The weather: Nwendzamhala is Shangaan word for December it translates to “the visits of impalas”. During this month life seems to explode in this part of the world. We have had a good amount of rainfall, interspersed with sunny days, creating that characteristically crisp, clear air that adds an edge of brightness to our world. The bush is infused with the wonderful aroma of the earth stirred to life by rain – a scent that is impossible to describe, yet so evocative of Africa in the rainy season.
Wildlife: The rains have given life to the landscape and the earth and 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 firecrackers of 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.
Leopard (Panthera pardus)
The interesting duel between the Dayone and Nyeleti male leopards has continued with the younger Nyeleti male still fancying his chances against the recovering Deyone male. At the beginning of the month the young Nyeleti even managed to take over Dayone’s impala kill. But then the tables have turned, Dayone have bounced back to life his injuries are healing quickly and he has been able to keep the young interloper at bay.
Hlabankunzi and Metsi female
We saw had only a couple of sighting of Metsi female and cub as she kept him/her well hidden. Hlabankunzi on the other hand have been seen regularly, the cub had become very relax with vehicles around. She has been extremely successful on hunting.
One evening, while we were following her as she walked down the sandy track, she stopped and listened. We switched off the vehicle so that we could maybe hear what she had picked up. It was silent except for some frog and crickets chirping nearby. What had she heard? We ask ourselves. She continued walking into the bush and we lost sight of her. We waited patiently for her to reappear. Suddenly a single bleat, then another muffled sound. We drove around and found the leopard with an impala fawn firmly clamped in her powerful jaws. With her excellent hearing and eyesight, she had homed in on some hapless impala. And the next morning she caught a young warthog, unfortunately she lost both kills to Khashane male leopard who walked in, took over the carcasses and threatened the little cub up on the highest and smallest branch of tree.
We have had more yet still infrequent sightings of Tlangisa female leopard this month, on one afternoon she was found with very skittish male and we never got to identify him. She was certainly interested on mating but we are unsure if they ever did because the pair quickly lost us into the thick woodland.
Tai dam male
This is Shangwa’s young male that have been independent for almost a year now. Still residing up in the north, she surfaces very rarely in the dense environment up there but we have not seen Shangwa female for about a month and half now, we fear the elderly female might have passed on.
Lion (Panthera leo)
Selati coalition and Othawa pride
The coalition is still going very strong in defending their territory. During the month of this report we have seen them pushing more towards the eastern section of their territory, possibly following Othawa pride. This pride normally spent only half of their time on our property as about half of its territory is outside our traversing area. During the whole month of this report they were here and provided good viewing for us and our guests. One of the Selati male had a difficult month his condition deteriorated so much that he got too weak to keep up with the rest of the males. He is believed to be suffering from some kind of trauma, maybe broken rib; possible got hit by buffalo in a hunt. He did how pull it through and he is recovering well.
The Pride sighting continue to dominate our lion viewing. At the begining of the month the four lionesses killed a large male kudu, one lioness got injured in this hunt but the wound isn’t bad and should heal quickly. We are excited to report that the short-tail lioness has 3 cubs, she have finally brought them out few times and some of us have been lucky to see these fluffy little cats. We have no photos of the cubs yet to share, we will most certainly keep you all updated…….
Elephant (Loxodonta africana)
Breeding herds of elephant were abundant at the beginning of December. On one day guests enjoyed watching the ‘elephant parade’ as over 50 elephants walked in front of lodge, one after the other.
On the afternoon drive, they found them to the west of camp, upstream the sand river enjoying an afternoon swim and playing in the mud, two young bull put a good show for us they were sparing testing each other strength and skill.
Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer)
Excellent buffalo viewing, with great number of bachelor groups, lonely bulls and the large herd of 500 animals frequenting our traversing area, life was made easy for us to complete the big five.
More than the big five…..
