While driving north along the Mozambique border in the Singita Kruger concession, I suddenly slammed on the brakes as my tracker raised his hand and gestured to his ear. We switched off the vehicle and listened in anticipation.
We made our way towards the position of where the calls were coming from and brought the Land Rover to a standstill. I explained to the guests that we were going to leave the vehicle in order to locate whatever had disturbed the herd of impala, which we could now see from our location.
The alarming continued, but after scanning for tracks and checking the entire area we came up with absolutely nothing. We decided to continue with the detective work and eventually stumbled across an incredible sight. To my tracker’s horror it was something that he would rather not have seen. As fearless as he is he did not enjoy the sight of large snakes. A charging lion would be more acceptable. This particular time of year was lambing season and we could now understand why the impala were so distressed.
A Sothern African rock python had managed to get hold of a young impala and was in the process of asphyxiating it. It had a firm grip on the animal’s leg and the lamb stood no chance. It was difficult to digest such a tragic end to this impala, but for us it did not detract from what was an incredible sighting.
We were very careful not to disturb the snake as it had clearly fought so courageously for its food source that would sustain it through the summer.
Track wildlife with James Suter across over half a million acres of Singita reserves. Don’t miss incredible sightings captured on video.
Even within the comfort of a vehicle, a lion is one intimidating animal. At Singita we often have close encounters with these beasts as most individuals are fairly relaxed with the Land Rovers. They are unusually lackadaisical animals spending most of the day resting and we often forget the power these massive cats possess.
On this particular occasion, while some of the Mountain pride females were coming into season, the scene was far from lethargic. The two brothers who generally are more than tolerant towards each other were out to prove a point and brotherly love was put aside for the time being. This was serious business. The possibility to mate is every male lion’s ambition. Some are successful and some unfortunately don’t make the grade.
It was an exciting moment and tension was thick in the air as the two males sized one another up. It was inevitable what was going to follow and before we knew it the larger lion hurtled towards his brother. The vehicle seemed to vibrate as the two collided, with snarls and more hostility and tenacity than any I’ve ever witnessed.
The battle had begun and the victor would reserve the right to claim his female.
(Blog series by James Suter.)
Encounters with elephants are always a treasured experience. These beautiful animals are not just impressive to the eye, but it is remarkable to witness their intelligence as well as the camaraderie and communication between individuals.
There are an abundance of elephant found within the Singita reserves due to the large rivers running through the concessions and plenty of surface water to sustain them throughout the year. Elephants hold a special place in any nature lover’s heart; their majestic size, temperament and endearing traits separate them from many other species.
An elephant herd is an incredibly close-knit family, with members not only taking care of their offspring but also working as a unit to ensure the success of the next generation. A female and her daughter may maintain a bond for up to fifty years and a youngster will stick to its mother’s side for up to six years after being weaned. Without a doubt they are the most versatile herbivores with a varied diet which they may alter or change depending on the season.
One can spend hours watching them as they constantly keep one entertained with their daily activities, spending the majority of their time feeding, having to sustain their massive frames. No encounter with these animals is ever the same and often they are full of surprises. They all possess different personalities and will react to human presence either in a relaxed manner or sometimes with a more intimidating approach.
Keep up with James Suter as he treks through the pristine wilderness of Singita’s game reserves across Africa.
Leopards’ private lives often remain a secret, however when you come to know some of the individuals and eventually gain their trust that secret may be shared. They are widespread and by no means endangered, however leopards are both shy and elusive and if a leopard does not want to be seen, the chances are you won’t find it. They are often active throughout the day; their nocturnal habits have developed in most areas and may be a response to both human activity and possibly better hunting conditions. It always brings me joy watching these animals in their natural environment and being active animals, they continuously present a marvelous sighting.
In the Singita concessions there are plenty of places to hide but with the assistance of our knowledgeable trackers we are able to locate leopards on a pretty regular basis. We mostly rely on the signs they leave behind and the art of trailing spoor, which is an essential skill, if these animals are to be consistently found. However, I would love to know how many times we have driven or walked straight past these cats with no idea of their whereabouts. Their mottled rosettes allow them to blend in, in almost any terrain.
There is always a great deal of excitement when one discovers a fresh track of a leopard, or the word “ingwe” (Shangaan for leopard), is uttered over the radio. It is an animal that people want to see and I completely understand why. There are ample leopards which are now habituated to our presence and our sightings at Singita Sabi Sand have increased dramatically over the years. One never knows when you may find one, but when you do it’s a experience you’ll remember for a very long time.
Follow James Suter this week as he heads over to Singita’s private concession in the Kruger National Park to trek through the reserve and bring the wild closer.
It’s peculiar, for the amount of times that lions mate, it is quite a rare sight to actually catch them in the act. However lions do not mate at any specific time of the year and are not always that easy to find. Singita Kruger National Park is lion country and during my guiding career I have been fortunate to have some fantastic opportunities to see these guys in action. A pair of mating lions is an interesting affair, which involves a fair deal of aggression, acrobatics, persistence and astonishing vocals all thrown into one performance.
On this particular day we found one of the young males from the Southern pride showing keen interest in a young female. It’s often quite easy to observe sexual behavior in lions and if one is patient, the reward is well worth the wait. Mating is initiated by both male and female, but seemingly more often by the female who is full of energy during her oestrus. We sat with the animals for some time before the female gestured to the male and presented herself to him.
