What a great month, with spectacular game viewing opportunities October was. We have some great news about our resident hyena clan. They have five new pups in the den and all of them are still black in color. It is great to see that this clan is moving up and breeding well. It might not be very long before we see a clan of between 20-30 hyenas moving through the area, making them the new apex predators. We were also fortunate to see a pack of wild dogs that moved through our area, staying around for a few days. The nightlife was once again out of this world and we saw honey badgers, civets, genets, porcupines and bush babies. We had a few wonderfully hot days and some spectacular sunsets, due to the cloud build-up. We also had some rain, but not a lot. The drought in South Africa is also affecting us. The total for the month was 17mm, with an average maximum temperature of 31°C.
Birmingham male lion by Neil Coetzer
The leopard sightings were all memorable this month. Salayexe and her little female cub are looking great. They provided us with some really great photographic opportunities. The little one is now 6 months old and a real busy body. We followed the two cats the one afternoon, and let me tell you, Salayexe has her work cut out for her. The cub stalked and chased her mother up and down trees and all over the show. When mum has had enough of all these fun and games, she quickly lets the cub know by hissing or growling at her, or even by sitting on her. The cub is now at that very adventurous age where everything looks like food, or something to play with. She was already seen stalking a few elephants, giraffe’s, buffalo bulls and plenty more. It is so great to see the little one growing up and getting so relaxed with the vehicles. We also saw Kurula a few times this month and she was mating with Tingana for the full 4 days, twice during the month. Kurula is really looking good and I hope that she will have another litter of cubs early next year. As a leopard female gets older, one tends to think it is easier to raise a litter of cubs, but in fact, it becomes more difficult. Next year she is turning 12 and she is currently the oldest female in our traversing area. Hopefully she has got her mother’s genes and also reaches the age of 19 years. Shadow was seen a few times this month, but not very often.
After her mother mated with Tingana, she also started mating with him for a full 4 days. Shadow is looking great and very healthy indeed as she still makes kills on a regular basis and eating well. Kwatile is still a stunning cat and she is looking great. This 8 year old female is still expanding her territory. Her boundaries border the boundary of the twins, Shadow and Thandi. Out of the three females, Kwatile is the biggest and the most confident. She’s had standoffs with Shadow and Thandi before and the outcome was the same, the twins moved away. Tsakani, the young female, was also seen this month, moving around in both Salayexe and Moya’s territories. She is such a beautiful cat and very relaxed with the vehicles around her. At this stage, she does not have a territory yet and moves around in the outskirts of mom’s territory, also exploring further west. Nsele was also out and about, patrolling her boundaries. She was out patrolling when she got the familiar and unmistakable scent of her mother. Her mother does not always play by the rules, as she was far into Nsele’s territory. It was not long before Nsele caught up with her mother and the heat was on. Salayexe is still too strong for Nsele and quickly chased her up into a tree, showing her who’s still the boss between them. Anderson is also moving very far, while expanding his area. He was seen with Salayexe and the cub a few times on kills, without ever harming the cub, which is wonderful. Tingana is looking great and also expanding east and pushing Mvula out further east. We do not see Mvula that often any longer, as his moved his territory closer to the Kruger National Park.
Female buffalo drinking by Louis Liversage
We had such awesome lion sightings. The lion dynamics are still changing, causing havoc and confusion. This time, it is not only from the Birmingham males, but also the two Matimba male lions, that came to join the party. It looks like the two Matimba males are thinking of setting up territory south-east of their old territory. These two males are also moving more northwards into our traversing area, which is very dangerous for them, as this is still Majingi male territory. Within this new territory there are two prides: the Breakaway Tsalala pride and the Tsalala pride. The Matimba males have caused some havoc with these two prides, as we have seen the two prides split into two or three groups.
