February 2024

Singita Sabi Sand


Singita Sabi Sand: February 2024

This year the month of February was a stark contrast to the previous year when we experienced more than half the annual rainfall in just twenty-eight days. This February, with El Niño off the Indian Ocean, temperatures have soared like vultures riding the thermals and rain has been scarce. We have been shown just how fragile and unforgiving life can be with the death of the Nkuhuma lioness at the expense of the Mhangene Pride’s desire for dominance. With this comes great opportunity for those smaller prides in the area to branch out where the Nkuhuma Breakaways once roamed. Our surroundings show a slow change in the direction of the onset of the drier times of the year as long, tanned grasses now boast their detail fluorescents which catch the late afternoon glow in such spectacular fashion. Cracks now form in the mud on the edges of seasonal pans as their waters recede - not all life is lost, look closely and you will see amphibians taking shelter in these cool nooks. Small creepers stake their claim to the water-logged mud while funnel-web spiders build their web in hope for a meal.

Let’s catch up with what has been happening with the wildlife:


  • As the grasses thin out spotting cheetah has become more achievable when they are at rest. The mother cheetah and cubs has been spending a considerable amount of time on Singita of late and limiting her movements in order to assure their survival. Sadly, she has lost two cubs, we are not sure how but a good chance it was to larger predators that are in abundance on the reserve. In efforts to protect the remaining cubs she has been moving late in the morning when bigger cats are sleeping, and resting in small thickets of vegetation in the crests of the gabbro grasslands. It is remarkable that we view cheetah in the Sabi Sand so regularly, let alone a female and cub.


  • With the last of the marula fruits still waiting to drop, this season’s harvest has been exceptional. A healthy rainy season the year before has helped the trees and those that rely on them with a big bounty of fruit. The elephants have enjoyed the spoils and are now shifting their feeding habits to browse. A popular tree for them is that of the round-leafed teak. These evergreen trees have their branches stripped off with ease by the numerous herds that frequent the area. Although the elephants have stunted many of this tree species, their solid trunk remains defiant and holds them in place.


  • After what had felt like an eternity the Mhangene Pride has returned with force. In a very sad turn of events the pride was discovered feeding on another lioness. A highly unusual occurrence as they rarely eat other predators after killing them. This is due to a low-fat content in the body of other cats, including lion. The Nkuhuma lioness, much like her older relative one-and-a-half years back, has fallen victim to the ruthlessness of Mother Nature. Although this seems harsh and unnecessary, this is the path many lions have to take in order to ensure their pride’s survival. The growing cubs are putting more and more pressure on the adults to provide bigger and more frequent meals.
  • The two sub-adults that now remain from the Nkuhuma Breakaway Pride have a tough road ahead of them. Just older than two years of age they would have some experience in hunting and with prey plentiful in the region not all hope is lost. Lions are resilient, if given the chance, they will overcome challenges, after all there is a reason why they are so often the subjects of great stories and legends.
  • The Tsalala lioness is an ideal figure for these two young lions to aspire to. She continues to thrive along the eastern stretch of the Sand River on Singita. One particular morning, while following her she caught sight of a leopard, the Senegal Bush male who just saw her in time and scampered up a tree to safety. A thrilling case witnessing two big cats play out the hierarchy of the African bush.


  • The south-eastern part of Singita has been a hotspot for leopard activity over the past two months. As the two male cubs of the Nkuwa female grow older and bolder, sightings of them by themselves have become more stable as they show trust in the vehicles when by themselves. A most memorable moment of these three was when she led the cubs to a kill and was then joined by the Senegal Bush male leopard. Leopards are often described as loners, this sighting proves otherwise, and in an area with such a high density it is no surprise when individuals come together and kick the text book to the bin!
  • The Ximobanyana female and her cub are doing well and crucial progress was made in getting the youngster accustomed to our safari vehicles when they were found feeding on an impala kill. This allows guides to cycle through the sighting knowing that the leopards will not leave the kill. These two leopards can be found in the surrounding vicinity of Castleton, a leopard’s haven.
  • Thamba male and the Hlambela male still hold their own in the south and the north respectively.
  • We occasionally have come across a young female that may well have been born and brought up by either the Serengeti female or Nkangala female, both of which are shy leopards. These mysterious individuals are exciting to find as there is so much we do not know about them. Personal habits and traits are something each leopard has and we eagerly look forward learning more about this elusive female.

Wild dogs

  • The pack of three have been active around Castleton this month making the most of the impala lambs that were born late in the season. With all the activity of a wild dog hunt in the air it’s no surprise that the draw in a lot of attention. One morning, a herd of elephant caught wind of the pack feeding and came rushing in a drove them away while trumpeting and crashing through the brush. The dogs scampered off and some opportunistic hyenas seized the moment and stole what was left of the unattended carcass.


  • The herds are now traveling further and further each day. Seasonal pans are now merely muddy stagnant pools where terrapins and warthogs find respite from the heat. Grasses are losing their sweetness and finding enough for so many mouths mean more walking.

Bird List

Another month sees one new species recorded for the Sabi Sand Nature Reserve, the broad-tailed warbler, as well as new species for the year, African openbill and black coucal, bringing our yearly total to 233 species.