Christmas morning with the Selati male lions.Timeless!
The Selati Males are a coalition of four lions born into the Southern Pride in 2007 and 2008 and sired by the Golf Course males.
For anybody who spends a considerable length of time in an ecosystem such as the Sabi Sand, it is always fascinating to witness the constant state of flux in the dynamics of the lion prides and coalitions within the area.
The buffalo carcass is almost finish and one of the Selati males have already left the area, walked over 8 kilometers last night to find the Othawa lionesses.
It appeared as if summer had arrived early, the cold weather has left us. As is often the case, August was a windy month with steady breezes cooling things down. The local tribe, Shangaans named the month of August “Mhawuri” – the month of strong winds. They also believe that if the wind doesn’t blow in August we will experience drought and if it blows strong and continuous it foretells of a good rainy season.
The flowering acacia trees are the most prominent indicator of the coming spring. Midday temperatures have reached a comfortable 32 degrees Celsius with evening temperatures cooling to around 15 degrees. The August winds have faded to dusty red sunrises.
The wildlife has been spectacular this month at Inyati, incredible variety of species sighted continues as the last of the trees lose their leaves and the dry grasses are now trampled into the dust allowing us to see from big to small animals.
She continues to roam large and large areas, she is heavily pregnant possible expand a territory to have more room to raise her litter arriving soon. She has got into a serious territorial battle with another female leopard, Xikhavi that resulted in big gash on shoulder of Xikhavi female.
She killed an impala ewe on one morning after a good feed she left the carcass in the bushes to rest in the nearby shades. One of the Selati male lion was lying within 400 metres from her; maybe it would have been a good idea to hoist the carcass in a tree. We went back to find her on the afternoon drive only to find that the Selati male had stolen the carcass and she left the area.
She has settled in her new territory and because of the distance and thick vegetation in that area she is very seldom seen. She was found with an impala carcass hoisted on jackalberry tree. Tlangisa being her usual self, she played with her food until she dropped it accidently and the hyena that was waiting underneath the tree claimed it before she could come down to get it up. All she could do is watch her hard earn meal being devoured by a hungry mother hyena.
Ravenscourt and cubs
This female is very seldom seen as her territory is outside our traversing area, this move however she came across to outside killed an impala, went back to fetch the cubs to a kill. We were treated with some mother leopard and cubs interactions this morning for couple of days.
A female leopard, Dam 3 is getting more and more comfortable with us, the game viewers. She has been seen from a distance, resting on a rocky outcrop, upon viewing her for a while we decided to get closer and closer to our surprise she just lay there on the rock allowing for fantastic photography opportunities. Typically this resident female is very elusive, so it is a pleasure to see that this may not always be the case.
Lion sightings have been outstanding over the past month. It is a regular experience to see the lions hunting, with varying degrees of success.
Selati coalition and Ximhungwe pride
The Selatimales continue to frequent our area and the Ximhungwe pride seems to have finally accepted this new male coalition. There was more mating for good part of the month. There one female was seen mating with one mate for week and straight after that she was mating with another male this is possible for the protection of the cubs yet to be born but certainly helped to reduce fight between the coalition.
The three lionesses have been very active this month covering the entire length of our traversing area in search of food and possible den site. We followed them hunting impalas on one morning it was fascinating to watch team work and co-ordinations at play and it yielded good result, they managed to kill sub-adult impala. The lionesses are still carrying; the cubbies are on their way, watch this space….
Elephant (Loxodonta africana)
August has always been the month of the elephant. This year, the number of elephants in our area was astonishing. Day and night the lodge was surrounded by large bulls clearing the dwindling greenery. Hardly an activity passed without an elephant sighting. Lone males, breeding herds and the odd bachelor group were spotted regularly.
It was rather interesting to watch this bull spraying water on the annoying little bird, the fork-tailed drongo. Many of us on the vehicle thought it was funny but not the drongo who was soaking wet and could barely fly.