The Tsalala pride has even moved out of their territory, into the territory of the Nkuhuma pride for a few days. The Tsalala pride spent a lot more time with us in the north than before and this can be due to the presence of the Matimba males. The Breakaway Tsalala/Mhangeni pride moved more towards the western part of the reserve. It will just be a matter of time before the Majingi males realize that there are two new males in their territory. The Birmingham males are also expanding their territory and getting more confident as they go along. They are moving more west, into the Majingi territory and this might be the build-up to the fight of the century. The Birmingham males came into the area the one night, roaring and making sure all the other males were aware that they mean business. Once again the Majingi males responded to the roars of the younger males. We heard the loud roars of the Majingi males, echoing through the night, announcing their presence. The following morning we followed the tracks of the young males, moving straight east towards their territory. These 5 young males are just scouting and they have a lot of time on their hands, while waiting for the Majingi males to age. Although the four Majingi male lions are 10 years old now, they are still a formidable force to be reckoned with. The Nkuhuma pride is also looking great and the young male in the group is getting nice and big.
African fish eagle by Morné Fouché
We had some spectacular buffalo sightings this month. We saw a few massive herds moving through our area. One of the herds that we saw was easily over 400 animals strong, with a lot of youngsters. There are a few of the females that are still pregnant. Buffaloes will try and have their babies during the rainy season, or very close to the rainy season. This will be the time when more food and water are available, to help them get back into top condition, while nursing their newborn calves. We also had a few smaller groups moving through the area, but these were just splinter herds from the main herd. The old boys are still moving around the lodge and every afternoon with lunch, they are enjoying the water in front of the lodge. These old boys are spending the majority of their time in the water, as this brings welcome relieve against the hot African sun. Overall, the buffalo herds have taken a beating from the lions this month. The Birmingham males took more than ten young and old buffaloes in just more than a week. We found these 5 buffalo slayers on 6 buffalo kills in one area. The Tsalala pride also had their fair share of buffalo meat this month, as their total was 3 -4 buffaloes.
Female cub Louis Liversage
What unbelievable elephant sightings we had this month! It is always such a treat to watch them as they go on with their day to day routine. We had a few big herds with tiny babies around some of the water holes. One of the herds we saw moving towards the water had a really small baby with them. As the herd was approaching the water they started moving faster and the baby had to run very fast to keep up. All the adults and youngsters started walking into the water for a swim, except the baby and its mother. There was a lot of trumpeting and rumbling going on as these elephants enjoyed themselves in the cool water. The little one was so confused and did not know what was going on and where its family is going to, that he/she also ran straight into the water. With a very big splash and loud trumpet-like noise baby went into the water head first and then submerged itself. The mother got such a fright that she gave a big rumble and ran into the water after the baby. The baby emerged above the water and mother guided him/her out of the water to the safety of the waters edge. With all this commotion, the matriarch and a few other adults came running out of the water to the female and baby. After all of them ran out of the water they huddled up around the female and calf, with the matriarch making sure that everything was fine. This gave us a firsthand experience of the social structure of these extra-ordinary mammals.
We saw a newborn elephant calf with a breeding herd one afternoon. The herd was heading toward a waterhole, with the baby following from behind. Due to its size, the calf’s mother was preventing him to go too close to the water. The little rascal decided to follow his own way and ran straight into the water. His mother got the fright of her life when her baby submerged himself in the shallow waters and came running to its rescue. It was amazing to see how all the other cows immediately focused their attention on the baby and made sure his mother got him to safety before they moved on.
Did you know?
An elephant calf often sucks its trunk for comfort.
I hope you enjoyed this month’s report. See you out on game drive soon!
Wild photo of the month by John and Linda
Having passed the first half of the year already, the most common thing to say is “I can’t believe how fast time flies!” And that is indeed true. We are already in the beginning of August and Spring is quickly approaching. We’ve had lovely temperatures this month, with only one or two chilly days in between. Towards the end of the month we had lovely warm days, so much so that our guests enjoyed lounging around the pool area. The lodge was buzzing this month with honeymoon couples, photographers and lots of family groups. With the bush not being as dense as during summertime, sightings and photo opportunities were breath taking and I am sure everyone left with some amazing memories!
