It was warm on the last evening of autumn, it had been very hot for a few days and so we all new a cold front was coming. It didn’t make the temperature drop the next morning any more bearable. With the cold thud winter is here! The roads have turned into powder soft sketching maps that last for days, everything from the smallest birds to the mighty elephant can’t escape but leave their mark as they go. The trackers come into their own, as the disintegration of the tracks is a timeline that very few can decipher. The tracks most sought after are those of the cats, from the tiniest tracks of new born cubs up to the dark mane Madjingilane.
All small pans are dry and major dams look decidedly lower than usual. This means we have had elephants aplenty and all along the river. We had a sighting of over 200 elephants in and around the river recently that was simply spectacular.
Xhikavi has had cubs! Two of them that look to be about a month old, we found her suckling them in a den site close to the lodge. So standby for great pictures soon. Tlangisa has been leaving her cubs for longer periods but they still seem to rely on her for most of their food. The older one is coming along fine though and it will be nice to see her become independent soon. The question on everyone’s minds is where will they choose to become independent?
Scotia after a few brief encounters with Ravenscourt has taken up calling in the evenings as she gains confidence in her territory she inherited from Hlaba Nkunzi. Hlaba Nkunzi has almost permanently moved east and we only see her from time to time. Boulders has been seen a few times but she is so seldom seen and so far away from the lodge that I have only ever seen her two or three times. Dam three is also lactating which means she has cubs so we have a lot of babies around to go with. The lucky guy for the most part is Dewane and he is doing really well keeping Nyeleti far in the east so much so that we hardly ever see him.
The Othawas are doing well, the three cubs have what looks like mange which they must have picked up from the one male but it isn’t permanent and as they get older it should heal. The four Madjingilanes have been almost permanently set up her in the west as there are rumours of new coalitions making noise east of us as they arrive from the Kruger Park. The Ximungwes have not been seen in a while but for their tracks from time to time it is also rumoured that one of the females is dead. The Mangene Pride have been seen more and more in the south as they find it a relative vacuum of lions.
The Wild Dogs have been seen looking for a den in the North but they haven’t been seen in a few weeks. The Cheetah did well with the cubs but the last two died outside of game drive by a suspected leopard and hyena not at the same time. The coming months hold some interesting times for us to see hopefully.
That’s all from Matt for 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.
Regards, THE INYATI TEAM
Keith & Francis – Managers George (Head Guide) & Solly (Tracker) Khimbini (Senior Guide) & Rodger (Tracker) Matthew (Senior Guide) & Nelson (Tracker)
This month’s sightings report compiled by Matthew Brennan. Photographs by Khimbini, Keith and Matthew
I was on my way back from leave. It was the last day of September and close on a month into spring. When I left it was still winter but on this day it was warm into the evening as we expect down in the Lowveld. I therefore had my windows up and my aircon on. Until I reached the entrance into this great game reserve the Sabi Sand Wildtuin, on entry into the reserve I opened all windows and turned the radio off.
It was good to be home and the first thing I noticed was the air thick with the smell of smoke. It clings in the spider-webs, it dancers in the dust devils and settles everywhere, sometimes it rains in the scented ash.
My drive to the lodge was uneventful, and I arrived to settle in. I had arrived just at the end of safari and I am quite keen to see my friends and catch up with the news from the last two weeks. So I knew exactly where I needed to go too. Straight to post safari hub of the lodge, the bar. George and Keith are there assisting guests with drinks and good conversation. I notice that most of the guests are updating whichever social medium they choose to broadcast their stories of the African bush. The older generation always scold the youngsters as they order their drinks. I chat a bit with the staff at the bar, but I’m here for bush updates, so I corner the rangers and greet them and get some talk going.
