As we enter the transition period from Autumn to Winter, we should be experiencing dry conditions, shortages of water in seasonal pans/mud wallows, lower water levels in natural waterhole, changes in vegetation density and palatability as well as weather and climate.
However, this has been an odd seasonal transition, with small patches of the odd and unexpected rainfall soaking the savanna floor, keeping the vegetation lush, green and dense. Water and water everywhere, seasonal pans are as full as possible, waterholes being occupied by many species along with slightly cooler mornings and evenings. This type of transition into winter is welcomed by all on the reserve especially the grazing and browsing species as it is relief for the drier months ahead knowing food is in abundance this year.
I start off my cycle highlights with a typical early morning sunrise on a slightly chilly morning with some Giraffes.
Over the past couple weeks, many Elephant herds along with young calves and females in oestrus have been moving through the property along with some bulls that are fully in musth trailing just behind trying to secure a mating opportunity.
During this time of the year, impala rams enter into the rutting season just before the mating season and tension is quite high in these species especially in the bachelor herds. However, with so much focus on dominance and the rut, awareness of potential predators is forgotten and an increase in Impala ram carcasses have been see. Here the Maxabeni male takes full advantage of this season in securing meal, although he had problems protecting it against Spotted Hyenas as it was too large to hoist up his chosen tree.
This past cycle has definitely been a leopard show, as we witnessed the Little Bush female showing off her 14 week old cub while feeding on an impala ram kill.
We also witnessed two males mating with the Msuthlu female on numerous occasions. At one stage we had father and son, Maxabeni and the White Dam young male with the female and the other occasion was a new male into the area known as Mawelawela with the White Dam young male and the Msuthlu female, crazy time for a “leap of leopards.”
The White Dam young male, after mating with the Msuthlu female, has been seen more and more often on our property. Competing against his father and still not quite able to make a dent in his dominance, slowly but surely, I’m certain the White Dam young male will take over this territory after the Maxabeni male.
Ntsumi has been enjoying her space with all this leopard activity and commotion which is far away from her territory as she amazes me in how quickly she has learnt and developed into a fully grown in-dependant female leopard that only left her mother about a year and a half ago.
With all this leopard activity, an increase in Spotted Hyena sightings have been recorded, especially a couple upcoming youngsters which steal the hearts of everyone who sees them.
Now on to the “king of the jungle”, numerous lion sightings have been witnessed over the past few weeks. With a change in lion dynamics within the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, certain prides and young coalitions have been moving around into areas/territories we would never of thought, making it very interesting. We witnessed the return of the remaining members of the Southern Pride joined by the Charleston young male. We also viewed the Mhangeni sub-adult grouping as they continue with their quest to develop their hunting skills. The Avoca males have been seen on regular occasions and also two Birmingham males making regular appearances as well. Here is a selection of a few images from my six weeks.
Lastly, to draw to the end of my six week cycle, I leave you with a couple photos one can get in between all the high profile sightings, species that kind of get lost under the radar, iconic African safari species which play a huge role into the ecosystem and the functioning of the reserve.