March 2013 Safari Journal
The weather: The last rumbles of thunder have faded into the distance and the flickering lightning is finally stilled. Summer is ending and the cool breath of the tropical winter touches us. It ruffles the surface of the water and shakes leaves which are already turning gold. The afternoon showers provided a refreshing relief from the warm days and cleared the air to reveal stunning blue skies. The hint of cloud remaining on the skyline provided us with the backdrop for some beautiful sunrises and sunsets.
Wildlife: Game viewing this month has been fantastic. Along with the herds of elephant, zebras, kudus and other general game, there have been some great sightings of cape hunting dogs. Lion sightings have been a daily occurrence and the antics of the cubs have been a continual source of entertainment. Distant drives and patient tracking were rewarded with some excellent sightings.
Leopard (Panthera pardus)
Magnificent cat!! He has grown to be large male, becoming even more confident, still holding his territory and dominating most of the Western sector. We have seen him frequently and life is good for Dayone as there are no young males in his territory at the moment.
Hlabankunzi and cub
This mother and her young continue to thrill us with their presence and ever playful behaviour. Here they climb up the tree; incredibly the mother jumps down from a great height, the cub then contemplates doing the same but then decides to climb down little closer.
The mother got worried a bit seeing the cub running around the tree considering jumping down from such great height, and then she stepped in close to helped it down.
Few days later she killed an impala ram and large herd buffaloes came past the area, cub was happily viewing from a safe perch as mum was feeding on an impala carcass at the base of the tree at the time.
The illusive Metsi and her cub were out and seen about several times this month. On one afternoon we followed them for a while she was en route to an impala kill. She walked the cub a considerable distance but was kind enough to have some water and grooming breaks in between.
She normally keeps her kill on the ground unlike most leopards that will put up a tree to keep it away from other predators like hyenas, having it on the kill ground means that she needs to stay alert the whole time, every time the bush moves she jumps up, listens and scans the area for any intruders.
Lion (Panthera leo)
The last three months have been tough for the Selati coalition, the Majinilane have been keeping them on their toes. There was another dispute between these two groups of male lions this month. Three Majingilane male lions came across one Selati male, the smaller one and a Othawa lioness mating. Majingilane retreated immediately and one other Selati join in chasing the intruding males north-west across the sand river. We herd commotion across the river unfortunately we could follow across. It was on few minutes after the two Selati males chased Majingilane males, when suddenly we saw our boys running back across with the three males chasing them back. It was only the younger two of the Selati males that were in this territorial dispute. The Majingilane had the upper hand since three of the Selati we still injured, two were injured in previous battle and the third one was injured by buffalo and was not well enough to participate in this fight. There were no major added injuries on the recent territorial fight. However one of the males who was actively fighting and chasing the three intruding male is now badly limping. The boys are recovering well even managed to kill two buffalo cows in one evening.
One of the Selati males showing battle scars after the encounter with the Majingilane males.
These big cats are still thrilling guests and staff alike. The three lionesses and seven cubs are forever present; cubs are always energetic and playful. Sadly, the fourth lioness of the pride has not been seen for over two months , she have not been well for some time and it seems as if we have “lost” her . Of the seven cubs we think six are females and a male, if it all goes well 50% or more survive we could end up with a big pride in our reserve.
We had astonishing elephant sightings in March. On one afternoon while driving along the bank of Sand River we found ourselves amongst a breeding herd of Africa’s largest land mammal – the Elephant. We sat back and watched as the whole family walk pass in their way to the river. We spent about 30 minutes watching these animals swimming and the young males being their usual self, play fighting. It’s always a nice treat to watch elephant take a bath they become so playful like kids.
Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer)
The large herd of buffalo consisting of about 500 animals stayed on our traversing area for most of the month. Smaller herds were also seen on the northern section of our property. Some lonely bulls and bachelor herd have been spotted several times this month.
More than the big five…..
The male cheetah was spotted and seen several times this month, he has visited this area for over a year, it was exciting to see him again. On one afternoon we set off to try to find him it wasn’t easy, Thanks to the team of rangers and tracker for their hard work and determination we found and the end. What great afternoon I had, viewing a beautiful animal shared with awesome group of guests. Unfortunately it was rather late when we finally find him, we had to share the sighting rather quickly and some of the guides didn’t get to see him before it got too dark. Since cheetahs are diurnal we don’t view them at night. And the next morning, he killed an impala only to have it stolen by three lionesses, ooh what a bad start of a day.
We even got see pair of klipspringer, these antelopes are seldom seen in our region. The name Klipspringer is the Afrikaans for ‘rock jumper’ and alludes to the animal’s ability in rocky territory where it can be seen moving freely, seemingly on tiptoe. They are the only antelope that lives on cliffs and rock outcrops. Here are some of their adoptions: The klipspringer stands on the flat tips of its truncated hooves, walking and running in a jerky, stilted manner, their coat is rough and the hairs are hollow, brittle and loose, which makes for good padding and insulation.
In and around camp
Elephants, waterbucks, warthogs, nyalas and giraffes are amongst the few animals that came to the camp during the month of this report.
That’s all from us this month. We thank you for spending few moments with us in the wilderness, sharing our experiences and joining our adventures. We are committed to keep you updated. Please follow our Facebook page for daily updates.
This month’s sightings report compiled by Khimbini Hlongwane