Cheetah female by Morné Fouché
Our roof maintenance is still going strong. Rondavel 2 got a complete makeover. It now has a new roof, a fresh layer of paint and even the floor was stripped and redone. So it looks like a brand new room! We also completed the project on the waterhole on our open area, in front of the lodge. The end result is, just as I thought, amazing. Since the moment we switched on the pump to refill the waterhole, we’ve had unbelievable elephant sightings. To fill such a large empty waterhole with water takes a few days under normal circumstances. Now you can just imagine, with the elephants constantly slurping up the fresh water and adjusting the borehole pipes every now and again, it is quite a tricky situation to get the waterhole full to the brim.
Elephant bull by Jonathan Vogel
This month, the Sabi Sand Pfunanani Trust took lodge managers on an educational tour to the surrounding villages. Their main goal is to develop small businesses and to encourage the lodges to support local entrepreneurs. I was amazed at all the projects and ideas going on right on our doorstep. We visited our local Utah village vegetable and herb garden, where we already receive weekly supplies of fresh produce. We also got introduced to a tyre repair and wheel alignment workshop and a gentleman who supplies and fits glass. Another stop on the itinerary was at a local tour guide, conducting cultural tours and we were treated to a performance from a local dance group. To our surprise, we also got to visit the local Tilapia fish farm. Our last stop for the day was at the local Shangaan sangoma. Freddie is a very friendly guy and we were given a short presentation on how his readings work when he “throws the bones”. It is only when you are exposed to these enthusiastic entrepreneurs that you realize how creative the human mind can be. Sometimes, less really can be so much more than you thought.
This month we placed the trapcam at Kraaines Pan. Kraaines is on the western side of our airstrip and animals often visit it for a morning or afternoon drink. We caught this shot of impala and zebra having a drink and two buffaloes relaxing in the shallow water. We did have a few warm days during the last stretch of the month, so it comes as no surprise that some of the larger and older boys of the animal kingdom decided to go for a swim. At the moment we are really having bad luck with our Trapcams. As you will remember, last month our Trapcam was broken by a very intuitive elephant. We got a new, “tamper proof” Trapcam, complete with a steel housing and thought that this would keep the animals at bay. But to no avail though… Three days after placing the Trapcam at Kraaines, we found it in pieces all over the place. Luckily we could still download the pictures. The culprits this time? The Breakaway lion pride! The photos were taken at night at you can see lion silhouettes and whiskers in close-up shots. Because we know that they were in the area that evening, it had to be them! Luckily we managed to get this very nice photo of the herbivores enjoying the waterhole before it was destroyed.
The last week of July was packed with staff birthdays at the lodge. The rhythms of the Happy Birthday song was just about echoing uninterrupted, as rangers and ladies of our housekeeping team aged another year. On the 24th Dawie celebrated his birthday. Dawie has been a ranger at Elephant Plains for a few years now and he is very popular with our guests. The 26th was shared by one of our housekeeping ladies, Eummy and another ranger, Neil. Eummy is mostly active in and around the main areas of the lodge. Neil is the newest addition to our staff and this was his first birthday at Elephant Plains. I am sure there will be many more to come for both of them. On the 29th, another ranger, Jonathan, enjoyed his special day. Jonathan is truly a bubble of energy and with him around, there is never a dull or silent moment. Busi ended of the celebrations on the 30th, when she had her birthday. Busi is also part of our housekeeping team, ensuring that our guest rooms are in top condition for an enjoyable stay. Happy birthday to all of you! To all our readers who celebrated their birthdays during July, I hope your day was filled with happiness and laughter.
Our new menus are up and running like a well oiled machine. It has been a big success! This month, head chef Reimond’s recipe is the delicious Cinnamon Rolls, served as a pastry option for breakfast.
