Magical! This is the only word to describe this great month! On game drive, we had another jam packed month, full of action from start to finish. Let’s start with the game viewing first. I will go as far to say that this month’s game viewing was the best this year. The night life was just great as we saw loads of honey badgers, porcupine, civet, genet, jackals and also had great hyena sightings. It looks like our resident hyena clan has moved their den to a new location; this was no surprise to us as the Styx lion pride spent a lot of time in that area. We also had a great cheetah sighting with a male feasting on a juvenile waterbuck the one afternoon in an open clearing. It looked like a young male moving through the area exploring what the area has to offer and who knows maybe he decides to stay. Now it brings us to the best part of the month, like they say, the cherry on the cake. We had some phenomenal wild dog sightings this month as the pack of twelve wild dogs moved around in our area with the alpha female very far pregnant. Not even a week later the pack decided to make this their home as the alpha female decided to den in our area this year. We are all so exited and can’t wait to see the little pups! This is something that we waited for a very long time. The pups should be almost a month old now so we will start viewing them on 6-8 weeks, giving them time to bond with their mother and the rest of the pack. The weather was up and down as we experienced a few cold days due to the cold fronts that came through the area. One thing that really helped keeping us warm during the winter morning chill was the warmth of the hot water bottles and blankets on the vehicles. The average maximum temperature this month was 24°C with no rain, but we also had a few hot days, almost resembling a summers day.
Leopard sightings were really good as always. We had a great sighting of Salayexe and her two cubs the one morning while they were playing and climbing up small trees and then settling down for some milk. Later that month one of the rangers followed a male leopard’s tracks into the den where they discovered a jaw bone that might belong to one of the little cubs. They also saw tracks for just one cub moving around the den area. Almost at the end of the month we were all dumbstruck when we saw Salayexe mating with Tingana. It is unsure what happened and why she’s mating again and if both cubs are dead or just one, or if both are still alive or did she just move the cub/s to a new den so we can’t say for sure but things are not looking good for her. Shadow, the female leopard, was also out and about moving around, patrolling her boundaries but like always she loves dragging you through the thickets and then disappears in the blink of an eye. Kurula and her two sons were also seen a few times this month. The two sons are really growing up fast and mum leaves them for longer periods to their own devices. The two boys don’t even stay together when mum leaves them when she goes out hunting. It will not be too long before they will be kicked out by mum and then start their nomadic life. Talking about nomadic life, we have seen Moya’s little male cub again this month and by the looks of things he is doing really well for himself and he is looking good. Moya was also seen this month and she also looks great. Nsele, the young female was also seen a few times and she is also expanding her territory. We haven’t seen her cubs again this month but we hope that they are still alive and healthy. Lamula was seen a lot this month and a few times with a fat belly. Lamula is looking great now as he is quite bulky and now in his prime. Anderson who also is in the prime of his life, is still expanding his territory more and more into the western boundary of Tingana’s territory. This brut of a male was also seen the one evening with an aardvark kill in a tree. Tingana, the male leopard, is looking impressive and in the best shape I’ve ever seen him. Tingana is venturing more north and east into the area of Mvula where he is expanding his territory bit by bit. If it ever happens that Tingana and Mvula must meet that will be the epic battle of the titans, it will be the fight of the year. Mvula is still looking great but a bit older than Tingana and might be a tiny bit bigger if not the same size as his rival, Tingana.
This was a fabulous month full of excitement on the lion’s side. We saw old and new friends in our area. We had the Breakaway pride in our area again for a few days still with all nine cubs. This is going to be a beautiful pride if all the cubs can survive. The Styx pride is really looking good and they are eating well as they killed a big buffalo bull and a few impalas this month, only to name a few. The luck was really on the side of this pride as they had a run-in with the fathers of their small cubs, the Matimba males, one morning. Two of the Matimba males came through the area and caught the Styx pride of-guard and started chasing them around. Luckily all three cubs survived and none of the adults had serious injuries apart from just a few scratches. Short after this terrifying ordeal it was not long before they had a serious run-in with the four Majingi male lions. This time they really had to stand their ground and fight to try and fend off these big males to protect their vulnerable cubs. A few days after the incident we were astonished to see that all three cubs are still alive. We were also very fortunate to see the Tsalala pride again with their four cubs as they also came through our area the one day. The little cubs are not that little anymore and they are looking great and growing fast since the last time we saw them. We had the remaining two Selati male lions in our area for a few days after the Majingi male lions have taken control over their females and their territory. Unfortunately it is not looking good for these two males as they are not strong enough to fend off four big males. The only thing that is left to do is to leave and try somewhere else to take over through an old male and take over that pride. The Matimba male lions are pushing more and more south into the territory of the Majingi male lions. The Majingi male lions very seldom go into that part of their territory anymore and that is why the Matimba’s are slowly but surely moving in to claim it. Like I mentioned, the Majingi male lions have pushed out the Selati males in the western part of the Sabi Sand and caused havoc. For all dominant male lions they always think of expanding their existing territory to get more female prides as that will mean there will be more females to mate with and more of their genes will be thrown back into the gene pool.
After a long wait, the big breeding herds have returned to our area and what a treat it was to see them. We had a nice big breeding herd moving in and out of our area for a few days as they tried to fill their stomachs and quench their thirst. With this big breeding herd moving through we also had the Styx lion pride following the herd for a day or so, just learning their routine to see which one is the weakest. When the herd moved out of the area again it was back to the old dagga boys and we also saw a lot of dominant and sub dominant bulls spending more time around the waterholes. At this stage, there is no mating taking place within the herds as the majority of the females have small calves with them at the moment. This time of the year, you will find that big males will leave the herds to fatten up as there is not a lot of food for everyone in the herd due to the food getting scarcer now in the winter months.
What a wonderful and also exciting time with all the great elephant sightings we had this month. We had a few big herds of about fifty to sixty elephants strong in our area this last month. It really felt like you can’t turn the corner without bumping into a herd of elephants feeding next to the road or even in the road. We had a few herds that came to quench their thirst at the waterhole on the open area in front of the lodge while all the guests are busy having breakfast or lunch. With all the elephant activity in our area at the moment, they cause a lot of destruction to the trees. The elephants will target more trees now due to the shortage of grass. They push over trees to get to the root system or the last leaves on top of the trees or strip the bark to get to the cambium layer. The big elephant bulls that goes into musth stages, makes life very difficult for us when they push trees into the roads or break off branches, leaving them in the roads for us to clear. Elephant bulls push over trees or break branches, not really to eat but to show off their strength to the females.
The special sighting for this month was to see a big breeding herd of about 500 buffaloes that moved into our area for a few days. It is always great to see a big herd with bulls, cows and small calves moving through the area as this only happens during certain times of the year.
Did you know?
The giant bullfrog can get over 20 years old.
I trust that you enjoyed this month’s report. Hope to see you out on game drive soon!