One of the highlights of our lion sightings over the past two weeks was when all four Majingilane male lions were found resting together one morning â€“ a rare sighting of all four of them together which apparently has been happening more frequently of late. This is a good sign as with all the pressure from surrounding males in the vicinity they can be extremely vulnerable while separated.
The Styx Pride have been spending a lot of time in the eastern parts of our traversing area. The young male belonging to "Gogi" the old female is still going strong despite losing his sibling at an early age. Another one of the females in the pride was also sighted mating with the "Dark-maned" Majingilane male. Unfortunately we weren't there to witness it but the pride is promising to grow within the next few months.
The two Nkahuma females with their two young male cubs killed a young waterbuck near the lodge. They've managed to keep the two youngsters out of the war path of the strong male lion coalition, the Matimba's. These six male lions have taken over the territory to our north east and the Nkahuma pride was hit hard when four of their six cubs got killed. Similar to the Tsalala scenario the two mothers have had to stay in hiding and this is probably the reason we've been seeing them more often in unfamiliar territory.
Karula is one of our frequently seen dominant female leopard's that seems not only to provide food for her two fast growing cubs, Shavindzi and Shivambalana, but just like a sighting that was posted last year, we found her and her two cubs together with the dominant male Jordaan sitting beneath a small tree with the young male leopard from her previous litter, Nduna, feeding on a large impala ram. I have no doubt that she had made the kill as tracks showed where she had fetched her two cubs from Vuyatela and come straight back to where she had hoisted her kill. It is rather unusual to see how tolerant Jordaan is of Nduna's presence, at his age he should have already been chased out of the territory. Lets hope that this extra pressure on Karula doesn't result in her undoing.
Tingana, Salayexe and Shadow have been in a love triangle for over four weeks now. It seems that both the female leopards have come into oestrus at the same time. The sequence of photo's above shows Tingana and Shadow mating late one afternoon and then he and Salayexe mating again the same evening. When female leopards come into oestrus they initiate the whole mating process by seeking out the male. It seems that Shadow kept on moving into Salayexe's territory while she was looking for Tingana to mate with; Salayexe being much larger kept on chasing her away from the big male only to take her position as his mate.
After following two wild dogs that were hunting one afternoon around Arathusa airstrip, they became interested in something else in the bushes. We could see they had definitely seen something as they both were hopping up on their back legs trying to intimidate whatever was there.
After following them we eventually caught up with Ntima who had been chased up a Marula tree.
Regular sightings have been had of the dominant male leopard, Tingana.
A female wild dog with her young male pup have been sighted on the Arathusa airstrip on a regular basis harassing the impala herds that frequent the open areas.
Plenty of new born zebras are providing fantastic game viewing around the airstrips; also a bush buck showing the results of a ferocious stand-off that these male antelope often have.
Probably the sighting of the month, a male Crowned Eagle which we spotted perched on a Knobthorn in the open areas around Elephant Plains. An eagle you would normally find in the indigenous forests where it specializes in preying on small mammals like monkeys, baboons, dassies, mongooses, cats and even small antelope. They have been known to range far from the forests when hunting.
Regards, Liam and the Simbambili team
Leopard Diaries 27 June - 11 July 2011
What an exciting couple of weeks! Only in the Sabi Sands do you get animal interactions like we've had recently. Some drives have been quiet and the lions have been moving long distances overnight, getting us excited when we find their tracks only to find they have crossed onto another property. Leopards too have proved to be elusive over the last two weeks but it's all worth the patience and hard work when we finally catch up to them.
On a morning game drive in the eastern part of our traversing we heard a warthog screaming, instantly we thought "Leopard!" We drove around the corner and saw a male leopard dragging his hard earned warthog kill across the road - It was the famous warthog killer, Mafufunyane. Not long after he had settled down to eat a hyena appeared, so the powerful male leopard hoisted his carcass up a nearby Marula tree with amazing ease. "There's another leopard!" and out came Safari (the old female leopard with one eye), Mafufunyane wasn't happy with her and he growled aggressively. Suddenly out of nowhere a lion appeared and chased Safari up another Marula tree! Three Styx lionesses and one male Maxingilane who had obviously heard the sound of the kill arrived at the scene and they were clearly hungry. The older lionesses, wisely, waited for the much younger and energetic female to jump into the tree and with surprisingly ease climb up towards Mafufunyane. Although she received a few slaps in the face from him she succeeded in stealing the prize away from the male leopard and was now stuck high up a Marula in a very awkward position. Coming down wasn't nearly as graceful and she landed flat on her face, even worse for her, the Maxingilane male stole the warthog and that was that! On close inspection we could see that Mafufunyane had killed the warthog by biting at its chest cavity which allowed the warthog to scream and squeal a lot easier than if the leopard had a tight stranglehold and that was probably the reason why so many predators arrived at the scene in such a short space of time.