Only in Africa! From the safety of Sand River‘s high banks, Father and son enjoying an afternoon with a family of elephant.
Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer)
We have had big herds of buffalo back in the area for the good part of the month and there were also lots of bachelor herds of buffalo bulls all around the reserve at the moment as well as the ever-present herd of old males that live around the camp.
More than the big five…..
On one morning we watched two lioness hunt ,kill and eat an impala and then just when we thought it can’t get better we heard on radio that a new pack of five cape hunting dogs got sighted ,we rushed there see these beautiful painted animals.
And no description of colours in the bush can be complete without the painted wolves – the wild dogs loping through the brittle stems of winter grass, loping out of every impala’s waking nightmare. Their teeth perfectly adapted for slashing and tearing at impala bellies, carried along on tireless legs. The horror, the horror – the wonder of a wild dog hunt, rocking and rolling effortlessly along…
And later into the month august the moment we have been patiently waiting for arrives. Our resident pack return after four months, they been denning outside our traversing area, they brought back with the 6 little puppies of about three months old just old enough to run with the pack. It’s a privilege to watch these interesting animals go on about their lives.
Hyena population continues to increase in the area; we are getting great viewing of these adaptable predators. We followed this lactating mother carrying a large piece of meat for long distance hoping she will take us to her den site but we could only follow for so long before we had to get back to the lodge for a delicious breakfast.
This elderly and heavily pregnant hyena waited patiently for some pieces of meat to fall out of tree as Tlangisa female leopard was feeding and it was worth it because the entire carcass dropped.
In and around camp
Dayone male leopard walked past room seven just as the afternoon game drive started. Many animals frequent the river and the lodge from one time to another but watching a leopard walking through the lodge is always a treat for staff that don’t often get to go out on game drives.
And the elephant bulls are forever present in the lodge looking some green plant as it is dry everywhere else in the reserve except our lodge garden.
In July, we experienced typical lowveld (Mpumalanga) winter conditions. The mornings and evenings were chilly, averaging around 5° Celsius and then warming up to 30° Celsius by midday. The ‘bush babies’ or hot water bottles have remained popular with guests clutching onto them during the cold mornings. One of the highlights for the winter months is the amazing night skies experienced on most evenings. The crisp, clear and dark nights were dotted with stars, planets, galaxies, meteors, satellites and the moon – it truly was beautiful! The month has brought excellent game viewing with the colder temperatures and the bush thinning out. The predators have been active longer into the day and we have had some fantastic sightings.
Whilst elephants may have been the most frequently encountered animals over the last few weeks, they have not had a monopoly on magic moments at Inyati. Every area has its special animal, the creature that seems to symbolise a place, to embody its spirit and distinguish it from every other corner of Africa and ours is the beautiful leopard. It’s truly a privilege to have these animals allowing us into their lives.
He is now well established in this prime territory enriched by few female leopards, for most of the month he was kept busy by Dam3 and Shangwa female. We witness mating with Dam3 for about 4 days and about a week after he was mating with Shangwa female again. Just like last month it took a lots persistence and experience for the elderly female to convince him to commit into mating activities.
We found on one afternoon on the bank of Sand River, he was very angry there were clear signs of another male in the area. We even heard some growling by the other cat by never got to see him.
We think it was the huge yet skittish male becoming known as Tsutsuma (Shangaan word meaning: run) Note on the picture of Dayone salivating, one of the signs of a furious cat.
Hlabankunzi dominated our Facebook posts during the months of this report but with her spending time in around the lodge were being spoilt with the viewing in the early morning light. On one afternoon we left her hunting impalas in the lodge and the next morning we leant that she killed an impala ewe between the lodge and staff village, making going to work rather interesting for our staff. She hoisted the carcass on the nearby tree which she kept and guarded for five days guarantee us a leopard sighting every drive.
