Monday, 5 October 2015

Limpopo-Lipadi Trip report - September 2015: Week of the cats!

We visited Limpopo-Lipadi Private Game Reserve the week of 18 - 26 September 2015.  This must be my favourite place in the world, and it did not disappoint. 
The mighty Limpopo River close to River Camp
Limpopo-Lipadi is not your typical game lodge.  There are no schedules, the area is huge (>20 000ha), and most amazing of all, there are never more than 4 gamedrive vehicles on drive!  You must work hard for your sightings (you don't chase sighting after sighting through 2-way radio's) - the thrill is in the chase, and there is so much to see.  Total freedom....
This is a short account of our sightings for the week.

Young male lion at Cabbage Dam
This week we were treated with numerous elephant sightings, especially close to River Camp and up the Mogorosi river in the west of the reserve, where we encountered lone bulls, as well as a breeding herd.  Because of the dry season, the big bulls are pushing over a lot of trees for some much needed nutrition in the roots and the leaves higher up.  It made for some interesting driving when an upturned tree block the road...

Limpopo-Lipadi must be the best place in the world to see the elusive and extremely secretive Brown Hyena.  We spent some time with 3 youngsters at their den, and had 3 other sightings of adults as well.
We also had 2 spotted hyena sightings.  One sighting on Black Rock early one morning, and one sighting at Mogorosi waterhole at night.

3 young Brown Hyena at their den
Spotted Hyena at Mogorosi waterhole
General game were abundant, and the highlight for me was encountering a huge herd of eland, probably >60 strong close to the Northern Plains.  

Giraffe at Mogorosi waterhole
Huge kudu bull at Southern Plains
In February this year 3 lions, 2 males and 1 female made Limpopo-Lipadi their home.  They are totally wild and arrived from the east, breaking through the fence after a storm.  You can imagine that it is quite a challenge to find 3 lions, in 20 000+ha, with only 4 vehicles tracking...but we made it our mission to find them.  

The one morning we left camp before sunrise, with the plan to stop at every waterhole looking for tracks, heading north towards Mac's waterhole.  Their tracks were seen a few days ago in that vicinity.

One of the waterholes we visited was Cabbage dam, a beautiful spot.  I stopped at the dam, scanned around, and took a walk around the water's edge, looking for lion tracks... None was found...
Then 30 minutes later, one of the other guides (Actor) radioed me that he is at Cabbage Dam, and the lions are on the dam wall!!!  They must have been sleeping behind the dam wall while I was taking my walk around the dam!  I rushed back to Cabbage dam and spent the next hour with them, until they decided to move on, heading south in the drainage line.

Young male lion at Cabbage dam
My average amount of leopard sighting per night spent at Limpopo-Lipadi since 2009 is 1 leopard sighting for every 2 nights spent at the reserve.  We stayed 8 nights on this visit, and had 4 leopard sightings, keeping with our average.  

Our first sighting came only 5 minutes after entering the reserve, when we found a big male leopard sleeping alongside the main road!  Unfortunately all my cameras were still packed away...

Our other sightings were a male between Southern plains and River Camp, another close to Zanzibar Dam and our last sighting at at the waterhole at the office!

Leopard between Southern Plains and River Camp
Leopard track at Cabbage dam 
We also encountered 2 male cheetahs at Mac's waterhole.  
It was a real treat to see all 3 big cats in one week.  
A very relaxed African Wild Cat was also seen close to Zanzibar Dam on our last evening, and posed nicely for some photos.
Cheetah at Mac's waterhole
African Wild Cat close to Zanzibar dam
The birding highlight was definitely a family of Southern Ground Hornbill seen resting in Hollow Baobab early one morning!  They are listed as vulnerable in Southern Africa, and it was a privilege to spend some time with this family of 4.
Southern Ground Hornbill at Hollow Baobab
Familiar Chat at River Camp
Otherwise the sightings included a Little Sparrowhawk trying to catch a Southern White-crowned Shrike, a nesting pair of African Hawk-Eagle on Swartsloot, Gabar Goshawk posing for the camera, 2x Black Stork, numerous White-backed Vultures, Burnt-necked Eremomela's all over, Ashy Flycather in camp etc etc... Looking forward to our November visit, when the birding will be awesome!
African Hawk Eagle at Old Man's Dam
Ashy Flycatcher at River Camp
Gabar Goshawk at Mogorosi waterhole
Redbilled Firefinch at River Camp
Rufous-cheeked Nightjar
My dad enjoying the sunset at River Camp
If you are interested to become part of the Limpopo-Lipadi family, visit their website at

Anton and Renate


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