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Leopard Diaries

A word from our rangers.

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12 to 18 July 2010

By Liam Rainier
12th - 18th July 2010

july1The dry season here in the lowveld is the time of year which always seems to deliver some of the best game viewing, possibly anywhere in Africa. We have been treated to some absolutely outstanding sightings at Simbambili this week.

Lions have been the highlight of our weeks' sightings and the presence of the Tsalala pride and two of the Majingilane males made for some interesting dynamics!

Elephant, buffalo and white rhinoceros numbers have also been very good with almost daily sightings. Unfortunately for the first time in a long time we have not had a cheetah sighting this week.


The female leopard Salayexe and her two sub adult cubs have been seen on a number of occasions this week; they were seen on two different impala kills, where Rhulani the male cub seems to be using his bigger size to muscle in on the "leopards share" of the meal on offer.

We were also fortunate enough to see the territorial male, Tyson, as he rested in the shade of a riverline, cleaning himself after feeding on what appeared to be a substantial kill if the size of his belly was any indication. This large male leopard spent the majority of the day resting up and was seen later in the evening as he crossed into the neighbouring property to the south of our traversing area.

The old female, Safari, who is proving to be a remarkable survivor, was seen during one of our sun-downer stops. While chatting to guests, the leopard walked right past us and carried on scent marking and scanning for prey, completely ignoring us as we all stood amazed at the chance of watching a leopard on foot with a G&T in hand!!
july2 july3


This week has been phenomenal in terms of lion viewing with the true nature of these cats being seen in many of the sightings we were fortunate to witness.

The tracks of the Tsalala Pride were found early one morning having walked straight down the lodge driveway the previous night. We immediately started following the tracks and had soon located the lions as they lay around in the sun trying to shake off the early morning chill. The pride is now made up of nine members, three adult females, five sub-adult females and a lone sub-adult male. The pride soon roused themselves and headed off in the direction of a nearby elephant carcass.

The pride ran in and chased the large amount of vultures and three spotted hyena from the carcass, before all of the lions settled in for a good feeding session. The pride remained at or near the carcass for the rest of the day.
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This however was not the last action that the lion pride provided, the following morning, the roaring of two male lions was heard and we rushed over to the elephant carcass. As we arrived the Majingilane males had just rushed in and scattered the entire pride, chasing one of the lionesses for a few hundred metres. The males had not come to the carcass to feed and moved on almost immediately, their intent was to kill the remaining six cubs, all of which had been fathered by the now deposed Mapogo males.

jul6The Tsalala pride was scattered and managed to regroup a day later and returned to the elephant carcass. The pride moved to a nearby waterhole to quench their thirst and it was here we found them one morning. We began following as the pride moved back to the elephant carcass but as the pride moved through a rather dense area the sound of a kill and lions feeding made us all rush in to get a closer look. The lions had managed to bring down an adult impala ram and in the following fifteen minutes had completely finished the entire carcass. This was a great sighting which highlighted the opportunistic nature of predators. The lions were well fed and heading back to a large unfinished carcass but faced by an easy meal took the opportunity to feed!


A number of big herds have been seen as they moved through the property feeding on the large stands of Round-Leaved Teak.

july6Buffalo & Rhinoceros

Two large herds of buffalo have been seen moving through the area this week. The major herd numbering well over 300 animals was seen in the eastern half of our traversing and was being trailed by members of the Styx lion pride.

The smaller herd, numbering approximately 100 individuals had been utilising the area in the northern half of our concession, they grazed throughout the concession moving from one large waterhole to the next.

A number of white rhinoceros have been seen during the week.

Special Sightings

The elephant carcass has provided us with some very interesting sightings of some intense scavenger interactions. The carcass has attracted well over a hundred vultures and the battles between these large raptors as they squabbled for each mouthful were fascinating. The vultures were also joined by a number of spotted hyena and jackal.
july7 july8


The Simbambili Guiding and Tracking Team

5th to 11th July 2010

By Liam Rainier
Simbambili Game Lodge Reserve5th- 11th July 2010

The game viewing this week has been phenomenal, with some unbelievable predator viewing being experienced by our guests.

The pack of wild dog made a surprise appearance late one evening and killed an impala in front of the lodge during dinner.  Leopard viewing has been very good and the lion dynamics in the area are playing out in dramatic fashion.

The weather has been typical of the lowveld winter period, with chilly mornings and comfortable afternoon temperatures. No rain has fallen this week.


As previously mentioned, the leopard viewing this week has been fantastic, with Tyson, Salayexe, Rhulani and Mbilo being seen through the week. Mafufunyane is currently engaged in a territorial battle with a new male leopard that has moved in from the southern part of the reserve. The new male known as the Emsagwen male has been moving further north and is starting to really pressurise Mafufunyane and they have been seen pacing along growling and roaring at each other on two occasions this week.

