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.
Nkuhuma the female lion by Louis Liversage
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.
Styx cubs by Louis Liversage
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.
Two male hippos fighting by Louis Liversage
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.
Finally, the first baby impala arrived on the 19th and a few days after it was like a baby boom. All the migratory birds are finally back. If you are a keen birder this is the best time for you to be visiting the bush. The weather was absolutely great and we had some wonderful rain again. The bush has undergone a complete transformation. It is hard to imagine that a few months ago we experienced a bad drought in the area and there was no food around. The day temperature was really up and down with wonderful rain. The average maximum temperature was 32°C with 85mm of rain. We are so blessed with the wonderful rain that we had this month. We were also spoiled rotten with the animal sightings in our area. The pack of three wild dogs kept us on our toes as they came into our area on a regular basis this month. Our resident hyena clan is also doing really well as they got their share of the weak buffaloes in the area.
Tiyani the female leopard by Morné Fouché
Interesting times are awaiting us on the side of the leopards in our area. Salayexe and her daughter Tiyani are still together but I do not think it will be for much longer. Tiyani is spending much more time on her own. Salayexe left her for a full five days and she had to fend for herself. After those five days she went to fetch Tiyani again and took her straight to a fresh kill. This tells me that Salayexe is ready to break the bond between them in this next month or so. Tiyani spends the majority of her alone time around our lodge area. It is going to be very interesting to see how Tiyani starts her beginning to adulthood all alone and which piece of mum’s territory she will get. Both Salayexe and Tiyani are looking great and is in top condition after the drought. Nsele and her cub is also looking great. It is good to see that her cub is still alive and well. Nsele’s mother, Salayexe, is not making life so easy for her and her cub because Salayexe is moving more and more into Nsele’s territory. This next few months will be very interesting as both these females have daughters that needs a territory. Shadow kept a very low profile this month. We saw her once or twice this whole month. It is difficult to say where she went as her territory stretches into an area that we do not traverse. Fingers crossed that she is looking for a potential den site to use very soon. Kurula was also very low under the radar this month. We had a lot of tracks of her this month but she was always one step ahead of us. At least we saw her once or twice this month moving through our traversing. It is great to know that she and the cubs are doing just fine. The daughter of the Ingrid Dam female was also seen in our area this month. This young female very relaxed with the vehicles around her. She is definitely looking for a territory for herself. The only problem now is that she is moving around in Salayexe and Tiyani’s territory. It will really be interesting to see where she will end up in this next year or so. Tingana, the male, is looking great and was seen a few times this month. He is still patrolling his territory on a regular basis. He also has bulked up very well in this last few months with the weak animals. Anderson, the male, was seen a lot this month. This big beast is giving poor Tingana a run for his money as he is expanding again. We followed the Anderson male one day scent marking and vocalising in Tingana’s territory. The big question is now; Will Tingana just accept defeat and move on, or will he take on Anderson in a titanic brawl? These two have a history when it comes to territory and Anderson was victorious in all of them. Anderson also mated with the Ingrid’s Dam female and Salayexe this month. Fingers crossed for the next few months.
Baby hyena by Louis Liversage
Once again we had a wonderful time with these big apex predators of the bush. The Tailless female of the Tsalala pride was seen a few times this month with the four sub adults. Later the month she left the four youngsters to fend for themselves and she returned to her sister and the rest of her pride. The four sub adults stayed around our area for a few days before moving on to look for the big female. These four youngsters also killed a buffalo in the time that they were alone. It is really strange that the old female did not take the young female with her to the rest of the pride. The young female will be a great asset to the rest of the pride when it comes to hunting. She has proved herself so many times in the last two months hunting next to the old female and sometimes leading the hunt. Only time will tell what fate lies ahead for the young female. Will she be excepted by the rest of the pride or will she remain with her brothers. For these four youngsters it is great to be in this area as there is no big males that will chase them around. The Styx pride is really doing great and looking really healthy. We were very fortunate to see them quite frequently this month. The two females who lost their cubs have mated again with the Birmingham male this month. The old female and her two cubs are still doing really well and the little ones are growing up very fast. The old lady still hides them a lot but does bring them to kills made by the pride. The little ones are so relaxed with the vehicles around them. What makes it even better is the fact that the old female let them come closer to investigate the vehicle. The Nkuhuma pride was also seen a few times this month. We were very lucky to see the females along with their cubs and a Birmingham male feeding on a buffalo kill. The Nkuhuma pride’s core of their territory is north east of us. We have seen them moving far west onto EP property. This is great if they expand their territory this way. We also had two young nomadic male lions of the Avoca pride in our area this month. These two males were nice and relaxed but very alert as well. They are two beautiful males but like all young males they are just passing through trying to avoid the big territorial males. These two males are extremely good buffalo hunters and they killed a few buffaloes in our area. They also had a run in with our resident hyena clan over a buffalo kill. The two males stood their ground but the twenty adult hyenas were just too powerful and the two brothers moved on. The Birmingham males are turning into impressive males as their manes are getting fuller. They spend a lot of their time with the Styx and the Nkuhuma pride. There are still times that they will join forces to patrol their boundary but that does not happen very often.