1 ½ Cups warmed milk
125ml Melted butter
6 ¾ Cups flour
¾ Cups castor sugar
1 ½ Packets dry yeast
1 tsp Salt
1 ½ Cups muscavado sugar
3 ¾ tbsp Cinnamon
90ml Softened butter
127g Cream cheese
6tbsp Softened butter
1 tsp Vanilla
1 Pinch salt
Mix the flour, castor sugar, salt and yeast. Mix the butter into the eggs and slowly add the milk to the butter and egg mixture. Add the egg mixture into the flour mixture. Knead until you have dough that springs back when a finger is poked into it. Allow to rise in a warm place until double in size. Mix the muscavado sugar and cinnamon for the filling. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and roll out into a rectangle until it is about 5mm thick. Spread the butter evenly onto the pastry, then sprinkle the cinnamon mixture over this. Making sure that it is all over the pastry, then press down gently. Roll it up. Portion the rolls and lay them into a baking tray. Allow to rise, covered with foil in a warm place for 30mins. Bake for 20 mins. with the foil still on. Make the icing whilst it’s in the oven. Mix the cream cheese, butter, icing sugar, vanilla and salt together until smooth. Immediately after the cinnamon rolls are done, spread the icing over the top so it can melt into the rolls. They should be completely covered. Allow to cool, then separate. Serve and enjoy!
All the best till next month
What a very exiting month we had in the bush! From day one we had a lot of awesome sightings and it just got better as the month went on. We had a wonderful sighting of a female cheetah, moving past the lodge in search of a meal. We don’t get a lot of cheetahs around the lodge area, because it is too dense and bushy and cheetahs need open areas to hunt. When we do see a cheetah in this area, they are normally young animals, or females, moving through the area looking for a territory. We were also very fortunate with the wild dog sightings and some more great nightlife. The bush has totally changed its colors. The grass is very short in some areas and some of the smaller waterholes are bone dry. A few of the mornings and evenings were really chilly, but the normal day temperature was warm and pleasant. The average maximum temperature was 24 °C with no rain for the month.
Buffalo by Jonathan Vogel
Once again there was so much laughter and excitement with our beautiful cats. Salayexe and her cub are doing really well. Salayexe moved the little one to a new den. For the cub this is a great outing and she is exploring her new home and surroundings. The previous den was right next to a very busy road and I think that helped a lot with the habituation process, as the cub was exposed to a lot of vehicles. When Salayexe returns home after a long day of hunting, the little one gives her a warm welcome by jumping on her back or grabbing her by the ear or tail. Salayexe really has her hands, or paws, full with this little busy body. Shadow and her cub are also looking great and the young male is growing nice and big. Shadow is still hunting for the young male and both of them are eating enough. Shadow needs to hunt a lot more than the other leopards in our area, because of her teenage son with his big appetite. Fingers crossed that she will raise this young male to independence. Now a young female we have seen a lot this month, was Nsele. It looks like Nsele has finally pushed her daughters out, as we don’t see them together anymore. One of Nsele’s daughters was seen with a duiker kill in a tree within Nsele’s territory. As we tried to get closer she climbed out of the tree and moved to a safe distance. Animals will quickly let you know when they feel uncomfortable with your presence, so we left her in peace. It will be great if one of the young females sets up territory next to mum. Seeing that Kwatile’s daughter is now independent, we had to decide on a suitable name for this young and adventurous female. After scratching our heads for a while, the name Tsakani came to mind. Tsakani is a Shangaan name, meaning “always happy”. We have seen her a few times moving around in Salayexe’s territory. At this stage Salayexe has bigger things to worry about, but if she finds her, she will definitely chase her out. Tyson also came through the area again, but with a lot of new battle scars to his collection. It looks like he had a run in with one of the other territorial male leopards. Still, it was great to see this old legend again and I hope that he will return in the months to follow. Back to the territorial shifts… Anderson is turning his attention to Lamula again. Lamula and Anderson had a territorial standoff at the beginning of this month. Lamula was resting on a big termite mount when Anderson stalked him from behind. The wind turned in the nick of time and Lamula turned his head, just in time to find Anderson a mere 20 meters behind him. Lamula showed great courage as he stood up and came down the mount and walked straight up to Anderson. As Lamula got closer to Anderson, Anderson knew he had to do the same and he met Lamula halfway. The growling was so loud you could barely hear the diesel engine of the game viewer idling. It was not long before Anderson turned up the heat. Lamula knows that he is not as big and he moved away to fight another day. It will be very interesting to see what will happen in the next few months, as just the next day Lamula was back and scent marking all over the area. Tingana was also seen a few times, marking his territory. Although he lost a part of his territory, he is still going strong and it looks like he has his sights set on Mvula’s territory.
