost runs, but she does it low, her belly almost touching the ground... the pincers technique, one cats aims to the prey the other walks around to close the escape route and close the pincer at the right time... The action is perfect... the giraffe unaware... the lions skilled... but then the female in heat walks out of cover... she is also stealthy, she is also after the giraffe.. she is but the male is not, he follows her, erected dominant posture, visible for kilometers... he is after the female and eventually force her to mate... again he is loud.. the giraffe obviously spots them. I cleared my mind now... after yesterday and today I definitely think this male is dumb.
Anyway the male went resting with his female in a ditch but now the giraffe is stuck in the middle of the river bed, afraid to turn her back to lions.
Nothing moves for almost half an hour.. then one lioness, the farther one, takes again her fast and low pace to surround the giraffe... All the concentration of the giraffe is on the first lioness...
Eventually the giraffe moves towards the bank and far from the first lioness, she want to go and drink, she needs to drink... doing so she get closer to the second lioness and as soon as the giraffe puts her neck down the cat sprints... the giraffe starts running but sh is slow... the cats is gaining ground... 20 meters far, then 10, then 5, then 3... then the lioness hits a path of deep sand... the long stride of the giraffe an advantage now... the lioness looses speed and eventually left the chase...
It was good, man, and if it was not for that dumb male...

The lions walked under shade and we drove off towards the buffs at w7.
The buffaloes are there and very close to them are 22 lions of kipunji pride... they are slightly off their territory but the buffs are a big lure.
The buffs started walking down the hill towards water, and the lions started walking towards the buffs. We run to the other side of the river to have better visual..
THe buffs are coming but we cannot see the lions... we wait.. buffs are filling the river like a stream of black mud... they spread on the thin line of water.
One lioness breaks her cover and launches herself into a chase in the river bed.. the buffs run but she is to close to the bank, too dangerous so she jumps up and all the herds big soldiers are after her in a second... she disappears in the thick.
The buffaloes keep coming to drink, the soldiers alert. The herd is nervous so after short time they started going up again. The lioness reappears on the bank... few buffs are still down, she waits all the herd to go east and the she charges the two buffs remaining on the west edge... she tries but the buffs turn and she backs off, runs again when the buffs run again and back of again as soon as the buffs turn.
Buffs are definitely the winners so far... the went to rest no more then 100 meters up the hill. Not bothered by the close presence of the pride.


Late afternoon Malcolm joined us, the buffs moved, we were expecting them to come to drink but they did not. The lions moved after some time and we started following them... it is always amazing driving amongst walking lions.. we followed them on the buffalo's trail... after half an hour we spotted the buffaloes some 400 meters ahead.. the lions kept walking but when they went within a 150 meters they stopped and started dozing... again all they need is to keep them in sight, they night is still young for them there is plenty time to hit the buffaloes..

Impala kill, dogs and much more...

Went off with Owen early morning... two males and four females of Two forests pride are very close to a small buffalo's herd around one hundred strong... Lions are awake but they do not move... we wait, full of hope but nothing happens... the two last buffs even walked within 4 meters from the lions without seeing them but the lions did not move.... maybe it is too hot already or these lions are just dumb.... I go for the first answer but just because we saw already what this pride can do to buffs..
Kahimba called me to tell that a pack of dogs was resting close to mdonya and so we decided to go there briefly.. but plans in this part of the world never go accordingly.. We spotted Ten, Owen's favorite pride on the other side of the river... all the cats are in the river bed except one in a bush on the bank.
We decided to stay... Impalas are coming down to drink. The herd moved quite fast and reached the bank past the lone lioness in few minutes but she did not move... the impalas went down, slowly, one by one as they always do.. afraid of every sound, hesitating like teenagers at their first date... the lioness waits, waits them to be all down, waits them to be comfortable. Once they are down she still does not move. Owen is rolling, I did not even take the camera... for a change a want to see what happens without worrying about exposure and focusing
One impala ewe slowly finishes drinking... the seconds seem minutes... she walks towards the bank... the lioness walks fast and low to the closest bush up the bank.. the ewe walks up unaware and in a sudden is too late...
The lioness bolts out of cover just above the impala, the ewe tries to turn but there is no time, the cat hits her and they roll down the bank in a huge bowl of dust. Out of the dust the ewe reappears she is falling belly up, just after her the lioness materializes in a lighting of yellow fur and white jaws. She closes her long canines around the exposed neck of the impala... and life shifts away from the beautiful ewe..
I less then 2 seconds all the other arrives transforming a skilled piece of hunting, almost a piece of art into a gruesome tug of war for the last piece of meat.
I decided to go and have a look to the dogs so I left Owen and drove to mdonya, we spotted another pride of lions in the shade, they were looking at zebras so I called Owen and went on with my dog's chase...
It was so nice... 6 adults and six pups... super beautiful...
They were a bit shy but I did not approach close so I could observe them for long time. They are special animals, stunning and intelligent... I have been waiting all this season to be able to have a nice dogs sighting like this... Joy!!
Some adults are very white, others very black, the pups are a mixed cute bunch of furry balls with legs.
When I left them they were still in the same position, nothing changed for them but I was a lot happier then before seeing them..
On the way back to Owen we got Evander and Holy checking giraffes at w7.. the 2 lioness were under an euphorbia on high ground looking for anything coming down. Buffaloes were not far but they are not buffs hunters and I wanted to go to the river drive so we went off. We got other two lions at the old airstrip and eventually I jumped in Owen's car again.
We kept checking on the three prides in the river drive... Three lioness of Ten pride walked into the river bed as buffaloes started pouring in from the other side... the cats looked interest but they did not move closer really... the buffs drunk and walked off.. We checked then Two forests pride a we could find only one male.. fresh tracks of the others were heading on the trail left by buffs, we started tracking them but we lost the spoors in thick bush and had no time so we leaped forward to join with the trailing edge of the buffalo's herd. We found the buffs but no cats... so off we went again to the last pride in the first forest..they were looking at giraffe but then the giraffe walked away so they went back to sleep... and went off again, now to w7 looking for possible interaction beetween the buffs and male lions that were seen in the morning... but nothing happened so we had a look to Evander and Holy and went to camp after an incredible, fantastic, astounding and hectic day in this insane place...


