Sadly, we have reached the end of yet another spectacular year. It is hard to believe that this will be my last report for the year 2016. Looking back at this year, one is so grateful for all the people we have met and also the great friendships that followed. Back to the sightings, I think we saved the best month for last, as our sightings was just out of this world! It feels like the bush suddenly came alive as the songs of the frogs, birds and crickets filled the warm summers nights. The first baby warthogs and wildebeest were seen at the end of the month. It is wonderful to see all these juveniles on drive every day. Our resident hyena clan is still doing really well and the old lady is still in charge. You don’t always realize how fortunate you are to have a resident clan with an active den on your property. We also saw two male cheetahs this month while moving through the area. We were spoiled by the eighteen wild dogs of the Sands Pack, that also moved through the area. The weather was great overall, but we had a few really hot days that was over 40°C. We were very fortunate with the rain, as we had 132mm of rain for the month, with an average maximum temperature of 33°C.
We saw so many leopards this month and the quality of the sightings were unbelievable. It looks like Salayexe finally broke the bond between her and her daughter, Tiyani. Tiyani is not the same overly relaxed, spontaneous little cat who we came to know and love since she and her mother went their separate ways. We have seen little Tiyani a few times this month moving around the area. It will be interesting to see if Tiyani will take over the middle part of her mother’s territory. By taking over the piece of territory Tiyani has a better chance of survival. Here she will be hidden from the bigger females. Tiyani had her very first standoff with an intruder this month. The one evening she found the young Ingrid Dam female in her area and she did not hesitate for a second. She charged in and chased after the intruder. The Ingrid Dam female ran up a big tree and stayed up there until Tiyani was satisfied and left. It was great to see that Tiyani would be able to defend her territory.
Salayexe was seen a few times but not like before. She was a bit under the radar. Salayexe is looking great and she and Moya had a standoff over a kill the one day. The first thing I noticed was that Moya did not back down and she was ready to fight. She soon realized that it was not worth the fight and that she could make another kill. This was a wise decision from Moya, as she has small cubs safely hidden in a den somewhere who she needs to care for.
Nsele and her cub were also seen a few times and I must say that the little girl is growing up very fast. Nsele is doing really well in finding food for the two of them and they are looking very healthy. We were very fortunate to see the two of them a few times this month.
We saw Kurula a few times this month. A really strange thing though, she was mating with Tingana and both her cubs are still alive and well. The two cubs are doing really well and they are looking very healthy. Kurula is a really good mother. Fingers crossed that she will raise the cubs to independence.
Shadow, at almost ten years old, is still doing great. I am not 100% sure, but it looks like she might be pregnant. She has been extra illusive and seems to easily get irritated with the vehicles. She also has a very low hanging belly. All these signs let me believe that her and Tingana’s mating was successful. If this is true it will be great for her and for us when the new bundles of fluff arrive next year.
The young Ingrid’s Dam female was also out and about in the area. She was seen a few times around our lodge, resting and making kills. She is such a great female and very relaxed with us.
This month it was Tingana’s time to mate, as he and Kurula mated this month. Tingana is moving over long distances at the moment. He will be here the one day and the next day he will be on the other side of his territory. I think the reason why he patrols so much is that he knows it is just a matter of time before he will bump into Anderson. One thing that I learned during my time in the bush is that you never underestimate a small male leopard. Just look what havoc Mafufunyane caused under the males when he was still alive. He was a small leopard with an enormously big heart.
Anderson is still moving all over the area expanding his empire. The only real threat to him is Tingana and I think he will try to catch Tingana off-guard.
Just when you think it can’t get any better, it does. The time spent with these big cats was just unbelievable.
This month we had a surprise visit from the four breakaway Tsalala lionesses and their twelve cubs. It was great to see them again after such a long time! They came in and out of our area a few times this month. This pride is one of the biggest prides we have at the moment in the reserve. We are not sure how many of the cubs are male and female yet. The pride’s new territory is more in the south-western part of the reserve, far out of our traversing. Their visit was short lived and they returned to their familiar territory. It was great to see them and hopefully they will come and visit again soon.
