Leopard Diaries 1st - 6th March 2011
We 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