Rangers Diary: 21-27 February

Arathusa Safari Lodge - Buffalo
Buffalo by Brendon Cremer

Monday

The dawn of a new week, let’s hope it’s a good one! We heard the Majingilhanes roaring to the east early this morning, long before any of the guests were awake. That decided our plan for the morning drive – we would track these four male lions again. It didn’t take us long to find their tracks, but much to our disappointment they’d already crossed back over our southern border. Hopefully we’ll get to see them again soon.

We did have some great elephant sightings though, which made up for the lack of lions. Sort of. One in particular stood out. A herd of about thirty elephants just east of the lodge were happily feeding on the Marula fruit that littered the ground, when a young calf decided to get feisty with the vehicle. Much to our amazement Mom did not immediately follow and chase us away, as is the norm in these situations. Instead she moved directly to the rambunctious youngster and pushed him away from the vehicle, as if to say, “Leave them alone, they’re just watching”. The guests really enjoyed this unexpected encounter, and no doubt they’ll remember it for a long time to come.

On the afternoon drive the elephants were just as plentiful, gorging themselves on the Marula fruit and spending as much time as possible around the watering holes. We also had some rhinos feeding close to the vehicle, and they didn’t seem at all put out by our presence.

We spent some time driving around after a Wahlberg’s eagle that was intent on dive-bombing a flock of birds. Along the way we came across some drag marks, and asked the guests to just sit patiently while we went tracking on foot. We were pleasantly surprised to find Safari on a young impala kill. We sat watching her feed for about an hour, until she decided to drag the carcass to a new location. To see this old girl was a treat in itself, but to be able to watch her feed and then drag her kill. Wow, what a bonus! Just another great day in the office for us *wink*.

Tuesday

Arathusa Safari Lodge - Cheetah
Cheetah by Brendon Cremer

The morning started out a little cooler than normal. We headed out towards the eastern sector to see if Safari was still on her impala kill from yesterday, or if she’d since stashed it in a tree to keep it safe from other predators. We arrived to find her lying in the long grass, close to the remains of her meal. She was not very active, so we decided to concentrate our efforts on the spectacular bird life we have in our neck of the woods.

We came across three male buffalo feeding on the side of the road, after a while they moved off into the shade to rest a while. General game such as impala, wildebeest, zebra, kudu, and giraffe were all in abundance during the drive.

The afternoon got off to a good start when we found five white rhinos having a good old wallow in the pan on the airstrip. The drive continued at a pleasantly slow pace for a while, but then we heard that there were two female cheetahs on a big open plain on our southern boundary. And even more exciting, they were stalking impala.

Just as we arrived at the sighting, we saw the sub-adult cheetah moving towards Mom. It had blood all over the mouth, which was a sure sign that it had made a kill. We couldn’t see anything though, but a little while later the cheetah pair returned to show us where they had made the kill. We stuck around for a while, but the light was fading fast so we called it a day and returned to the lodge. What an awesome sighting and afternoon drive!

Wednesday

Arathusa Safari Lodge - Male leopard
Mafufunyane - Male leopard by Brendon Cremer

This morning we followed up on the the two cheetahs we’d seen yesterday afternoon. When we arrived at the spot where we’d last seen them, they were nowhere to be seen. We did, however, find Mafufenyane with their kill in a nearby tree. He must have picked up their scent while patrolling during the night, and stolen it out from under their noses. Cheetahs have delicate skeletal structures, which means they’ll rather lose out on their kill than risk confrontation and possible in jury with a larger predator. Mafufenyane fed on his stolen meal for a bit, and then climbed out the tree and dragged the remaining meat some distance to another tree. Once he’d secured it he promptly fell fast asleep. We’re not sure why he moved the kill. Perhaps he just preferred the look of the new tree?

Later on in the morning we came across four male cheetahs close to the Kruger National Park boundary. Even though we’ve seen quite a lot of these four brothers over the past few months, it was still a real treat to find them again. Unfortunately they were moving north, so we only managed to spend a few minutes with them before the crossed back into the Kruger National Park.

On our way back to the lodge we happened upon the highlight of our morning. We were close to the airstrip when we found a solitary male lion that looked very familiar. Upon closer investigation we identified him as Mr T, the remaining Mapogo brother that used to dominate this territory with his brother Kinky-Tail. After his brother was killed by the the Majingilhanes – the new dominant coalition of males, Mr T moved back to the west of the reserve to be with his other brothers. We hadn’t seen him in about eight months, so it was really exciting to find him back in the ‘hood. He was looking fit and healthy, and spent the day sleeping in the shade under a bush.

In the afternoon we found Mr T still sleeping where we’d left him in the morning. A little further down the airstrip we found three rhinos wallowing in a pan, and shortly after we arrived a small herd of elephants joined them for a drink. We spent quite a while in the area, as it is not often you have three of the Big 5 so close together.

We were still at the pan enjoying the company of the elephants and rhinos when a storm blew in. Within minutes the heavens opened up, leaving us pretty well drenched. We sat a little longer, but when the elephants moved off into the thickets, we decided to follow their example and head back to the lodge for cover.

