Rangers Diary: 18-24 July

Arathusa Safari Lodge - Game Drive
Armand (ranger) and Roy (tracker) with the Majinilane male and Styx lioness by Ryan Johnston


We went looking for lions again this morning, and found the young Styx female still mating with the Majingilane male. There was no sign of other two brothers however. We also found two of our older leopards, Mafufenyane and Safari, together in some very thick bush in a gulley behind a dam wall.

The afternoon started off with us finding four old buffalo bulls at a small watering hole, after which we ran into a herd of elephants. Safari was feeding on a recently killed impala in a gully, and on the way back we spotted the young Styx lioness and Majingilane male. Both were sleeping peacefully, no doubt exhausted from all their cavorting. And finally we saw four rhinos shortly before arriving back at the lodge.


It was decidedly chilly when we set out this morning, and clearly the game thought so too because they were nowhere to be seen. We headed over to where Safari had her kill stashed over the last couple of days, and found the female sleeping off the heavy meal in the sun. It was nice to see that she hadn’t lost her kill to another leopard again. We also enjoyed a brief sighting of Ntima, and with her clearly visible suckle marks we’re all hopeful that her cubs are thriving.

We kicked the afternoon drive off with a big herd of around fifty elephants close to the lodge, and watched them for a while before moving on to see who else was out and about. We decided to drive to the far east sector of the property, where we found Thandi dragging an impala across the road. She fed for a bit and then sent out some low calls to her cub. The little guy is shy and not seen that often, and unfortunately on this occasion it didn’t make an appearance either. We spotted both Ntima and Safari this afternoon as well.


Mafufenyane was out enjoying a leisurely morning stroll down one of the main roads when we found him this morning. We stayed with him for quite some time, as the perfect light afforded some wonderful photo opportunities. He eventually cut off into some dense undergrowth, but not before our snap happy guests had captured a number of good shots of this beautiful leopard. We found one of the Majingilane male lions looking incredibly fat as he slept off his enormous belly at one of the pans. Ntima looked keen to stalk some impala, but gave up when the herd caught sight of her and began alarm calling with intent. And finally, we were greeted by a lovely herd of elephants at the waterhole when we arrived back for breakfast.

Ntima was exploring a nice open drainage line when we came across her this afternoon. We watched as she drank from one of the small pools and then settled down in the riverbed to groom herself. After sunset we ran into one of the other Majingilane males just as he was rousing himself from his afternoon siesta. He headed in the direction of his brother, and when the pair joined up they roared (right next to the vehicle!) and received an answer from one of their siblings some distance away.


Within minutes of setting out this morning we found Jordaan very close to the lodge. The male leopard was being evasive however, and quickly disappeared again. After that we spent a fair amount of time tracking, and eventually finding, an adult rhino bull. Safari was still in the area of her impala kill, and when we eventually located the young Styx lioness and Majingilane male in some thick bush, the pair was still mating. Having already been at it for a few days by then, their time together was close to over.

The afternoon drive started off quietly, but our persistence paid off and we eventually found a male and young female rhino grazing peacefully together. We also came across two old buffalo bulls just before sunset. After dark we found the young Styx lioness and the Majingilane male again. They were still mating, but growing increasingly more irritated and aggressive towards one another. After one session in particular she lashed out at him angrily, which resulted in some vicious clawing and biting. This caused the male to roar loudly, lest anyone in the immediate vicinity had not yet grasped how cross he was.


After a frustrating start, with tracks leading off in all different directions, we eventually managed to find three of the Tsalala lionesses. This was a little worrying as we’d heard that there’d been a fight between them and another pride in the far north east of our property, close to the Kruger National Park border. Hopefully the missing two females are okay and find their way back to their three pride mates.

It was a great afternoon for leopards, as we came across three of these often elusive cats. Safari was walking along and scent marking what is left of her territory. We also saw Karula with a duiker that she’d killed. She went to fetch her cubs but unfortunately we weren’t lucky enough to see the youngsters. We found Emsagwen vigilantly patrolling our airstrip, and the large male was salivating heavily and territorial calling. A sure sign that there was another leopard in the area, although we never actually got to see the apparent intruder. We were treated to a fantastic sighting of the young Styx male lion trying to catch a young hyena cub, but the wily little guy made it into the den before the large cat could catch to him. A lucky escape indeed. The three Tsalala lionesses were still in the same spot where we left them in the morning morning. From the look of things they were definitely sleeping off a hard night’s fighting. We ended the afternoon drive by finding a big herd of buffalo drinking at the waterhole in front of the lodge. A great way to finish to a magnificent day.


This morning we picked up fresh tracks of the three Tsalala lionesses on our open area. On following up we found the trio close to the lodge. We stayed with them for some time, watching as they chased a group of giraffes one way, missing them, and then chasing them back again in the other direction. We also saw four young male lions that look to be in the region of four or five years old. They could well have been the same boys from a week ago, but it’s still too early to ID them with any certainty. There has been some speculation that they are part of the Matimbas coalition of males from the Manyeleti Game Reserve. A huge herd of around 60 elephants finished off yet another fantastic morning.

With five different individuals being spotted, the afternoon definitely belonged to the leopards. Kwatile was the first to be found, and we spent a bit of time with the young female before she moved off into some Monkey-orange thickets where we couldn’t follow. We went to check up on Mvula who had a waterbuck kill close to one of the other camps, and found him sleeping in the thick reeds. Visibility wasn’t great so we hung around on the off chance that he’d get up, and while we were sitting there Thandi arrived. She paid little attention to the male, and instead headed straight into the tree and started feeding on the kill. He didn’t seem to care at all, and just carried on sleeping. Once Thandi had eaten her fill she came down and headed off again. We came across Safari and watched as the old girl stalked and missed a herd of impala. The final cherry on the top was finding Mafufenyane drinking at one of the open areas. When we eventually left the old dominant male he was resting at the pan itself.


Arathusa Safari Lodge - Styx male lion
Styx male lion on giraffe kill by Ryan Johnston

We had a brief sighting of a nervous and unknown young leopard this morning. After leaving him we found a small herd of elephants just before sunrise. We were extremely excited when we found tracks of a single black rhino. After following all the tracks for a short while we suddenly got a glimpse of this rare herbivore as it ran away through thick bush. We managed to find it again however, and this time it ran across the road right in front of us before disappearing a second time.


This is the first sighting of a black rhino in the area for almost five years!

Arathusa Safari Lodge - Black rhino
Black rhino by Kevin Samuels (guest)

From there we went in search of the young Styx male lion who had just killed a giraffe. One of the Majingilane males showed up and a small battle ensued. Incredibly they stopped fighting after a while and both began feeding while still growling at one another. It seemed the Majingilane was more interested in the food than having a serious one-on-one battle with the young male. Suddenly the Styx youngster looked up and took off like a shot. A second Majingilane male showed up and the two of them proceeded to chase the young male off, roaring aggressively as they went. The Styx male was lucky enough to escape however, and eventually the two Majingilanes brothers gave up the chase and returned to the carcass. An absolutely unforgettable morning!

Arathusa Safari Lodge - Karula's cub
Karula's cub by Ryan Johnston

The afternoon started off with a herd of elephants drinking at our dam. We then went back to see the lions again, but they’d gorged themselves to such an extent that they barely lifted their heads to acknowledge our arrival. The third Majingilane male still hadn’t joined his siblings at the carcass. Lastly we saw one of Karula’s cubs playing happily all by itself, with no sign of either Mom or sibling anywhere.

And that brings to an end yet another spectacular week! Visit our Facebook and Flikr albums to see more photos from our game drives.

Until next time,

The Arathusa Team

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