I start it off, “how’s Tlangisa?” I ask George. “Still going strong and both alive”. “you know what I saw the other day?” George questions immediately. “The one Majingilane male with the Othawa’s, cubs and all. ‘Strue!” Keith weighs in, “And have you noticed the Othawa’s have an extra cub?” This is exactly what I have been hoping for an update on the last two weeks. I notice that a few guests have been paying attention to the conversation and so does Keith so he turns the guests to include them in the conversation. “The Othawa’s are one of the prides of lions here, they have three cubs now but it has been two for a very long time and so we are still deliberating as too which pride this extraneous cub originally belongs too. On top of that the Majingilanes are not the father of the cubs and have killed off five of their siblings. So the question now is why not?”
“Xhikave is here in a tree”, says a lady from across the bar. She points in the general area south. “That girl is pregnant,” says Kimmy as he walks guests from their room to the bar. “And there is an elephant on the lawn. Please the barman will help you with a drink.” All the guests shuffle and jostle to the end of the verandah to get a glimpse of the elephant who is preening the Knobthorns in the garden. He moves from lamp post to spotlight coming and going as the shadows hide him from view, he humphs deeply as he moves out of the orange glow and into the river. “There are cheetah everywhere at the moment. We see them every day almost and the wild dogs have come back twice and they have brought there pups. Dam Three and Dewane have been mating as well as Dam Three and Nyeleti.” Keith starts to roll through the scorecard. It makes me anxious to get out there and see for myself. Having got what I needed I retired for the evening. The sooner to bed the sooner I would wake up to get the day started.
I woke with a start as I’m not used to having light in my room in the morning. I could hear the warbling of the bulbuls outside in the trees and the distinct and somber call of the black cuckoo. I notice that it is overcast, I sighed deeply knowing that I was back. I turned my radio onto the game drive channel while I made my way down to the lodge to start my day with a coffee. My radio crackled to life, “I’m leaving Dewane in a tree with a kill,” loosely translated of course. I get my coffee and I am greeted by all the staff welcoming me back from leave. I make myself a cup and take a moment on the verandah and look at the view, it is breath-taking. I then go look for Nelson. I find him cleaning our vehicle. I ask him about his leave and we talk home life for a bit. He knows my enjoyment of the story and so tells me,” John the workshop assistant was picking up staff today and he saw a cheetah kill an impala, we going to go this afternoon.” He states forthright. “Ok.” Is all I can say against such determination. Nelson also states that there is buffalo in the south at least a thousand he says.
I then move off to prepare for safari and get my equipment clean and working and start to focus on the guests that will be coming in. So by 15h30 when it is high tea I am ready to explode onto the scene. I greet the guests and chat for a bit, I find out what they are expecting from their stay here. I then inform them of how things will work and such and as soon as possible I usher them to the vehicle. There they climb on and I instruct them as to how to remain safe and then. I start up the car and off we go.
The month of May was a successful one with great sightings and estatic guests, mornings and evenings were little chilly but the days were pleasant. Morning breaks with tea, coffee and hot chocolate are becoming more popular as we get into the winter season. Our dams and many of river systems are fill up we should have enough water to last us through dry winter this year. Surprisingly, Sand River’s water level is low considering the huge floods we had early this year.
We are often ask what differentiates safari destinations, well location must be one of them, pristine wilderness, diversity in habitat, enough resources to support huge numbers of big game….(On picture below) follow the river to the top of the picture and note the green patch on the bank, sits Inyati Game lodge.
Leopard galore! Sightings of these beauties have been outstanding over the past month. Even Khashane male who spent most of his time out of our traversing was here with us for most of the month. We were following him on one morning while on his territory patrol when two impala ram chased each other right passed him. Even though his focused was on a territory marking he couldn’t resist this opportunity of a meal. He followed them for about two hundred metres waited for the two fighting antelopes to lock horn, he then literally run in and took one of them.
Shangwa and cub
The elderlyfemale leopard, Shangwa and her grown cub continue to provide us with the most rewarding experiences – they have been seen with kills couple of times this month. Later in the month she picked up few injuries, one wound on her forehead she is also looking undernourished but she should get better soon. The cub has been seen on his own a lot, have begun to wonder way out of his mother’s territory to explore new areas.
