The month of September brought with it rising temperatures and serious dry season conditions for the wildlife to contend with. With most of the surface water drying up, the wildlife has been forced to congregate in huge numbers along the sand river and dams. However the first rainstorm of the season also came along towards the end of the month, and brought some relief to the dry vegetation in the area. The temperatures have been fluctuating between 38 and 45°C, making the swimming pool very popular. Spring is a time of change and strong contrasts between the dry barren months and summer’s new beginnings.
The landscape has begun blossoming into life, with a number of trees bursting with colour.
The game has been exploding out of the bush this month and the guides have been notching up some incredible sightings of lion, leopard, elephants and wild dog. Our general game viewing with large herds sighted regularly, was fantastic.
Leopard (Panthera pardus)
The animals in the Sabi Sand Reserve are named after their territories. The predators have been given names and the guides and trackers know the animals according to the names they have given them.
This male leopard provided most of our leopard viewing of the month. Dayone was very active patrolling his territory covering the entire length of the area. One afternoon we watched him licking, rubbing his face and body on a old buffalo skull. Leopards and lion often do this possible to disguise their smell for hunting purposes. He was seen a day latter lying on an old termites mound, where he waited for few hours for warthogs to come out, this time his trick didn’t work, the hogs stayed in termites mound until he left.
The enormous Khashane male leopard had a hard time this month; he is carrying few battle wounds clearly indicating that he was faced with formidable challenger who was determined to take over the territory. If he is looking this badly injured yet still won the fight since is still in his territory I would loved to see the state the other male is in. He also had close call with lionesses where he had to retreat into safety of a tree on two occasions during the month of this report.
Exciting news: Hlabankunzi female dropped; we only just heard not seen them yet so we not sure how many in a litter. She is keeping them in exclusive den site and were keeping clear of the area were think she have them hidden just to give them time until she ready to let them out for us to see. We will certainly keep you posted.
We were fortunate to follow her in one of her hunting outings, she killed and impala fed on it for a day and half before losing it to a passing hyena, she should have put it up a tree.
She have recovered well from her battle wounds really looking her best now. Xikhavi tried to mate with Dayone male a few times this month but he was being himself again playing hard to get, he just kept walking away, ignoring her. She had to follow him completely out of her territory putting herself in danger with the other females for nothing as her never mated with her; hopefully he will give in soon.
This female continues to surprise us with her changing behaviour, becoming more and more relaxed and tolerant of vehicles. We had some great viewing of her this month even manage to follow her while hunting, a clear indication she is more habituated to vehicles now, really good to see after many years of us trying to get her to accept our presence.
There were two new male leopards seen this month in our section of the reserve, we located a very-very elderly male who is believed to have come from the North-Eastern Sabi Sand. Another male was seen briefly at Sand River, he got himself pinned between two Buffalo bulls and the Sand River. The Buffalo held their line and pushed the leopard toward the river, the leopard then bisected the buffalo bolting past both their noses in a yellow flash.
Lion (Panthera leo)
The Selati males and Ximhungwe lionesses have been very active giving great sightings throughout the month. The males are now starting to look like pride males as their girth and confidence improve. The four males killed three buffalos this month of which one was only couple of kilometres from the lodge.
One of the interesting things worth mentioning is that Majingelane male coalition had a few visits into area, keeping the Selati males on their toes. The larger male of Selati coalition of lions were seen running past the front of the lodge while roaring , one morning, upon close observation we noticed fresh, bleeding battle wounds, we latter received reports of two Majingelane males and one Othawa lioness were in the area he came running from. On the following drive we located one of the other males (one with bad limp) of the Selati male coalition with battle wounds.
There was also a 6 days of mating, copulating every 15 minutes between Selati male lion and Ximhungwe lioness, at the end of day 5 both lions appeared to be totally exhausted.
We followed Ximhungwe pride out on their hunt on one evening, they made few attempt hunting waterbucks but when we left they still hadn’t killed anything but the night was still young there was hope they could get something to eat. It was only two days later that we found them on a buffalo carcass and they were later joined by the four Selati males who helped to finish off the carcass.
The four Ximhungwe lionesses also managed to kill a zebra towards the end of the month which they fed on for couple of days; they successfully kept it safe from the Selati males.
Elephant (Loxodonta africana)
There is an abundance of elephant around at the moment and it is not uncommon to see 4 to 5 different breeding herds on a game drive, predominantly along the Sand River. On one afternoon were came across an elephant cow with unusual tusk formation, the tusks have grown across each other making it hard for her to use in feeding.
“A battle of the giants” we witnessed two bull elephant fighting, it started as play fight as they testing each other strength but then one hit hard the other bull responded by stabbing harder with his tusk then it was a war that left us very dusty. The battle ended when one bull turn and run for his life with the other one chasing him.
Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer)
The large herds of buffalo spent most of the month on our traversing area not without the lion harassing them. The lion and buffalo interactions have left guests in absolute awe of the cycle of life in nature.
The eternal battle between buffalo and lion is a spectacle in itself – but to witness an active hunt and to see the final take down and kill is a rare and special sight.
With the great hunting success of the lion prides, our hyenas have also been having a good time, many free meals left lying around. We have been fortunate to locate a hyena den site with two little cubs and few adults.
After feeding on a smelly, rotting buffalo carcass, this hyena needed to take a dip in a dam.
A lone male wild dog came running into our property, he was very relaxed , hunting successfully on his own and hardly called or searched for the rest of the pack which will suggest that maybe his been separated for long time and has gotten used to being on his own.
There is a sub-adult male hippo who was kicked from herd by the dominant male, he now lives alone at our causeway . He has become very active and entertaining lately with a display of all sorts stunts , giving us a good show as we cross the causeway.
Elephants, leopard, buffaloes, impalas warthogs visited us in the lodge during the month. Most of the predators’ visits, happen at night but one of our early morning tea was interrupted by the three of the Selati male lions who came walk across our lawn searching for buffaloes that had spent the night in the lodge.