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Leopard Diaries

A word from our rangers.

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Leopard Diaries 1st - 6th March 2011

By Liam Rainier
Leopard Diaries 1st - 6th March 2011

1mar1We have had an unbelievable week of game viewing here at Simbambili, which could easily have compared with some of the best game viewing anywhere in Africa!

The weather has been wonderful with clear blue skies and some great autumn temperatures, making the game drives, even more enjoyable. The autumn colours are also returning to the bush with all of the Bushwillow species starting to turn rich yellows and reds.

As mentioned previously the game viewing has been exceptional with all of the major predators including a pack of twenty African Wild Dogs being seen. We have also been fortunate to view two different hunts one of which was successful with the other being particularly entertaining viewing, but more about that later.


The leopard viewing this week has been at its best with leopard once again being seen on every day this week.

Karula, the leopard female from the eastern half of our traverse area has started to bring her two new female cubs into our area on a more frequent basis this week and we have had three great sightings of this leopard trio. The highlight was a sighting of the three leopards as they relaxed around a small waterhole, the young leopards taking it in turns to receive their morning grooming from their mother before settling down in the shade for the rest of the day.


Salayexe has also been seen on a number of occasions this week and we have got a very good idea of where she now has her new cubs stashed away. The den site has moved and we are waiting for an opportunity to follow her to the den site to get a first introduction to her new cubs. We have found her moving through the eastern half of her territory calling and scent marking.


We have also seen the following other leopards throughout the course of the week Rhulani, Nyeleti, Shadow and her cub and the Jordaan male.


Lion viewing has been very good this week, with the return of the Tsalala lionesses. They were first spotted from the main deck while we enjoyed coffee one morning before game drive, as they lazed around the waterhole in front of the lodge.

The five lionesses are doing very well and spent the following four days of the week on the property, making one impala kill early one evening and making a number of attempts on the zebra and impala herds which congregate around the northern airstrip.


During one afternoon game drive we heard over the radio of a buffalo hunt taking place and made our way into the area to investigate. On our arrival at the sighting we were greeted by the sight of approximately two hundred buffalo moving away from the four Majingilane males. The herd moved steadily eastwards heading for the KNP boundary but were followed the entire way by three of the males who made three further unsuccessful attempts at bringing down a buffalo. We finally left the three lions resting in the cool of the evening as the buffalo drifted away.


Good sightings of both large breeding herds and single elephant bulls have been enjoyed this week. The marula fruiting season is now drawing to a close and this may have an effect on the numbers of elephant in the area. These large pachyderms may start to move further south to the precious water in the Sand River as the bush dries out.

Rhinoceros & Buffalo

A number of good rhinoceros sightings have been had this week, with our resident crashes being found in the vicinity of the major waterholes.

The buffalo viewing has been far better this week with two different herds moving through the property. The first herd was the herd mentioned in the lion update, which numbered well into the two hundreds. The second herd was smaller and numbered approximately fifty animals and is still in the area.

African Wild Dog


The highlight of the week has been the presence of two wild dog packs in our traversing area. The first pack is the one that we see on a regular basis and numbers seven animals. The second however is far larger and moves into our reserve from the north, this pack numbers twenty animals and are truly an amazing sight to see on game drive.

The big pack was found early one morning and we watched in awe as they attempted to hunt a herd of wildebeest that had a number of calves present in the herd. The dogs rushed this way and that as they tried to fool the adult wildebeest into making a mistake. The adult bulls in the wildebeest herd were having nothing of it and managed to keep the dogs at bay.

The two packs of dogs did have an altercation one morning with the bigger pack chasing the smaller pack off and causing a fair bit of chaos in the reserve that day. We had wild dogs from the pack of seven running in every direction trying to re-gather after being separated during the scuffle. The end result was the smaller pack leaving the area and returning to the western half of the reserve. The bigger pack is still here and we will keep you up to date with their movements.


The pair of female cheetah has been seen on a number of game drives again this week, one of which proved to be a moment that will stand out for a long time!

We were following the pair of cheetah as they moved along a road early on a morning drive, when all of a sudden a young kudu calf ran out into the road. The cheetah wasted no time and brought the calf down right in front of us. The death cry had unfortunately alerted a nearby hyena who loped in to investigate.

The young female cheetah was having nothing of this and aggressively charged at the lone hyena, repeatedly trying to chase this unwelcome visitor away. This is very unusual as cheetah rank low down in the predator hierarchy and will often back away from confrontation with a hyena. The hyena was soon joined by two more of it's clan members and the cheetah beat a hasty retreat, losing out on their meal.

This was not the last of the sighting because as we were leaving we spotted a large male leopard resting very near to the where the kill had taken place. It did not take him long before he rushed in grabbed what was left of the carcass from underneath the hyenas noses and scampered up the nearest tree to enjoy the spoils!!

Only in Africa.........and only at Simbambili.