Tyson, the dominant male leopard in the north west of our traversing, made an appearance this week. We have not seen this male in a while and it was a great surprise to see him back in what used to be his core area. It seems that he is moving further south into Londolozi and the reason could be that the dominant male just south of his territory is getting old or the density of females is greater further south? It was great to see the impressively large leopard again. The unknown male that has been spending a lot of time around Simbambili is taking full advantage of Tyson's absence and was finally caught on camera mating with Salayexe. It seems that Salayexe has accepted him as the resident male and now is mating with him to conceive. With time we can hope the new male relaxes with the vehicles.
Who said leopards are solitary? After following the tracks of a female in one direction and then getting her tracks coming back into the same area together with tracks of two cubs we knew we were on the trail of a female leopard that had a kill stashed away.
We finally found her and saw that she had made an impala kill, it was Karula. Once we pulled the vehicle in and got a closer look we saw a young male, who was approaching Karula carefully. She hissed at him and he held back, it was Nduna, a young male from her previous litter. Watching Karula feed on the carcass we were amazed to see another male leopard approach the scene. Jordaan, unlike the younger male, rushed in and stole the kill away from Karula. All five leopards within a few metres from each other. This could only happen in the Sabi Sand...
Lions have been rather scarce the past two weeks, the highlight being the arrival of the Robson's Pride, who were found full of blood and with a few members wearing some battle scars. The young lions, consisting of two young males, three young females and one yearling male, had made a kill and were obviously chased off. It is unknown who chased them but suspects could be the two skittish Kahuma males as they were briefly seen close by.
The Styx pride made two appearances, one morning we found the four females stalking a herd of kudu, unfortunately they were unsuccessful. The next day we found them stealing Mafufunyane's warthog. One of them clearly lactating and the other was seen mating just two weeks before, so the Styx are growing and their future looks promising.
A male cheetah has been sighted twice, it seems he is carrying a serious injury as he can't put any weight onto his front left leg. He could be a male from the coalition of four that spend most of their time far east towards KNP. Lets hope he heals quickly and being in a strong coalition will bail him out of serious danger.
Elephant sightings have been good and apart from the usual solitary buffalo bulls a large breeding herd of buffalo was also seen heading into KNP.
The Simbambili team
Leopard diaries 20th - 27th June 2011
With the cold, and accompanied by dry winds the bush is starting to thin out and it is becoming increasingly drier and dustier by the day. The game viewing was a bit on-and-off over the past week, with some drives providing sightings around every corner and then some days the animals proving to be quite shy - probably a result of the cold wind as the animals tend to be more skittish in windy conditions with the predators scent blowing everywhere. There were still some unforgettable game viewingÂ experiences during the week.
Salayexe, now aware that her two cubs are dead, was seen mating again. The last time she was seen mating was with an unknown male who has a large scar on his neck, they were mating near Simbambili Dam. She was found again, mating with another unknown male, this time the mating marathon lasted a lot longer. Probably keen to try and mate with as many males as possible to coax them into thinking her new cubs will be each of theirs, sly but clever. Hopefully her new cubs won't share the same fate of her previous litter.
Ntima has also been seen frequently in the east of our traversing area, on one occasion she came very close to killing an Impala right next to the vehicle. Her daughter, Kwatile, was seen briefly as well, both large females extremely beautiful as always.
It seems its honeymoon season as another pair of leopards was seen mating. A large male known as Emsagwen and Shadow, who lost her last litter about two months ago. The large male dwarfs the female as he climbs over her.
After killing a big "daga" boy buffalo a couple weeks ago, the Tsalala pride in the form of the tailles lioness and the four sub-adults are running high on confidence as they were seen trying to tackle another big buffalo bull. This time, however, they were unsuccessful, although the sighting was still fantastic. We received news that they did manage to bring a buffalo down in Vuyatela the next day. Without a resident male with them this is quite a feat.
One of the Styx lionesses was seen mating with one of the Maxingilane males, she is still quite young and this seems to be the first time she has come into oestrus. Honeymoon season continues...
It seems the larger herds of Elephants have moved towards the flowing rivers where more vegetation is available. The bush is extremely dry at the moment and other than some small herds the majority of the elephant sightings have been of lone bulls. A couple of large tuskers have been the highlight of the week.
Buffalo and Rhino
As with the elephants the buffalo are also looking for better grazing grounds, especially the large herds. Some daga boys are ever present around the lodge.
The Rhino sightings have been good with a large group of seven hanging around Little Gowrie. The Uthla bull still occupying his area around the lodge as well.
Leopard Diaries 30 May-5 June 2011
This week proved to be difficult for sightings of cats in general, with most of the lions in the area out of our traversing and leopards failing to make their regular appearances. This is most unusual for Simbambili but the sightings we did have were worthwhile. We also experienced two cold fronts moving through the area.
The female leopard Salayexe made a few, brief appearances around Serengeti and the Rocks, we suspect she has left her cubs in a drainage system close to Elephant Plains but can't be sure. The last confirmed sighting of the two tiny cubs was on the 19th of May. Moya has also been hanging around Serengeti, she was seen scent marking there and to the south on the 1st. This week there was no sign of Nyeleti.
