Inyati Game Lodge, Sabi Sand Game Reserve – Winner of the Wildlife Encounters category @ the Provincial Lilizela Tourism Awards 2016 – Mpumalanga.
“Being awarded the 2016 Lilizela Tourism Award for the Visitor Experience category – Wildlife Encounters in #Mpumalanga for a third year in a row is a true source of pride for the entire team at Inyati Game Lodge ,” said Leighanne Dawkins, Marketing Manager at Inyati Game Lodge. “We are proud of our knowledgeable and passionate safari guides who are experts out in the field, and are the finishing touch to the fine quality of the Inyati safari experience.”
Billed to recognise only the best in the South African tourism industry, the Lilizela Tourism Awards aim to recognise and reward the highest levels of excellence in the tourism value chain. They are the ultimate reward for entrepreneurial and service excellence that sets global benchmark standards.
The National Winners will be announced at the Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg on 16th of October 2016.
In 2011, Inyati Private Game Lodge in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve issued over 12 000 phantom shares, equivalent to five percent of the company, to its employees in a bid to reward staff loyalty and retain employee talent.
In 2016 the staff have now received their 3rd dividend pay-out.
“Our staff play an important role in the success of the lodge and we look forward to sharing future growth with them”. says Carlos Dos Santos, Director of Inyati.
Inyati is set within the Sabi Sand Reserve, adjacent to the world-renowned Kruger National Park. The lodge is situated on the banks of the Sand River allowing for fantastic game viewing from the lodge. Home to the ‘Big Five’ (elephant, rhino, lion, leopard and buffalo), as well as cheetah, wild dog and hundreds of other species of animals, birds and plants indigenous to the area. Our highly trained and experienced guides and trackers ensure that your safari experience ranks amongst the best in Africa.
Africa is a huge continent, containing 47 different countries (not counting the surrounding island nations). It is over 7000km from north to south. “We’re going to Africa” is therefore a very vague description of destination. It’s like saying we’re going to Asia. A good first step is to pull out a map of Africa and look at where the current outbreak of Ebola is found:
The countries affected at the moment are all in West Africa – Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Nigeria has had one case that was identified on an inbound flight. Subsequently, all flights from affected areas have been cancelled and all countries in the region (including South Africa) are on high alert and have stepped up measures to screen travellers and identify possible victims.
We are certainly not downplaying the crisis and this is without doubt the worst Ebola outbreak in history, with over 700 deaths so far since February. But cancelling a trip to South Africa makes just as much sense as cancelling a trip to Spain because of Ebola. In fact, Spain is closer to the epicentre of the outbreak than South Africa is. All the popular safari destinations in Southern and East Africa remain unaffected by the Ebola outbreak. There is absolutely no reason to cancel your safari trip now. The biggest risk as a traveller right now is that you might have an elevated temperature due to the common flu or cold, and are then quarantined at the airport as a precaution.
How is Ebola spread?
This is an important question to help asses the risk. Thankfully and significantly, Ebola is not an airborne virus. It is spread through direct person-to-person contact, and contact with body fluids of infected persons – blood, saliva and other secretions. The WHO has a helpful factsheet about Ebola, which is worth a read. This means that the risk for ordinary travellers remains low, even in high risk areas, as long as you take basic precautions and avoid intimate contact with others.
South Africa is not only an interesting mix of cultures, but also of third world and first world conditions. While many people unfortunately still live in third world conditions, the infrastructure in South Africa is very much first world, and the public health system is good. The department of health is very conservative when it comes to public health policy and disease prevention. For example, South Africa was the first country to require yellow fever vaccines for travellers arriving from Zambia, after a part of western Zambia was reclassified from “vaccine not recommended” to “vaccine generally not recommended” a few years ago. A minor change by the WHO, but the health department responded swiftly and firmly with new regulations (considered unnecessary by many). South Africa also has world class airports with excellent screening, medical and quarantine facilities.
So these are the facts. There is no Ebola in South Africa or any of its neighbouring countries. Unfortunately, when panic sets in the facts are not always considered in the decision making. During 2012-2013, we had cancellations for trips to South Africa because of the political protests and unrest in Egypt, 7000km away at the opposite end of the content. A major fail of geographical comprehension, and a pity for that family that they cancelled a fantastic trip for a completely unnecessary reason. Let’s hope the same does not happen with this Ebola outbreak.
