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A Week in the Bush Vol. 491

on Feb 07, 2024

Welcome to the next edition of our weekly highlights blog…

Seeing an African Wildcat on safari is always an incredible privilege, and even more so when finding mom with two little ones hiding in the thick grass. These small cats have a wide variety of different colours to help them blend in with their environment. They mainly feed on smaller prey such as rodents, birds and reptiles using areas with long grass to ambush their prey. 

A rare sighting of an elusive African wild cat.

After a short tracking exercise, we found Kigelia as she was making her way from tree to tree scent marking her territory. She went up numerous trees before finding one comfortable enough to take a nap.

A few days later, on our way back to the lodge after our morning safari, tracker Mfundo quickly alerted Ranger Dieter to stop the vehicle. Looking down to where he was pointing, we could see marks on the ground of a carcass that had been dragged by an animal. We decided to head out on foot to investigate. Highly experienced, Mfundo showed Dieter the remains of hair that was left on a log on the ground as the carcass was dragged over it. With the strong smell of the dead animal, we knew we were getting closer. With the expert precision from Mfundo, we saw a tiny leopard cub through the dense vegetation. When we saw the mother's tail moving through the grass and we quickly headed back to the vehicle to investigate further. On arrival, we were spoiled to watch the intimate moment of a mother and cub as they shared the kill in the protected cool shaded area just outside of Little Bush Camp.

Kigelia's cub hidden and protected in a cool shaded area just outside of Little Bush Camp.

We found tracks of a female leopard and her cubs and deciding to follow up led us into a time-consuming exercise. We established a general direction as to where we thought they could be and after jumping off the vehicle numerous times to find the tracks again and our efforts paid off. We found the Ntsumi female and her two cubs strolling down the road, all looking very healthy. Ntsumi was lying on a fallen tree not far from her cubs watching them play with each other and learn the vital skills they will one day need to take down prey. Shortly after, Ntsumi carried on and the cubs made their way into a thick area, knowing they were being left behind for their mom to go out and look for a potential hunting opportunity.

We have seen Golonyi on numerous occasions this week.

While having an early morning cup of coffee on the deck at Bush Lodge, a hyena was seen running across the open area after chasing off a leopard and grabbing a free meal.

Hyena often trail leopards and wait for them to make a kill. When they do, the hyena will run in and steal the meal from the leopard. Being solitary animals, leopards generally don't fight back and decide rather to surrender the meal and look for another opportunity.

As the sun started to hug the horizon, Golonyi graced us with her regal presence, exuding elegance with each stride. Using the road to her advantage, she walked easily and quietly until she found a comfortable spot to bed down. Of late, Golonyi has been seen exploring the entirety of the northern section of the reserve, suggesting either an increase in territory size or perhaps a possible shift of territories. Predator population dynamics is a well-discussed topic amongst guides and trackers as well as guests, and one thing is certain - it is ever-changing.

Golonyi stares through the veld.

The late afternoon chatter of Robins and Spurfowl were suddenly silenced as deep rasps echoed through the west. A war cry it turned out to be as Kigelia and Golonyi were amidst a heated debate, seemingly regarding territory in the western section of the reserve. Golonyi has been scent marking in Kigelia’s territory since Kigelia's absence, however, it was only a matter of time until Kigelia would return to her roots. The exchange ended in Golonyi heading east, clearly upset by the altercation. Her feelings did not go unexpressed as she proclaimed her existence to the world, sending us home with shivers down our spine.

After months with no sign of the Makumu male, it was a pleasure finding him over the weekend, resting in a Marula tree as we were driving by. Everyone got very excited as this male is extremely relaxed and a pleasure to have on safari. He was panting heavily which indicates he had recently eaten. He later came down and carried on further north into our reserve, scent marking heavily.

The following safari resulted in another sighting of this impressive male. He was scent marking before he found a comfortable spot in a shady area where he stopped, taking a well-deserved rest. With him still having a full stomach he shouldn't move too far, taking it easy for his meal to digest before looking for his next hunting opportunity.

Seeing a leopard is at the top of many guests' list when visiting Sabi Sabi... We were truly spoilt with a single sighting of 5 leopards!

The N’weti male was moving through the reserve when he got the scent of a carcass and followed his nose straight to where Ntsumi and her two cubs had been feeding on an impala. N’weti wasted no time and went straight in and stole the meal. All the commotion attracted the Nottins male in who watched the proceedings from nearby. Ntsumi moved her cubs away to safety and surrendered the meal to N’weti. Nottins did not go empty-handed as eventually the impala broke in half and fell to the ground below where he got a free meal.

Two Talamati females were sleeping in an open area with full bellies. We found them the night before as they were finishing off an impala kill which we were happy to see as the mother of the cubs was also present and had fed.

Lions with cubs spend most of their time hunting to produce milk or meat for their cubs. Although it is difficult for them to provide a meal every day, they rely a lot on the rest of the pride to help them out.

One of the Talamati lionesses seen in the tall grass.

As our focus was on lions during one of our morning safaris, we decided to see if we could find any tracks to start with. It didn’t take us long to find tracks of a pride moving up and down. Following our instinct, we followed the fresher-looking tracks and came across the Southern Pride resting in the road. It was clear they had a big meal as all of them were panting heavily and they later moved to a waterhole where they will spend most of their day in the shade. With audio of the cubs calling, it was clear the third adult female was close by with her newest cubs, only time will tell when she feels comfortable enough to bring them out of hiding. Exciting times lie ahead for the Southern Pride.

Following fresh tracks, we found the Southern Pride resting on the road.
An older cub from the Southern Pride. With new cubs having been heard around the pride, we only hope that it won't be long now before we see them.
A lioness from the Southern Pride walks along the road during our sighting.
The Southern Pride found with full bellies.

Faint rain during the night settled the dust and provided us with a clear tracking canvas. Alarm calls of Vervet monkeys during morning coffee sent us searching just to the north of Bush Lodge. Initially, the search seemed to be in vain, however soon we were greeted by a lone wild dog casually sitting upright next to the road. Mere seconds later the unmistakable hops of wild dogs moving through grass filled our horizon. A quick greeting between the seemingly reunited individuals soon turned into a hunting frenzy sending impala and wild dogs in all directions. Perseverance was the name of the game as multiple attempts came up short, however, a well-orchestrated impala hunt later delivered a well-deserved meal.

A wild dog stares into the distance.

The summer rains have left seasonal pans throughout the reserve and this herd of elephants took full advantage of this on a hot afternoon.

We found these beautiful buffalo bulls wallowing in the mud during the heat of the afternoon. This is essential for them as it cools their body temperature and protects them against the harsh sun. As the mud dries, it also suffocates ticks and other parasites on their body, thus cleaning themselves off.

Usually seen as a brown blur out of the corner of one's eye, the Banded Mongoose is easily identifiable by distinctive stripes across its back. They have long claws on their front feet which are used for digging up insects, especially beetles and their larvae. They will also eat an array of fruit, meat and other morsels.

 The Banded Mongoose is easily identifiable by distinctive stripes across its back.

Until next time…

A stunning sunset from Sabi Sabi.

Blog by Wendy Claase
Images by Devon Jansen, Jason Street, Ronald Mutero & Ruan Mey
Videos by Jason Street & JP van Rooyen

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