The weather: Ndzhati / September saw the mercury rise steadily with midday temperatures reaching the high thirties (Celsius) and the cold winter’s mornings of June and July are behind us. On few occasions, very light showers surprised us and grey thunderclouds threatened but brought little more than a bit of shade. The bush remains dry as a bone and very dusty indeed. The vegetation in general is much thinner now which grants us far greater visibility. The winds are blowing strong which make for some dusty, yet successful game drives.
Wildlife: The game has been exploding out of the bush this month and the guides and guests have been notching up some incredible sightings of lion, leopard, wild dog and of some great general game.
Leopard (Panthera pardus)
The leopard sightings have been prolific this month, to say the least – one group of guests recently recorded sightings of seven different leopards during their three-night stay.
Dayone still remains the active dominant male in our region covering every corner of the reserve. He has been hunting mostly warthog of late and getting better at killing these vicious animals.
One doesn’t win every day! The bemused look on his face (picture below) is due to him being bowled over by a warthog boar just prior to the photo being taken. He took some time to stake out the burrow but a large male exited and barreled straight through his attempted tackle. He had a look down the burrow hoping for an opportunity to salvage some pride but this morning belonged to the hogs.
Tai dam male
Tai dam has settled in the north – east of our traversing area. We found him in a tree attempting to avoid his sisters persistent flirting. The Hukumuri female was waiting on the base of the marula tree, she didn’t let up but the male ignored her advances…as one should.
This female leopard gave birth in the middle of this month. One evening our guests that stayed up until the next morning at Warthog Wallow (Inyati bar) got to see her carrying the cub across the lawn at the lodge. We are avoiding the area where we presume her cubs are but will post images as soon as she is happy to introduce her litter to us.
A new young male leopard has strolled into the area; he was later indentified as torchwood male (son of Mvula male and Inkanyeni female)
Lion (Panthera leo)
We have had some great lion sighting! Both our resident pride and the coalition have been very active throughout the month.
Selati Coalition and Othawa pride
Three of the Selati males are often seen together constantly patrolling and marking their territory. They spent a good fair amount of time with the Othawa pride. Unfortunately the fourth male is still not doing well. He continues to lose condition due to the broken ribs and possible punched lung from when he was hit by a buffalo. Remaking the pride! The Othawa lionesses are growing the pride again. This pride was made of seventeen members few years ago and they made pulling down a buffalo look easy. We hope all the cubs make to adulthood and restore their pride.The Sand River has been a home for this pride lately, as this is where most of the game is concentrated while we wait for our first rains to come. Here they are proving to be very successful with their hunts and are continuously catching kudu and nyala along the banks.The males are regularly involved in a brotherly squabble over the Othawa lioness with no cubs, whether in estrous or not the boys still fight for her. On one afternoon we witnessed the lionesses hunting they made a kill just east of our airstrip, by the time selati male lion and cubs arrived there wasn’t much of impala carcass left.Ximhungwe pride
The pride is moving great distances again reclaiming the large territory that they have ignored for a while as they were raising the cubs and avoiding the Selati male and Majingelane male lions.
We had an unbelievable sighting of the whole pride climbing on a large jackalberry tree. It was all well and fun as they were climbing up the tree but coming down was rather ungraceful.On one morning we had a once in a lifetime interaction between some of the apex predators. It all started when the pack of wild dogs killed an impala. A nearby clan of hyena responded to the alarm calls and a fight broke out between the dogs and hyenas. The dogs were able to fend off the hyenas. The dogs and hyenas then trotted to a nearby pan where they came upon the Ximhungwe pride and further chaos erupted. We now had dogs chasing hyenas, lion chasing dogs, lion chasing hyena and so it when on for about half an hour.
This hyena strolled past the lioness in the background without seeing them. She did get the fright of her life once they charged her though.
Elephant (Loxodonta africana)
Massive herds of elephant, typical for this time of year, have been spotted roaming the reserve this month, feeding on the rich abundance of foliage which starts to appear around this time of year. The Sand River has been dotted with many large breeding herds of elephant, providing us with some great viewing even from the lodge. There are also many lone bachelor bulls around the reserve.Cape Buffalo (Syncerus caffer)
We have had couple of large herds of these great animals in our area during the month of this report. The one herd seen at dam five was very large estimated to be over six hundred animals in it. We sat there for about half hour more and buffaloes just kept coming.More than the big five…..
We have had a mother cheetah and two cubs in our traversing area for couple of weeks providing some great sighting as she hunted successfully on almost every second day.
Cape hunting dogs are back – They are still denning in our traversing area and we can now confirm that the pack have grown by six members. The little puppies are about eight weeks old and growing fast. They are eating meat now; the pack has to kill at least twice a day to keep full and healthy. It is special treat to see the excitement by the little ones as they beg food to be regurgitated to them by the adults.
It is time for new life in the bush some of our lucky guests got to see a new born giraffe! I believe it was only few hours old; it was still very wobbly on its legs, with the umbilical cord still attached. The mother giraffe was very alerts at all time and attentive, she was constantly licking the calf on the face as if she was reassuring it that all was okay.
In and around camp
Xikhavi female have been seen in and around the lodge often. One evening she killed an impala just outside the boma while guests are enjoying their dinner. She then dragged the carcass and hoisted in a tree just outside rooms 10 and 11.
The heavily pregnant and very well fed Xikhavi female will often take some time out and lay next to the swimming pool in the cool evenings.There is never a shortage of elephants near the lodge especially in winter months as they come for the greener foliage in and around the lodge.