So begins another magical week in the bush, and what a way to get it started. We had lioness tracks in the area, and after tracking them for a short while we managed to find five lionesses from the Tsalala pride. They had just killed a young kudu and we watched in awe as the females fought furiously over the carcass. Eventually each one successfully secured a share of the spoils and settled down to feed. After that we enjoyed one incredible leopard sighting, with a grand total of five of these elusive cats in one spot. First we found Karula with her two cubs on a freshly killed male impala, and then Nduna (her son with Jordaan from a previous litter) showed up. Jordaan followed shortly thereafter and quickly made off with the kill. This didn’t stop the others from following the dominant male however, which is something we don’t often see. Especially given how relaxed the big guy was about having an entourage. Eventually all five were resting together at the base of a termite mound. What an absolutely incredible sight to behold! After a while Karula decided she’d had enough of her older son, and headed off her youngsters in tow. Nduna then followed Jordaan as he dragged what was left of the carcass down into a drainage line. On our way back to the lodge we bumped into a herd of elephants and spent a bit of time with them.
Sometime after we’d left them in the morning the Tsalala lionesses had moved to a waterhole, and spent the entire afternoon sleeping off their large meal. A large herd of elephants and an even larger herd of about 200 buffalo filled up the rest of our afternoon. At the end of our drive we bumped into a large, unknown male leopard just outside the lodge. We stayed with him for a while, but with supper beckoning we left him scent marking the area and headed home.
This morning we came across a really big elephant bull in full musth. He proved very entertaining as he tried his level best to intimidate us by opening his ears and shaking his head. Eventually we decided to leave “grumpy britches” to himself and went in search of more amiable game instead. We found Mafufunyane enjoying the morning sun in a dry riverine thicket, and ended our morning drive with a group of 12 old buffalo bulls grazing quietly and just minding their own business.
This afternoon we had to do a fair amount of tracking before finding BB and the young Tsalala lionesses again. All five were sound asleep, and as amazing as it is to view these predators up close, watching them sleep isn’t really all that exciting. After leaving them we found a group of six rhinos munching grass in one of the open areas. After dark we ran into Jordaan, and watched him briefly before rushing back to see if BB and her crew had roused themselves from their slumber yet. As luck would have it, not only were they wide awake, but actively stalking impala. We immediately switched our lights off and waited patiently. The sound of animals rushing through the bushes followed by impalas alarm calling in distress meant that something was definitely afoot. We edged closer and discovered that the adroit cats had killed not one, but three impalas between them! We watched them greedily devouring their booty before returning to the lodge for a well-deserved meal of our own.
We started off by looking for the Tsalala lionesses but found no sign of them of them anywhere. We did however see a male and female rhino as well as three elephant bulls. Mafufunyane entertained us by ambling down the road and then rolling in the grass. Whether that was for scent marking purposes or just because he felt like it we don’t know, either way he clearly enjoyed himself. We also saw Ntima and she has very distinct suckle marks. Hopefully it won’t be long before she introduces us to her brood.
This afternoon we found BB and the four young Tsalala female lions asleep at a waterhole close to where they’d killed the impalas last night. We had a great sighting of a smallish herd elephants feeding with their youngsters, and just before sunset we came across six rhinos on the southern boundary. We were on our way back to the lodge after dark when we came across Mafufunyane patrolling his territory. Yet another fantastic day in the African bush.