Khimbini Hlongwane from Inyati Game Reserve in the Sabi Sand was captivated by animals from an early age.
“Growing up in a village in the eastern Transvaal (now Mpumalanga) got me exposed to wildlife from a young age and I was fascinated by the behaviours of various animals,” he says. “I loved being out there with brothers herding cattle and goats while interacting with wildlife. It was really fun, yet challenging, because every day we had to try to find food with without becoming food!”
Hlongwane says he battled when he grew older and had to divide his days between going to school and spending time having fun outdoors.
When his community was separated from wildlife, he knew he had to find a way back to live closer to and learn more about animals. However, guiding wasn’t his first choice. “I was terrified of being responsible for entertaining people of different cultures, coming from all corners of the globe,” he says. “You have to understand why that was a challenge for me – I was raised by people who couldn’t read and write, never left the Transvaal and hardly had any exposure to the outside world.”
Initially, Hlongwane had his sights set on becoming a wildlife veterinarian but says after graduating from high school, it was clear this wasn’t going to happen. He moved on to plan B and started as a tracker at Inyati Game Lodge in 1994.
“The training went smoothly because the man training me happened to the same man who taught me the ins and outs of surviving in the bush as a herd boy, Simon George Hlongwane, an older brother, a friend, a mentor, a custodian and a role model to many of us in the community.”
“One of the first things Simon told me was: ‘Remember, we used to see lion tracks and we would herd the livestock in the opposite direction to protect them? Now when we see lion tracks, we follow until we find the lions, so be more vigilant!’”
Hlongwane spent five years as a tracker before becoming a ranger. “I enjoyed the sense of accomplishment I got when seeing the astonishment and excitement on my guests’ faces after successfully tracking a leopard where it seemed impossible.”
He didn’t think he would like guiding as much as he did tracking but Hlongwane says, 15 years later he’s still loving it and has found a new passion in the form of wildlife photography.
Khimbini ‘s picture of the leopard stalking was featured in the National Geographic top 25 wilderness photographs.
While he has had a few close calls with wild animals, the incident that stands out involves guests. “One of the biggest fears as guide is losing a guest,” he says.
One afternoon, after tracking for about half an hour, Hlongwane found a pride of four lionesses and 10 cubs. Because the lions were still resting, he continued the drive and returned to the pride at dusk.
“As we arrived, the lions started yawning, indicating that they would soon start moving. We followed the lions and, as we negotiated our way through the bushes, it became difficult to keep up. I was focused on keeping an eye on the movement of the lions while warning guests to mind the branches coming their way.
“All of a sudden there were loud screams behind me in the vehicle. I turned around to find that, of the party of six Germans, only four were left in the vehicle. Two were standing on the seats, two were on the bars we used to embark the vehicle and the other two had jumped out of the vehicle.”
Hlongwane stopped the engine, picked up his rifle and hopped out the vehicle.
“Trying to figure out what was going on was difficult. Even though we had all been speaking English earlier, suddenly the guests were only speaking German. In the midst of the shouting I heard the word ‘schlange’ which sounded like the Afrikaans word ‘slang’, meaning snake.
“With the tracker watching the lions I decided to open the tailgate of the vehicle. Sure enough there was a harmless variegated bush snake underneath the seats.”
Hlongwane reckons he could fill a book with the strange questions some guests ask. One of his favourites was at a leopard sighting.
“We followed drag marks and found a leopard in jackalberry tree. Beside the leopard was a half-eaten impala carcass. It was the guests’ first leopard sighting so I waited for the excitement to die down a bit before talking more about leopards.”
“The guest sitting at the back asked: ‘What was the impala doing up there in the first place?’ I turned to look at my tracker and before I could answer she hit me with another: ‘Is the impala dead?’.”
Hlongwane politely explained that impala don’t climb trees and it had been dragged up the tree by the leopard.
Don’t stop learning
The most valuable lesson Hlongwane has learnt is to never allow yourself to think you know everything, because that will be the day you stop learning. “Especially in wildlife there is so much to learn. Animals continue to prove to us that they don’t live by the theories we write about them.”
1. The word rhinoceros is a combination of two Greek words – rhino (nose) and ceros (horn).
There are five living species of rhinoceros – white, black, greater one-horned, Javan and Sumatran. In addition, a number of other animals have rhinoceros as part of their names, including the rhinoceros auklet, rhinoceros beetle, rhinoceros chameleon, rhinoceros cockroach, rhinoceros fish, rhinoceros hornbill, rhinoceros iguana, rhinoceros rat snake, rhino shrimp, and rhinoceros viper. All of them have horn-like appendages on their noses.