He has grown in size and in confident as seen often patrolling every corner of his prime territory with no fear. They say no one has perfect life, but some come really close, all is seemingly good for this leopard right now.
The most viewed of our leopard, Tlangisa was little bit scarce this month she had ventured completely out of her territory, we were all very surprised to see her on far north-western corner of the reserve where she spent couple of weeks exploring the area. On her return she got into a little territorial dispute with Dam 3 female who on of their territory boundaries. The dispute was resolved without a physical contact they eventually separated moving back deeper into their own territory. Tlangisa was noticeably very careful of the older and large Dam 3 female.
The new dominant males, Selati have spent a good part of the month with the three Ottawa lionesses of which two of them were in oestrous. The boys did manage to pull down at least couple of buffaloes this month. While they were feeding on the buffalo, one of the younger male sneak away he was found the next morning in the different area mating with two lionesses at same time. It didn’t take long before the three brothers caught up with him. This was the first time that the bond amongst these males was put to real test, the younger two males have been given so many chances in the past but this time it wasn’t the same there was few serious battle between among themselves and the younger two who initially claimed the lionesses where beaten up and driven off.
One of the male younger male was seriously injured but the next day were found him with the female he lost the night before, this particular male have very strong character of them all. He often separate, he was one driving the group to search for the Mapogos, he was more aggressive when they killed Mr T. He is far less affectionate; often lie separate from the rest of the males. He was the one who continue the chase of Ximhungwe pride ended up in the tough jaws and claws of four Ximhungwe lionesses. This male can be easily identified by the prominent bulge on the right side of his heap and his frown or mean face he wears. (Note second picture blow)
Our resident pride, Ximhungwe has been out of our traversing area into the eastern section of the reserve this was to obviously avoid the Selati males who will more likely kill the cubs if found. On return they find a corner where the Selati males hardly ever go, they stayed there safely for weeks until the end of the month when were found by the males. We found them in the morning followed as they ran through almost the entire length of our traversing area, we noticed that two lionesses were injured and tree cubs were missing. We feared that the pride might have lost three cubs but few days later two of the missing three were found alive, so only one is killed.
Elephant (Loxodonta africana)
Elephant sightings were really fantastic. Breeding herds of these grey goliaths were seen all around the traverse area this month. We watched these gentle giants for hours and they seem to enjoy our presence as well. One of the cows was performing all the tricks including “bum scratching” as can be seen on the picture below.
We also had close encounter with one of the youngster, when her decided he was going to drive us away by shaking his head and hold his ears out as he charge at us. His mother seemed not to pay any notice to us or him. Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer)
The big herd only pay couple of visit this month but we were never short of buffalo there plenty of solitary and bachelor herd along the sand river. In one of the dams the herd visits for a drink is resident by a lone hippo, he doesn’t seem to mind their presence rather fascinated as he often try to get close to the buffalos for a closer look. I guess as lonely bull driven out of the herd he does need little company sometimes, after all friends come in different sizes.
More than the big five…..
Hippos spend most of their daily hours in water and nights on land grazing along, but with the cool weather they can be seen lying on the banks of rivers and dams. We had are great viewing of couple, cow and bull chasing each other around at Inyati causeway.
Steenbok is the smallest of the antelope species we get to see, these little antelope will generally scuttle off but we saw one that was very relaxed and curious she decided to investigate the game drive vehicle instead.
In and around camp
The resident sounder of warthogs constantly visits us at the camp, feeding on the green grass, giving us superb close up views. The piglets are growing fast they have become accustomed to people walking around the lodge, very entertaining as they roll in the mud wallows to cool off at mid day temperatures.
As winter’s cold dries the vegetation elephants follow the rivers in search of greenery and our lodge is just in perfect place, guests are able view these animals as they flock up and down the river.
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.