So we’re into the summer season now and with the summer season comes an increase in tropical activity off the east coast of South Africa. These summer cyclones that occur usually don’t have an effect on South African weather and tend to move south before approaching the S.A coast line. Rain has been quite a dominant factor this month. Dramatic is an understatement – no two days of the play unfolding in the Sabi sand theatre are the same. On the 16th January, Tropical Cyclone Dando caused a torrent of rain to come down over the Sabi Sand and the surrounding Kruger areas. In a matter of 72 hours the rain gauges showed that we had received 520mm of rain and the rivers showed just how much rain had come down. The water rose slowly but as the intense rain continued and the ground became saturated there was nowhere else for the water to go except to the rivers. The Sand and Sabi River got extensively flooded and reached its highest recorded level, even higher than 2000 floods which was the highest the area have ever experienced. The river have been reformed enormously, with trees uprooted and swept away and huge amounts of sand shifted, even diverting the main river course in some areas. The lodge remained safe, we did however lose our lower deck and the bird hide got damaged and thankfully, no major loss of wildlife was recorded. Despite the floods game viewing has, by no means, been a disappointment.
Leopard (Panthera pardus)
One of the most viewed leopard of our section of the reserve Hlabankunzi have finally brought out her cub briefly for us to see. We are still keeping away from the den site to give them some privacy and time to get comfortable to the new surroundings. We spent a good part of the last night of the year with while on the hunt at some point we had to leave her to enjoy our celebrate New Year’s Eve. The next morning in a new year we set off to find her, we did caught up on her still hunting, the hungry mother leopard stalk and killed a warthog just in front of our vehicle, the first and successful hunt of the year 2012 for her.
We haven’t been seeing much of Metsi female leopard, she did however came out couple of times this month and we were relieved to learn that she is still alive and well.
We found her on one late afternoon perched on a marula tree presenting awesome photo opportunity.
The Day One male leopard also had an exciting start to 2012. He did it again, killed a full grown kudu cow and this time he killed its calf as well. The hyena then tries to steal his kill and pinches pieces of it the entire morning, eventually it drags the kill into the open, in full view of the vultures, within ten minutes more than twenty vultures descend onto the kill and Day one snaps!
He came hurtling out of his resting place and sent vultures and hyena scattering in all directions to reclaim his meal.
Lion (Panthera leo)
The resident males, Mapogo brothers have been seen regularly during the whole month of this report, they still remain separated into 2 males, the elder male and Mohawk mane male together and the other male spent most time with the Ximhungwe pride. Just after the rains the two males killed a young giraffe, the one of the Ximhungwe lioness who is been separating from the pride was present feeding with the males.
With sand river flooding the rest of Ximhungwe pride, 3 lionesses with their four cubs (Ages ranging from 6 to 12 months) for most of the month have remain in the southern side of the river. Despite the smaller hunting ground the pride have remain highly successful in their hunting, they made a wide range of kill, wildebeest, giraffe and waterbuck. Few of our wildebeest calves have fallen victim to this pride during the month.
We also found them feeding on a buffalo kill in the south-western section of our traversing area. The carcass appeared to be a few days old and we had seen the pride far north the night before so it doesn’t look as if as if they killed it. Initially, only one of the Mapogo boys was present, but the other two soon smelled the kill, and joined up with the pride to enjoying their rotting buffalo carcass.
Elephant (Loxodonta africana)
The hot summer months in the Sabi Sands is the best time to see elephants. Herds have divided into small groups to minimise competition over marula fruits. You can almost count on a breeding herd or a lone bull on every corner. With marula fruits dropping to the bush floor in great quantity, elephants are moving from tree to another in search of these juicy and delicious snacks. They are small fruits that it might not seem worth it for the big giants to spent hours collecting these tiny fruits one by one, this just show how much they love them.
Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer)
Buffaloes are still present in significant numbers much to delight of our guests. They are seen mainly on open plains of the southern part of the reserve. There been lots of mating activities in herd and the battle beween the breeding male have been the order of the day(note the battle wounds on his face)
More than the big five…..
We found this hyena walking with intent and occasionally sniffing the air. As these animals have an uncanny ability to sniff out carcasses we followed her for quite some time. After about a kilometer of walking she came across an Impala carcass, recently killed by a leopard. We had a brief glimpse of a small female leopard that was in no mood to cross swords with this large hyena. I presume the hyena heard the impala alarming after the kill was made and then had to rely on her acute sense of smell to locate the meat, truly some well honed senses on a super predator.
Xindzele male leopard have been visiting the camp, affording us a rare opportunity to photograph leopard on foot.