Salayexe, the female leopard, with a cane rat kill
There was so much excitement regarding the lions of this area. The five Birmingham males came back for a quick visit. They are looking great, in good shape and their manes are well developed, but not yet full. They had a good feed as they had a buffalo bull and also stole two young buffalo kills, but this was all short-lived. Just when the young males though life was at its best, the Majingi male lions moved into the area and caught up with them. The Birmingham males made a quick run for it and the Majingi males chased them all the way back to where they came from. The Majingi males are still in good shape and by the looks of things they are not ready to step down as kings of the area. One of the Majingi males was seen mating with a female from the Breakaway pride. The Breakaway pride is doing great and they are just magnificent. My guests and I had the wonderful opportunity one chilly morning to witness the Breakaway lion pride hunting and killing a male giraffe. Now the best part of this entire hunt was that only 5 pride members killed the giraffe. The other 8 were at the back. A day into the feeding frenzy the two young Styx pride males came in to join them. At first there was loads of growling to establish a hierarchy between them. After all that they fed together around the kill. The Styx pride is also looking great and the small cubs are big and healthy. The two older females were again seen mating with the two Matimba males. We were also very lucky to see the Styx pride in full force as they eventually joined up. There is only one obstacle in their road and that is the Matimba males. The Matimba males don’t like the sub-adult females in the group and they just want to kill them. The young Ximungwe lions were also seen this month and they showed us their unique way of hunting. They followed a herd of impalas the one afternoon and then they chased them into the fence, those who got stuck in the fence were dinner. These youngsters don’t have an adult to teach them how to hunt. They have to teach themselves and by the looks of things they are slowly, but surely getting there. The Tsalala pride also came in and had an interesting afternoon at one of the waterholes. As the pride had a relaxing and peaceful day, they were challenged by 8 wild dogs.
Breakaway female lion by Jonathan Vogel
We had wonderful buffalo sightings again this month. We saw 2 to 3 different big buffalo herds and then also a few smaller splinter groups that broke away from the main herds. The buffaloes took a beating by the lions this month as the Birmingham males, Breakaway pride, Styx pride and the Majingi males had some buffalo steaks for dinner. We had a few bachelors and bachelor herds also moving around in our area. These old boys are staying close to certain big water holes and don’t stray too far, as there is enough food for them around the waterholes. The big herds, on the other side, are constantly moving around in search of more food and water to sustain the whole herd.
Leopard cub by Jonathan Vogel
With all the smaller waterholes now dry, the elephants spend a lot of their time on the open area in front of the lodge in order to get the fresh water that is pumped into the waterhole. One elephant can drink between 100-200L’s of water in one day and consume 100-300Kg’s of food per day. An elephant herd will stay in one particular area until food and water sources are exhausted, and then move on again. The herds we saw all had small babies in the group and they will not move very far in one day, as the babies can’t keep up with the adults. One of the groups we saw was about seventy members strong and the matriarch was a big female with big tusks, so she was easily recognizable. It is not always possible to recognize each and every elephant in a group, as there are too many. They are always on the move and not territorial, so you can just imagine how fantastic it was to be able to follow the big herd’s movements as they gracefully moved through the area.