This morning we had a lovely surprise when we found three young male lions that we’d never seen before. They seemed to be in the region of four and a half or five years old. We didn’t stay with them for very long though, as it was difficult following them through the thick bush. Less than a kilometer south of these guys we bumped into the two young Nkohuma male lions, and both are looking particularly healthy at the moment. We spent the last hour of drive with a large herd of elephants feeding in and around a drainage line. There were some very curious youngsters among them, and a couple of the bolder ones came fairly close to the vehicle, reaching out, and smelling us from a safe distance. The day was heating up quite quickly by then, so we decided to head back to the lodge for a little R&R on the deck
We were just about to leave on our afternoon drive when a large herd of elephants arrived at the waterhole in front of the lodge, so we headed straight there to watch them drinking. Next we headed off to find the three unknown male lions we’d seen in the morning, and were lucky enough to discover them lying out on an open area, enjoying the late afternoon sun. The trio didn’t move a muscle while we were there, which made it impossible to get any decent ID pictures of them. Karula was also out and about, so we spent a bit of time watching as she stalked anything that moved. We eventually lost her hunting Francolins in some dense vegetation where we couldn’t follow. After dark we came across the Tsalala lionesses again. The five looked keen for the hunt, but they weren’t nearly as successful as they’d been the other night.
Styx male lion by Ryan Johnston
The Ostrich Koppies female leopard wandered up from MalaMala to pay us a brief visit, but we had a tough time keeping up with her as she moved through the thick bush. This female is always very mobile, and invariably favours the denser bush. We also watched a large herd of 30 elephants feeding.
This afternoon we found another herd of elephants, and from there headed east to spend time with an impressive group of 300 noisy, feeding buffalos.
The morning got off to yet another cold start, but the sightings we enjoyed soon got the blood pumping and warmed us up quite quickly. We ran into a small herd of elephants to the east of the lodge and watched them feed for a while before they disappeared into the mist covered bush. It definitely offers one a different perspective to see these gentle giants moving so quietly through the bush when it’s thick with fog. It just feels different somehow. While sitting with the elephants our eagle eyed tracker noticed some male lion tracks. On following up we discovered the young male lion from the Styx pride, who appeared to be in pretty good shape overall. We also found Ntima, but still no sign of her new cubs. Mafufunyane was on a small kill that he’d stolen from Thandi, the female leopard with the skittish young cub.
In the afternoon our first port of call on leaving the lodge was to relocate the young Styx male. But we kept getting distracted by all sorts of interesting general game, as well as by some of the bigger animals. First we found a big herd of about 40 elephants to the north eastern side of the lodge. Mvula was hot on the trail of another leopard, and the big male seemed pretty determined to find the trespasser. Upon leaving Mvula we finally got ourselves back on track and headed off to locate the young lion from the Styx pride. When we found him he was lying out in the open contact calling. A short while later he was joined by a big rhino bull. Not a bad way to end off a chilly evening.
We all woke up to the sound of lions roaring this morning, which made a welcome change from the usual unceremonious chirping of our alarm clocks. After a quick cup of coffee we rushed off to find the source of the noise. It didn’t take long to locate the two Majingilane males, as they were calling loudly to make their presence known. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to listen to the lions roaring right next to the vehicle. After finally leaving the lions we found a herd of old buffalo bulls close by, and they were looking none too happy about having the three large cats just down the road. On our way back to the lodge for breakfast we bumped into a large herd of elephants. The perfect end to an exhilarating drive.
This afternoon we found one of our rhino bulls just as he was approaching his favorite rubbing post. We watched as he enjoyed a good scratch, before turning his attention to sharpening his horn against the smooth piece of wood. Shadow was stalking some impala, but just as she got within striking distance a tree squirrel alerted the herd to the impending danger, sending them scattering in all different directions. Fortunately for the panicking buck, none of them ran in the female leopard’s direction. A large herd of elephants reached a waterhole just as the sun began disappearing behind the horizon, so we sat for a while in the fading light and watched them drink. On returning to the lions, we found that the two males from the morning had been joined by a third brother, as well as the young Styx lioness. The Majingilane male we refer to as “Smudge” had claimed the female for himself, and the pair was off to the side mating. The remaining brother then started roaring from the south, which in turn spurred the four lions around our vehicles to pelt out a cacophony of their own. A truly awesome experience and the perfect way to cap off a magnificent day in the bush.
Until next time,
The Arathusa Team
- Rangers Diary 4-10 July
- Rangers Diary: 18-24 July