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A Week in the Bush Vol. 483

on Nov 29, 2023

Despite the intense heat we experienced this week, we enjoyed sightings of the Magnificent 7!

Vultures circling an area caught our attention, and we decided to investigate what might be going on. After a quick tracking exercise through the bush, we finally found tracks of Wild Dogs in the drainage line. We established the direction and made our way into the area. The clock was ticking as the sun was starting to set, and we knew that the Wild Dogs would start hunting soon. Looking out for any movements, we saw two wagging tails in a thick brush, and moments later, the rest of the pack surrounded us. We followed them on their afternoon hunt, and they successfully hunted a young impala and even an ostrich chick!

A wild dog yawns, perhaps is disagreement with the choice to go on the hunt.

We have seen a female cheetah fairly regularly over the past few weeks and have watched her stomach grow. It seems that she has given birth judging by the newly formed suckle marks. Her newborn cubs will be left in a lair for the first couple of months while mom goes out hunting during the day, returning at night to feed the cubs.

Cheetah cubs face high mortality rates and are often killed by lions, leopards, hyenas and even large birds of prey. We wish her well and look forward to seeing these cubs moving through the vast open plains in the near future.

The Southern Pride decided to visit the southern section of the reserve. Sheltered from the blistering sun by some large Tambotie trees, the three females lay unperturbed by the playfulness of the cubs. Hearing that the two remaining cubs are back to good health was a blessing, but seeing their shiny coats and joyful attitudes brings a lot of warmth to our hearts.

A few days later, we set out towards the Sabie River, hoping the water would attract some wildlife. A strange pattern on the road caught tracker Dollen's attention, quickly establishing that a lion had been resting there. We followed the tracks as they steadily headed towards the Sabie River when suddenly, a plume of dust appeared in the distance.

Upon arrival at the scene, the Southern Pride caught a tiny impala providing only an appetiser for one. Far cries of a clan of hyenas soon caught their attention, drawing them further south. Fortunately, their course steered them straight into a herd of impala and some waterbuck. The instant intent and incredible focus displayed by these lionesses was inspiring. Unfortunately, the loud squeals of hyenas had the antelope on high alert as they managed to narrowly escape the claws of one of the younger lionesses. The bond between these three is exemplary, playing a fundamental role in achieving their success story here at Sabi Sabi.

Following tracks of a big herd of buffalo did not only lead us to the buffalo but also to the two Gijima males accompanied by two of the Talamati females. With the current heat wave making its way through the area, everything, and everyone, is searching for the cool comfort of any shade. Walking from one shady spot to another, waiting for nightfall and cooler conditions.

The Ntsumi female has been on a streak of good luck when it comes to hunting. Female leopards need to ensure their cubs are well-fed at all times, and with the impala lambing season in full swing, hunting is made easier for her as she takes advantage of the newborn lambs before they gain strength. We watched her chasing young impalas without stalking them, and she was always successful. At this stage, she has several young impala kills hoisted in different trees, with the cubs moving from one kill to the next.

A cool morning breeze motivated us to take this opportunity to go on a morning walk. Listening to all the birds singing their songs and smelling the pungent stench of the Silver Cluster-leaf tree, we were very much present and aware of what was happening around us. We stumbled upon the tracks of a female leopard and decided to head back to the vehicle to go and look for this elusive animal. Luck was on our side as we found the beautiful Golonyi female waiting for us to find her, almost as if she knew we were looking for her. Knowing this female, we knew she would give us the best photographic opportunities, going from a termite mound to a tree stump and eventually jumping into a tree to rest.

It took her about a day to successfully hunt a young impala, hoisting it up in a tree with little effort. She feasted on her kill through the night, and we found her again the following day, strolling around looking for another opportunity.

The rasping calls of a male leopard echoed through the Msuthlu River drainage line that runs through Sabi Sabi. The culprit was the Khulwana male, and after several run-ins with the Mawelawela male, Khulwana continued to persistently move through the area, marking his territory. With a very high leopard population in the area, it leaves Khulwana no option other than to hang onto this area.

The rasping calls of the male leopard, Khulwana, echoed through the Msuthlu River drainage line.

The young Nottins male was out hunting, with his preferred target being week-old impalas. He is slowly but surely mastering the technique of hunting, and soon, he will be an excellent hunter. Following a herd of impala, he carefully planned his hunt, but unfortunately, it did not turn out as he hoped. These hunting attempts are critical for young leopards like himself, where he can learn the do’s and don’ts and eventually walk away with a prize.

The young Nottins male was out hunting, with his preferred target being week-old impalas.

At a whopping 8.5kg, the Lappet-faced Vulture towers over all other vultures. With a wingspan of 2.8 metres and a massive robust bill, these giants dominate carcasses, often chasing off small predators and scavengers. Unfortunately, they are not a common sight, with less than 200 pairs remaining in South Africa, only occurring in protected areas such as reserves.

A rare sighting of a Lappet-faced Vulture on a tree.

A common question from guests is, “Are giraffes able to lie down?” The short answer to this is “Yes.”

Due to the giraffe’s unique evolutionary designs to outcompete others in search of food, it does not make it easy for them to lie down, and while down, giraffes are extremely vulnerable to predators. Here, a giraffe is lying down, ruminating, taking a break on a very hot morning while still alerted to any potential threats in the area.

A rare sighting of a giraffe lying down.

A big herd of buffalos was found near Earth Lodge as they were about to start feeding. Our guests were delighted at this magnificent sight as it was their first sighting of such a big herd! The bigger bulls in a herd play a vital role in protecting the herd when predators attack them. With massive horns, they will defend against the lions and in their numbers, often leaving lions on the losing side if their hunt is not well executed.

Over a scorching weekend, the place to be in the heat of the day for most was in the shade. As the sun dropped to the horizon, temperatures became more comfortable, and animals flocked to waterholes to hydrate. Here, a young male impala made his way out of the shadows to quench his thirst.

An impala's reflection is perfectly mirrored in the waterhole from which it drinks.

Until next time…

A giraffe is silhouetted in the perfect African sunset.

Blog by Wendy Claase
Images by Daniel Greyvenstein, Devon Jansen, Jason Street, JP van Rooyen, Macs Toich and Ronald Mutero

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