Tyson, the territorial male in the west, killed and hoisted a large male impala right in front of the lodge and spent the better part of three days feeding off the kill. What was most surprising was to see that he had stolen a portion of the kill from the wild dogs which had killed the impala in front of the lodge and had hoisted this kill into the same tree.

jul2 Simbambili Private Game Reserve Game Lodge South Africa

Mbilo has started to really establish herself in the Arathusa Big Dam area and we were lucky enough to find her during the week on an impala kill. What was surprising was to see the size of prey she is selecting. This is not the first time we have found her on a fully grown impala ram kill. The ability to bring down large prey is one of the most astounding aspects of viewing this female leopard.

Salayexe made an impala kill and hoisted it high into the branches of an enormous Jackalberry tree close to the lodge. Her male cub Rhulani was located late one evening and followed for a considerable distance as he contact called for his mother. Eventually they were reunited and she led him back to the kill.


The most interesting developments regarding lions have arisen after the death of one of the Mapogo males. The four new males, known as the Majingilane males, have unfortunately caught and killed two of the Tsalala Pride cubs and the pride has split into two groups one of four and one of five.

The two groups were seen moving through the property trying to locate each other, they eventually did this on Thursday evening and were seen moving north before they crossed out of our traversing area.

The Tsalala Pride, were moving away from the threat of the four new males, who killed and brought down a buffalo in the open areas around Arathusa Safari Lodge in the central part of the reserve. The males spent two days feeding on of the kill before heading further east.

Simbambili Game Lodge SA Private Game Reserve Lodge Game Lodge South Africa

The Styx Pride have had a rather tough time of late and are now down to six members, with one of the young females believed to have died after receiving a bad mauling from one of the male lions. The three adult lionesses are still moving constantly trying to keep the remaining three sub-adult lions alive.


The elephant numbers have been good, with large herds being seen almost daily and small family groups present all over the property. The largest herd was estimated at over eighty animals strong. The large herds have also drawn in some big elephant bulls, one of which has a magnificent pair of tusks!

Buffalo & Rhinoceros

The buffalo herds have been absent this week, with the majority of our sightings being of the groups of bulls.

White rhinoceros sightings have been regular this week, two different crashes both numbering four individuals have provided the bulk of our sightings as well as a sighting of the Uthla bull who was incredibly relaxed as he grazed close to the vehicle.


Luxury Game Lodges South AfricaTwo female cheetahs were seen during the earlier part of the week, they appear to be doing very well, although the young cheetah female does have a large wound on her hind leg.

The pair moved through the property trying to hunt impala and steenbuck but did not manage to bring down any prey over the three days that they spent in the area.

The pair were spotted crossing out of the property into the eastern part of the reserve. We are hoping that they will return quickly.


The Simbambili Guiding Team

20th - 27th June 2010

By Liam Rainier
20th to 27th June 2010

The last week's game viewing has been extremely exciting. On one drive we were driving in a southerly direction towards the large dam where we often view hippo when we saw a big dust cloud in the sky. It was a large herd of buffalo that were running to the water. The dust created a cloud effect in the sky with a beautiful sunset on the horizon. What a fantastic start to the evening. We waited by the dam while the buffalo approached. The herd was so large that it covered the southern side of the dam, we estimated that there were around 800 individual animals. We stopped on the northern side of the dam for a couple of pictures, the  reflection of the setting sun in the water together with the milling buffalo was just beautiful.

In winter time we occasionally struggle to find elephants in our area, but this year because we have had a lot of rain the vegetation is plentiful. The significant underground water as a result of the extensive rain also means the nutritional quality of various plant species is high. This attracts big volumes of different grazers and browsers onto our traversing area including elephants; giraffe; zebra; kudu and waterbuck. One day this week whilst on safari we proceeded to an area known as Rhino Pan, as historically in this area we normally find a lot of rhino. This time we found a big herd of elephants. Elephants like mud bathing a lot and this herd was having a wonderful mud bath. After five minutes they had changed the water in the pan into a mud pool. We enjoyed watching as they wallowed for about 20 minutes.

During the week the Tsalala lion pride was sighted on a wildebeest kill with the one remaining male. The male ate most of the kill, while the sub adults fought over the remaining bits of the kill. Three lionesses had to simply stand back and watch as the cubs and the male ate the wildebeest. The following morning the pride were seen on an impala kill. During the chase they trapped a medium size baboon in a tree and while the male was finishing of the remaining parts of the carcass, the cubs went and waited under the tree which the baboon was in. The  baboon jumped down and tried to make an escape from the lions but before he could touch the ground he was in the mouth of one of the cubs and in five minutes there was no baboon left.

We had an amazing sighting of  the territorial male leopard, Tyson, the female, Salayexe and her two cubs on an impala kill close to the lodge. Conventional wisdom is that male leopards are solitary and don't tolerate other leopards when there is food. Tyson kept the whole carcass for himself, and Salayexe kept a safe distance. His cubs kept on trying to get something to eat from him but he would have none of it and dragged the carcass into thick bush where we could not follow. Salayexe and the two cubs left him then and moved off.

Until next time
The Simbambili Team


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