The bush has been alive with activity and in the last week we have been blessed with some amazing encounters with the animals that call this wonderful place home. The big cats, in particular, have been keeping us extremely busy.
The male cheetah has been spending a lot of time with us yet again and we have had some spectacular sightings of him. It is always a treat to be driving around and pick up on fresh tracks or hear the excitement over the radio when a sighting of cheetah is called in. Such a moment of excitement was felt earlier in the week when a male cheetah was found to be hunting a herd of impala in an open area close to Bush Lodge. We often find predators that have made kills successfully, but its not everyday you get to see it happen right in front of you, which is exactly what happened on this occasion. It was a moment that our guests are sure to never forget.
Some of the Southern Pride lionesses are still moving about the reserve with the Sand River males and were followed all the way into the south only to be found at an old kill. By the looks of things and signs in the sand, either the Kruger male or Solo had made a kill and were subsequently chased off by the three Sand River males. The significance of this is that it is the first time I can recall that the Sand Rivers have been led this far into the southwestern territory and what we would soon find out is that they were not alone in the area. We watched them devour the free meal in between bouts of mating and then move on further south into that part of the reserve. It seems to me, and this may just be my opinion, that Floppy Ear and her companions have accepted these males as dominant. The males are not much to look at right now, but they are still young and they will get better with age. As lions though, looks do not factor into it. The concern for the females would be protection for their young once born and defense of their territory from rogue males. These males at the moment are ticking all the right boxes and making kills regularly, which is going to further help their cause.
Solo was back again this last week and in the south at the same time as the Sand River males and the three Southern Pride girls. He was in full roar again and one wonders what he is up to. He seems to be trying to track down the rest of the Southern Pride girls and not trying to link up with the Kruger male, who it must be said has turned into one very skittish lion. The Sand River males have not paid him any attention as of yet and I’m sure it is because their main focus right now is to ensure the females conceive and therefore become invested in making sure the males stay dominant in the area. Once this is achieved I am sure the boys will start to exorcise any rogue males from the area will a very heavy hand.
As always, the Maxabeni male has been a prominent figure featuring on our game drives and is still as impressive as ever. We’ve tracked him down on several occasions, from boundary patrols to hunting missions and we were never disappointed. This male is looking more and more comfortable in his role as dominant male of the area and at only 4½ years old, we can expect him to hold on to it for a very long time. There has been little to no sign of the White Dam female this last week so the recent bouts of mating look to be over with, although we will have to keep our eyes open for further developments. In other news, we have had sightings of both the Nottins and Little Bush females as well as their young ones and all are doing well.
Just to break away from the cats for a brief moment, although they have dominated much of our time this last week, let’s take a look at some of the other animals we had some close encounters with. These moments are what really stood out for me this week with two animals in particular. The giraffe, always a firm favorite for all, and the lesser-known steenbok.
Some days are harder than others to find giraffes as their social structure and behavior is rather loose, meaning that they float around with little regularity. On one morning this last week it seems that every turn we made, we were bumping into herds of giraffe until we came upon a male who was attempting to have his way with a female right next the road. In Shangaan they are known as ndulamithi, meaning ‘taller than the trees’ and it’s only when you are close that you realize how incredibly tall these animals are and just how apt the local name really is.
We also had a great encounter with a steenbok, which is not particularly well known to tourists, and often when seen is thought to be a baby animal due to its small size. It is in fact referred to as a dwarf antelope and one of three species we regularly encounter here at Sabi Sabi. They are usually very shy of vehicles and seldom allow you to get too close, but on this occasion we encountered a very relaxed male that was unperturbed by us, or our vehicle.
During a tour in the south of the reserve this week we managed to track down a small faction of the Southern Pride, four lionesses and one sub-adult male. This was rather exciting, as we haven’t been seeing much of them since the Sand River males dispatched of the cubs and really took their efforts for a takeover up a notch. There are still some members missing and at the moment it is anyone’s guess as to their whereabouts, although it is also possible that these missing members have succumbed to injuries picked up during altercations with the Sand River males or neighboring prides. These five lions however, look to be in great condition and when we found them, were very full. There are some that believe there will be a split of the pride, but I am not one of them. I have seen this behavior before and I imagine that as soon as the Sand River males have been successful in their takeover, the rest of the pride will rejoin Floppy Ear and the others. The sub-adult male though, will surely be chased away from the area.
As we move forward into the season, the sunsets are getting more and more spectacular with every passing day. Here is one taken at one our amazing sundowner spots and a fitting way to end another installment of A Week in the Bush… Until next time