December is a wonderful festive month – the bush is alive with activity and life seems to explode in our part of the world . Rightfully named, Nwendzamhala, Shangaan word for the month of December it translate (the visits of impalas). Many of these antelopes are born and disappear as predators kills them. The rains arrived in force and have given life to the landscape. The wildlife react to this change with unparalleled vigour. Where the ground was once dusty and bare, rampant green growth bursts from the ground. Fireball lilies add colour to the landscape, other flowers open themselves to the sun, and of course, the antelope drop their young in multitudes, creating a bounty for predators large and small. The favourable grazing has also attracted big herds of buffalo, herds of zebra and a herd of wildebeest back in our traversing area, all of which have also started producing their young.
Leopard (Panthera pardus)
Tlangisa female has been our star leopard again this month. We was seen almost every second day and as entertaining as always. On one afternoon we spotted her perched on a fallen down tree scanning the Savanna for a potential prey unfortunately she could only see a waterbuck who is bit bigger than what she was hoping for. Dayone male is moving further north into Xindzele male’s territory, the conflict between these male is inevitable. The Xindzele male have been very scarce in the last couple of months, he spent most of his time north of the sand river where it’s very densely vegetated. Kashane Male still dominant the southern section and east of our traversing area. He was also seen mating with the Tasselberry female during the month of this report maybe new little cubs will result soon. Metsi’s sub-adult male has grown and very confidant with vehicles around him. He was found lying on the branch of marula tree one morning and he could care that we were there taking pictures of him. Hlabankunzi female have given birth we have had some brief sightings of her before she disappeared back towards her densite. Dayone Male was seen in the same area, since we didn’t see him mating her, he is unlikely to be the father of the cubs, he would kill them if he found them.
Lion (Panthera leo) Two of the Mapogo brothers, the elder of the Mapogo and the short maned male have been seen patrolling together, they been venturing to the east of our traversing area perhaps worried about growing threat from the Machingelane Males and the southern males. The third male have been staying behind with Ximhungwe pride, living an easier life taking advantage of the hunting expertise of the lionesses. On return from one of their territorial patrol they killed a sub-adult buffalo and their grown sons, the Ottawa males, who happened to be in the area could only watch from the distance, didn’t brave approaching the elderly boys with their Christmas meal. It does however seems like the two younger males had been responsible for the kill, but then they lost the kill to their fathers.
The has been covering the whole of o the western sector providing us with lots of actions. On one evening the pride set out for a hunt, one of the Ottawa male saw them and started approaching them, one thing he did know was that one Mapogo (the one that had bent spine) was stalking him. Bent spine leap on to the young male and the young male fought hard the lionesses jumped in to help, at one stage there were four adult lions on the Ottawa male. The fight didn’t last long, the lionesses ran back to the cubs and Bent spine moved back and started roaring. The other two Mapogo were only about 800 metres away they came flying into the scene but everything had calmed down by the time they arrive. The pride had left bent spine and Ottawa males lying about 100 meters apart. We hope he is not badly injured, he did look fine. The brother was seen about three kilometers away from the battle site early this evening. The other accident happened in the morning, while watching the pride doing what they do best, sleep. Abruptly one lioness, the short-tailed female began to stalk something we all could not see. She then jumped up and ran and disappeared. We followed to where we could hear commotion of fighting lions. We discovered that found that the 13-month old cub who lost her mother and had been wondering around on his own for the last few months had finally found the pride. Surprisingly and unfortunately it was not the happy family reunion that we expected and hoped for, as the lioness started attacking the youngster. What happened next was really remarkable though; Mapogos never cease to amuse. The mapogo male with short Mohawk mane known to be the unfriendly one to the cubs and all other lions came in and fought off the lionesses and then stood over the youngster to protect it against the aggressive female. Many of us who think we know him well would have never expected him to that. The rejection of the cub by her own pride did, however suggest that his future is very uncertain now, one lioness at least clearly didn’t want to accept him back in the pride.
The December heat has definitely ensured that swimming at in the sand River remains a favourite activity. Huge herds of elephant prevail along paths through the forests to the Sand river to quench their thirst and to cool themselves down. There are lots of baby elephant born at the moment.
Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer) A small bachelor herd of buffalo have made the northern section of the reserve their home and are seen most mornings. They have also taken to sleeping on the plains in front of camp. Our hippos are now also back in camp and are seen most nights. Some guests were even lucky enough to see a leopard strolling through the camp.
More than the big five….. We had a fantastic sighting of giraffe on our drive. This was one of the pictures of them next to our vehicle.
With the help of some willing guests two rangers were able to catch and measure this magnificent specimen. It measured over 4.4 meters (14.43 feet) long. After some pictures and video the snake was left unharmed as it lazily slithered into the bush. In and around camp
Death is never far away in the wild African bush. Our resident herd of buffalo bulls were resting on our lawn this morning not knowing that only few hundred metres away two big cats were watching them from across the river. (Makhulu Mapogo and Ximhungwe lioness)