Few days after she finished the kill, she was seen in a different area chased up a tree by one of the Selati males, she won the patience game and he left her unscathed.
Hlabankunzi as seen resting in the jackal berry tree on with an impala kill; a hopeful hyena lurking nearby.
Shangwa and cub
The Shangwa females wound is healing well and she is back to her old habits. Making a bit of a cougar of herself by mating with the young Dayone male.
The Tie dam male (Shangwa young male) was on form, terrorising mice, and even stalking a small crocodile at Tie dam.
The leopard lost his nerve when the croc melted into the water.
Ndevane male and Dam3 female
These two shy and skittish individual were seen few times this month. Ndevane is slowly becoming more habituated to vehicles, tolerating our presence a little more each time we see him. After mating with Dayone the Dam3 female was seen mating again this time with Ndlevane male, she had impala carcass hoisted in a tree and had to eat during the 15 minutes breaks between every copulation, while eating she showed concern about the elderly male sneaking away.
A new young male leopard was seen trapped between a larger and older leopard, Ndlevane male in the same tree as him and the Ximhungwe pride of lions at the base of the tree. Talk about a rock and a hard place. We presume the older male stole the kill from the young male and the scuffle attracted the attention of the lions.
A surprising and extremely exciting sighting for us this month was the first cheetah seen in the traversing area for almost six months. George and Solly noticed a giraffe staring intensely at one spot. Wondering what it was that had so captivated the animal, they decided to investigate and found it looking directly at a cheetah. The high concentration of lion here over the last few years has excluded the far less competitive cheetah. He had killed a bushbuck lamb, but there were three Ottawa females and one Selati male close to the area, he is in for a long night. Unfortunately, we have not seen him since.
For almost the whole month these male we preoccupied by the mating with tree lionesses of Ximhungwe pride and feeding on a hippo carcass that died at Xikwenga dam. The buffaloes and the Ximhungwe sub-adult even got a little break from these males chasing them around. The cubs are growing fast hopeful they will grow to the age and size where the Selati male will accept them as sub-adult and not kill them.
These males have become so comfortable in their territories they are roaring almost every night and are very seldom seen together.
The three lionesses of this pride was seen on few occasions hunting up and down along the river possible looking for bushbucks, nyalas and kudus that prefer these kind of habitat. All tree Ottawa lionesses look pregnant, we are impatiently waiting for the next generation, the first cubs of Selati males.
The lionesses are trying very hard to keep the cubs away from the Selati male, keep them alive. We seen them their strategy from running and hunting to engage entertaining and mate. The one lioness, Queen is left to baby sit and feed the three remaining cubs, hunting without the help of the three sisters (who are busy entertaining the Selati males) have proven little difficult especially because she been limping for a while now but she is managing so far.
It was much to our relief that the lioness and the 3 sub adults made a kill on one morning. We found them with bulging bellies and still bloodied. The Lioness had fed a bit but had clearly left the lions share to the youngsters. Hope beyond hope, as the Selati males still search for the last of the Mapogo’s cubs. The sad news this month is the lioness that had new litter lost all her cubs, we only got to see one cubs, we saw her carrying this cub to a wildebeest kill and the next day it was dead we are not sure what happened to it.
We are seeing many elephants around Inyati Lodge at the moment, mainly to the southern and western part of the reserve.
Breeding herds are commonly seen and at times, lone bulls are found around the camp. They tend to move through camp towards the western section of the reserve and then return (again through camp) towards the eastern section again following the Sand river, leaving evidence of their visit around camp, with broken branches and large piles of dung in the pathways and large, deep footprints in the mud.
One of the youngsters become very inquisitive he came closer and closer with his truck up in sniffing the air he was determent to find what we were all about.
The large buffalo herds were scarce for the first half of the month, but were seen daily during the second half of the month. It’s always exciting such large group of animal run to be first at waterhole before the water is stirred into mud by the fellow bovines.
More than the big five…..
