This has been a very busy month in the South African bush with some exceptional game viewing. It was not a good month to be a buffalo, as many predators capitalized on the weaker and older individuals.
As winter draws to a close and summer kicks off with hot days and cool nights, some of the best sensory experiences have been accentuated. These include the early morning fresh smell in the air after the rain in the evening, and the sweet smell of a potato bush as you move through the drainage areas on route back to your lodge after a very memorable game drive. The sight of lightning moving across the sky in the distance during a sundowner, the illumination of the sky later at night as the storm brews. The sounds of various frog species echoing at intervals along the edges of the pans and rivers, as thunder rumbles in the distance. The glow of a red sun in the morning and a golden sun in the afternoon. These are all the memories we cherish and as the season continues there is always so much more that reminds us of how great summer is in the bush.
Here’s a highlights package of the month’s sightings:
Wild Dogs: We have had a few sightings of the wild dog pack that had denned north of the river for the winter. The puppies are continuing to grow and move further with the pack. As the lions continue to dominate along the watercourse of the Sand River, the sightings have been limited to a few only occurring on the far western boundary.
Lions: The Mhangene pride’s success continues as they have resided for most of the month within the Sand River to the area east of Boulders Lodge. The pride have been taking full advantage of spending a majority of their time resting amongst the reeds in the river and unsuspecting buffalo that have the same intention are falling prey to the mega pride. On more than one occasion again this month, we recorded more than two buffalo being killed during a single hunt. With the increase of the buffalo carcasses being prevalent due to the lions actively hunting the weaker individuals, the scavengers have been enjoying the feast just as much and, on some occasions, the carcasses aren’t completely cleaned, being left with bones chewed down and skin draping over the remains.
Leopards: The excitement of the Ndzunzeni female and her two leopard cubs has been a good part of the thrills of exploring in the southern regions. The two cubs are extremely habituated at such a young age and due to the age of the cubs the sighting has been restricted to one vehicle at one time to reduce the impact on the movement of the female leopard and her two bundles of joy. The Kashane male leopard has been seldom seen this month and on the few occasions that we have encountered him, he has been on route to the south of the Sabi Sand reserve. Kashane is not a young male and he originated from the south. This may be the end of an era for the brute of a leopard (known to outweigh many males in the area) as he deserts his large territory that has been his for several years. With this movement, the space has been opened up and there is a possibility that the Ravenscourt male leopard may venture back to his stomping grounds where he was a young male two years ago.
Buffalo: The few remaining buffalo that have been in small herds are slowly being out numbered by the amount of predators feeding on them. The larger groups of buffalo have fragmented and these smaller groups have been viewed throughout the reserve, consistently moving along the Sand River in search of water, food and shade during the midday heat.
Elephants: As the vegetation flutters with green new feathers of growth, the elephant herds have increased and they are moving with the tiniest calves that have everyone saying, “Oh my, that’s the smallest elephant I’ve ever seen!” The elephant calves are a favorite to watch as they explore their surroundings, whilst the mothers feed, however keeping a watchful eye on the little ones.
Bird list: 207 species were recorded in October 2016 (214 in September).
Specials for the month included a Gabar goshawk, little sparrowhawk, crowned hornbill, grey-headed kingfisher and rock kestrel.