Bull elephant by Louis Liversage
The big herds have returned. We have seen a few big herds of about 100-200 buffaloes this month moving through the area in search of enough food and water. With all the wonderful new green grass all over the area there is finally a lot to eat. There are still the smaller herds of between 20 to 30 all over the area. These smaller herds tend to stay longer in one specific area as there is a lot for them to eat seeing that they are not a big herd. The big herds on the other hand have to keep on moving more as there are a lot more mouths to feed. We have not seen any new born calves yet but it is still early in the wet season. The bachelor herds are also still in the area enjoying the new grass and fresh water in the waterholes. It will not be too long before these bachelor herds brake up and they return to the breeding herds to fight for mating rights. The old dagga boys are enjoying every moment of this wet season as all their mud wallows are once again filled with water. When driving past any mud wallow on a hot day you are bound to find a dagga boy or two having a day at the bush spa.
Plains zebra by Morné Fouché
The elephant herds are still in the area and they provided for some spectacular sightings this month. Once again we were fortunate to have three to four different herds moving through the area per day. The waterhole in front of the lodge was a real hot spot again as the elephant herds came to quench their thirst. We saw quite a few babies this month struggling to find the purpose for their trunk. We had such laughter and great fun with these small babies. It is so special to sit and watch the toddlers in the herd doing all kinds of things. One in particular was a little rascal. He will go and look for trouble as he picks a fight with the bigger youngsters in the herd. When the youngsters get fed up with him and turns around he runs to the safety of mums big and strong forelegs. When he sees that the coast is clear and everyone is busy eating again he makes his silent approach. This went on for nearly an hour. We did not see a lot of big males this month, just a few younger males moving through the area. With all the new growth the herds do not move very long distances in search of more food.
It is always great to see predator interaction and this month we witnessed just that. The two young nomadic male lions killed a buffalo bull during the day. After a few hours the first hyena got the scent of a fresh kill and followed the scent. On arrival she realized she was outnumbered and called for reinforcements. After calling the first time a few other hyenas responded with calls from different areas. It was not long before two more came running in and then more after that. In a matter of ten minutes there were just over ten hyenas. The young males did not stand back as they charged at the hyenas every so often defending their kill. At a stage it looked like the two brothers had the upper hand, or so we thought. There was more vocalization going on by hyenas behind us and they were coming closer fast. Suddenly the rest of the hyenas regrouped and got ready for the battle. The two brothers launched yet another attack and the hyenas scattered. Suddenly the matriarch hyena and a few of her daughters arrived on the scene. The now twenty strong group of hyenas with the matriarch leading from the front marched forward. The two brothers charged at the hyenas again but with a different result this time. The hyenas did not scatter, they split into two groups and went around the brothers. Realizing they were outnumbered the two brothers disappeared into the darkness.
Did you know?
The hyena does not fall under the cat family nor the dog family. They are under the Hyaenidae family.
See you out on the game drive soon.
Spring has finally arrived and the bush received a facelift in the form of wonderful colours. We were truly blessed this month with 18mm of rain. The average maximum temperature for this month was 31°C. The majority of the trees are full of flowers and their new bright green leafs are emerging. The first flowers have merged from the dry soil in some of the areas. It is not going to be too long before the entire area will be transformed. More migratory birds have returned to this area as the weather is changing and it gets warmer every day. Game viewing was again awesome this month and full of excitement. The wild dogs have been moving through the area again this month and we see them more frequently now. Our resident hyena clan is still doing very well and there were more babies born this month. The clan moved their pups to a new den on the western side of our airstrip. The pups are having a blast as they are exploring this new area around the den.
