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Leopard Diaries

A word from our rangers.

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Liam Rainier

Liam Rainier

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Leopard Diaries 17th - 23rd January

By Liam Rainier
Leopard Diaries 17th-23rd January 2011

17jan1This week has seen some torrential rainfall affecting most parts of South Africa and we have not been spared here at Simbambili. We received approximately 100mm of rain during the week and it is a pleasure to report that all of the permanent water holes are now full to brimming!!

The reserve is extremely wet and this has had a slight effect on the areas that we are able to access on game drives; it has not however had any effect on the game viewing on offer. The presence of all of the large predators that are found in the reserve was a real bonus for us.

Elephant numbers have also improved and we were lucky enough to see at least four different herds of these big grey pachyderms during the course of the week. The highlight of the week however had to be the return of the pack of wild dogs, but more on that later.


We have been treated once again to some great leopard viewing this week. Late on an afternoon game drive we heard that Shadow had moved into an area in the northern part of our traversing area and we quickly made our way to the area. We found the leopard as she was in the process of stalking an impala herd, utilising all of the long grass and cover to conceal her approach. It did not take her long to get into position and we watched with baited breath as the leopard positioned herself right into the path of the oncoming herd of antelope.

The impala moved past the position where we had last seen the leopard and in a flash she was up and running at her chosen target. We lost sight of the leopard for a few moments but were stunned to find her with a young impala ewe that she had in a throat hold. 

The impala was duly dispatched and the leopard began the arduous task of dragging the fresh kill to cover. We left as she moved the kill into a dense stand of thorn trees. On returning to the area the following day, it appeared that the leopard had unfortunately lost the kill to a spotted hyena.

A number of sightings of Salayexe have been enjoyed and she is looking heavily pregnant and it should not be long before she gives birth to her new litter of cubs. We have also seen a dramatic increase in her territorial behaviour, scent marking and calling, in and around the area close to the lodge, we are hoping that she may utilise the area as her denning sight. Time will tell and we will keep you posted.


17jan3The Tsalala pride made a return to our traversing area and all five of the females were found feeding on a fresh zebra kill. The pride fed on the carcass for the following day and a half and all moved away from the kill site with bulging bellies.

They moved steadily northwards during the course of the week and were found on the following three days not having moved very far from the position they were left. Their fat bellies have started to subside and it won't be long before we see them starting to look for the next meal.

A lone member of the Styx pride was seen in the eastern half of the property. It would appear that the pride has been scattered once again by the presence of the Majingilane Males.


Good numbers of elephant have been recorded this week, with a number of different herds being seen moving through the area. The lure of the ripening marula fruit has proved to be too strong for these large herbivores to ignore and we are seeing signs of elephant in the areas dominated by these large fruiting trees.

Buffalo & Rhinoceros

We have enjoyed consistent sightings of both of these large herbivores during the week. The small groups of buffalo bulls are providing the majority of our sightings and it is great to see that a small group has once again taken up residence in the area around the lodge and are utilising the waterhole in front of camp to wallow in.

A fair number of rhinoceros sightings have been enjoyed with the majority of the sightings being had in the eastern half of our traversing. We were fortunate to find two different crashes on a single afternoon which gave us a sightings record of six rhinoceros in a single afternoon! We even had a large rhinoceros bull join us in a cheetah sighting which was a stroke of luck to have two members of the magnificent seven in a single sighting.


The cheetah pair spent the first three days of the week in our area hunting the impala herds that are so predominant around the eastern airstrip. Although unsuccessful in the attempts that we were fortunate enough to witness, they did appear to have caught a small impala at some stage as they were found with full bellies late on an afternoon drive as they lazed in the sun.

African Wild Dog

The highlight of this week's viewing was the return of the pack of seven wild dogs, which were spotted on a morning drive by staff at camp. The pack had managed to chase an impala ewe into the waterhole and two of the pack members had laid siege to the edges waiting for the stranded antelope to make an attempt at leaving her watery sanctuary.

The dogs unfortunately, eventually lost interest in the antelope and loped off to find the remainder of the pack which had in the mean time, made another successful kill and were busy feeding approximately two hundred metres away.

The dogs have been in the area for the entire week and we have a sighting of them on every day.


Simbambili Guiding Team

Leopard Diaries 10th - 16th January 2011

By Liam Rainier
Leopard Diaries 10th - 16th January 2011

10jan01We have just gone through a very wet week, the rain has finally arrived and we now have some very full waterholes and the rain is still far from over. The Manyeleti River in front of the lodge has once again flowed this week following a very heavy thundershower on Friday evening and has not subsided and flowed again on Sunday evening.

The heavy rains have somewhat limited our game drive area but this has not affected our sightings in any way and we have seen some fabulous wildlife over the last week. The leopard viewing in particular has been fantastic, but we have once again had good cheetah sighting and the buffalo viewing has been very good.

The elephant numbers are however still proving to be limited and we have had to travel long distances to find these large pachyderms.


Once again this week we returned to the kind of leopard viewing that makes the Sabi Sands Reserve so famous. This week we have had no fewer than seventeen individual leopard sightings. Guests that were with us for three days saw a total of ten different leopards during their stay.

The young female Moya, has provided some great viewing, she is still a young leopard and is constantly testing what the limits should be for an independent leopard. We found her early one morning after a rain shower as she rested in the branches of a large Marula tree. The wet grass was not to her liking and she decided that the most comfortable place to be was in the high branches of the large tree.

10jan02We found Shadow and her young cub on a rainy afternoon as she brought the little one back to a recently killed impala ewe.