We have been really spoilt with lots of hyena sightings this month. We are noticing a growing numbers of hyenas in our section of the reserve, often wrongly referred as just scavengers these adaptable predators do hunt efficiently in areas where they need to. On none morning we witness a clan of 6 hyenas hunt impalas successfully from the start to finish.
Another exciting animal seen around Inyati game lodge this month is serval an elusive and beautiful cat which is active mainly from dusk until dawn.
We have had great birding this month. The lilac-breasted roller has decided to show off its brilliantly coloured feathers as he flew down to catch a grasshopper. Guides have also reported good raptor sightings: a pair of nesting bateleurs, good sightings of the majestic martial eagle, a pair of african hawk-eagles and few sightings of tawny eagles.
In and around camp
Game viewing along the river and around camp has been amazing. Herds of elephant and giraffes are seen as a daily occurrence.
The area is full of elephant, and most water courses are bursting with hippo and crocodile.
A few snakes have started to reappear after a cold winter and we witnessed a grey-headed bush shrike attacking a large vine snake. It was interesting to notice how the bird try to destroy the snake’s eye first before kill it.
The resident troop of vevet monkeys constantly visits us at the camp; they are always entertaining, giving us superb close up views.
It’s been yet another amazing month here at Inyati, and we hope you’ll come here soon to share in it all…
The month of April has come and gone, what is left is an unforgettable memories and life experiences. Autumn is in full swing here in Sabi Sand Reserve and winter is closing in very quickly indeed. Morning and evening temperatures are getting cooler and cooler by the day we can feel the early morning chill is creeping in the back door and the days are getting shorter. The last of the rains has fallen and the leaves are starting to change to beautiful shades of orange and red and covering the ground below them. With a good rainy season behind us, there is lots of food out there to keep the animals well fed during this coming winter. Wildlife did not disappoint, predators activities were at its peak and there were also lots of general game around.
The leopard is regarded as the most elusive of all of Africa‘s large cat species and quite often hard to see on safari, an element of luck is involved in encountering this fascinating feline. In the Sabi Sand Game reserve however we are blessed with frequent and fairly regular sightings of these solitary cats. One of the commonly asked questions is: how can one identify individual leopard? Leopards can be uniquely identified by looking at their distinctive facial markings, such as their whisker spot pattern, forehead patterns and eye markings. The most accepted means of leopard identification is by using spot patterns. A spot pattern refers to the upper most row of spots on the leopard’s cheeks. These are the spots above the upper line of whiskers. Other useful methods used are noting notches or tears in their ears and other distinctive marks like scars.
Shangwa and cub
The leopard mother, Shangwa is doing just great her 2years cub is growing fast and have gain some confident in his hunting capabilities. She does however still feed him, tipical of elderly mother leopards they find it hard to let go of their grown young male. She did killed a common duiker on one night; with the help of her son they devoured the whole antelope in just few hours. And late in the month she was seen with him feeding on an Impala carcass in the marula tree. There were five spotted hyenas hanging around the base of the tree waiting for their share.
Some of our guests and guides we privileged to watch Shangwa young male on one morning tormenting a group of buffalo. The confidence in his agility bordered arrogance as he darted between the buffalo with total ease. The buffalo did manage to tree the pestering cat on a few occasions. But the leopard was adamant and continued returning. It was extraordinary that on each approach he managed to get closer before the buffalo noticed him, in an hour we noticed his ability to use cover and the wind improving. It’s truly a privilege to witness a future master honing his skills. We can only hope that his choice of training partners will not be the end of him in future. We left the area with six spitting mad buffalo and one leopard relaxing in a tree, looking very proud of himself.
This male is looking great, everything is going his way at the moment no male is threatening his territory and there are lots of female in it. During the month of this report he rejected at least two females that came for him showing sign of mating. Tlangisa and Dam 3 female followed him for days displaying sign of being in oestrous but the male got just got aggressive and kept walking away.
