The first rains have come, the dust has settled, the seasonal pans are filling up and the seemingly dead grasses are showing life once more. The summer migrant birds are steadily making their way here even despite their arrivals being premature. Nature does not work on a Gregorian calendar, she sets her own pace as she decides when it will happen.
We are often asked open ended questions – What will happen with this and what will happen to that? The truth is, we don’t know. Nature is unpredictable and full of exceptions, exceptions seem to be the new normality, that is what makes this place so intriguing and it’s our experiences which shape our opinions.
The leopard sightings this cycle have been fantastic and that is probably the only thing that hasn’t really changed. With many guests arriving from other safari destinations having not seen these wonderful cats, it is greatly satisfying to see their faces when they lay their eyes on their first leopard.
The leopard that we have seen change over this cycle has been the young Ntsumi female. This recently independent female has grown from a young girl into a princess and her elegance is much admired by all. She has developed from hunting small meals like mongoose and scrub hares to duikers and impalas. It has to be a tough time for any leopard but she has adapted to the change so well.
If she continues on this path, she will create her own legacy and continue the bloodline of her father and mother.
The young White Dam male has probably been our most viewed leopard this cycle and the change in this leopard is certainly noticeable. He is getting very big for a leopard who is barely even 3 years old, and is very distinguishable by his thick neck and orange eyes. He has been quite a hit with the ladies as he has been seen mating with both the older Little Bush female and the young Msuthlu female.
This privilege is usually reserved for the dominant male whose territory encompasses the female’s territory, however his father, Maxabeni has not yet tried to push out his son even with them been seen close together in the same sighting.
The longer this continues, the more of a problem Maxabeni may have in the future.
Maxabeni’s rival to the south, Kashane, has been putting on quite the show for our guests and has certainly left little doubt as to what his favourite meal is. He has been seen killing and feeding on warthogs with regularity and this particular sighting of him hoisting it up into a tree was a special one for me.
Some of the most interesting sightings i experienced this cycle revolved around the carcass of a deceased elephant. If one could bear the awful smell, you would have witnessed the Southern Pride, the Tsalala male, hyenas and vultures, as well as the Southern Pride chasing off the Avoca males.
It seemed like the Southern Pride, after chasing off the Avocas, made way for a large clan of hyenas who were then displaced by two of the Tsalala males.
It wasn’t long before the Avoca males returned and in a confident display of aggression, attacked the third Tsalala male who had only just been reunited with his brothers. Taking on 3 male lions is tough and it was very well coordinated when the Avoca males decided to focus their attention on just the one member of the coalition. This split the 3 once more sending the other two Tsalala males fleeing south with the two Avoca males in hot pursuit, who were vocalising and scent marking aggressively after the altercation.
This left a window of opportunity for the attacked Tsalala to flee in the opposite direction to the north but with only a bruised ego to nurse, he was lucky to get out with no other affects.
It wasn’t long before the brothers reunited once more as the two brothers ventured back North to find their brother, however, these two coalitions battles are far from over.
All while this commotion was going on, the Southern Pride returned to the Southern section of the reserve to keep the cubs away from the mayhem.
With all the squabbles happening with the lions, the vultures and hyenas had a free pass at the elephant carcass, devouring the rotting meat in double quick time just in case there was an untimely return by the lions. Even if they did return, the hyenas would have struggled to run away thanks to their distended stomachs!
The Avoca males did return a week later in their attempt to rid the area of all opposing lions. These boys are fierce and have wreaked havoc during their time but will certainly be a force.
The end of the dry season has come, and those that have made it through this time set to breathe a sigh of relief. This can be short lived as the dynamic nature of wild Africa will always keep its inhabitants guessing and even ourselves are left wondering what the future may bring.
Till next cycle…