The Tailless female and the four sub adult males and female of the Tsalala pride was also seen a few times this month. It is great to see that the tailless female has re-joined the four youngsters again. After she re-joined the youngsters it was as if the confidence levels of the youngsters raised a few bars. The almost fifteen-year old tailless female is doing a great job in teaching these youngsters the art of hunting. One thing that I have noticed is that the Tsalala pride never have more than three adult females within the pride. If there are more females in the group, they are pushed out to form a new pride. So, interesting times are waiting for the young female. Will they make an exception to the rule, or will she be exiled together with her brothers?
The Styx pride is also doing great and they were seen a few times this month. The old lady with her two cubs were a little bit under the radar and we did not see the cubs that often. The two cubs are still looking good and getting bigger and bigger by the day. The three lionesses are also doing really well when it comes to hunting for the group.
It was so great to have the Nkuhuma pride with us for almost the whole month. These ladies had a few buffalo kills in the area. This is one of the most successful lion prides in the area when it comes to hunting big buffaloes. These five ladies are really looking great and they are in really good condition. The six cubs are also looking good and they are well fed. It would be great for the pride if these youngsters can survive to adulthood.
The Birmingham males was also out and about this month. We were fortunate to have them on our property once or twice. They are looking great and are in good condition. They were roaring a few times announcing their presence in the area. All this was short lived, as the roars of the Birmingham males caught the attention of another formidable force. We were woken by the loud roars of lions the one morning. On drive, we found three of the Majingilane male lions on two buffalo kills in our traversing area. They stayed here for a few days before moving on again. In those few days, the Birmingham males did not call once. They also did not come back to the western part of their territory again. This tells me that they know that the four Majingilane males are still the big shots in this area. This was not the last we saw of these big males, as we found them again a few days later, on yet another buffalo kill close to our lodge. Although the Majingi males are almost twelve years old, they are still a force to be reckoned with.
It was a treat to see all the different prides and to spend some quality time with the Birmingham’s and the Majingilane males this month.
The buffalo sightings were just unbelievable this month. More and more big buffalo herds are moving into our traversing area. This is a great sight to see, as these big bulk grazers are fattening up with the succulent green grass after the rain. Unfortunately for these herds, they are being targeted by the lion prides in our area. The Tsalala pride, Breakaway pride and Nkuhuma pride were all picking them off one by one. The Majingi males also had their fair share. The younger buffaloes in the herds are fattening up much quicker than the older buffaloes. Now that the herds are finally coming through, the dagga boys have disappeared a little bit. The dagga boys were always around the water holes and mud wallows, but now there are seemingly less. We did, however, a few bachelor herds again this month moving, between the waterholes in the area.
With all these waterfilled mud wallows in the area one will always find a lone bull or elephant herd playing in the mud. This in a way makes a great opportunity for us to view these wonderful animals in their natural state. The small babies are really enjoying the wallows and water puddles in the road after the rain. It is like all the elephants have kicked up a gear, playing more than normally. I am glad to see that there is still a lot of herds in our area. Unfortunately, there will come a time that the majority of the herds will move towards the Mopani tree forests within the Kruger National Park. This is normally just for a month or two and then the herds return to our area. There were no big males this month, just a few younger males. I must say that the small bachelor herds are in abundance. These young males were seen a lot, while they followed the big herds. This is a sign that their mothers have just recently kicked them out of the herds and that they are not ready to let go yet.
One morning drive we heard the loud sound of hippo’s fighting in Big Dam. On arrival, we saw that it was two males locked in a territorial dispute. These two males were not playing around and none of them wanted to back off. But like always, there can only be one winner. The loser was immediately exiled from Big Dam and had to find another water source for himself. When two male hippo’s fight they fight for a reason. They fight for dominance, females, feeding grounds and their own waterholes or rivers.
Did you know?
The name hippopotamus comes from the Greek “hippos,” meaning horse. These animals were once called “river horses.” But the hippo is more closely related to the pig than the horse.
See you out on the game drive soon.