Red-billed oxpecker by Dawie Jacobs
There was so much excitement with the leopards again this month. Finally, Salayexe mated with the big man, Anderson. We are excited to see if she conceived this time around or will she go and look for Tingana as well. For the first time in her life, Tiyani was left to look after herself for longer than three days. Time is running out for this young female and we hope that she learned a lot from mum in this last few months. Overall Tiyani is looking great and although mum has mated with Anderson there is still somewhat of a bond between these two. I think it is safe to say that Shadow has lost her last cub again. She was seen mating with Tingana on two separate occasions for four to five days. Things are just not working out for her at this stage and she is really not a bad mother. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that she is pregnant at the moment and that it will work out for her this time around. Kurula and her two cubs are doing very well. These two cubs are growing up very fast and they are very relaxed with the vehicles around them. We still allow only two vehicles with the cubs if mum is not there and three when mum is present. With them being only seven months old we are still not viewing them at night with the spotlight. From next month we will give it a test run and see how they react with the light. If by any reason they do not like it, we will give it another month before putting light on them. Nsele was also seen a few times this month. Although she has only one eye, she is an extremely good hunter and great mother. We have not seen her cub this month but we have seen her tracks moving up and down with her mother’s tracks. We have started using the spotlight with this cub and she is totally relaxed. Thandi was also out and about this month. Finally we saw her two little bundles of fluff. They are looking great and are not too bad with the vehicles around them. As long as we keep our distance they are nice and relaxed. It is great to see these little cubs playing around mum and play with anything and everything. Nsele’s older daughter Nchila, is also still moving around in our traversing area. She is also much more relaxed with the vehicles. Tingana is still a beautiful male with a spectacular duel lap under his neck. We are seeing him a lot more in the western part of his territory. This might be due to young males moving through his territory. Anderson is just an impressive male and to see him mating with Salayexe just confirmed his size. Anderson is so relaxed with vehicles that he will even relax in the shade of the game viewers. It is wonderful to have this big male so calm with the vehicles.
Anderson the big male leopard by Dawie Jacobs
There were a few sad days with some of the lions in the area this month. With all the sadness we also had joy and excitement. The month was not great for the Styx pride as they had a major setback with their cubs. It is never nice to lose an animal but that is part of nature. With this big loss in the Styx pride, there was also some excitement as the old female gave birth to a few youngsters. We closed the area where she was seen moving in and out from, so we do not know how many cubs there is at the moment. This is great for the pride to get a few more cubs after the loss of a few of the older cubs. She will keep them hidden for the next six to eight weeks before she introduces them the rest of the pride. Sometimes it can also happen that she keeps them hidden for longer as her cubs will have to compete against the older cubs for milk. At this stage we don’t really worry about how many cubs she has or what the sexes of the cubs are, as long as they are healthy. The three Styx pride females are very healthy and in good condition as they are killing a buffalo almost every week. These ladies are working together like an oiled machine. The Nkuhuma pride also braced us with their presence the one morning. They had two buffalo kills a mere 50 meters from each other. This pride is looking great and very healthy and the cubs are in mint condition. With all the weak buffalo around the lions do not have to go very far in search of them. At this stage the lions are hammering the buffalo herds in the area. The Birmingham males were also out a few times this month. They split themselves up again as two went with the Styx for a few days and two went with the Nkuhuma pride before they joined up again. These four boys are also looking great and they are eating very well, thanks to their ladies.
Buffalo bull by Morné Fouché
What a great time we had with the buffaloes this month. Finally, the big herds have arrived and let me tell you it was awesome. We had a massive herd which leisurely made their way through the area. This herd was about 800 or more strong. Before seeing the herd, we saw the dust cloud in the sky which looked like a dust storm making way towards us. This was also short lived as they passed through the area in one day. After the big herd we saw a few smaller herds of about 60-80 individuals. There are no small babies but a few of the females are currently pregnant. We also had a lot of bachelor herds moving around in the area. We are spoiled every day with a big group of buffalo bulls resting in the water in front of our lodge. With the temperature rising and the days getting hotter, these buffalo bulls are spending a lot more time at the water holes or inside the mud wallows hiding from the African heat.
Young Tsalala male lion by Dawie Jacobs
The elephant sightings were absolutely brilliant this month. We had two to three different herds of elephants moving through the area every day. All of the waterholes around the lodge have dried up except for the waterhole in front of the lodge. The elephant herds move back and forth from this waterhole throughout the day to quench their thirst. We saw a massive herd on drive the one day with one of the smallest babies I have seen these last two months. We also saw a herd with a little white baby again. Although there is almost no grass, the elephants are still thriving. With the new leafs and flowers on the trees there is enough food for the elephants.
