Your first week back in the bush from leave is always the most exciting week. You have been away for two weeks, a little out of touch with animal movement, so you have a blank canvas to start exploring again. This cycle definitely provided a lot of excitement and adrenaline. We had some successful and unsuccessful hunts, cat cubs everywhere, and even a bucket list animal for everyone going out on safari.
It is always exciting when you see a nocturnal animal during the day. As we watched a herd of giraffes, their heads suddenly turned to the road, and they clearly had their eye on something in the distance. To be on the safe side, they made way for whatever was coming down the road. At first, we thought it was a jackal approaching us, but after looking through the camera, an African Wildcat came straight down the road towards us. We sat quietly until it was right at the vehicle then it moved off into the bush, most probably searching for a nice resting place for the day.
We found a pride of lions enjoying the last bit of afternoon sun, still fast asleep. We knew we could wait there for another hour, or quickly have a sundowner drink, watch the sunset, then get back to the lions and hopefully they will start moving around. As we enjoyed the sundowners, we got word of a herd of buffalo making their way to the area. We wrapped up our drinks, got in the vehicle and went searching for the buffalo. Little did they know that they were moving directly in the direction of where the lions were still having their nap. We changed our course, making our way back to the lions, sat there and waited for some action.
With the wind blowing toward the lions, they got the scent of the buffalo before the buffalo even noticed the lions. We saw the buffalo slowly making their way, still unaware of the danger around the corner. We positioned ourselves in the perfect position and waited. One buffalo, still completely unaware of the danger, came as close as 30 metres from the lions before it realised there was trouble in the air. All of a sudden the tension in the air changed, an alarm call is made, and a quick chase sent the buffalo running. The big bulls of the herd were not impressed with this unsuccessful hunt and teamed up to form a wall of steel, walking with purpose towards the lions. The lions made the right choice by getting out of the way before one of them gets impaled by a buffalo horn. Better luck next time for the pride of lions!
Our first successful hunt for this cycle is the famous cheetah mom and her cub. As we left a big herd of elephants, impala started to alarm call. Perhaps the elephants gave them a fright, or are they warning everyone else about potential danger in the area? We drove slowly, scanning every tree, underneath all the bushes, but no luck. Just as we were about to give up, the cheetah cub came running in our direction, looking around, trying to find his mom. We quickly turned around, following the cub, who led us to where mom made an impala kill. You could just see the excitement of the cub when he saw his mom with an impala in her mouth. He did not wait one second to start eating, while mom caught her breath after the hunt.
The Styx Pride cubs are getting bigger and bigger every week. We had a bit of a scare when we only counted 9 cubs, but to our relief, a week later we encountered all 11 again! Having 11 cubs is a big task for the 3 moms, but they are doing extremely well! We had the privilege to watch the moms hunt and kill a blue wildebeest and how all the cubs came running to have some dinner. It was a bit of a struggle for all the cubs and moms to find their own place around the carcass but eventually, everyone had a spot. The smaller cubs struggled to open the carcass, so occasionally the moms would move to help them out.
When you get word of a new cheetah mom and her cubs, you try your absolute best to get to them. It was such a pleasant surprise to see this cheetah mom and her 3 young cubs. A super mom I would say. Still looking like three honey badgers, they kept close to their mom, pouncing and stalking one another. We had a quick sighting of them on the road before we left so others could also enjoy this special sighting.
Wild dogs always provide a lot of excitement for us rangers especially when you hear they are on the move. It is quite incredible when you have a pack of 29 wild dogs running down the road towards you, with the heavily pregnant female leading the pack. How exciting will it be if they den on our reserve!
We found the Styx Pride once again, only this time the cubs decided to practice their tree climbing skills. Not as agile as a leopard, but they sort of got the hang of it. Playing with one another on a fallen over a tree branch, seeing who can get higher or who can stay on the tree for the longest!
Ntsumi and her two cubs are definitely a showstopper on safari. This was the first time that I got the opportunity to view the cubs. I don’t know who was more excited, me or my guests! This sighting was definitely worth us being 30 minutes late for breakfast! Ntsumi caught an impala early morning, went to fetch her cubs, and led them to the tree where she stashed the impala. We watched as the cubs played in the tree, getting me a little bit nervous about one of them falling out of the tree, but they have already perfected their tree climbing skills!
As a guide, we have certain bucket list of animals. The pangolin was on top of my bucket list. As we drove to a lion sighting, my guest yelled out, “Is that not a pangolin!?” My first thought was, I think it is just a rock or a log, but as I turned my head, this scaly creature made its way into a thicket. I looked at my tracker Zulu, and we just started laughing! How lucky can we be! Radioing the guide in charge of the lions, I apologised that we are going to be a bit late as we just found a pangolin. Not to my surprise, everyone in the lion sighting turned around to come to enjoy this amazing sighting with us.
We had a bit of a dry spell with leopard sightings. But my favourite saying when I am guiding guests is that the bush will give you what the bush wants to give you. The radio message came through. Golonyi is back in the area, and she is stalking some impala. As it was my guests’ last drive, we changed our plans, making our way into the area. We chose a nice shady spot under a tree and waited for her to make her way to us. Unfortunately, her hunt was unsuccessful, but she did not let the impala leave her sight, being hopeful. She made herself comfortable on a fallen tree stump, and groomed herself, keeping them in her glare. She is truly one beautiful leopard!
You never know what you will find around every corner. As we started to make our way back to the lodge to get ready for our bush walk, we stumbled across the female cheetah with her cub again. We must have missed the hunt by moments as they were still feeding on a freshly killed steenbok. Nervously looking around for any other predators that might be in the area, they quickly finished off the steenbok. Mom decided she had had enough and moved into the shade close by. The cub didn’t feel too comfortable being too far from mom, so he took what was left from the carcass and moved closer to mom.
We found them again the next day, not too far from where we left them the day before. This time the cub practised his hunting skills with his mom. He stalked her and pounced on her while she was not watching. She played along, running away as he pounced on her, helping him practice for the real deal.
This was definitely one successful cycle, and I can only hope that my next cycle will be filled with such amazing sightings and excitement!