Spring is here and it seems that it may have brought summer along with it. The temperatures have been soaring quickly during midday, much to the delight of the guests lounging around their private pools, whilst taking in the sightings and sounds on their decks. The wildlife retreats to the shade and find any cool areas during the higher temperatures, waiting for the cooler late afternoon before they start moving around again. It is the same procedure with our game drives departing in the afternoons in search of the elusive predators or alternatively watching activity unfold in National Geographic style along the Sand River or at some of the perennial water sources. The “shoulder” times of the day, either early morning or late afternoon, are when there is most activity in the bush. This will be when you are most likely to view most of the species on the move, in search of food or water. If you are lucky, you might also witness interactive behaviour between the different species.
Lions: The Mhangene pride continues to traverse through large areas of the Sabi Sand. With 16 adult or sub-adult lions on the move, it is notable that even large carcasses are only going to last for a short period of time. This lion pride is large enough to consume an entire buffalo within a few hours and move out of the area shortly afterwards. There are no opportunities to bank on the fact that this pride would be waiting for you in the morning if they had killed a buffalo the night before. The nine sub adult males in the pride are showing clear signs of approaching adulthood as their manes continue to grow and their general body size increases, soon to be larger than the adult females. It will be an interesting time for this pride as the nine males (if they stand together and remain as a coalition) will be a force to be reckoned with. The aging Majingilane male lions are preoccupied with keeping new coalitions at bay, which continue to push into the west from the Kruger National Park.
Leopards: The Hlab’Nkunzi female and her young male cub continue to dominate the sightings within the area around the lodges. Recently the duo spent some time feeding on the remains of a bushbuck within the surrounding area of Ebony Lodge. This was a fair distance from the guest rooms, but the cub was sometimes seen watching the movement of staff through a gap in a wall. A surprise visit from an old friend was also recorded this month, as the large and legendary Kashane male returned to the edge of his old stomping ground in surprisingly good condition. The Kashane male has spent the majority of the last year in the southern regions of the Sabi Sand in an area close to where he was born. The older leopard has resigned himself to occupying a smaller territory, due to the impact of younger stronger males in the area (including his son, the Ravenscourt male). We have observed at least three times within the last year that leopards have returned back to their birth locations prior to passing away. Could this be the case with the Kashane male, or would he be considered to have taken early retirement from a legendary status? The Kashane male roamed the bulk of the Singita reserve in the Sabi Sand, this constituted for at least 80% of his territory, overseeing most of the female leopards in the area and siring all of the cubs for several years. Kashane means ‘far’ in Shangaan. This name was most appropriate for this leopard, due to the distances that were covered to maintain his vast territorial grounds. We end this month on the sad news that the Schotia females’ young eight-month-old daughter was killed by the Manghene Pride.
Buffalo: Larger groups of buffalo have been viewed in the southern and western grassland regions of Singita Sabi Sand. The limited perennial water supplies in the area have caused a shift in the natural movement. The larger groups rarely spend much time along the Sand River as a result of the poorer grazing along the banks or in close vicinity of the river.
Wild dogs: The beta ranked female from the prominent wild dog pack that is viewed has been reported to have given birth to a litter of puppies just west of our northern boundary. We have had some epic opportunities to watch the alpha male and female raise their puppies, and we have been fortunate to watch the pack successfully hunting along the Sand River and in the general area closer to where the current den is located.
Elephants: Large groups of elephants continue to congregate along the Sand River and this has allowed for some incredible viewing. The interactive behaviour whilst in the river or along the greenery of the riverbed has afforded some great photographic opportunities of these large and gentle animals.
Birds: The total bird count for the month of September was 211 (193 in August). Specials for the month included the return of Klass’ cuckoos, European bee-eaters and yellow-billed kites, plus a mocking cliff chat and white-headed vulture.