27 April to 3 May 2009

Leopard Diaries

A word from our rangers.

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27 April to 3 May 2009

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27 April to 3 May 2009


This week has been absolutely phenomenal!! The game viewing and in particular the large predator viewing has been unbelievable and there were many unexpected surprises awaiting us around every corner. The autumn colours have added to this rich bonanza by adding a wonderful backdrop for some exceptional photographic opportunities.


The cooler mornings have made for some slow starts until the bush warms up, but this has given us some valuable time to locate and track animals, trying to work out the comings and goings of the previous evening as the trackers piece together the story from the tracks and prints they see. It is always a rewarding experience to follow a set of tracks from when you find them and then as if by magic, there ahead of you is the animal that you have been tracking.


This was the case with one of the few sightings of cheetah that we have had this year, on one afternoon safari, Matt and Doctor had found some fresh spoor of a lone cheetah moving into our property and began following the spoor on foot. It was not long before they walked past a dense stand of Strychnos, where an impala was hiding and appeared very nervous. They then moved on a few metres suspecting that the cheetah was nearby causing the nervous behaviour of the impala. As they began moving forward they heard the distinctive bird like chirp of the cheetah. Coming in with the vehicle they found the young male cheetah on a freshly killed impala. It was getting dark at this point and we left the cheetah to its meal, which we would later discover was appropriated by a large male leopard sometime during the night! This was not to be the last sighting of this young male cheetah and he provided us with three more sightings during the week, all of them memorable as this sleek cat moved through the bush.


 The wild dogs have been seen almost daily, sightings of these rare predators is something that we as guides and trackers cherish as the dogs never seem to laze around like the large cats. The young dogs which are approaching a year old are the ones who provide the best photographic moments, as they wrestle and practice their hunting moves on each other often landing on the floor in an undignified heap of black, gold and white!! The hunting behaviour of the dogs has been rather difficult to follow and it was only when they killed late one morning near the EP Airstrip,  that Al, Mumps and their guests  were able to watch them feeding  for the first time. It is astonishing how quickly the pack can finish a meal!


The Styx Pride of lions, made an appearance one morning when Matt and Doctor, where busy watching a Rhino cow and her year old calf. The bush erupted next to them as a herd of giraffe, zebra and impala ran from an as yet unseen predator. The commotion could not have been set off by anything but lions and as we rounded a bend in the road we found the oldest of the Styx lionesses moving towards the startled group of giraffe. The rest of pride was soon seen and the entire pride regrouped and rested in the golden glow of the morning sun as they pondered their next move.


Leopard viewing has been just as good with Mafufunyane, Safari and Shadow being seen regularly. Mafufunyane was seen resting early one morning and was found in the same spot later in the afternoon, he then proceeded to move off as the sun set. He continued moving in an easterly direction as he tended to the territorial housekeeping by spray urinating and scraping every so often. We left him and to our surprise he was found the following morning feeding on the impala carcass that the cheetah had killed earlier the previous day!


Elephant have been rather scarce and we have not seen the numbers of elephant that were present earlier in the year but this is normal in an ecosystem like the greater Kruger area as the herds tend to move around. We did have a good view of what must be one of the largest of the modern day big tuskers.  White rhinoceros and buffalo were seen in good numbers with a number of buffalo herds being seen as well as a large crash of 6 rhino. General game has been great with large numbers of zebra, giraffe, blue wildebeest and waterbuck being seen at the waterhole during the day.




The Simbambili Team


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