Just back from Back 2 Back MBPT, the 1st departing on the 27th of June and the 2nd on the 30th of June.
Were slightly unlucky with the weather, and our days were dominated by overcast conditions with drizzle. This I attribute to my 1st group all being from Cape Town... Unfortunately, this also had an impact on our sightings as well.
27 – 30 June
The 1st trail we walked along the Mphongolo River, with our drop off NW of Sirheni. Along the way we passed several elephants and dugga boy, and had a great sighting of a male Leopard, 3m from the road. After the safety briefing, we walked to Dzundula Windmill. Along the way we came across Impala and Baboons. We setup Camp just west of Dzundula under 2 fantastic Jackalberry Trees. That evening the clouds started to build up and the drizzle began... We heard Lions that night, which we estimated to be along the Shisha River, just outside of our walking area.
We woke up to the Francolins calling, some guest getting confused between the Egyptian Geese and Francolins, and ultimately waking at 04:45, only to realise that they might be slightly wrong as everyone else was asleep. We walked west along the Mphongolo (without packs) and along the Shimuwini River, before heading back to the Mphongolo, the overcast cool weather allowing the animals an opportunity to spend time away from the major rivers (not needing to drink). Along the way we bumped into a Dugga Boy without horns (only a boss) at close quarters (+-7m). Back along the Mphongolo we came across Impala, Waterbuck, Bateleurs, Fish Eagles, and a surprisingly deep pool with a rather large Crocodile in it! As we were approaching Camp, we stumbled across a large 2.5m Rock Python, an awesome sighting as he was so sluggish, it allowed us to get rather close. The sighting ended abruptly when a sudden heavy downpour opened above us, and we all made a quick getaway to our tents. The drizzle continued in the afternoon, allowing us time to quickly go for a walk, south and east of our Camp, but the bush was silent, as it is after rain.
The next morning (it was still drizzling) we packed up Camp and headed down river. The plan was to only walk about 2km before finding a Camp, setting our tents up and then heading out for another walk. Along the way, we found another deep pull just below Dzundula where a Hippo and her rather old Calf where still living, we watched them for along time before moving on. We found a great Camp, and while setting up, we heard a trumpet from across the river. We quickly headed in that direction, and tracked a heard of Elephants, for about 300m before hitting some very thick vegetation. We could hear them chewing ahead of us but couldn't see them, and unfortunately due to safety reasons, we couldn't get close enough to see them. We continued on towards the Shisha, hoping that the Lions would have moved in our direction, we came across Impala and Grysbok, and had a great sighting of a Breeding Herd of Elies, who were slowly moving through the vegetation towards us, a female and her 3 year old calf coming within 30m and providing a great sighting. We then made our way back to Camp. In the afternoon, we had a short walk back to the Hippos and Dzundula, before heading north and round to the Camp. Quite but relaxing afternoon walk.
The next day we packed up for the final time, walking back to our pickup point. A little wetter than when we started but whole lot happier and relaxed.
30 June – 3 July
After a short stopover in Camp, I took a quick shower and repacked my gear, and headed out again. Hoping the weather would hold and we would have a few days of dry clear conditions. This was not to be…
We were dropped off on the middle firebreak on the Zari spruit, just SW of Wik & Weegdam. We headed north, and having started slightly later than hoped (guests had a flat tyre) we pushed quickly to the Phugwane River. We found a fantastic Camp site, were water was being pushed to the surface by a granite ridge. The water point had great signs of all the Big 5, including a prints of 2 very big Male Lions. We all got very excited about the prospects of the days to come. But the weather had other ideas, being overcast and cool, the game just didn’t seem to want and come down to drink. We followed the Phugwane west to Maribyaobasa Koppie, overlooking the area, hoping to see something in the distance. We then walked to Dili Fountain and further up along the Phugwane, turning north and back to Camp. A quiet walk with small game sightings such as Dwarf Mongoose, Terrapins (not really game, I know) and a nice herd of Kudu. The cool weather continued into the afternoon, with our short afternoon walk taking us towards the Shishanyane, where we bumped into some very skittish Impala. We found signs of every big 5 member (reasonable fresh, ranging from 1 day to 3 days old), but no actual sightings – frustration was setting in!
The next morning, the skies greyed up a little more and it began to drizzle, the rain was now getting to me… (5 days and counting). We decided to leave the Camp as is (don’t want to pack up in the rain) and walk east along the Phugwane to Wik & Weeg Dam, and hopefully on towards the Zari – hoping to see more action that side of the Dam. But the rain continued, slowing down our progress and generally being miserable. It was great walking weather, but poor game viewing conditions. As the rain continued and we started to think maybe it would be best to spend the rest of our day in bed, we spotted a grey body moving just above the horizon… then another, and another. It was a breeding herd of Elephants, we 1st counted 10, then 15, then 25, then 31 and finally 33 elephants, who we watched as the slowly made their way down to the river. We forgot about the rain… They slowly meandered their way down to the Phugwane, but a sudden trumpet and herd began to move quicker, their speed increasing as the moved towards the water. In the distance a Male with a confident gait followed, obviously in Musth and a little frisky, was hoping to meet with one of these lovely ladies. The Matriarch obviously not keen for his attention, picked up the pace, as they arrived at the river, they were met with a steep descent into the riverbed below, this didn’t stop them, they dropped onto their back legs and slid down the bank! Another Male then arrived from the NW interested in the noise and continuous contact calling of the herd. The musth bull having stopped for a scratch on a large leadwood, had allowed the females some space, giving them time to drink. However, the girls were not happy, crossed the river and started making their way towards us… our cue to move, so as the ladies climbed the bank we quickly moved into the river, and watching the herd disappear with the 2 Big Males in tow… Our clothes were soaked but spirits were high and souls were singing – what a great sighting!
We decided to head back to Camp, and on our way came across a business of Banded Mongoose foraging in a drainage line, as they moved they seem to discuss the little morsels they were finding. Completely oblivious to our presence, they moved within metres. We watched them for a few minutes before an adolescent got sight of us, signalled the warning, and they all disappeared. Sighting of the week for me!
In the afternoon, the Sun came out warming and drying us out. We chose to walk north of the Camp, were we found a great area for game viewing, which I am sure in the future is going to produce a lot of action, but due to weather we only got sightings of Impala.
The next morning we packed up Camp and made our way back to the pickup point. All feeling rejuvenated, and well rested.
On arriving back in Shingwedzi, I wanted a shower, and some dry clothes, but my soul was telling me turn around and gone straight out again. I guess I will have to wait till Wednesday!