Thursday

This morning we heard the Majingilhanes roaring in the far south eastern sector of the reserve. When we went to follow up, their tracks crossed back south again. The buffalo where just taking it very easy around one of the smaller waterholes. From the look of things they’d had a long night running from lions, so it’s no wonder they were just hanging out at the water doing a whole lot of nothing. A small herd of breeding elephants put in an appearance at the lodge’s waterhole just as we returned from drive. Having the elephants join us for breakfast was really special.

The elephants were abundant again this afternoon, it seemed we couldn’t turn a corner without bumping into one. A couple of ‘Dagga Boys’ (old male buffalo that have retired from herd life) pitched up in the middle of sundowners. It was an enjoyable sighting, but let’s just say we gulped rather than sipped what was left of our drinks. It’s one thing to be in close proximity to these large bovines when safely ensconced in the vehicle, but standing around next to it is a different story entirely.

Some expert tracking led us straight to Mafufenyane. He was on his way south when we found him, but no doubt he’ll be back in a day or two as that is his movement pattern. On the way back to the lodge we found Shadow walking in the direction of our Luxury rooms. She seems to enjoy spending time there, so clearly the lady has taste.

Friday

The morning kicked off with more audio of the Majingilhane males, but very far to the east. We went to investigate and saw by their tracks that they’d been on the southern boundary the previous evening. We decided to follow the tracks as they moved east down the boundary, but unfortunately they then went south, which meant we couldn’t follow any further.

Next we came across two bull elephants feeding alongside the road. And a little further on we saw two male buffalo taking it easy near a pan. On the way back to the lodge for a much needed coffee break, we saw Shadow on a road just west of the lodge. She was moving into the thickets, probably on her way to her cub. Unfortunately the bush was way too thick for us to follow her any further.

The afternoon drive started out hot as usual. Although a big cloud buildup in the west indicated that things might get a little wet later on. We started out by watching a big bull elephant drinking at the waterhole in front of the lodge. After that we headed towards the airstrip, where we spent a long time watching the herds of zebra, wildebeest and impala in the area. We then drove east for a while, and came across a number of different raptors. We also had a couple of nice vulture sightings.

We checked some of the smaller pans in the area, and found a couple of old male buffalo moving away from the water after their daily wallow. We were on our way to find a sundowner spot when we saw two white rhinos and a young male leopard (most probably one of Karula’s youngsters) within an 80m radius of one another. The rhinos left the pan and headed in the direction of the leopard. The cub seemed a little nervous at the onset of these behemoths, and crouched down in the long grass to hide from them. Wise little fellow. What a great day on safari!

Saturday

Arathusa Safari Lodge - Wild dog
Wild dog by Brendon Cremer

It was misty and cool when we set out on drive this morning. Soon after leaving we found a group of fifteen buffalo lying on the crisp short grass in an open plain. Next we were treated to a fantastic interaction between a lone wild dog and two cheetahs. One of the cheetahs attempted to drive the dog off, and the effort gained momentum when the second cheetah joined in the fun and games. In the end they succeeded in driving him off, and he bolted straight past us calling to the rest of the pack. He’d clearly realised that his odds were less than favourable. It wasn’t much fun for him, but made for some excellent viewing for us.

The afternoon started off hot and slowly. We were pleased to find Mr T again, this time with a young giraffe kill. We’re not sure how long he will risk staying in this area, before returning to his brothers further south. However long he stays, it’s always good to see an old familiar face. Plenty of buffalo, elephant and rhino completed the afternoon game viewing.

Sunday

This morning started off with the exciting news that two male lions eating on a buffalo carcass had been seen close to the gate. We arrived to find the carcass pretty much on the road, with the two young Nkahuma male lions lying flat in the grass. These two are very nervous around the safari vehicles, especially with the trackers on the outside. We enjoyed about a ten second visual of them before they hightailed it out of the area, not to be seen again the entire morning.

Guests were treated to a spectacular sighting while having breakfast on the deck, when a pack of seven wild dogs moved through the open area in front of the lodge. What a gift!

The afternoon started out pretty well, with two male buffalo lying in a big dam. There was also plenty of general game around the same dam, which made the sighting even more interesting. It was a real scorcher of an afternoon, so the animals were taking turns to go down to the water’s edge to drink.

A little further on we saw three white rhinos, but they soon disappeared into some thickets. After that we came across the pack of seven wild dogs again. We followed them around for about 45 minutes, as they chased impala and caused all round chaos in the bush. They eventually succeeded in killing a young impala about 15 meters away from the vehicle. It took them not even 5 minutes to polish it off. By the time they were done all that remained was the odd bone here and there.

On our way back to the lodge we decided to see if the two young Nkahumas were still on the buffalo kill, as they generally tend to relax under the spotlight. When we got there, one was on the carcass and the other was lying a little distance away.

What a great sighting. The perfect way to end a spectacular day! Visit our Facebook and Flikr albums to see more photos.

Until next time,

The Arathusa Team

Share this:
SEARCH OUR BLOG
RECENT POSTS: CATEGORIES: