Sabi Sabi yesterday, today, tomorrow

a week in the bush: vol 4

by Sabi Sabi on March 25, 2014

The Southern African wilderness is unbelievably diverse in terms of the array of life found within it, from the smallest of insects to the world’s largest land mammal. As a guest to our country it is sometimes so easy to overlook the smaller details when on a safari, especially when confronted with the infamous and impressive ‘Big 5’ animals, but I urge you to look closer. There is a lot to be said for the little wonders of the bush. Wonders that are most often appreciated while out in the bush on foot and with the colder winter months now steadily approaching, we will be saying farewell to some of the insects and migratory birds that have been enriching our guest’s experiences while out with us at Sabi Sabi over the summer.

A beautiful African Common White butterfly floats around from flower to flower to sip the sweet nectar it so enjoys.

butterfly

A White-barred Charaxes briefly comes to rest on a rock before moving off again.

butterfly

South Africa is home to a variety of spiders. Here a Banded Nephila, one of the Golden Orb Weaver family, sits on its web in wait for a meal.

orb spider

A bevy of Southern Carmine Bee-eaters gather together before the migration back to equatorial Africa for the winter period.

carmine bee eaters

This last week has seen quite a lot of activity and movement from our resident cats, but before we get into that, lets explore and pay tribute to some of the other wildlife that we’ve been seeing around the reserve. A large confusion of Guinea Fowl move across our path while on drive on an overcast day.

guinea fowls

Summer is the season for new beginnings and new life. The rains breathe life into the grasses, shrubs and trees signaling to all that the time of plenty has arrived. This sets in motion a chain reaction of events and soon after the first rains, many animals will give birth to their offspring. The vast majority of animals seem to instinctively ‘time’ their birthing as close to the summer season as possible to ensure that their respective young have the best chance at survival in this sometimes very harsh environment. For guests visiting this beautiful piece of paradise we call the Bush, this can make for some touching and exciting viewing throughout the season as we observe these creatures in their struggle over life and death. We have had some great moments with our guests watching this process at various stages almost always “rooting for the little guy”.

A juvenile Waterbuck pauses while investigating our vehicle in order to ascertain whether we are friend or foe.

waterbuck

 A young Kudu female cautiously moves between shrubs while the rest of the group feeds.

kudu while on safari at Sabi Sabi Luxury Safari Lodges

A Zebra foal and its mother have a good scratch on the trunk of a small Apple-leaf tree, while a pair of Red-billed Oxpeckers simultaneously attempt to feed the screaming mouths of their young with the ticks picked off the Zebra’s back.

zebra

Earlier in the summer we experienced a massive influx of African Elephant into the area as a result of the fruiting Marula trees, from large breeding herds to bachelor groups of males being scattered all over the place. With the fruiting season now over, some of these giants have moved off in search of the last of the fruits dotting the earth. We have still been having regular sightings though, particularly of bachelor groups and lone bulls as they meander around in search of food or females making for some spectacular viewing. With most of the males also no longer in ‘musth’, they have become a lot more tolerable and relaxed with us being around them for prolonged periods, really allowing us to appreciate their interesting behaviors and ‘qwerky’ mannerisms.

A massive bull Elephant gracefully moves past us while being bathed in the afternoon sunlight.

elephants while on safari at Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve

A big old bull moves in real close to us while feeding. It is amazing the sightings you can have if you read the animal’s behavior correctly and respect their space.

elephant while on safari at Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve

Pretty soon we will be expecting the massive breeding herds of Cape Buffalo to move through the area as they migrate in search of fresh grazing, but for the time being, gangs of buffalo bulls lay scattered across the reserve enjoying their favorite pastimes. Buffalo love to spend their days lying in pools of water or wallowing in mud, especially during the intense heat of the summer months. It is almost guaranteed on a hot day that you will find some ‘Dagga Boys’ resting in a muddy pan.

A ‘Dagga’ boy in the true sense of the word. Dagga is the Shangaan term for mud and I’m sure you can guess from this image why the buffalo has been given the nickname.

buffalo while on safari at Sabi Sabi

The predators on the reserve have been featuring prominently on our drives this last week, the lions more so than any others in particular. We have had some incredibly sad news regarding the remaining cubs of the Southern Pride from our neighboring reserves during the week. According to reliable sources the three Sand River males tracked down the females and cubs and quickly took action against them. We have no idea how many have survived if any at all, and even after searching various social media platforms this remains a mystery. We will have to just wait and see unfortunately, but this is indeed sad news. I can’t say that it comes as a surprise though with all the goings on in recent months. We did catch up with three of the Southern Pride lionesses that have had cubs earlier in the week, absent any youngsters and looking incredibly malnourished. At least one did manage to capture a Scrub Hare, but that is by no means a substantial meal. They are going to need to capture much larger prey in order to gain some strength and improve their conditioning.

A very lethargic lioness in the afternoon light, reserving the little energy she has left for the hunt.

lions while on safari at Sabi Sabi

On a more positive note, the Charleston Pride trio are doing very well for themselves despite the odds being heavily stacked against them with the densities of lions in the area, and of course the Southern Pride. They seem to be a lot more nomadic nowadays as the larger pride has moved further south, moving much further north and west of their natal territory. We spent quite a bit of time with them over the last week and it must be said that they are looking to be in great condition. The two young males are really beginning to come into their own, increasing in size and impressiveness. The female is probably one of the prettiest lionesses that I have personally ever seen. They managed to make a kudu kill earlier in the week and then caught up with them again shortly after in a very playful mood. It is such a great sight to see. I think they are going to do well in the area and who knows, maybe these two males may one day take over the area.

A White-backed Vulture sits perched in the morning sun after the previous day’s feast, waiting for thermals to develop.

vulture

One of the Charleston boys strolling confidently toward our vehicle.

lions while on safari at Sabi Sabi

The other Charleston boy giving the female a hard time. I think sometimes they forget she’s a lady.

lions at Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve

These males really are looking good and are showing signs of becoming territorial. This male was roaring very softly, being careful not to advertise too loudly just yet.

lions while on safari at Sabi Sabi

As we bid farewell to yet another week here at Sabi Sabi, we also prepare ourselves for a new day, with new experiences to share with all of our guests. Experiences I look forward to sharing with all of you at home as well in our next installment of “A Week in the Bush…”

A gorgeous sunset to end another amazing day at Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve.

nyati dam sunset

BY: MIKE PALMER (BUSH LODGE RANGER)

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

shirley March 26, 2014 at 1:58 pm

That is a great blog. Loved it. Sad about the youngest, recently born cubs of the Southern pride, still wondering about the two older cubs, one now female being over a year, and the remaining one of the three that were born earlier with one being lost to the crocodile. There is one left, but he was never reported as being dead. Do you know if he and the older female cub are still alive?

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