Special sighting this month was the interaction between the mother hyena and three wild dogs. The mother hyena had pups in the den when the three wild dogs killed a steenbok close to her den. After the wild dogs finished their meal they turned their attention to the single mother hyena. Although the mother hyena was out numbered she still did not give in and did not once hesitate to defend her babies.
Did you know?
A group of leopards together is called a leap or lepe of leopards.
See you out on the game drive soon.
One of the things that I have learned in my time in the African bush is that things are constantly changing. The season is again changing and one can see this when going out on game drive. The knob thorn trees are the first to get their flowers and are now covered in their yellow pollen balls. It is spectacular to see all the yellow flowers on the trees and this is a great reminder that spring is upon us. Another giveaway we saw was the return of the Wahlberg eagles this month. The temperature has also changed and it is much warmer than last month. The maximum average temperature was a nice 27°C with no rain. Animal sightings were awesome as always with our resident hyena clan making sure we get some spectacular sightings. This clan is doing really well and is still growing. The wild dogs were also out in our area this month. It is always very exciting to have them in the area, especially if they hunt. Overall, this was a great month for wildlife.
Female hyena by Neil Coetzer
What an awesome time we had with the leopards this month. We saw leopards every single day of the month. Some days we saw up to five different individuals. We are spoiled with all the great leopard sightings that we have in the area and this month just confirmed it. Salayexe and her daughter Tiyani are doing very well, and looking good. Poor Salayexe had to work extra hard this month to put food on the table for the two of them. Every time she made a kill there was a hyena that ran in and stole her kill from her. These hyenas have realised that if they follow the leopards around, they could get an easy meal. When the leopard makes a kill and she cannot put it in a tree fast enough, the hyenas score. Salayexe has lost four of her kills in a week due to these opportunistic hyenas. She eventually moved hunting grounds to another part of her territory and had some success. There is still tension building between mother and daughter and time is running out for the young Tiyani. Kurula and her cubs are doing great and we have seen them a few times this last month. The youngsters are getting more relaxed, but they need more time. All fingers are crossed that she can raise both cubs to adulthood. Moya was also seen a few times this month as she is expanding her territory more north and east. It looks like she and her aunt Salayexe have their eyes set on the same area. This will only lead to one thing. It just shows you that just when you think the leopard dynamics are sorted out between the ladies, oestrogen levels causes havoc. Nsele and her cub is still doing really well and Nsele is taking her all over the territory. Nsele’s little cub is looking good and is much better with the vehicles around her. Out of all the cubs she is the shyest and the oldest. Nsele’s older daughter has finally left Nsele’s territory and exploring further east and north looking for her own territory. Thandi was seen a lot this month moving around the eastern part of our traversing area. We have not seen the cubs yet, but she is still suckling them. They are still small, but it will not be very long before she brings them out for all of us to see. Let’s hope that she has better luck than her sister Shadow. Shadow was also seen a few times this month without her cub. She was also seen mating with Tingana for a few days. This does not look good for this female as she has only managed to raise one cub so far. We also had a surprise visit from a leopard female called the Ingrid Dam female, whose territory is south, out of our traversing area. This might be that she was looking for Anderson, or that there is pressure from another female. Whatever the cause might be, it is always great to see another new leopard in our area. The young Flat Rock male moved into the area again causing all kinds of havoc in the area. This young male is a really good looking male and he looks very healthy. He is still very young and not that bulky yet, but give him a few years. Tingana is also looking great and always on the move. With the young Flat Rock male moving around in his territory he had no chance to rest. Both Tingana and Anderson was much more vocal than normal during the month, due to the young male in the area. We were so very fortunate to see the big boss, Anderson a lot this month. After moving into the area he had a baby face with no scars. A few years later, he looks like a dominant male, with his face all scarred up.
Birmingham male lion by Louis Liversage
There was great joy with some of the lions in the area this month. We were very happy to see that the two young brothers of the Tsalala pride have re-join their mother and other two siblings. These two boys were separated for a few months from the rest of the group. They are big enough to look after themselves and they just proved that by fending for themselves the last few months. The Styx pride of lions were also out and about this month. They have spent a lot of their time in the far eastern part of the reserve, close to the Kruger National Park. The three females are looking great and they are eating very well. These lionesses are excellent hunters as they make about two kills a week. They do not just go for smaller things like impala, kudu, zebra and wildebeest, but mainly big animals. I would go as far to say that the majority of their kills are buffaloes. The little cubs are also looking very good and always have full bellies. It is always great to see them moving around in the area. The Birmingham males are in the best shape of their lives at the moment. These four males are getting more and more bulky as they get older. Their manes are still not fully grown yet, but it is looking great already. The problem I have with these big boys is that they are still splitting up and not staying together. As we all know by now, the bush can be very unpredictable. When these Birmingham males split up in ones or two’s it will be very easy for other young males to take them out. The survival of the Styx and Nkuhuma pride’s cubs all depend on the survival of their fathers. The Birmingham males are the defenders of the territories and the protectors of the prides within. This is why it is so important for the four males to stick together as a unit. There might be another reason why they are going their separate ways more than normal and it might be that they know there is no competition. So hopefully when they realise there is competition, they with stand together and fight together.
Karula the female leopard and her cub by Neil Coetzer
The big herds of buffalos have been scarce this month as we have not seen many big herds. I think over the last few months we have seen so many big herds and we got use to them being around the area. We saw one herd this month, but they did not stay for very long. Food supplies are now on the bare minimum and the grazers like buffalos are moving around more and further away in search of food. Once again the old dagga boys came to our rescue, together with a few bachelor herds. The bachelor herds are moving all over the area, one particular bachelor herd had seven bulls and one cow. This is quite strange as the females don’t normally break away with the dominant bulls. There is one reason for this. When the herds are attacked by lions, the buffalos split into splinter groups. With all the confusion of the lion attack, a female might end up with a few males. The old dagga boys are spending a lot of their time on the banks of the dry river beds as there is still a little bit of green grass. These old boys do not travel long distances as there is still enough water and food for them around the area.
Tiyani the female leopard on an impala kill by Neil Coetzer
Elephants are the free roaming lords of the African bush. Their awesome size and strength have always commanded respect and they have proved to be supreme survivors, masters at adapting to different climates and habitat. Their relationship with nature and other species is highly cooperative and symbiotic. The destruction caused by these big animals is phenomenal, as there are broken branches and uprooted trees everywhere. With the extremely dry season that we are experiencing at the moment one would think that the elephants would be effected most. This is not true as elephants are extremely clever and they can adapt to any condition. Seeing that the elephants are mixed feeders, they are still in great condition. We have seen so many herds this month and especially around our lodge. Our water hole has become a great lifeline for the animals and especially the elephants. It is such a great sight to have breakfast or lunch with the elephants quenching their thirst in front of the lodge.
Tiyani made sure that she gets the special sighting spot this month. Like I mentioned before, Salayexe the female leopard and Tiyani lost a few kills to the powerful hyena clan. The one day they lost yet another kill to the hyenas, and little Tiyani did not take it well. The hyena dragged the kill a short distance away while Tiyani followed. This poor hyena thought he was in the clear until he turned around and saw Tiyani. Without any hesitation and warning Tiyani lashed out with a fast right and followed with a quicker left paw with claws out. The poor hyena did not know what happened at that very moment. Tiyani is now 15 months old and she had her very first big fight with a hyena. We can definitely see who her parents are.
Did you know?
Giraffes can last longer without water than camels.
See you out on the game drive soon.
I know I say that every month is good but it is just getting better and better as the year goes on. The bush is really dry at the moment and in some areas there are a lot of bare patches. The average maximum temperature was only 23°C. We were blessed with 12mm of rain this month. It was great to see newly formed water puddles in and next to the roads. A few days after the rain we noticed the first new green grass pushing through the ground. The days that followed, more and more grass made their appearance. All the grazers did not let this opportunity sneak pass them as they quickly started feasting on these new green grass. We were very fortunate again with the wild dog sightings this month. Our resident hyena clan is also doing really well and their numbers are steadily rising. This hyena clan showed us this month why they are a force to be reckoned with. They killed a buffalo bull one evening in front of the lodge. The killing was very messy as each hyena ripped chunks of meat out of the living buffalo. Unlike the lions who suffocate their prey and then eat, the hyenas eat while their prey is still alive.
Two Hippos fighting by Lee-Wayne Lubbe
There was so much excitement happening with our spotted cats. The best part, there is so much more excitement waiting to unfold. Salayexe and Tiyani are still together and at times it looks like the bond between them will never break. With all that said, sometimes it looks like they are not even related when Salayexe growls at Tiyani. We saw Salayexe, Tiyani and Anderson together for almost 2 full days. All of us thought that Salayexe was most probably coming into estrous and that is why Anderson was with them. After day two Salayexe and her daughter, Tiyani, moved north and Anderson moved south again. We see Tiyani a lot more on her own when Salayexe goes of hunting or just need some alone time. This gives Tiyani time to practice her own hunting skills as she stalks hares, birds, squirrels, duikers and so much more. Sometimes it works out and she kills something small but other times she goes to bed with an empty stomach. Salayexe is still expanding her territory more south and more east. Salayexe, showed her dominance this month after she stole a kill from Moya. Just as expected, Moya came down the tree and moved away from her kill. She knows Salayexe from previous encounters and knows that her aunt is bigger and stronger than her. Otherwise Moya is looking great and still very healthy. She was also seen with Anderson this month but they crossed out of our traversing area before we could see if they were mating or not. Shadow moved more east since Salayexe started expanding her empire. Shadow is also smaller than Salayexe and these two ladies have met a few times in the past and the outcome was the same, Salayexe was the dominant one. Shadow was very low on the radar this month but this might be due to the small cub. She and her cub are still looking great and feeding well. Kurula and her 2 cubs are also looking great and they are much more relaxed than last month. Nsele and her 6-month old daughter was seen a lot this last month. These two are looking great and they are well fed. Although Nsele has only one eye, it does not stop her from being a very successful hunter. Nsele’s older daughter is also still moving around in her territory and we have seen her a few times this month. She is looking good and rather big for a female of her age. We were also very fortunate to see the daughter of the Ingrid Dam female, who moved around our area. It is great to see there are a few young females moving into the area to try and establish a territory. Tsakani is also moving around the area giving the older females a lot of grey hairs. She is a wonderful little leopard and I hope that she will settle down in the area and start her own legacy. Madiba/Sindile, the young male leopard, was also seen a few times this month moving through our area. This young male is looking good and very healthy. At this stage he is a nomad wondering through the area in search of his own piece of Africa. The only thing standing in his way at this stage is Anderson, the big male. Anderson is on the top of his game at the moment and he is still expanding more north. I do not think that there is another big male who can challenge Anderson for his territory. Tingana is still spending a lot of his time in the eastern part of his territory to avoid Anderson. Both these males are still expanding their territories but avoiding each other. There is still loads of excitement instore for us with all these beautiful spotted cats.
Styx pride cub by Lee-Wayne Lubbe
The lion sightings were really pumping and we were spoiled with all the sightings again this month. The three lionesses of the Styx pride and their eight cubs are looking fantastic. The cubs are always so full of life with loads of energy. It is great to see that the Birmingham males are interacting with their cubs. They are very tolerant towards the cubs while they play and jump around them. The two female cubs in the group are always on the receiving end as their brothers always bully them. Luckily for them they have their mothers on their side. When things get too rough mum jumps in to help. The eight little ones are growing up fast and they do not have that real baby fur any more. Let’s just hope that all eight will survive to adulthood. This will be great for the pride. We saw the two Tsalala lionesses with two cubs again this month. It was a quick visit from them but they still look very healthy and in good condition. The core of their territory is south of our traversing area and they do not move this far north a lot. The Nkuhuma pride surprised us with our first sighting of three of their new cubs. It was great to see the cubs of this pride. The core of their territory is far northeast out of our traversing area. It is always great to see these little cubs and we also got word that there are two more litters. This means that three of the five lionesses have cubs at the moment and the other two have apparently already mated with the Birmingham males. If it can work out that the five females have babies it will be a great asset to the pride. We are not sure how many male and female cubs there are in the three litters as we do not see them a lot. Still we are full of hope that we will see them again in the next few months to follow. The Birmingham males are still looking great and their manes are just getting bigger and more impressive. These four males are getting more and more confident as they are moving more west again. The young and strong Birmingham males are still in their prime but it means nothing if they are alone. These males are doing so good now, I would hate to see them fall. The only why that will happen is when they keep on splitting up. These males are doing exactly what the Mapogo’s did. A successful coalition always stays together like the Majingilane males.
Burchell’s starling by Lee-Wayne Lubbe
As the month came to an end the buffalo sightings exploded. We saw two main buffalo herds this month. The one herd had between 100 and 200 individuals and the other one was bigger with about 300 to 500 individuals. These big herds were constantly on the move in search of food and water supplies. Although they were moving the whole time we still saw them almost every second day of the month. The lion prides in the area had a field day with these big herds. Any young or old buffalo that stray too far from the herd or can’t keep up will fall prey to the lion prides. With the rain we had this month there was just enough water in the mud wallows for the old bulls to wallow in. These old boys are still in good shape. They are always close to a waterhole and the dry river beds where there is still green grass. A few of the dominant buffalo bulls have left the breeding herds to fatten up for the next breeding season, next year.