Last drive

I brought my last guests to the airstrip today. We started early, our target... leopard. I think we looked in every tree in sokwe and ikuka forest but not even the shadow of the spotted cat.
We looked and looked and looked again but nothing. We had breakfast at w7 under the sycamore figs and I explained to guest about the specific fig wasp that pollinates this majestic tree laying eggs inside the fruit. I cut a fig to show them better that it is a fruit and a flower together and to show the the dead wasp that are many often found inside. To my pure joy instead of a dead wasp many alive ones started flying off, the fig wasp with the short ovopositor, the parasitic wasps, metallic green with a long ovopositor and the second parasitic wasp still with the long ovopositor but pale yellow.
They would climb on my fingers and there stretch the wings and unfold them getting ready to fly... it was a stunning show.
After that we spotted a huge herd of buffs close to w7, they were all in the river bed, a wonderful black cloud moving towards water.
Lions were more difficult but at least we had a couple of sighting even if a bit far from the road.
Now I handing the camp over to my friend Steve, we had a nice drive together in the afternoon, no cats but nice light.


Painted hunting dogs

We are after cheetah today, some guests never saw one and really dream of seeing one. We went to mbagi and lulenga juu because I reckon that the ones we saw the other day must be in the area.... we could not find them but we found Kipunji pride at the bridge... 22 lions together is always a good sighting in a way but they were in the sand of the river and most of them sleeping so after a while we left to look for new adventures.... we went all the way around... to makutano and then second forest and as we were at the edge of the first forest I was told about a cheetah sighting... the 4 of the other day... they killed an impala at lulenga juu... they arrived where I thought just later then I thought... we hurried there and found all of them still busy feeding on the bloody carcass. Guests were chaffed and I was happy... the cats were a great sighting... they fed to the last bit of meat available, constantly checking the surrounding for unwanted predators... constantly relieved not to see one... almost surprised not to see one...
They had all the time to finish their huge meal and we had plenty time to watch them few meters apart in a nice open area.... super...
The day would have been special enough like that but I got a call from outside the park... wild dogs (better called painted hunting dogs) were spotted ten kilometers outside the gate of the park.... so we discussed with guests and decided to go just after lunch... and so we went.. the drive was long... too long and uncomfortable but the reward was big... the dogs were by the side of the road but very shy and soon moved more inside... they were quite difficult to see and so we went back and forth to get a better view. Eventually they disappeared in the undergrowth of the commiphora forest... was not a great sighting of dogs but a sighting of dogs is always great... and was the first of the season....
On the way back we had lions feeding on a zebra fowl... the big male of the kwihala pride holding onto a carcass that he probably stole from the females..



Today we have really been struggling to see lions... We got a nice male early morning at Mdonya juu and then nothing at all or hours. Eventually we got another male at serengeti ndogo but this one was in very bad conditions. We saw it already some days ago, it is the one with the broken leg. It is a sad sight, He cannot walk anymore, he tries to hop to shade with three legs, he is only skin and bones, he is not going to make it. We called the rangers, they may put a end to his misery.
In the afternoon was way better, Kahimba called us into a sighting in Mbuyuni, 18 lions of mdonya pride were scattered all over the place. Super good fun.


Mdonya juu

Two lioness and one cub in the first forest, time three second, to our disappointment they walked down the bank, sometimes cats really misbehave... you look for them in every corner and when you find them they disappear in no time... luckily they went laying in the middle of the river bed, on an island of green grass. The light was nice, the green grass shining, the lions lazy as usual.
We went around a bit and enjoyed beautiful elephants as usual plundering acacia kirkii, and in makutano we got a stunning herd of impala that after being spooked by an unknown something, run from the bush to the open plains at full speed... the run one after the other... running and jumping, running and jumping as only impalas can do... lekker
A couple of hours later on the way back we got the same lions again, but now they are eating a freshly killed impala.... maaaaannnnnnn cats really can misbehave... we waited them to do something for an hour this morning and as we turn the back to them they killed the impala... not fair at all.

The big cats amended their misbehaviour in the aftenoon at Mdonya juu, we had 4 females sitting on top of big granite boulders as the sun was lowering... it was such a sightings... such a special and in the same time such a classic... the females kept basking in the fading sun and peering around for a possible dinner. Three cubs suddenly appeared from another set of smaller rocks.. they first sat on the little boulder and then walked all the way close to the female even if at the base of the rocks... it was superb with the last orange light of the day...
The beauty surrounding us was astounding, the lions, the rocks, the sunset... all was magic.... too magic for one heart only...