The Breakaway lion pride with their buffalo kill takes first prize this month. Seeing a lion hunt from stalking to feeding is such a rare sighting. This was such a special sighting to witness with our guests. What made it even better was to see how these lions communicate with each other, without making a sound. Each member in the pride has a certain roll to play when it comes to hunting and all of them know that one wrong move might lead to you either getting hurt, or having to go hungry.
Did you know?
A giraffe has only 7 neck vertebrae, the same as humans.
I hope you enjoyed this month’s report. See you out on game drive soon!
Wild photo of the month by John and Linda
And so we have reached the halfway mark for 2015! Hot summer days are something from the past and we are enjoying crisp winter temperatures. This month, we placed the patio heaters and burners back in the boma and we also have the blankets and hot water bottles back on the game drive vehicles. Temperatures have been dropping day by day and I think it is safe to say that we are now in the midst of winter. Although the bush can get very dry and pale during the winter months, there is a rainbow of colours around the lodge. The bougainvillea bushes and aloes are all in bloom. The gardens are painted with strokes and blotches of orange, pink, red and yellow. The aloe flowers also attract the most amazing birds, making them just a little more special.
Elephant Plains guests at sunset by Jonathan Vogel
This month we started a big maintenance project at the lodge. Behind the scenes and a few feet above the ground, we are giving our thatch roofs a small makeover. What does this all include, one would ask? Well, think of it as going to the hair salon for a cut, colour and blow-dry. Before such a project can start, the roofs need to be 100% dry and now that we are outside of our rainy season, it is the best time to tackle a project like this. As thatch roofs age over the years, the top layer of grass start to rot and they take on a pale, black appearance. Firstly, a special brush is used to remove all the rotten pieces and straighten the grass back into place. Just like brushing your hair. On some areas bundles of grass are also replaced, where needed, to cover the thinning spots. Lastly, the edges are neatly pushed back into place, leaving the roof looking like new. It is quite amazing to see the contractors in action and what a big difference a good brush can make. We are done with the main area of the lodge and will now slowly start with the rooms, one by one. Another project our maintenance team is busy with is the waterhole in front of the lodge. The main focus is to make the water hole a bit deeper by removing excess dried mud. Although some animals might not be impressed with our plans at the moment, I am sure that the end result is going to be amazing.
Yellow-billed hornbill by Louis Liversage
Now, being in the middle of the bush can sometimes get a bit challenging and one should always be ready for the unexpected. Something that we have learned in the past, is that accidents happen when you least expect them. Being situated where we are, it is important to ensure that our first aiders are able to administer emergency care, until professional medical help arrives. This month, 7 of our staff members from different departments completed a Wilderness First Aid course. The training programme used is tailor made for wilderness and remote environments. Students are given simulations of incidents that could happen, or have happened at lodges in the past, in order to prepare them to keep calm and handle a medical emergency. Thank you to Africa Safe-T for the training provided. I am confident to say that we are very much prepared to handle a medical emergency, should the need arise.
Last month, our Trapcam became victim to a very curios elephant. While the trapcam was situated at Rampan, one individual of a breeding herd decided to test her photography skills. Although the cow did manage to not only turn the camera completely upside down and take some pictures of the herd, she also removed it from the tree. The end result was unfortunately: Elephant 1 – Trapcam 0. So, with our trapcam now in the shape of an elephant’s footprint, we decided to use a GoPro photo this month. Thank you Dawie for this picture of your tracker, Dumisani, sharing a special moment with an elephant cow.
Staff birthdays were few and far apart at the lodge this month. We celebrated only 2 birthdays during June. Remember, our friendly waiter, celebrated his birthday on the 7th. Those of you who have visited the lodge before would know him as the bubbly personality, assisting during meals and in the bar. Then on the 26th, Dudu celebrated her birthday. Dudu is part of our housekeeping team and also makes a big difference in the scullery, never missing a spot on a plate or glass. I hope you both had wonderful birthdays. To all our readers who celebrated their birthdays during June, I hope your day was filled with happiness and laughter.