2. Rhinos have also been referred to as pachyderms.
The name pachyderm also comes from two Greek words – pachys (thick) and derma (skin). Many years ago, zoologists grouped a number of thick-skinned species together as pachyderms, including rhinos, tapirs, horses, elephants, hippos, pigs, peccaries, and hyraxes. This classification is no longer considered useful, but the name is still used every now and then.
3. Rhino is sometimes used as a nickname.
A number of people have been given the nickname Rhino. They include American professional wrestler and actor Terry Gerin (Rhyno), Mark Smith from the British show Gladiators, guitarist Larry Reinhardt (El Rhino) from the band Iron Butterfly, and David Unsworth, a former British soccer star. The national rugby teams of South Africa and Indonesia are also known as the Rhinos.
4. Rhino horns are not made of bone, but of keratin, the same material found in your hair and fingernails.
A rhino’s horn is not attached to its skull. It is actually a compacted mass of hairs that continues to grow throughout the animal’s lifetime, just like our own hair and nails. The longest horn on record belonged to a white rhino and measured just under 60 inches (five feet). By comparison, a woman from Las Vegas, Nevada is believed to have the world’s longest fingernails – about 10 feet worth on each hand – while a woman from China apparently holds the record for the world’s longest hair – over 18 feet in length! Regrettably, neither human hair nor fingernails are believed to possess the healing properties that some people believe are found in rhino horn. If people believed they did, they could chew their own nails and cut their own hair in order to feel well, and halt the needless slaughter of rhinos.
5. A fossil skull first thought to be that of a dragon, turned out to be from an extinct woolly rhinoceros.
In the city of Klagenfurt, located in southern Austria, stands the statue of a legendary dragon or Lindwurm, sporting a crocodile-like body and bat-like wings. The statue was erected around the year 1500, about thirty years after a large skull had been unearthed somewhere nearby. Sculptures used the skull as a model for the dragon’s head, but it was only centuries later that scientists identified it as belonging to the extinct woolly rhinoceros of the last Ice Age.
6. The closest living rhino relatives are tapirs, horses and zebras.
These animals are known as perissodactyls or odd-toed ungulates. Even toed-ungulates are called artiodactyls and include cattle, deer, antelopes, goats, sheep, pigs, camels and llamas. Rhinos have three toes on each foot so, in a way, their tracks resemble the Ace of Clubs.
7. A group of rhinos is called a crash.
A group of deer is called a herd, a group of fish a school, a group of bats a colony, a group of turkeys a flock, a group of bees a swarm, a group of alligators a congregation, a group of clams a bed, a group of frogs an army, a group of penguins a rookery, a group of hyenas a clan, a group of lions a pride, a group of wolves a pack, a group of coyotes a band, and a group of crows a murder. Who thinks of these names?
8. Some rhinos use their teeth – not their horns – for defense.
When an Indian rhino defends itself against a predator or another rhino, it doesn’t use its horn to gore its opponent. Instead, it slashes and gouges viciously with the long, sharp incisors and canine teeth on its lower jaw. Neither the black nor the white rhino has incisors. Only the Indian and Sumatran rhinos have canines, but all five species have three premolars and three molars on each side of their upper and lower jaws. Commit this to memory … there will be a quiz tomorrow!
9. An adult white rhino can produce as much as 50 pounds of dung per day!
That’s a lotta poo! And it’s the result of rhinos having to consume large amounts of plant material to obtain proper nutrition. Nuances in the smell of dung can tell a rhino a lot about others in the area. Each rhino’s smell is unique and identifies its owner. The dung of a young rhino smells different than that of an adult. A male’s dung smells different than a female’s, and the dung of a female in oestrus gives off a different odour than that of a non-reproductive female. Multiple or communal deposits of dung are known as middens, essentially serving as local “websites” or ”Facebook pages”, allowing rhinos to keep up with their neighbours.
10. White rhinos aren’t white and black rhinos aren’t black.
The white rhino’s name is taken from the Afrikaans word “wyd,” which means “wide” and describes its mouth. Early English settlers in South Africa misinterpreted the “wyd” for “white“. Black rhinos probably got their name from the dark wet mud in their wallows that made them appear black in color. Both species are essentially grey in colour. By comparison, the famous Blue Rhino, corporate logo for the well-known propane tank company, is entirely a figment of its founder’s imagination.