Most lionesses will have reproduced by the time they are four years of age. This was still a young female and possibly her first intermit experience with the opposite sex. As with other cats, the male lion’s penis has fine barbs, which point backwards. Upon withdrawal, the barbs rake the walls of the female’s vagina, which may cause ovulation but obvious pain. After he mounted her we watched in awe as she clearly voiced her discomfort, lashing out at the male with snarls of displeasure.
This aggressive response from the female is all part of the act and a mating bout, which could last several days. They will copulate twenty to forty times a day each lasting about 20 seconds at a time. They may even go without eating during their time together.
We located the couple over the next few days, with the male keeping a close eye on his four brothers, making sure they knew this young female belonged to him and that it was going to be his genes that were passed on successfully. If mating failed, the lioness will come into oestrus again in 16 days and possibly another lion will be successful, however I feel in this case this male managed to seal the deal as he gave quite a performance.
We hope you’ll follow James Suter as he blogs from Singita’s private game reserves across Africa – tracking the natural rhythms of the wild.
While driving through the Northern parts of the Lebombo concession, a guide calls in over the radio that he has just located two lionesses. Both the animals were lactating as their mamary glands were enlarged. This got me really excited and I knew if we was patient and spent some time with these animals we stood a good chance of being introduced to her cubs.
As we gained visual of the two cats, they separated and I decided to stick with the one that was heading staight toward a large drainage line, a perfect area for her to hide her youngsters. She was walking with purpose and the excitement levels started to build amongst us in the vehicle. We followed her for about thirty minutes keeping our distance, being careful not to disturb her. She eventually lead us through a drainage line toward a dense thicket protected by large amoured thorns. Switching off the vehicle, all in silence, heads cocked in anticipation, we listened. Time passed as we sat under the cover of a large sigamore fig waiting, and eager to find out if this was the very place this lioness had chosen to hide her cubs. To our amazement we heard a faint cry coming from deep withing the inaccessible brush, a sound that could only be produced by a lion cub.
We approached cautiously towards the thicket and finally gained visual of two tiny cubs, no more than three weeks old. It was such a build up to such an incredible reward. What was so astonishing to me was how relaxed the mother was with the presence of the vehicle, showing no sign of aggression. The cubs grew inquisitive and eventually approached within a meter of the vehicle constantly calling, seeking their mother’s approval. These cubs were very young and had not yet been introduced to the rest of the pride. What an incredible moment it was.
We discussed how vital it was for the cubs to have a safe haven and that during the hiding period they were at great risk. But these cubs were very well hidden and stood a good chance of survival. I felt privilaged to have been aquainted with these tiny creatures and grateful to their mother for tolorating our presence.
Keep up with our weekly blog series as James Suter takes us on a journey through the African bushveld, bringing the wild closer.
As a young boy I prided myself in being able to identify most of the bird species found in South Africa. This passion never disappeared and by the age of twenty-one I decided I was going to become a Game Ranger. I caught the “bush bug”.
Ever since then James Suter has been living and breathing exhilarating experiences in the wilds of Africa – for many years as a Singita Field Guide, connecting guests to safari in a real and authentic way – allowing them to savour moments in the wilderness, and be transformed by the power of those moments. We are thrilled to introduce James Suter as he brings safari to life in Singita’s upcoming new blog and social media series. Be inspired by heart-pounding photography, video and stories, as James walks through the bush tracking wildlife, and rambles along rugged terrain in a Land Rover tapping into a daily discovery and experience of the Singita reserves and wilderness.
Follow him on Facebook and right here on Singita’s blog.
The Xirombe lion pride – Singita Kruger National Park
Xinkelengane female leopard
A remarkable week of game viewing at Singita Kruger this week. Behind the lens is Singita Guide, Marlon du Toit, who loves every minute of his day introducing the wilderness to guests at Singita Lebombo and Sweni Lodges.
Have you ever wondered about the strength of spider webs or the smell of a lion’s breath or what it feels like to be an arm’s-length away from an elephant? These are the daily experiences of Field Guides, living and working in the wild, sharing the adventure of safari with Singita guests.
Alan Yeowart, Guiding Skills Facilitator and Private Guide, Singita Sabi Sand – shares insights into the initial phase of training individuals to become “Game Rangers”. Singita Field Guide Training Academy – 2011.
Apart from the obvious basics about learning the theory of Field Guiding and its associated knowledge component, the real essence of spending 6 months as an aspirant Field Guide or “Game Ranger” is the accrual of stories and experiences that will equip you from a practical sense.
Where better than Singita’s iconic properties can you be exposed to such an onslaught of experiential opportunities?
Alan Yeowart’s 9 new recruits are currently busy developing their skills and the following are some photographs after their first 4 weeks of training.
How strong does a Musth Bull smell at 2 metres?
What does a lion’s breath smell like?
How loud does your heart-beat sound when you are told – “now let’s see if we can get a little bit closer”?
Joining the dots; collecting evidence; analyzing the scene and recreating the sequence of events.
To keep up with news about the Field Guide training – follow the Guides’ Diaries posted monthly on Singita’s website.
To ensure our Field Guides and Trackers are as passionate about the wildlife and flora as we are – and to ensure they are able to convey this to Singita guests through sharing accurate information and insights about the land which they traverse – Singita has established an in-house Field Guide and Tracker Training Academy under the care of one of our most experienced and knowledgeable guides. A comprehensive six month training programme covers all areas of field guiding and tracking from an in-depth understanding of all flora and fauna, to responding appropriately and professionally to the specific needs and interests of each of our guests. For more information refer to Singita’s website.