I am very excited to announce that we introduced our new menus this month. The chefs have been hard at work, mixing and matching several options to get just the correct dishes pared and in place. In the past, we used to have a plated menu every second night. We have decided, with the new menus, that we would have a plated menu for 3 nights, followed by a traditional braai buffet on the 4th night. So far, so good. We have already received many compliments on the new menus.
With the new menus in place also comes a load of options for the recipe of the month. This month, head chef Reimond thought it good to share a soup recipe. There is nothing better to fight of a chilly winter’s day like this Chorizo, Potato and Spinach soup.
Chorizo, Potato and Onion Soup
Chorizo, Potato and Onion Soup
5 Chorizo Sausages
1 Large onion
10 Large Potatoes
4 Cups Chopped Spinach
2 Teaspoons Garlic
Pinch of Salt and Pepper
100ml Chopped Spring Onions
Chop and fry the onions, garlic and spring onions until the onions turn translucent. Finely chop 1 chorizo sausage and fry with the onions for a few minutes. Now add the chopped spinach and fry together. Boil the potatoes until soft. In a big pot, mix the cooked potatoes, water and cream. Now blend with a stick blender until smooth. Add the onion, chorizo and spinach mixture to the soup and stir trough. Cut the rest of the chorizo and fry in a saucepan till slightly crispy. Portion the soup and garnish with the crispy chorizo pieces.
Makes one big pot of soup.
Serve and enjoy!
All the best till next month
June was hands down the best month of the whole year, so far. The nightlife was amazing and we saw many different nocturnal species on game drive. The general game was also spectacular. We saw loads of zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, kudu, waterbuck and much more. Our resident hyena clan is also doing great and we’ve had some really great sightings around their den. Winter is definitely here and not just a figment of your imagination anymore. The mornings and evenings are really cold at times, but the day temperatures are still pleasant. The bush is very dry at this stage, but there is still food for all the herbivores and they are all in good condition. The average maximum temperature for this month was 23°C and we had no rain.
Tyson by Neil Coetzer
Leopard sightings this month was any photographer’s dream. We also welcomed a very old friend who came to visit us… At last we saw Salayexe’s little cub for the first time, as she took us to the den the one morning. The little one is awesome and unbelievably relaxed with the vehicle. She jumps onto mom’s belly and head, then she grabs mom’s tail and she even stalks the vehicle. This is the start of the habituation process. It is crucial that the process runs smoothly. If we do not stick to the rules, the little cub could become afraid of the vehicles and we will struggle to get her relaxed again. For the next month we will be viewing the little one with only one vehicle at a time. We are so excited to have the little one around and we just hope that she will survive. Hopefully Salayexe can stay clear of Anderson, as the current den site is in his newly claimed territory. Shadow and her cub are looking great and this little guy is growing up so fast. It really looks like Shadow is putting a 110% effort into raising her son to independence. It will be great for Shadow if she can take the little man all the way to independence. She also spends a longer period of time away from her son, maybe to encourage him to get his own food. It looks like the bond between Kwatile and her daughter is busy disappearing, as the two are spending more time apart than together. It will be interesting to see what will happen during the next few months. Moya was seen very briefly this month and she is also looking great. She unfortunately lost her cubs to another female, but then she was seen mating with Lamula shortly after. We were also very fortunate to see Quarantine and his twin brother, Nkunyuma, together on a kill. These two will sometimes join up and will be seen together and then they would just go their separate ways again. Lamula was seen a few times, marking his boundaries and making sure there are no intruders in his territory. The territorial shift between the male leopards has stepped up a notch. Anderson has successfully pushed Tingana more north and east and took over a piece of the southern and western part of Tingana’s area. The part that Anderson took is the part that Salayexe calls home. Tingana is staying well clear of this section around our lodge, but is venturing more eastwards into Mvula’s area. Unfortunately one of these impressive male leopards has to give way, as this is survival of the fittest. We were lucky to see an old friend who came to visit us. Tyson came marching through his old territory the one day. It was a massive shock to see him again after such a long time! He did not stay too long before moving on again. You can expect this from a nomadic male leopard. Come visit again soon, old friend.