11. Rhino pregnancies last 15 – 16 months!
The only animals with longer gestation periods are elephants, which carry a foetus for close to 2 years! Camels and giraffes have pregnancies lasting 13 to 14 months, while female horses, sea lions and dolphins can require up to a year to give birth. A bear’s gestation period is about seven or eight months, a lion’s less than four, and domestic dogs and cats about two. The record for the shortest mammalian pregnancy is 12 to 13 days, held jointly by the Virginia opossum, the water opossum or yapok of Central and South America, and the native cat of Australia.
12. Rhinos and elephants are not mortal enemies.
The myth of hatred between these two species dates back to ancient times. In fact, in 1515, King Manuel I of Portugal decided to see if it were true. He had been given a female Indian rhino by the name of Ganda, who was given a home in his royal menagerie, away from the elephants. One day, however, the King arranged for a battle between the beasts, held in a courtyard and attended by the royal family and their guests. The youngest elephant in the King’s menagerie was led into the arena from its stable. The tapestries hiding the rhinoceros were drawn open. An official observer wrote that the rhinoceros appeared furious and immediately charged her foe, so violently that the young elephant broke free of her chain, uttered a tremendous cry and bolted to safety through a thick set of iron bars. This incident most certainly helped sustain the myth.
13. The white rhino is the largest rhino species and the largest land mammal after the elephant.
White rhinos can grow to weigh more than 5,000 pounds, which is almost as much as a Land Rover rolling along on the Serengeti. Next in size is the Indian or greater one-horned rhino, which may actually stand taller than a white rhino, but is just a bit less massive. Then come the Javan rhino and the black rhino. The Sumatran rhino is the smallest of its kind, with the largest individuals barely reaching a ton in weight. A large male hippopotamus can actually exceed the largest rhino in size – perhaps by as much as half a ton – but because it spends most of its time in rivers and lakes, biologists consider it an aquatic, not a land mammal.
14. Perhaps the most famous rhino in the world was one named Clara.
Clara was a female Indian rhinoceros who toured Europe for 17 years during the 1700s. Clara’s mother was killed by hunters in Assam, India in 1738, after which she was adopted by Jay Albert Sichterman and became a household pet. Clara was then sold to a Dutch sea captain, Douwemunt Van der Meer, who somehow got her safely to Rotterdam, rubbing down her skin with fish oil and providing dietary supplements of beer and tobacco. Clara’s European travels are documented in a book called Clara’s Grand Tour by Glynis Ridley, and included stops in The Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Poland, France, Italy, Denmark, and England.
15. African rhinos have a symbiotic relationship with oxpeckers, also called “tick birds”.
In Swahili, the oxpecker is called askari wa kifaru, which means “the rhino’s guard”. The oxpecker eats ticks and other insects that it finds on the rhino, and creates a commotion when it senses danger. This helps alert the rhino. Indian or greater one-horned rhinos have similar symbiotic relationships with other bird species, including the well-known myna.
16. Throughout their history, rhinos have been a very diverse group.
Paleontologists believe that at least 30 genera and 60 different species of rhino ancestors once inhabited North America, Europe, Asia and Africa. The extinct species Paraceratherium, commonly referred to as the “giraffe-rhinoceros”, was the largest land mammal that ever lived. Its head reached a height of nearly 28 feet – as tall as a three-story building – and paleontologists estimate that it may have weighed as much as 20 tons! The smallest rhino ancestors were the Hyracodontidae, which were only the size of dogs. There was also a group of aquatic, hippopotamus-like rhinos, the Amynodontidae, that lived in North America and Asia.
17. Humans are the major threat to rhinos, but several other species are also rhino predators.
The two species most often reported to prey upon rhinos – usually young ones – are lions in Africa and tigers in Asia. However, leopards, hyenas, wild dogs and Nile crocodiles are also known to kill African rhino calves on occasion. By far, though, people are rhinos’ #1 enemy.
18. Most wild rhino calves never meet their fathers.
After mating, adult male and female rhinos typically go their separate ways. After the calf is born, it will probably spend a couple of years or more in the company of its mother, and perhaps associate with other females and their calves, but the father rhino is not part of the standard social group.
