Welcome to another edition of A Week in the Bush… We have had yet another amazing week here at Sabi Sabi filled with extraordinary sightings that we have been able to share with our guests. We kick things off with Sabi Sabi Tracker Dollen, as he sits quietly while watching a mating pair of lions at sunrise.
The bush in winter is synonymous with dry, withering vegetation and is perceived to be a time of great hardship for most life out here. This is not the case though, and in fact some plant and animal species actually thrive in the winter months, while others have adapted to the changing environment to best suit their individual needs. The Candelabra Euphorbia is one of a handful of plants that flower in the winter period, providing sustenance to a few specialist species. The plant contains a milky latex that is highly toxic and thus, the flowers are not pollinated by bees, but rather flies and wasps. The flourescences are browsed heavily by black rhino, baboons and even doves.
Baboons are highly adaptable and very intelligent, enabling them to vary their diet as the seasons change. During the winter period they can be seen turning over dung piles, searching for beetles or beetle larvae. They also play an important role in the seed dispersion of the Ebony Jackalberry tree, which bears a nutritious fruit at a time when good quality food is scarce. In their foraging for the fruit, they tend to knock down a substantial amount of it to the ground below and thus enabling antelope species and even jackals to access the highly sought after fruit where they would naturally be unable to do so.
The large buffalo herds of the north have been lingering around the reserve with increasing regularity, moving in and out seemingly with the winds. One of the best experiences one can have when encountering a vast obstinacy of buffalo is to get the vehicle out into the middle of the herd, if possible, and be silent while enjoying the sound of the feeding herd. The best way to describe the sound is by likening it to the crackling of a wood fire on a cold winters night. It really is an experience to behold and a must for us to share with our guests. Most people rely too much on the visual aspects of life and forget how powerful it can be to bring the other senses to the fore, especially when it involves being out in the wilderness.
We have been enjoying the influx of various zebra harems as they migrate in search of better quality grazing and after the burns we put in place a few weeks ago, there is a beautiful flush of sweet green grass for these animals to enjoy. If not for these recently burnt areas, the zebra would even take to browsing or digging up the grass rhizomes as the quality of grasses above get lower and lower. This behavior is not uncommon in the drier periods of the year, and I have even seen ‘strict’ browsers taking to the fresh grasses that sprout up after a fire or the first spring rains.
The reserve was visited by a male cheetah during the course of the week and is always a welcomed addition to any safari. As we have covered previously, larger predators pose a great threat to the success and livelihood of cheetahs in the area and so they are constantly on the move within their extensive home ranges. As always though, the cheetahs bring with them a certain flair and bring great excitement to the overall guest experience. This one really put on a show for all those that were lucky enough to get a sighting him.
A new male leopard was found in the south of the reserve this last week. A beautiful young male known as ‘Mandleve’, as called by our neighbors in the southeast. It could be that this young male has seen an opportunity to move into an area that has a lot less pressure from rival big males, an issue that many dispersing young adults must contend with. Not so long ago, Sandriver had resettled there, but has subsequently been chased off, most likely, by a big male we know as ‘Spoko’, meaning Ghost. This male is believed to have extended his range from the Kruger National Park into our property and is seldom seen, leaving little behind except his tracks or the remnants of a kill, hence the dramatic name. It would be great to have another relaxed leopard such as Mandleve in the southern section to compliment the aging Lisbon female. We hope to see more of him in the near future.
Maxabeni as always, was on form this week and I was fortunate enough to spend the better part of two hours with him the other day with my guests. He is such a confident cat that nothing and no one seems to phase him. We caught up with him in the late afternoon while he was still sleeping off the midday heat in a dry riverbed. He raised an eye once or twice, but seemed to be out for the count. This is where patience is crucial and knowledge of animal behavior comes into play. I assured my guests that he was going to be getting mobile as soon as the sun dipped below the horizon, and get mobile he did. We continued to follow him for quite some time before we finally handed over the sighting to another vehicle and during that time we had seen him mark territory, announce his presence with his wood-sawing call and attempt to stalk warthogs at their den site. A truly memorable sighting of this amazing cat for all.
The Mahlathini male was found also this week and to our delight, had an impala kill nestled in a tree. This male has a reputation for diving into the thickest bush imaginable when spotted, but on this occasion he was far from skittish. He seemed quite relaxed with our presence, and after a brief rest he was back up in the tree consuming his meal. The scent of the kill was picked-up by some hyenas in the area and before we knew it, there were some great interactions taking place. The leopard let his unwanted visitors know that he disapproved of their presence with a bone-chilling snarl and they responded by backing off to a safer locale. Female leopards may be easily chased off a kill by hyenas, but male leopards are definitely to be treated with a bit more respect.
The Sand River males are still continuing to assert their dominance over the Southern Pride girls by engaging in prolonged mating rituals with several of the lionesses. We bumped into a mating pair early in the morning and stayed with them as the sun began to peek over the horizon. There has still been no sign of the Kruger male in the region and it may be safe to say that he is ‘old news’ for the Southern Pride. Interestingly though, Solo is continuing to make his presence known and was even seen with a Southern Pride lioness some days ago. It will be very interesting indeed to see more events like these unfold in the weeks to come.
The sunsets at Sabi Sabi at this time of year are magnificent and are best enjoyed with a refreshing drink in hand and great company. I hope you all enjoyed this week’s update as much as I enjoyed reliving the moments with you, and with that we shall end off another amazing week here at Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve. Until next time…