Wow!! What a cycle it has been. In actual fact it was an amazing year at Sabi Sabi and a very enjoyable and special one for me personally as it has been my first at this oasis I call home.
One would think that writing a blog about your cycle highlights would be easy but it is so difficult to choose between so many great sightings over a 42 day period. Instead this time, it has been about the stories – our soap opera of the bushveld.
Santa was very generous with his cat sightings this season, with our surprise package of three more beautiful Southern Pride cubs being a highlight. It was almost a very short lifespan when their mother thought it would be a good idea to take them to a large male buffalo kill. At nearly a ton, a kill of this size generates interest, not only from the Kruger male who shared in the spoils but also the coalition of the Sandriver males.
This premature introduction could have meant the death of these cubs as they narrowly escaped the paws of the Sandriver male coalition. Male lions will kill the cubs of other males as this is future competition for food but the irony is that these cubs could be potentially theirs as they had been seen previously mating with the Southern Pride females despite the Kruger male still being dominant. The Sandriver males have been spending a lot more time at Sabi Sabi confirming their interest in moving in and trying to take over the Southern Pride. This has left a big question mark over what role the coalition of Solo and Eyrefield will play.
Who is going to make their move first, or will they continue to all be led on by the crafty Southern Pride females?
I think if you asked all the rangers here, one of their biggest highlights has been the return of the iconic leopard known as Sandriver from the northern section of the Sabi Sands reserve. His return meant passing South through the territory of the Maxabeni male who is firmly the most dominant male in the area.
Sandriver, with his conspicuous silver right eye, has now been regularly seen in the Southern sector of Sabi Sabi near Earth Lodge. One night he showed off his adaptability, killing 3 Egyptian geese in quick succession as they unwittingly crossed his path – read my blog “the opportunist”. It hasn’t all been about the cats – the largest land mammals – the elephants have been in a state of euphoria with the start of the Marula fruit season. So much so they have been head butting the Marula trees to stimulate the ripening process which takes place on the ground.
The rains have replenished much needed water and the bush is a lush green and alive with migrant birds and beautiful wild flowers. I have no doubt that my next cycle will be just as good as the previous ones and this soap opera fan is keen to see what twist and turns mother nature has in store for us in 2014.