The pastel colour of winter has blanketed the bush, bringing delights of boundless sightings, wild dog puppies and wilderness activities that extend throughout the day with the temperate conditions. Sound is accentuated by the colder morning air and can be heard for several kilometres, the roar of the Majingalane lions continues to echo across the valleys. The cool air drifts along the Sand River and as the sun rises it illuminates the mist rising off the warm water. This is a typical scene whilst sipping on a hot cup of coffee being engulfed into your surroundings; what a way to start your day!
Here’s a highlights package of the month’s sightings:
Lions: The Manghene pride continues to flourish, with all four lionesses looking in great shape, and continuing to be excellent providers for their twelve rapidly growing youngsters. This pride is riding the crest of a wave, and is possibly one of the most successful prides ever to have roamed the Sabi Sand. It is interesting to note that one of the lionesses seems to be pregnant again… one would imagine it most likely that this is the mother of the two oldest of the twelve youngsters. The previous daughters of the Mhangene pride, six young lionesses in their prime, are now known as the Tsevu pride, a pride which spends much of its time further south and east of the area generally controlled by the Manghene pride. The Othawa pride seems to be doing well, and there has also been a welcome return of the surviving members of the Ximungwe pride. There has not been any significant change of late, regarding the dynamics of male lion coalitions seen on Singita Sabi Sand land.
Golden afternoon light shrouds one of the Majingalane male lions as he follows the Manghene pride in the hope for a prized meal.
Full-bellied lions warmed themselves in the sun on top of a dam wall, to the excitement of the guests watching them at eye level. The lions listened intently to the hyena fighting over the remains left of the buffalo that was devoured the night before by the pride. The aftermath of the Manghene pride, after killing an adult buffalo. Due to the size of the pride it is unlikely that much food is left for the scavengers.
One of the nine young male lions in the Manghene pride. Take a look at that mane starting to grow already. A female hyena lifts a heavy buffalo skull away from the marauding clan. With hierarchal status in a clan, it often comes with reward.
Leopards: The Hlab’Nkunzi female and her seven-month-old male cub continue to move further into the north, while the Schotia female and her female cub spend more time just west of the lodges. The two mothers have been a delight to watch as they raise their cubs in the wild, with tribulations of avoiding lions and wild dogs and finding suitable areas to leave the cubs whilst the mothers are away hunting. The Schotia female is, of course, the Hlab’Nkunzi female’s daughter. The Mobeni female has been spending time with various males, who vie for some of the vast territory vacated by the old Kashane male. Male leopard viewing has been excellent, and there have unavoidably been some skirmishes, with the Torchwood male apparently being the “loser” in clashes with the Ravenscourt male, while the Nyelethi male also took a beating, probably at the hands of the large Anderson male, north of the Sand River.
Buffalo: The smaller herds have attracted the Mhangene pride and they have capitalised in hunting the buffalo calves, recording one per night over a three-day period. Twenty-four hours later they killed two adult male kudus in a drainage line. The pride’s success lies in the large numbers of lions that are able to hunt. With nine young males in the pride they continue to dominate in hunting the larger prey species.
Wild dogs: The exciting news is that wild dogs have returned to a den-site on Othawa for another winter. With the previous den being a successful location, we were fortunate enough to see the pack of 10 return back this year. Over the last few weeks, we have had a few glimpses of the new litter. So far we have counted 12 puppies in the litter, with the pregnant beta female also moving into the den. This means that this pack could increase significantly in size over the next few weeks. The high-pitched whimpering echoes along the drainage line and the excitement on the vehicle hits fever pitch as we arrive at the den-site.
The first glimpse of the wild dog puppies. Twelve puppies have been counted and they continue to grow at an alarming rate, for impalas that is…
Elephants: The typical pattern of elephant viewing at this dry time of the year is that we are seeing good numbers of elephants along the Sand River and its tributaries, particularly in the warmer part of the day. Grass is particularly dry at present, so the elephants are consuming large quantities of Phragmites reeds while in the riverbed. In the cooler part of the day when the elephants move to higher ground, they are browsing on various palatable trees and shrubs. They are particularly fond of chewing the bark off young stems of round-leafed teak saplings.