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Leopard Diaries

A word from our rangers.

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Leopard Diaries 20th December - 26th December 2010

By Liam Rainier
Leopard Diaries 20th December - 26th December 2010
At just a glance a lion may look similar to another lion found in a different pride. However when one spends a certain amount of time with certain animals, they begin to reveal individual behaviors. Although it may be scientific taboo to assign human emotions and "personalities" to animals, at Simbambili we have noticed over the years how different each animal really is.

In their autobiography Hunting With the Moon, Dereck and Beverly Joubert also refer to these individual differences with regards to lions:

"We have seen lions come and go over the decade. We will remember them all. Each one was a different character and each one had a different face"

Guides and trackers have come to know and understand certain animals around Simbambili. The cats (lions and leopards), and hyenas are best known, due to the fact that they are territorial and we view them on a fairly regular basis.


This week's leopard sightings have reflected the differences between one individual leopard to another.

A young male leopard was seen close to Elephant Plains' airstrip. He was initially sighted from approximately 100m away, feeding on an impala kill in a Marula tree. He instantly became aware of our presence, crouched down and stared intently in our direction. He lost his nerve and quickly descended the Marula, moving into long grass where he felt more secure. He most likely comes from an area to the west, known as Othawa. This property is very large and is driven over by very few vehicles. Some animals coming out of Othawa are thus not relaxed in the presence of vehicles as they have not been exposed to them, and are unaware of their intentions.

Sightings such as this are the crucial points in attempting to gain the trust of a wild animal and ethics plays a very big part. Moving in closer would just have caused the male to run off and abandon his hard earned meal. We moved off to even more of a distance, switched off the vehicle and waited. He eventually returned to his kill, and although warily watching our every move, he began to feed again.

december02Nyaleti and Mati were both sighted in the south of our traversing, close to Londolozi boundary. Nyaleti, the territorial female of this southern area was seen scent marking to assert her dominance and advertise her presence.

The female leopard in the far east of our traversing, Thandi was sighted twice this week. We are still uncertain whether her newborn cubs survived as they were only ever seen once.

The Ostrich Kkoppie female's cub was seen sleeping up in the high branches of a Marula tree, safe out of harms way while his mother was away. 


Lion sightings this week have been excellent. The Styx pride (four females) was sighted twice this week. On one occasion the eldest female had moved away from the three other females. While sitting with the three females we suddenly heard them start to roar very softly. A distant soft roar was then heard in response. The excitement that swept over the three females as they ran toward the missing pride member was truly incredible. It showed the truly social nature of these big cats and the strength of the bonds between pride members.

december03The young Styx male was not seen by Simbambili guides this week, but was seen inside Torchwood; a property traversed by Djuma. He appears to be coping on his own and has recovered from his wounds following the fight between him and the four dominant males (The Majingilanes).

A pride very seldom seen, coming from the Manyaleti to the north east was sighted this week. The four Nxuhuma females, joined by the two Kagima males were seen walking north from Safari Airstrip. They were far out of their territory and the males were scent marking consistently. This is a risk as this area is occupied by the four Majingilane males.


Not many elephant were seen this week. Sightings consisted mostly of single bulls and one small herd seen moving through very thick vegetation.

A large bull was seen walking along Simbambili Dam wall. The elevated position accentuated his grandeur even more. He then moved east into Vuyatela.

Rhino and Buffalo

Rhino sightings have consisted mostly of the Utah bull, which has been hanging around Elephant Plains Airstrip and had provided us with some great sightings.

Buffalo sighting this week consisted of older bulls in smaller herds. A large herd of bulls, consisting of 15 individuals was sighted at Tree House Pan in the east of our traversing area.

A small herd of one bull and eight cows was seen close to Arathusa Safari Lodge.

Kindest Regards

Shaun D'Araujo

6th December - 13th December 2010

By Liam Rainier
Leopard Diaries 6th December - 13th December 2010

The harsh browns and yellows of the Lowveld landscape completely transform in the summer. The rains bring much needed water and nutrients to the vegetation of the area. The new green lush vegetation determines the condition of the herbivores, which in turn play a role in the condition of the predators of the area. In his book, Bushveld Trees: Lifeblood of the Transvaal Lowveld (1993); Malcolm Funston describes the interconnection between all living organisms and the environment as follows:

"The trees of the bushveld are indeed the lifeblood of the eastern Transvaal lowveld (Greater Kruger area), for without them the remaining wilderness of the region would simply not exist as we know it. Certainly the great diversity of wildlife, one of South Africa's most valuable natural assets, would be absent and not only in this country, but the entire world would be poorer from it."

This statement has certainly proved to be true here at Simbambili over the past week. The impala herds have grown substantially as most of the females have given birth to lambs, bringing new life to the Lowveld. These births coincide with the less harsh summer conditions, when food is plentiful, allowing the mothers to produce good quality milk for the lambs.


Leopard sightings this week have been amazing. Interesting and new interaction between different leopards has been noted in the area. For instance on one morning drive, the female Nyeleti was seen up a tree, growling aggressively at another young male on the ground, Rhulani. Rhulani, the son of Nyeleti's "younger sister", Salayeshe; had treed Nyaleti and remained on the ground, appearing very confident and satisfied with himself. He did not however, see his father Tyson stalk up behind him. As soon as he saw Tyson he immediately submitted to the much larger leopard. It may be possible that Nyeleti may be coming back into oestrus, which may have attracted Tyson to hang around her for some time.