The elephant sightings are just out of this world. There was no shortage of them. The herd sizes range between ten to thirty animals in a group. The elephants are still looking great even now that we are experiencing a drought. Elephants are incredible creatures that eats 95% of all the vegetation in the bush. In the summer months their diet mainly consists of grass as it will make up around 98% of it. In the winter when there is not a lot of grass their diet changes to 90% trees. They also spend a lot of their time in the dry riverbeds to feed of the wild date palms. There were a few big males moving around in the area following the female groups. It is wonderful to see the herds in their numbers moving across the open area in front of the lodge. All the matriarch elephants of the herds know that the waterhole on the open area always have fresh water. We have elephants passing the front of our lodge almost every day.
To see a mother leopard and cub is always a very special sighting. To see a mother with two cubs is even more special. This month we were dumbstruck to see Nsele, her youngest daughter and her older daughter from her previous litter in the same tree with a kill. We all thought that maybe this was a once off thing but we couldn’t be more wrong. Just a few days later all three of them were together on another kill. Nsele was very relaxed with the older cub being there with them and the youngest daughter liked the idea of her big sister visiting them. It was really special to see them all three together as a family.
Did you know?
Unlike many other animals, hippos seldom, if ever, use mock charges on land as a passive defense.
See you out on the game drive soon.
The winter has finally arrived with suitcases full of cool, crisp mornings and evenings. The day temperature is still very pleasant until the sun disappears behind the Drakensberg mountains to the west. Jackets, scarfs and beanies are essential items for safaris this time of the year. The average maximum temperature for the month was 25°C, with 2mm of rain. Although the winter mornings are really cold it did not have a major impact on the game viewing this month. We were fortunate to see a male cheetah moving through the area in search of new hunting grounds. The majority of the cheetahs that move through our area are youngsters in search of a territory. We have been blessed with the wild dog sightings this month. We saw them hunting and playing in our area a few times. The nightlife was also great. Now that the sun is setting a few minutes earlier every day, nocturnal animals are getting active earlier.
Flap-necked chameleon by Louis Liversage
The leopard sightings this month was again out of this world. Kurula’s two cubs are doing great and they are getting more relaxed with the vehicles moving around them. Kurula is moving them around a lot as she brings them to kills. It is such a great sight to see two little cubs following their mother down the road. Let’s hope that she will raise both these little cubs to adulthood. Shadow was also seen this month as she scent-marked her boundaries again. She moved the cubs to a new den, which is out of our traversing. Hopefully the little ones are still doing well in their new home. We can not wait for Shadow to bring them across to our area again. She will start to move them around a lot more now as they are old enough to eat meat and they will be brought to the kills. Salayexe and her cub are also looking great and the cub is now almost 13 months old. This is now the time that we will think of a suitable name for the little one. There is definitely tension between these two ladies. Salayexe is leaving her alone for longer periods of time to force her to go and hunt something for herself. The young female surprised us all the one evening when she performed a very loud territorial call. She continued with this during the night and the next morning we found her together with a very upset mother. It is not common for a one-year-old female to perform a full-on territorial call. Salayexe is also moving all over and expanding her territory to an enormous empire. A lot of this behaviour might be because she is looking for a male. This comes to show that there are big changes about to happen in the next few months. Nsele and her cub is doing really good. The little cub is still a bit shy, but we are full of hope that he/she will come around and become as relaxed as Nsele. This is the oldest cub that we have in the area and he/she was born in beginning of January 2016. Nsele and the cub was seen a lot more than in previous months. This is really good news for us as we can continue with the habituation process. Moya was also seen a few times this month. It is always great to see this beautiful female and it is good to see that she is expanding her territory more north east again. Moya was seen mating with the older Airstrip male for a few days this month. After mating with the Airstrip male she started mating with Anderson for a few days. Last month we saw her with suckle marks, which gave us the indication that she had cubs. It might be that she lost the cubs or she mated with the males to give them the impression that the cubs are their own, ensuring their safety. Only time will tell to say for sure if the cubs are still alive or dead. Tingana is keeping a very low profile as he was only seen a few times this month. It looks like he successfully kicked out Mvula and took over his territory. Anderson has his hands full with the Airstrip male moving in and out of his territory and mating with his females. Anderson was in a big fight as he has new gashes and scars on his face. It is unclear who he had a fight with, but I think it was a big one when I look at the scars on him.