The sighting of general game has been fantastic with a lots of kudus, nyalas, wildebeest, giraffe and zebras being sighted regularly throughout the month. Hippo action has also been great; on one occasion an adult bull attempted to take over the resident pod, but was disposed of rapidly and sent running back to the safety of the water. It was a very vocal encounter with lots of grunting and honking.
The bird activity has been astounding…… building nest, calling and performing beautiful display to attract mates. A Black-bellied Bustard using a small termite mount as a perch from where his distinct “popping” call and distinguished pose should attract a mate.
In and around camp
We have had a lot of activity around the lodge, despite the abundant availability of water all round the reserve. Buffalos, waterbuck, warthogs, bushbucks still frequent the lodge area; even zebras came to drinking in the waterhole in front of the lodge.
Other wildlife in and around camp are the newborn impalas. They make a perfect picture with their long unstable legs, small body and big ears. They seem to have a curious yet mischievous look on their little faces as they take in the big world around them. Due to the good rainfall we’ve received, there has been ample forage for them too.
That’s all from us this month, we thank you for spending few moments with us in the wilderness, shared our experiences and joined our adventures, and we are committed to keep you updated.
This month’s sightings report compiled by Khimbini Hlongwane
On the morning of the 21st of January 2013 the sand river was still flowing with gusto after a downpour of 233mm of rain, Obed Mkhabele the renowned Inyati waiter noticed an elephant calf washing down the Sand river. He also noticed a large elephant cow swimming after her calf. His excited screams summoned all the staff on duty to the veranda to witness the event.
At first there was an eerie silence among the spectators as we realised that any attempt on our side would be futile as the torrent of water could easily sweep away a human, and that the stressed cow would certainly kill anything close to her calf at this stage. One also tends to underestimate the weight and strength of an elephant calf.The calf and cow were washed over the causeway along with two other elephants we had not noticed before as they had remained submerged until then. The family was bullied into the main stream as the river bottle necks downstream from the causeway. The sullen silence was broken as the cow got her head above water and bellowed a frustrated rumble; our spirits dropped as the giant cow seemed helpless against the current.
The family of ellies disappeared momentarily and we expected to see them downstream, but to our amazement the cows back surfaced closer to shore! She had managed to get downstream of her calf and was propping the calf up with her head. She used her tusk and top of her trunk to lift the calf out of the water, the little calf was frantic but still alive and we could hear it gasping for air when the mother lifted it.
The sub adult bull in the party was able to swim across and stood on the lawn rumbling at his family.
The cow then managed to move upstream as she found some purchase on the southern bank; she now only had one more gully to cross before she got her family to safety. The older calf was able to hold onto its mother’s trunk and the cow showed unbelievable strength to pull the older calf whilst wedging the small calf out of the water.
With the bank in sight the family dropped into pool of what seemed to be slow flowing water, but I would guess due to fatigue the family milled and struggled in the pool for some time. As the cow’s strength withered she was only able to lift the calf enough for it to use it trunk as a snorkel to gasp for air.The cow emitted a last rumble as if to gather all her strength for the last push and with the small calf still balanced on her trunk and forehead and the older calf clasping to her trunk she made a run for the bank. A few pushes and tugs and the exhausted mother was able to push the calf onto the bank and then pull the older calf to safety.
After a few gasps of welcome air the family slipped away into the bush to re unite with the herd.
The diversity of experiences in the bush is clearly depicted in the last few posts, from gentle motherly love to uninhibited ferocity. This clan of hyenas was found feeding on an impala ram. As the meat was being depleted a large female took the carcass, ran off to pan and dunked it under water in an attempt to hide it, and have the spoils to herself. The only hyena bold to challenge the presumed matriarch was a young animal, possibly one of her own offspring. The large female responded by biting a small piece the challengers ear off.
The sounds emitted from the safari vehicle when guests first sight this little one is something else. The cub is met with a barrage of “oohs” and “aahs” and rightfully so; it is downright adorable.