The Simbambili Guiding Team

Leopard Diaries 14th - 20th February 2011

By Liam Rainier
Leopard Diaries 14th - 20th February 2011

14feb1Well, summer is almost drawing to a close and the bush is as lush and dense as we have ever seen it here in the Sabi Sands, this is fantastic for the wildlife and all species are in fine condition due to the abundance of the nutritious vegetation, however this does make for difficult game viewing!

We have had a little more rain with just over 8mm falling through the week. Simbambili Dam is a sight to behold and it is the fullest that it has been in years.

Game viewing and in particular lion and leopard viewing this week has been rather difficult, elephant, buffalo and rhinoceros sightings have been good and we have seen both cheetah and wild dog again this week.


The leopard certainly proved to be elusive this week and we only had four sightings of the spotted cats this week.

We found one of Nyeleti's now independent cubs late one afternoon as he moved through a dense patch of Combretum woodland. The young male leopard was clearly intent on finding a meal and he pursued any noise or movement, without any success, before finally climbing into the branches of a nearby Marula tree. We left him as he dozed away the rest of the afternoon.

Karula and her two new cubs were once again seen on our eastern boundary and the cubs and mother allowed us some fantastic viewing as they lazed around the base of a large Bushwillow. The sighting was unfortunately disturbed by two hyenas who decided to "gate crash" the party. The presence of these scavengers sent the cubs scurrying away to the safety of the tree tops and their mother immediately took an aggressive stance against the two intruders. The trio of leopards finally moved off once the threat from any of the hyenas had disappeared. 


The five Tsalala lionesses made an appearance on Saturday afternoon and spent the following two days in our traversing area.  They all appear to be very healthy and this must be down to the experience of the older lioness who is known to be a good mother and teacher. The pride appears to be targeting the zebra herds of the area, all of which have young foals at present.


The large number of elephant have, delighted both guests and guides alike over the last week, with sightings of both herds and single bulls being enjoyed on every drive this week. The herds have all numbered between ten and twenty animals and many small calves are also present. The sight of these large animals being gentle and tender with these little ones is a truly mesmerising sight.

Rhinoceros & Buffalo

Buffalo sightings have been good, with a herd of approximately a hundred animals moving into the property early one morning. They did not stay long and it would appear that the herd was being followed by two lionesses from the east.

The four old buffalo bulls have been utilising the waterhole in front of the lodge on a daily basis and provide hours of viewing pleasure for the guests as they enjoy their lunches on the lodge deck.

Rhinoceros sightings have been a highlight this week with a number of animals being seen.



The pair of female cheetahs was seen early on in the week as they stalked an impala herd through an open clearing early one morning. The exuberance of the young female cub still gets the better of her and the impalas spotted her as she moved into the clearing in plain view.

Wild Dog

The pack of seven wild dogs returned on Saturday evening and were spotted as they fed on an impala kill that they had made on a nearby airstrip. The pack had actually killed three different impala and took almost no time in wolfing down all three kills before moving to a nearby waterhole to slake their thirst.


The Simbambili Guiding Team

Leopard Diaries 7th - 13th February 2011

By Liam Rainier
Leopard Diaries 7th -13th February 2011

This week was the first time this summer that we have not had any rain. The clear blue skies and warm daytime temperatures have made for some fantastic conditions for game drives and the wildlife has responded in kind with a number of great sightings being enjoyed.


The leopard sightings this week have been good, with the highlight being a very quick sighting of two of our newest leopard cubs. Karula has moved into our traversing area and has her two, approximately three month old, cubs stashed away in a dense riverline on our eastern boundary. The two little balls of fur did not stay visible for too long and we did not want to pressurise them too much, without their mother being present. The cubs will often follow their mothers lead when faced by new objects such as vehicles and we try to only view the young cubs when she is present. Even better news is that it appears that our resident female leopard Salayexe has once again given birth. The area that she has been seen moving into and out of repeatedly this week is relatively inaccessible to vehicles and we have not been able to get any sightings of the new cubs. The suspicion was confirmed when Salayexe was found at a nearby waterhole and her teats are showing distinctive suckle marks!!!


The lions have been very conspicuous by their absence this week! We have only seen lions once this week, with two of the Styx lionesses being seen resting in the vicinity of one of the waterholes in the eastern half of our traversing.  


The return of the elephants has been a real delight for us here at Simbambili. After the relative scarcity of these big grey beasts over the last two months it is wonderful to be able to drive out and not only find fresh signs and tracks of large numbers of elephants, but also to be able to find the animals themselves, utilising the marula fruit bounty to be had in the bush at the moment.

Rhinoceros & Buffalo

The sightings of white rhinoceros have been good with two different crashes of four being seen on a number of occasions this week. The two dominant bulls have been seen moving through their respective territories and would often be found in the company of the either of the two crashes. The buffalo sightings are still dominated by the groups of "Dagga-boys" who can be found lazing away the warm days either in or close to a convenient waterhole or mud wallow.


The two female cheetahs were seen on two different occasions this week; both of the sightings saw the pair trying to stalk impala herds. Unfortunately on both occasions the cats were unsuccessful in their hunting attempts, but are still both in great condition and providing some good sightings.

Till next week......


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