Anderson male leopard Morné Fouché
This month we had such a blast with the lion sightings. The Styx pride stole the limelight again this month with the small cubs within the pride. There are four cubs that is old enough for us to view and then there are four cubs that is maybe a month old that we do not view yet. All three the females were seen with suckle marks but strangely enough the oldest female was seen mating with one of the Birmingham male lions again this month. We all feared that she maybe lost her cubs but a few days later we saw her, a Birmingham male lion and one cub resting in the dry river bed. It will be great if all 9 the little cubs can survive. It will be great to see the pride grow in numbers. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that for the next few years the cubs will stay safe and reach adulthood. We have seen the tailless female and her four sub adult cubs of the Tsalala pride in and out of our area the last month. At a stage the 5 were split up and two young males were separated from the rest of the group. For this small group it is difficult to defend themselves against a bigger pride or dominant males. For this 14-year-old lioness it is tough to raise these three boys and one girl to adulthood all by herself. Hopefully she can take them through the year – then the young males should go off by themselves and she and her daughter can return back to the pride again. The young sub adults of the Breakaway pride have moved all over our area the last month. These six girls and tree boys killed a big buffalo bull the one evening and fed on it for a few days. This just showed us that they are already great hunters. It is not just any lion that can kill a big buffalo bull, it takes skill and determination. It is great to see these youngsters growing up and finally having the confidence to explore on their own and hunt for themselves. Once again we had the ladies of the Nkuhuma pride moving through our area. It is always nice to see them as they are great looking females. We got word that the pregnant female of the Nkuhuma gave birth. We do not know how many cubs there are at this stage, but let’s hope they are very healthy. This will be the Birmingham male’s first cubs with this pride. The Birmingham males was all over their territory this month to ensure that no new males moved into the area. It looks like they are good fathers as we have seen them a few times with the Styx pride females and their cubs on and off kills. Hopefully these males can bring stability to the two prides, as this is what they need. We had a very big surprise this month as we saw the two big Matimba males scent marking deep into Birmingham male territory. These two males are very familiar to the area as this was part of their old territory. The big question is: what were they doing so far up and also scent marking? We saw them again a few times after that, close to our lodge. This might be due to the Majingi males putting more pressure on the Matimba males.
Nsele the female leopard and cub by Louis Liversage
The buffalo sightings were really great with big herds of buffalo moving through our area. With food getting a bit more in demand the big buffalo herds are almost constantly on the move. The majority of the waterholes are now mainly mud wallows and this also plays a big role in the movement of the herds. The limitation of food and water supplies force the herds to move through very quickly. Within these herds there are a few small babies who were born just before the winter. It is crucial for the mothers of these little ones to get enough food for her and the little ones, as the calves still drink milk. So far the members in the herds are still in good condition and there is enough food. We have seen a nice bachelor herd of dominant males moving around in the area. They have left the herds to get back in shape after the mating season. We also noticed a few of the old dagga boys that have re-joined the big herds. This is quite common to happen this time of the year as the herds move through and the old males just join for protection.
Tsalala male lions by Louis Liversage
Elephants and more elephants almost around every corner. The elephant sightings were spectacular and we did not have any shortage of these big heavyweights. At times we had massive herds of over fifty individuals in the herd. The trees in the area are taking a beating at this stage as the elephants have mainly changed their diet to trees. In the winter a good 90% of their diet will be trees and in the summer 98% of their diet will consist of grass. The only areas where there are still grass left is along the banks of the dry riverbeds. One of the best elephant sightings that we had was at our biggest waterhole in our traversing. One herd made their way down to the water to quench their thirst after the long travel. After a few minutes we noticed they stopped drinking and we heard the low rumbling sound coming from the elephants at the water. Suddenly there was movement on the other side of the dam. Another herd also made their way down to the water for a drink. Both herds vocalized as they moved closer to one another. Then more elephants moved onto the scene and soon after a fourth herd appeared and all these elephants were so vocal you could hear it from kilometres away. After all the excitement died down and order was restored, some of the younger males went for a swim to cool down. It was great to see all these different herds interacting with each other. But more interesting was to see them communicating with each other before they get to the water. Each herd waited for the other to finish at the water before moving to the water to drink. We can only hear about 5% of the noises they make, the rest is below our frequency and we can’t hear it.
This month the nine cubs of the Styx lion pride was definitely the highlight. It is great to see them moving around and being relaxed with the vehicles. The best part is that the Birmingham males, who are first time fathers, are doing a great job so far in protecting of the pride. What a treat it is to have all these cubs in the area.
Did you know?
A male lion’s mane will only be fully grown when he reaches the age of six to seven years.
See you out on the game drive soon.