This year has just flown by, leaving me with memories that will forever be etched in my mind. Sabi Sabi is a magical place that I have had the privilege to be apart of for over 4 years and have been able to share with countless guests. From the amazing lodges, each with their own feel, to the food and most importantly the safari experience. No matter whether we are experiencing the sweltering heat of summer or the bitterly cold mornings of winter, the bush has always got a surprise lurking around every corner and this year has been no different.
Lion activity has been amazing and we have seen such radical changes and pressure applied to the Southern Pride that it has been very difficult to keep up with and follow all the interactions. I have never seen such pressure being applied to a pride of lions as I have seen with the Southern Pride. The Kruger male has been under the pump as 15 different males have all tried to stake their claim to the, now 9, lionesses that could potentially bare their cubs. The pride has been left in limbo not knowing who to mate with and have adopted the approach of mating with as many of the males as possible to keep the boys guessing as to who the father is and hopefully avoid the cubs being killed.
As far as the movements of these giant carnivores goes, the pride has been left struggling to find place to settle. The Kruger male has all but stopped his job of protecting the territory in order to preserve his own life. What we have seen is that he has been sticking close to the ladies who have the strength in numbers to fight off the would-be pride males. In summary, it is going to be a fascinating 2014 to see how the pride progresses, whether we get a split in the pride, which seems quite possible at the moment, and if the Kruger male mans up to chase off his contenders.
In terms of the leopards, we have witnessed a complete change in the power structure on the reserve. The fluid changes have been amazing to watch as Mahlathini displaced both Xihangelas and Sandriver, leaving him as the lone territorial male in the north of the reserve. The ladies flocked in to mate with this beautiful specimen and both Little Bush female and Warthog Wallow had cubs with him. Unfortunately for Little Bush her cubs did not make it but Warthog Wallow is still doing a great job of looking after her remaining cub.
It is not easy being a leopard mother out here as almost 40% of cubs are lost to infanticide and then added to that are threats of hyenas, lions and other animals that are all routing against the successful raising of another leopard into an already saturated environment. The quality time that I have spent with the little ones leaves me feeling rather nostalgic and I often have to remind myself that nature will always do what is right for the entire system and not just one individual.
Mahlathini became the king, but his reign was not going to be easy as a new male from the north, Maxabeni, looked to start staking his claim on territory, which meant that he needed to start pushing into Mahlathini’s territory which led to some more madness. Little Bush female was the one who sparked the first conflict as she fell into oestrus and both males became interested. Now imagine 3 leopards all within 20 metres growling and snarling at one another. It was after about 24 hours that the males eventually put on the boxing gloves and the two boys laid into one another leaving the older Mahlathini licking his wounds. Maxabeni has slowly been pushing Mahlathini further and further east as he starts to take greater control over the area.
The whole year has been filled with cheetah, wild dogs, buffalo and elephant and the joys of sharing these amazing sightings with guests is just too amazing to explain in a short blog but hopefully all the pictures explain a small bit of what has been an amazing year. What a year and this last year leaves me excited for the year to come. I am wondering how we could top this year but I know that Mother Nature is a magician who always has a new card up the sleeve and a new bit of magic to wow us with. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.