The bib territorial male leopard, Tyson finally showed up again, on the 31st. We followed him a short way from the road to an old termite mound in which a warthog was present. We sat in anticipation as the warthog slowly moved from his burrow and once clear, Tyson made his move. The fight went in favour of the warthog as he managed to escape after first getting the leopard off his back and then ramming him with his head and tusks, Tyson knew the warthog was too big for him, and did not pursue him.
Only the Styx pride and the male coalition were seen this week in the eastern parts of our traversing, the females of the Styx pride killed a mature kudu bull south of the Chitwa airstrip. Once all the lionesses and the cubs in the pride had eaten, there was not much meat left for later sightings. Once full, the mother of the cubs moved them away from the kill back south towards Mala Mala.
By the time the four male lions came across the carcass in the morning, there was little for them to feed on as a number of vultures and a few black backed jackals had already started tearing at the remains.
Breeding herds of elephants have been quite plentiful in the area, and are always a pleasure to watch. Moving throughout our traversing, herds of different sizes and all different ages are to be found.
We had fantastic experience with a tiny calf of under six months, charging the vehicle trying to scare us off while the rest of the herd paid us no attention.
Very few mature bulls have been seen lately, the odd young bull here or there but that's all. A very unfortunate young bull has been seen with a broken leg, no one is sure as to how he broke it but it is heart breaking to watch as he tries to stay with his herd.
Buffalo & Rhinoceros
Only one herd of buffalo was seen on the 4th, close to the Kruger boundary, there were an estimated 300 animals in the herd. They didn't hang around in the area long and just passed through and by the afternoon they were gone.
The usual old bulls have still been hanging around in various waterholes and mud wallows on our property.
Three rhino have been seen regularly around the Safari airstrip, The Londolozi bull and two cows moving with him. They have spent most of their days in the bush but have come out onto the airstrip at Buff pan in the evenings to wallow and drink.
Very good news for the rhino population, a cow with a very young calf has been spotted on several occasions in the area. The calf looks to be around 6 weeks old now and although the cow seems relaxed, the youngster is still wary of the vehicles.
Leopard Diaries 16th - 23rd May 2011
Despite having one last electrical storm with high speed winds which even blew a large Greenthorn (Balanites Maughamii) over, the bush finally seems to be drying up. All the Autumn colours are showing and the bush is changing once again. This week has provided fantastic game viewing once again, with a special sighting of a female cheetah in the far east which looks like she has swollen mammaries and is lactating.
The very successful mother leopard and territorial female in the north west, Salayexe, was found with not one impala kill but two and both hoisted up in trees. She never ceases to amaze our guests as she is one of the most relaxed leopards in the area. The sighting proved to be extremely successful as we finally got to view her two cubs. They are still very young and any slight noise from the vehicle sends them scurrying in the other direction, but with careful viewing hopefully they will become habituated soon. The sighted was interrupted when the two Tsalala lionesses came into the area and chased Salayexe up a tree. The lionesses managed to climb up and steal the one carcass which was hanging in a Marula tree but the other carcass wasn't as easy to get to. Luckily her cubs were nowhere to be seen and were safely hidden away from the danger, the lions eventually got bored of waiting and moved off.
Mati, a young male leopard who spends most of his time in the south western parts of our traversing, was found hot on the trail of what seemed to be another leopard. He finally reached a hoisted duiker kill, which evidence showed had been killed by a female leopard. The young male took advantage of the free meal and took the carcass out of the tree to feed on it safely hidden within some thick bushwillows.
Mafufunyane was found once again in a fight, he never seems to be left in peace. He had a big territorial fight with another large male, Jordaan. Thankfully the two males didn't do too much damage to each other and departed their separate ways with only a few scratches.
As mentioned the two Tsalala females chased Salayexe up a tree during the week, but what I didn't mention is that one of them is heavily pregnant. It looks as if she is about to give birth within the next week, the great news is that she is spending a lot of time close to the lodge so with good fortune she'll find a den site nearby. The two sisters were also found on another occasion during the week with the four existing cubs, who are about six months old and looking very healthy, as well as one of the Majingilane males. It was a great sighting with the cubs totally infatuated with the large male who was extremely patient with their playful behaviour.
The older, tailless Tsalala female, Bibi, was seen with the four sub-adult females in the north western corner of our traversing. They are still doing very well and staying out of harm's way i.e. the Majingilanes have not yet caught up to them. The sub-adults are almost at the age where they should be accepted by the new, powerful coalition. The five females moved further east to unfamiliar territory; let's hope they don't find any trouble.
There have been elephants all over the property during the week, we've seen big herds passing in front of the lodge on a daily basis as they come and drink at the lodge's pan. There are plenty of playful and cheeky youngsters who provide excellentÂ photographic opportunities as they "mock" charge the vehicles.
Buffalo & Rhinoceros
Large herds of buffalo are constantly moving in and out of our traversing area, this is probably the reason we've been having so many lion sightings as they follow the buffalo - we're not complaining.
The white Rhino who hangs around the north west of our area seemsÂ to have come to blows with another bull as he is wearing some battle scars. They don't look too serious so he should be okay, let's hope the other guy isn't worse off.