It was yet another spectacular month to be out in the bush. The sightings were action packed and full of surprises. The general game like zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, kudu, waterbuck and so much more came out to play and provided some really memorable sightings! We were very lucky to see all these wonderful animals out on the open areas in our traversing area. When you visit a game reserve, always remember that it is not just the Big5 animals that you have to see – the other animals are also very special! The night life was definitely fruitful, with great sightings, including bush babies, chameleons, genets, mongoose and civets. We also had some great owl sightings this month and got to spend time with the giant eagle owl, spotted eagle owl, white-face scops owl, pearl spotted owlet, scops owlet and loads of nightjars. The temperatures are slowly changing. There were a few very windy days, but still some pleasantly warm days. The average maximum temperature for March was 32°C, with a very welcome 33mm of rain.
With the leopard sightings, there were no holding back and we had a great time with these beautiful, spotted cats. The sightings we had were any photographers dream. Our resident female, Salayexe, is still looking great and she is moving all over her territory, scent marking and announcing her presence. She is focusing a lot more on her newly claimed territory, making sure that no one else attempts to take it back from her. Tiyani is also moving around all over the show and Salayexe is not making life easy for her. Just when she thinks she got a little territory of her own, mother rocks up to throw everything upside down. She settled down in the far north-eastern part of Salayexe’s territory for two months and then we found her on the border of the south-eastern part of mother’s territory. Hopefully Salayexe settles down and lets Tiyani stay in the north-eastern part of her territory. Nsele and her cub are both looking great and very healthy. We saw them on a regular basis this month, which was great. Nsele is still very protective of her daughter. Usually, when a cub is older than a year, there is tension between mother and cub. A mother leopard always has a different reaction towards a female cub, than what she would have towards a male cub. Mothers will have a closer bond with their sons than their daughters. Kurula and her two cubs are just a treat to watch. Hosana, the male cub is dominating his sister, Xongile, when they play. Saying that, when two cubs play, they are actually practising their skill to one day be successful hunters. These two cubs are spending a lot of time on their own, while Kurula leaves them to go and hunt. Kurula needs to hunt a lot more now that she has two growing, one year old cubs, that needs a lot of food. Finally, we saw one of Shadows cubs this month. It is unclear if she lost the one cub, as we only saw one cub every time. The cub is very skittish and not at all relaxed with vehicles moving towards it. This cub will be our biggest challenge to habituate as yet and Shadow is not really helping at all by constantly moving around. Let’s hope that the cub will survive and that we could get it used to the vehicles. Thandi and her son is doing great and the little boy is very relaxed with the vehicles around him. When Thandi has small cubs, she is over protective and will not hesitate to charge when you get too close. When the cubs get older, she will definitely get more relaxed with us around them. Thandi is also an amazing mother and it will be great if this youngster will survive to independence. Tingana is still moving all over the show, patrolling his territory. It looks like his north-western border is safe for now as Anderson has other priorities at the moment. There was a new male, the River Bank Male, who moved around the area. This male was born in 2009, but does not have an established territory. He is a nomad, moving from one area to the next. He moved around in Anderson’s territory and made the big male work hard in order to try and find him. Anderson moved all over the eastern part of his territory, looking for the intruder. If Anderson finds him, the fight would be epic.
It was yet another great lion month, with unbelievable sightings. The Styx pride is looking great and the cubs have a healthier appearance than before. The female with the small cubs do not move around with the rest as much. Although the rest of the pride have to go and hunt from time to time, they still spend a lot of time at the den. This pride is very successful when it comes to hunting and feeding the pride. The Nkuhuma pride is looking great and the six cubs are growing up fast. We have not seen the five females together a lot this month, as they have split up quite a few times. The two females without the cubs were seen hunting wildebeest in front of our lodge the one evening, while the rest of the pride was very far from them. The three females and the six cubs have been moving around our area for the whole month. They are venturing further west onto our property and doing so with more confidence. With the absence of the Tsalala pride in the area, it makes this territory fair game to any other pride. The Birmingham males are looking great and very healthy. It looks like these males will only join forces if they know other males have entered their territory. One of the males are always with the Styx pride, while the other three also splits up to join other prides. This month two of the four males got a rude awakening when two of the Majingi males chased them out of their own territory. If all four Birmingham males were together, it would have been a different story against the two older Majingi males. Hopefully the Birmingham males have now realised the importance of strength in numbers.
We were fortunate to see a small breeding herd of about thirty buffaloes moving through the area. With the wonderful rain we’ve had over the past few months, all the water holes and mud wallows are still full. This also made the bush lush and in some areas the grass comes up to your hip. This means there is enough food around so that the buffaloes do not need to move very far to ample food supplies. We are full of hope that the big herds are still going to make a turn in our area in the next few months… The buffalo bulls have moved into our area and stayed in our traversing area for the entire month. It was nice having the bachelor groups and also the old dagga boys in the area. The bachelor herds that we saw had anywhere from five to ten bulls together, where the old dagga boys were in smaller groups of one to three bulls. We also saw two females who were accompanied by three males in our area and stayed here for a few days before moving on again. This might be another splinter group who got separated from a main herd by a pride of lions.
The elephant sightings were just unbelievable this month. It looks like all the elephants have returned to our area to enjoy the last of the marula fruits. We did not have any problems finding a nice breeding herd of elephants on drive, as they were all over the area. There is so much grass for these big heavyweights to eat at this stage. They need to bulk up with as much food as possible in the rainy season, as they can lose up to 10% of their body weight during the dry months. The females with small babies will have to eat a lot more, as they need to produce milk for the little ones. This month we were again very fortunate to see so many big males in the area. The majority of these big males were all in must and trailing the female groups. It is impressive to see these big males towering above the females in height. A big male is almost double the weight of the females and can reach three meters to the shoulder in height.
The special sighting was to see Shadow’s cub for the first time. Although the cub is not very relaxed with the vehicles it was still great to see him/her. Being Shadow’s cub, habituating the cub would be sure to be our biggest challenge yet. But I am sure that we will slowly but surely get there…
Did you know?
The waterbuck is the most water dependent off all antelope species.
See you out on the game drive soon.