19. Three of the five surviving rhino species – the black, Javan and Sumatran – are Critically Endangered.
This means there is at least a 50% chance that these species could become extinct sometime this century. Just over 5,000 black rhinos now survive in nine African countries, essentially double the number that existed only 20 years ago, so that species is actually increasing slowly. Sumatran rhinos used to be found from the foothills of the Himalayas to the island of Sumatra. Today, however, only about 100 individuals are believed to survive as scattered populations in Indonesia and Sabah, Malaysia. The historic range of the Javan rhino was similar to that of the Sumatran, but the species currently numbers no more than 50 individuals, all restricted to Ujung Kulon National Park on the western tip of Java.
20. The black rhino has a prehensile upper lip that allows it to feed on trees and shrubs.
The black rhino also has no front incisor teeth, so it relies heavily on its lips to bring food to its mouth. By contrast, the white rhino, the other African species, has a long, flat upper lip that is designed more for grazing on grasses. The black rhino can be compared to a tree pruner and the white rhino to a lawn mower. The upper lips of the three Asian rhino species are also prehensile to some degree, and other mammals with prehensile lips include bears, giraffes, horses, llamas, moose and manatees.
21. Black, white and Sumatran rhinos have two horns; Javan and greater one-horned rhinos have one horn.
The Sumatran rhino, although it has two horns, is not at all closely related to Africa’s black or white rhinos. It is the oldest of the living rhinos, having appeared nearly 15 million years ago, and its closest relative is actually the extinct woolly rhinoceros. Black and white rhinos appear to have evolved from a common 6 million-year-old ancestor and remain very closely related. The evolutionary paths of the greater one-horned rhino and the Javan rhino separated a bit more recently, their common ancestor dating back perhaps two to four million years. Curiously enough, most female Javan rhinos don’t appear to have any horn at all! Is a hornless rhino an oxymoron?
22. Rhino horn has been used for centuries in traditional Asian medicine, but has not been proven to cure any illness.
Powdered rhino horn has been prescribed by Asian doctors for centuries as a cure for a wide range of diseases or conditions including aging, arthritis, asthma, black magic, boils and carbuncles, chest cold, chicken pox, convulsions, coughs, demonic possession, diphtheria, dog bites, dysentery, epilepsy, fainting, fever, fits, food poisoning, hallucinations, headache, hemorrhoids, impotence, insanity, laryngitis, lumbago, malaria, measles, melancholy, memory loss, myopia, night blindness, nightmares, nose bleed, plague, polio, prescription overdoses, rectal bleeding, scorpion stings, smallpox, snake bite, toothache, typhoid, vomiting and worms. There is no evidence from western scientific studies that it has any curative powers but at least one Chinese study disputes those data. And, of course, its use is illegal.
23. Andatu was the first rhino ever born in captivity in Indonesia.
On June 23, 2012, the female Sumatran rhino known as Ratu gave birth to a 60-pound male at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary, located in Indonesia’s Way Kambas National Park. Approximately 16 months earlier, Ratu had mated with the male rhino, Andalas, who was born at the Cincinnati Zoo in 2001 – the first Sumatan rhino born in captivity in over a century. Andalas’ and Ratu’s baby was named Andatu, a combination of his parents’ names, but also an expression that means “A Gift from God”, in the Indonesian language.
24. The most famous piece of rhino artwork is Albrecht Durer’s woodcut, The Rhinoceros, printed in 1515.
The fact that Durer’s rhinoceros is not entirely accurate is not surprising. Durer never laid eyes on a living rhino, but made his famous drawing based on the sketch of an unknown artist who had. The animal was originally sent as a gift from Sultan Muzafar II of India to Alfonso d’Albuquerque, the governor of Portuguese India at the time, who subsequently “re-gifted” it to Dom Manuel I I, the King of Portugal. Dom Manuelwho then “re-gifted” it again to Pope Leo X in Rome. Unfortunately, the boat carrying the unfortunate rhino sank before it reaching its final destination, but the animal’s image has been reprinted countless times over the centuries.
The weather:We have had an amazing Nhlangula / October at Inyati. The comfortable September weather is a distant memory and is replaced by the hot, dry days that give October its reputation as the warmest month of the year. We have experienced quite a few warm days with temperatures reaching highs of 44° c. With the heat we had a few sensational afternoon thunder showers which have caused the trees to burst into bloom.
Wildlife: The month of October often brings about change in the African wilderness – Inyati, Sabi Sand game reserve has been no exception. Game viewing has been astonishing. The predators have been all out and entertaining and general game has been excellent , with congregations of giraffe, buffalo, impala, kudus, wildebeests and waterbuck around the reserve.