Male cheetah on a duiker kill by Jonathan Vogel
The two breakaway Styx females and the three tiny cubs are doing great. The little cubs are just so cute and also very relaxed with the vehicles around them. It is nice to see these little bundles of fluff running around, chasing after each other. It would be amazing to see these little rascals all making it to adulthood. The only way these youngsters will survive, is if the two Matimba males can stay dominant for at least another two years. The older Styx female of the original pride was seen mating with one of the Matimba male lions this month. It would be nice to have more cubs in the Styx pride, as this can just help them to grow. We had a few wonderful sightings of the Breakaway pride this month. The Breakaway pride also feasted on a big buffalo bull, but with thirteen lions feeding away, the buffalo did not last very long. The 4 big females are looking very healthy and the 9 cubs are getting big now. When you see the pride walking down the road, it is difficult to identify the cubs from the adult lionesses. The Tsalala pride also came through our area and decided to stay here for a few days. It is always such a treat to see these old ladies with their little ones. Talking about little ones, the four sub adults of the Ximungwe pride was seen again this month, while feasting on a zebra carcass. A few days later, after leaving our area they worked together and managed to bring down an estimated 800kg buffalo. These four youngsters are survivors and they do not stand back for anything! One of the young Styx males was also seen around our area, but all alone and without his brother. Three of the Majingi males also moved through our area a few times this month. It is great to see them still holding onto their territory and their females. The Matimba males are also very active in their territory and they are staying close to the Styx females and their newest cubs. At this stage we see the two Matimba males more often than the Majingi males.
Hippo by Jonathan Vogel
This month the buffaloes were back in the game. The big breeding herds we have been waiting for have returned to our area. We saw a massive breeding herd of about 400 buffaloes that slowly moved through our area during the month. The herd did not stay too long before moving on again, in the quest to look for enough food and water to sustain the entire herd. After the herd left our area, we saw a few large bachelor herds of males which decided to stay behind. These male herds consisted of old and young males. In the winter, males might leave the safety of the breeding herds to get back into shape. We still have the dagga boy hotspots, where we are almost guaranteed to see our old, loyal friends.
Matimba male by Morné Fouché
What a memorable month it was with these gentle giants. There were elephants all over the show and around every corner. We had such wonderful times with all these elephant herds in and around our area. They made sure we were always entertained. We had a few smaller herds that congregated together at one of the water holes close to our lodge the one afternoon. It was so special to sit and watch them, as they were trumpeting and making a lot of noise. A few of the small babies did not know what was happening and they became very agitated and stressed with all the rumbling and trumpeting. After a few minutes the trumpeting and rumbling calmed down and the elephants started feeding again. This vocalization is just their way of greeting each other as they normally do when meeting up.
This month the special sighting was to see Salayexe with her tiny cub at their den site. It was such a treat to be able to spend some quality time with her and her small cub. The one morning we followed Salayexe down the road when suddenly she changed direction. We decided to keep following her to see where she was going and I was glad we did. Very close to the edge of the river bank she went and sat down and stared towards the dry river bed. After a while she decided to lie down and started with soft contact calls. I knew she was calling the cub, so we sat there in total silence. Suddenly from out of the thickets a tiny head appeared. After seeing that the coast was clear and mom was calling, she came running towards Salayexe. A little blue eyed girl! That was really a great sighting.
Did you know?
A lioness will leave her pride to give birth. She will only rejoin the pride when the cubs are between 6-8 weeks old.
I hope you enjoyed this month’s report. See you out on game drive soon!