This pair of leopards appears to be doing very well and are spending a lot of time around the eastern airstrip. The abundance of impala in the vicinity, is providing a ready source of food. 

The carcass was unfortunately stolen by the dominant territorial male, Mafufunyane who dragged the carcass away and chased the female from the area. He was found later that afternoon resting with a bulging belly in the shade of a nearby thicket.

News is that at least two of the leopard females in the east of our traversing area now have new cubs. Thandi has apparently given birth to two cubs that were fathered by Mvula. The cubs are thought to be approximately three weeks old. Ntima has also given birth but we have yet to get a viewing of the cubs.


A pleasant surprise this week was a sighting of the Xuhuma Pride and the two Gijima males who are rare visitors to the property. The pride is usually resident in the north eastern half of the reserve but do make occasional forays into our traversing area. The pride spent the entire day resting in some shady thickets and provided some great photo opportunities as they came out on the road in the early evening. The pride has two four month old cubs with them and the pair of young males are very healthy.

The Styx Pride was found in the far east of our traversing area as they rested in the early morning sunshine. The pride is still quite fractured and the old lioness and two sub adults appeared to be trying to escape the attention of the four Majingilane males.


The majority of sightings this week were of large lone bulls as they moved through the property.

Buffalo & Rhinoceros

A good sized herd of buffalo have been present in the area this week. The herd numbers approximately eighty buffalo and the herd was still present on Sunday evening. A large number of buffalo bulls have been seen throughout the property usually concentrated around the permanent waterholes.

Fewer rhinoceros sightings have been had this week, although all guests have managed to see at least one of these grey behemoths during their stay.


The cheetah pair were found on an early morning drive, the adult female had successfully brought down a duiker and the pair was seen feeding on the carcass of the small antelope. Unfortunately the cheetahs were interrupted by a large male leopard who chased the cheetah off the kill. The cheetah then moved off and left the reserve going east into the Kruger National Park.

New Life
10jan04 10jan05

Some of the new arrivals that we are seeing include wildebeest calves, warthog piglets and impala lambs throughout the property. The birds have also started breeding and we are seeing a number of francolin chicks, guinea fowl chicks and Egyptian goose goslings.


Simbambili Guiding and Tracking Team

Leopard Diaries 3rd-9th January 2011

By Liam Rainier
Leopard Diaries 3rd-9th January 2011

3jan01Well, what a week it has been!! We have been treated to some exceptional game viewing this week with most game drives being dominated by some superb big cat sightings.

We have had the welcome return of the cheetah pair who were present here last year during the summer. The lion viewing has also been very good with lions being seen on almost every drive this week. Leopard viewing has been a little slower, due to the lion presence but we have seen a fair number of the spotted cats through the week.

The weather has been damp and we have had a few wet game drives this week. The bush has responded to the rain and is looking lush and greener than ever.


Due to the increased lion presence on the property this week, we have found the leopard viewing to be a little more challenging than usual. This does not mean that we have not seen the spotted cats, but have had to look hard to locate them.

We found the dominant male, Tyson resting in a large Jackalberry tree on one damp afternoon drive. He appeared to have fed recently and had moved in from our southern neighbouring property during the course of the morning. He spent the following two days in the area and we found him again the next morning moving west and scent marking along one of the main roads.

We have also had good sightings of two of our lesser seen leopards. The Tavangumi female was found resting on our southern boundary. This old female leopard is the oldest leopard in the area but still looks to be in very good condition. The second leopard is a new unnamed female leopard that has been seen moving around the northern section of the reserve, she appears to be a young recently independent leopard. We found her on an impala kill which she had safely stashed in the branches of a Leadwood tree.

Other leopards seen during the week included the Rhino Pan male, Nyeleti and Moya
3jan02 3jan03



The week started off with the Styx pride being found after a good bit of tracking. The pride's tracks were found coming into the property following a herd of buffalo and it did not take long before we had located three of the lionesses feeding on a sub adult buffalo carcass. The young male of the Styx pride was seen the previous day moving in the area around one of our airstrips, he appears to have recovered full from his encounter with the four Majingilane males. We found him the following day in the company of the rest of the pride.  The four lions then spent the following four days resting with very, distended bellies on the airstrip, hardly moving more than thirty metres during this time!!

The five Tsalala lionesses were seen in the northern half of our tarversing and all appear to be in fine health. They moved into the area late in the evening and headed to the northern airstrip, where they were able to bring down a zebra foal during the evening.


The elephant viewing has been difficult, with the cool weather these large pachyderms have been sticking to the thickets and have not shown themselves very well this week.

Buffalo & Rhinoceros

The buffalo viewing this week has been very good, with a number of small groups of bulls being seen throughout the property. We have also had a small herd of perhaps eighty animals moving through the eastern part of our area during the week. We were fortunate to watch an interaction between the Styx pride and the buffalo herd. The herd returned to the sight of the buffalo kill and proceeded to chase the lions from the carcass of the sub adult buffalo that the lions had killed earlier. The lions showed little regard for the enraged buffalo and moved away a short distance before returning to continue their meal.

The rhinoceros sightings have dropped off this week and we have had to actively go and look for these grey behemoths. The open grassy clearings have been favoured as the nutritious grasses continue to sprout after the new rainfall.


3jan05It is a very welcome return of cheetah to the area this week.

We have once again started to find the two female cheetah who enthralled us during the summer period last year.

The young cheetah cub has grown into a sub adult and should be nearing the time of independence.

The two cats were found on a morning drive as they headed north towards the open areas around the southern airstrip. They spent the following two days in the area before moving off due to the presence of the Styx pride.


The Simbambili Guiding & Tracking Team


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