Leopard (Panthera pardus)
It’s a privilege to be able to watch these animals grow. This male is in great condition and really looking magnificent. He still walks all day covering great distances marking and patrolling his massive territory. He was also seen mating with Hlabankunzi female for few days during the month of this report.
Hlabankunzi and cub
This great mother leopard very seldom interacts with the cub now. She still takes her to the kills she makes every now and then but doesn’t stay there with her. She killed an impala one morning, hoisted it in a tree just off our airstrip and a male lion walked past only about 200 hundred metres away without seeing or smelling the kill.
Finally! We get the first glimpse of Xikhavi’s cubs on drive this month. The cubs are very relaxed even approached close to the vehicles; mum did keep them in line and close to the den site. She constantly had to carry these little cubbies back in the den where as they were happy to explore the world.
(Thanks to Mr Frank Maroschek, our long time regular guest for this wonderful picture)
Tlangisa f emale
This beautiful young leopard have been scarce of recent month, a few times this month she did however came out of the thick vegetated north-western corner of the reserve but she still refuses to show us her cub or cubs.
Lion (Panthera leo)
We have been spoilt with many sightings of the two of our resident pride of lions; they have been found frequently. They have been successful with hunting and our guests have been very lucky to see these lions hunting and feeding on a couple of occasions.
Sadly the formidable four – Selati male coalition – known for defeating the Magogo coalition is now down to three. One of the males has passed on after battling for over eight months from the internal damage caused by a buffalo hitting him. He was found dead east of our boundaries, we are not sure how he died but there is a theory that he was finished off by another buffalo.
This pride continues to thrive, they have been extremely successful in their hunts and the cubs are growing by day. One of the lionesses was mating again this time she was with the large of the Selati males.
The lionesses lost few of their kills to the selati male, which we followed hunting on one afternoon. They caught a young male nyala before they could tuck in and eat their kill the dominant selati male was there to claim it.
On another occasion Othawa pride had some luck again. The pride was lazing on the banks of the sand river when the wild dogs caught a nyala ewe within earshot. The lions were off in an instant and quickly chased the dogs off the Nyala that was still kicking.
A battle then broke out between the lionesses…. The tug of war lasted into the night. There was a lot of fighting but hardly any eating. These loud growls did not go unnoticed… the Selati male come running into the scene for some share of the carcass, he took no time to steal the kill from the lioness. He was able to keep his two brothers at bay as well. When we left he was still finishing off his spoils.
We didn’t see much of this pride this month as they spent most of the time to the South and East, but all three females and the six cubs are doing well and are still making regular kills. Every dog has its day! We watched the pride hunting they and they had an amazing opportunity to pull down a wildebeest. As the image depicts the lionesses were on top of the herd before they could sprint off. The wildebeest that was about to have its rump slapped managed kicked the lioness under the jaw and actually stunned the cat long enough to escape.
Elephant (Loxodonta africana)
Large breeding herds, bachelor herds and some single bull elephants are a common sighting along and around the sand river. We have enjoyed numerous herds of these gentle beasts and their young ones continuously parading through camp and along the sand river. There are few new add ons to the herd at the moment. It’s very exciting to see these cute little guys run behind their protective mothers. Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer)
The big herds are still visiting the area and bachelor groups were seen all around the property and in the lodge area enjoying the thicker green grass. Some new big herds of buffalo, ranging between two hundred and five hundred animals were found along various plains and the river. The lions have been taking advantage of the situation sneaking in catching unsuspecting young and old individuals.More than the big five…..
Two crocodiles were found fighting close to camp. We suspect it might be a male chasing off an inquisitive intruder from a nest site. A smaller individual that we presume is the female was constantly hovering close to the battle whilst her man had the intruder clasped in his jaws.An ostrich gave us a surprise visit, very exciting! This was one of the only two sightings we had in over 10 years in the western sector of Sabi Sand game reserve. (Thanks to Mr Frank Maroschek, our long time regular guest for this wonderful picture)
In and around camp
The Camp has also been wonderfully productive, with a steady supply of elephants moving through to drink and play in the river. Amongst few other animals that visit the lodge was the mother leopard, Xikhavi hunting impala in front of the lodge.
Xikhavi leopard hunting impala in front of the lodge.
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 dogsare 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.