Perseverance is a mother of success. After long time trying Hlabankunzi finally get Dayone to mate with her. Even better is that few days later she was seen mating with Khashane male. This means could mean that her new coming cubs will be protected from both male as they will both think they fathered the cubs.
This female has provided some great viewing of late with her been found with more regularity around centre of our traversing area.The young female leopard continues to prosper and stay in excellent health. She has been her usual self, playful and entertaining as she poses for pictures.
The new coalition is settling in well in their new territory, they paroling and marking every corner of the territory, their roar can be heard from miles away almost every night. On one morning we had a magnificent start to the day as we woke up to the Selati males calling in camp. We set out at dawn and to track them down, with combing fine work of ranger and trackers they were found just east of camp. They seemed to be moving with intent. A short while after we found them they flushed a group of buffalo bulls and the chaos started. They separated one bull, working as a team one teased on the front as the others attacked from behind. The buffalo fought hard but the four strong lions wear determent to pull him down, at one stage one of the male was riding on his back to add some weight in attempt to weaken him.
It was hard work but they manage to pull him down eventually. One of the males hit the much larger beast with enough force to stop it in its tracks.
The new dominate males made few attempts to kill the cubs and the lioness fought hard to protect the cubs and they are the run. We didn’t see much of them this month because they have run east across our boundaries. Only one lioness stay behind, it’s easier for her since she has no cubs and she has interacted with these males before they took over the territory. The pride is doing exceptionally well, the youngsters are growing well and have sufficient energy to play and tackle each other and the rest of the pride, especially on cool afternoons and early evenings. They have begun to help their mothers with the hunting even though they are mostly just getting in the way other than anything, but they will soon learn the tricks of the trade.
Elephant (Loxodonta africana)
They were few large parade of elephants spread around the reserve with lots of new young babies. Keith and his guests got up-close and personal with large elephant bull in musth, elephant in this condition is normally aggressive as level of testosterone increases by about 50 percent but this bull was surprisingly relax.
There were few small herds of buffalo bulls scattered around our traversing area. While the large obstinancy has been seen constantly going in and out of our section, it’s always great to see the return of these big herds and some days we have seen over 600 buffalos in our in one herds.
More than the big five…..
April is the month of the impala rut. The full-grown males have become ferociously territorial and form temporary territories. Those that win the battle get to spend most of their time herding females into their territories and chasing the loser and the subordinate males out of their territory. The excitement is palpable as they rush to attract mates,letting out loud roaring sounds and splaying their white-tipped tails in display. These distracted bachelors are vulnerable to attack by predators, and those that survive this season will be weak, sporting gashes on their necks that are the scars of fierce battles with their competitors. The dominant rams put all their energy into the rut and spend little time eating. Thus resulting in loosing physical condition and get defeated by the next strong male. Quite a few of these battles do result in one been stabbed to death.
African hawk eagle is one of furious hunter of the African sky. They one of the only bird species that hunt cooperatively; one bird flushes prey which the other strikes, then they both feed on the carcass. They mainly eat birds, using its large feet to tackle and kill animals weighing up to about 4 kg. The nest (see image below) is built by both sexes, consisting of a large platform of sticks and twigs, lined with green leaves and are about 3 meters in diameter. It is typically placed just below the canopy of a tall tree, especially a knob thorn (Acacia nigrescens) about 6-19 metres above ground. The average clutch consists of one or two but normally only one chick is raised to adult as the stronger chick will always kill the weaker to eliminate competition for food.
African hawk eagle
In and around camp
The resident elephant bulls are constantly ambling though camp, feeding on the vegetation, giving us superb close up views – see picture on below as he take a pick into room seven.
Our lodge sits on the bank of the mighty Sand river and riverine is the most favourable habitat for leopards and we get see them frequent as they their wonder past through the lodge. This month even Kashane male who normally occupied the southern area of the reserve decided to drop in for an unexpected visit.
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.