A few days later, Rhulani was again seen harassing Nyeleti and had stolen an impala kill from her. When Nyeleti's female cub joined the sighting, she was immediately chased up a tree by Rhulani. Nyeleti paced around the base of the tree, frantically contact calling to her cub, now left with nowhere to go as Rhulani had climbed the same tree. Rhulani and the young cub had a scuffle in the tree, after which Rhulani descended and moved off. It is possible that due to his size, he has undergone a huge boost of confidence and has yet to be humbled by another large male leopard (possibly even his own father soon).

Other leopard sightings have included Shadow and the cubs as well as of the young nomadic male we refer to as the Rhino Pan Male


Lion sightings this week have been mostly of the younger two of the adult Tsalala females. They were seen on Wednesday on Londolozi boundary and have been hanging around the area, although not sighted every day.

On Monday morning, returning from the far eastern boundary with the Kruger National Park, the four Majingilane male lions were sighted lying in the road just inside of Mala Mala.

The two young Nxuhuma male lions have still been hanging around in the north around Simbambili Dam and on Sunday morning; we tracked and eventually found the two males. They are however still skittish, and if this aspect of them is respected and they are viewed from a distance, we are confident they will eventually allow us to view them close up.


A small herd of very relaxed elephants was sighted at Pungwe Pan. The herd trumpeted and rushed toward a Spike thorn thicket. Out of the thicket, on the other side, a young male leopard was flushed out. Even though there is no chance of him killing elephants, they still do not appreciate the presence of a predator.

Bulls have been sighted throughout the property over the past week.

Rhino and Buffalo

Rhino have been plentiful over the last week. The majority of the sightings have been of the Londolozi Bull around Safari Airstrip and Big Dam; and the Utah bull around Elephant Plains.

A large herd of buffalo have been hanging around in the east of the property, close to Arathusa Safari Lodge for about three days. Tracks for other big herds have also been seen further east around Chitwa Chitwa.

Other sightings of buffalo have consisted mainly of older bulls around camp, and in the mud wallows, once the heat of the day has set in by 09h00.


The Simbambili Guiding & Tracking Team

22nd - 28th November 2010

By Liam Rainier
Leopard Diaries 22nd - 28th November 2010

22nov1What a week of game viewing we have had, with the return of elephants and lions as well as some fantastic leopard interactions!

The weather has been great with a substantial amount of rain falling late in the week, causing the river in front of the lodge to flow briefly. The beauty of an African thunderstorm is still something that we all enjoy.

The return of additional summer migrant birds has made for great bird watching with Lesser Grey Shrikes and European Rollers arriving back through the course of the week. We have also noticed that the Wahlberg's Eagles all have young in the nests we have observed.


We came across two different leopard in one location on an afternoon drive, these two leopard turned out to be Salayexe and Nyeleti's Female Cub, the younger leopard had been chased up into the top most branches of a nearby tree after a skirmish with the territorial leopard female. Salayexe had taken up a position at the base of the tree and would growl at any movement from the young leopard above her.

Nsele was found on a morning drive with a young impala ram kill which she had stashed into the branches of a large Sheperd's Tree. This young female leopard has proved to be a good hunter and is easily moving towards the solitary adult life of these elusive spotted cats. The surprise of the day was when we found her brother Rhulani in the vicinity of the kill and owing to his bigger size he managed to chase the smaller leopard female from her prize.

The highlight of our leopard viewing this week has been the regular sighting of Shadow and her two young cubs. The leopard family has been seen on most days this week and all three appear to be healthy and the female leopard is providing a regular supply of meat for the growing cubs. The recent impala "baby boom" is providing the family with small but regular meals.


22nov4It was with some excitement that we found and followed two sets of fresh lion tracks early on Wednesday morning. The tracks appeared to be those of two young male lions and it did not take us long to locate the two Nxuhuma male lions as they moved through the riverline close to the lodge. The pair of young males had been chasing a group of buffalo bulls and it appeared that they had still not caught one of their intended prey. The lion pair are not completely relaxed in the presence of the game drive vehicles and we approached with caution. The pair moved off and as we sat with a herd of elephant in the same area the lion pair ran through the herd in pursuit of a young buffalo bull, the buffalo ran off and the lions sensing the unease of the elephants moved away into some thicker bush.

22nov5These two males were relocated on the following day in the same vicinity but had still not fed and we watched as they attempted to stalk into a herd of zebra but with no success.

The five Tsalala pride lionesses were also seen this week. They were spotted as they attempted to hunt a zebra herd on our southern boundary but the attempt was unsuccessful and the lions decided to rest and wait for nightfall to increase their chances of making a kill under the cover of darkness. The pride was again found on Sunday as they huddled together waiting out the rain that had fallen all morning


A large herd of elephants spent the best part of two days moving through the property; the herd numbered approximately twenty and provided us with some good viewing. We have also had a few large bulls moving into the area and it looks like the elephant are finally returning to the northern Sabi-Sands.

Buffalo & Rhinoceros

Buffalo numbers have been relatively low with a few of the resident bulls providing us with the majority of the sightings this week. The herds have been drawn further south into the reserve onto the recently burnt areas which have a nutritious flush of new grass due to the rains.

Rhinoceros sightings have been great with a number of rhinoceros being seen on most drives this week.


The Simbambili Guiding & Tracking Team


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