Days have slowly but surely become longer, and long chilly nights are washed away with more vibrant sunrises as we head toward spring.
Winter is far from over, the dusty dry landscape is very much proof of this.
The Sand river snakes through the reserve like a green vein, providing life giving water to the parched environment that in turn provides browse and grazing for the secondary producers like impala, nyala, kudu and bush buck.
The concentration of food along the banks of the sand river draws and keeps the herds on it banks, this in turn attracts predators to the abundant food source.
The lion prides have had kills on the river and our resident leopard are also thriving.
The Inyati philosophy is one of being part of the environment, this is evident with the camp not being fenced. Animals wonder through the grounds freely and the concentration of game in camp in the late winter can be spectacular. Our resident herd of nyala and impala feasting on our indigenous gardens. We have decided to view them as part of the garden rather than the consumers of it, the gardener’s relationship with them remains ‘complicated’ though.
A bull elephant took a liking to the Aloes in camp, and he created havoc as only a five-ton pachyderm can. Unfortunately, some days the aloe gardens were pruned with the finesse of a cyclone, but these are the punches we roll with in the bush. The bull has had his fill and moved on, and the gardeners are propagating aloes.
Our resident leopards have still been passing through camp, creating unique viewing opportunities, and keeping the nyala herd on their toes.
The Tumbela males have settled with the Othawa pride and have been spending a lot of time close to camp. As the males settled, they have now been vocalizing every night in an attempt to maintain their new territory. Magical evenings around the fire with lions roaring in the background have become a regular dinner treat at Inyati.
The Othawa pride has managed to maintain their little pride, all the cubs are doing well and growing strong.
The pride brought down a buffalo in the Sand river, it seems the new males have been assisting the pride in brining down larger prey like the formidable Cape buffalo. The days of leisure are numbered for the old buffalo bulls along the Sand river.
The Tumbela males certainly have lion hearts, or they seem to bite off way more than they can chew.
Two of the males were spotted from the lodge at early morning tea, and tea was cut short! We rushed out to see the two boys at sunrise. On arrival it was evident that there had been a scuffle at the pan north of the lodge, and a drag mark led into the pan. The two males had attempted to pull down a young hippo bull!
The visibly upset hippo bull was still in the pan keeping a lazy eye on the two lions. We sat with the lions enjoying the warm sunrise when the hippo lost his nerve and tried to make a run for the safety of the river. The one male was on the hippo like a flash, but then pure physics failed the lion. The two-ton beast had built up a head of steam and was now hurtling toward the river, downhill. The lion held on to the hippo’s substantial rump and bit his tail like a poor rider tugging at reins.
The lion certainly inflicted some damage but was dragged across the Sand rivers banks and was forced to “jump ship” as the hippo hit the water.
The hippo was left with a pain in the butt and the lion with a dent in the ego and a lesson in perspective.
Two new male lions have been visiting the north, they ventured into the Sabi Sand all the way from the Matimanthle area in the Kruger National Park.
These males could have posed a serious threat to the Othawa cubs if the Tumbelas were unable to fend them off. We found one of the Nwalungu males visibly shaken after following his tracks running in from the east. Our eastern neighbor confirmed that one male lion had been killed by hyena. His traumatized brother ran into the lodge area the following morning and has been keeping his head down since. This probably means the end of the road for the Nwalungu as one male taking over a territory is unlikely.
Tlangisa has been able to keep her cubs alive even though they had another close shave. She was with her cubs on an impala kill when one of the lioness’ from the Tsalala pride arrived. The cubs scampered up a tree together and the mother was isolated in another tree nearby. Patience often equates to survival in the wild and the little cubs passed this trial with flying colours. The cubs simply stayed in the tree with the lioness at the base staring up at them. It took a full day for the lioness to lose interest and move off.
Tlangisa waited for the lioness to move out of sight, called the cubs down and marched them straight to the safety of their rocky den site.
The cubs are still developing integral survival skills and nerves of steel.
You may well have noticed that we never post updates of rhino sightings on social media, and we discourage guests from posting any rhino images they may get during a safari at Inyati. This policy is unfortunately necessary to ensure the safety of the rhino population within the Sabi Sand and Greater Kruger National Park.
In China, unfounded beliefs that the horn can cure cancer and increase virility have driven the monetary value of rhino horn to astronomical values. This has created a very intricate criminal network to poach and traffic rhino horn from Africa to China. In short, the African rhino population is under massive threat of extinction in the wild as a result.
Inyati and the Sabi Sand Wildtuin are proud to be part of one the most effective anti-poaching operations on the planet. This is not only due to the incredible work of the men and women on the ground, but also to every single guest that visits the reserve. Inyati and the Sabi Sand Wildtuin channels revenue from guests straight to the anti-poaching operation. The anti-poaching effort uses the lion’s share of the reserves budget to keep our rhino, and all animals in the reserve safe.
Every visitor to the Sabi Sand Wildtuin hence makes a huge contribution in the fight against rhino poaching by visiting Inyati and our neighbors.
Veterinary intervention is usually very limited in the reserve and we only “lend a hand” if an animal is injured because of humans or human infrastructure. But in the case of rhino, we do whatever we can to ensure we do not lose a single animal.
Two large rhino bulls had a territorial battle earlier this month. One bull sustained some injuries to his front and hind legs in the fight and rangers were asked to monitor the animal and report back on his movements and injuries. A while after the fight it looked like the wound had turned septic and it was for a vet to intervene.
As you can imagine, treating a wild rhino bull comes with many challenges. One must find the animal, dart it with a sedative to immobilize it, get a team in quick to monitor vitals and start the work needed in as short a time as possible to minimize stress, then get the team out safely, administer a reversal drug and monitor the animal’s recovery. Simple.
With a team of dedicated guides, rangers, security personnel and a fantastic vet this mammoth task was done without any hiccups.
We were glad to hear that the animal is healing well and should make a full recovery, hopefully not to fight another day.
We would like to thank each and every visitor to the Sabi Sand Wildtuin and Inyati Game Lodge for making these conservation and Anti-poaching efforts possible.
Hope to see you soon!
Keith and the Inyati team