Rangers Diary 21 – 27 October 2012

Brett with three of the Breakaway lionesses - Ryan Johnston
Brett with three of the Breakaway lionesses – Ryan Johnston

Sunday

Another week got underway, and we were in for a difficult one where game viewing was concerned, as the weather definitely didn’t accommodate us. We started off well though, and the first sighting was of a large herd of elephants. While we were sitting watching a group of elephants, we were joined by three rhino, and we watched as the two groups fed on the short, sweet grass of a firebreak. We then managed to locate the four Breakaway lionesses. They were all covered in blood as they had just finished off the remains of impala kill. We watched as the four groomed one another, before heading down to a small pan where they drank side by side. After leaving them we managed to find one of our young female leopards, Kwatile. She was on a territorial march, and we followed her as she sniffed around, before scent-marking before moving on. Finally she found herself an awesome termite mound, which she climbed – surveying the surroundings from her vantage point – before going to sleep. We eventually left her to her nap.

This afternoon game viewing was slow going, but we eventually came apon one of our rhino bulls resting in an open area. The “big guy’ was fast asleep, and didn’t even batter an eyelid as we sat with him. Two elephant bulls were also close by, and we spent some time watching them as well. After our drinks stop, we headed back towards the Breakaway lionesses to see what they were up to. As we arrived at the sighting, we only discovered two of the lionesses, and the couple were very interested in something. Suddenly we heard the alarm-calls of a herd of impala, followed by a chase. The two lionesses darted into the bush, and we followed, coming apon the other two of the pride already feeding on a dead impala. Chaos ensued as the four lionesses fought over the remains of the impala. The female impala was devoured in less than ten minutes, and we left the ladies as they settled down after the feeding frenzy, and began grooming one another again.

Monday

As we left the lodge, we bumped into the Breakaway pride of lions. The four lionesses were lying just off the road, grooming their blood-stained fur. They had just finished a meal, and judging by the size of their stomachs, it was likely that they had taken down an impala. We left the lions to pursue a leopard sighting. Heading east, we found Thandi – a territorial female leopard – and we followed her with difficulty through the thick bush. She eventually darted off in front of us. Quicky getting her back in our sights, we discovered what caused her to run off. She had killed a small steenbok ewe, which she was now consuming with vigour. One of the other rangers, who had been searching for game further east, managed to locate a few lions from the Styx pride – two lionesses, and two youngsters. After a short break we began to make our way back to the lodge, coming across another female leopard, Karula. She moved off the road shortly afterwards, crossing into a deep drainage line where we were unable to follow her. We were pleased to note that Karula is definitely pregnant, and we’ll hopefully see a few more youngsters running around soon.

This afternoon, we found the Breakaway pride almost immediately after leaving the lodge. It seemed that they had yet another impala kill – making it three in 24 hours. The lionesses were asleep in the shade of a small Gwarri bush, so we left them there and began moving east. Not long thereafter, we found the large territorial rhino bull, Londoz, as he fed on the edges of our airstrip. We had a lovely sighting of him as he strolled south, feeding as he moved and stopping to scent-mark. We left him to make space for another game vehicle to have a look at this noble animal. We then headed towards one of the small waterholes, hoping to find the three buffalo bulls that had been seen earlier. They were still lying in the cool, dirty water. Soon after our arrival, a large herd of almost 50 elephants came down to the water for a drink, which sent the buffalo fleeing. We stayed with the elephant herd, watching as a few of the younger elephants rolled around in a small pool, splashing about before they raced off, trying to catch up with the herd as it moved away. The Styx pride of lions that had been sighted in the morning was found again – they hadn’t moved at all during the day.

Tuesday

The rain had set in again, and it made the morning safari difficult for us. A small herd of elephants finally showed itself, and we sat and watched as the mammoth animals fed on the moist vegetation. They eventually headed towards a mud wallow, where some of the young bulls covered themselves in mud.

This afternoon’s game viewing was slow going again, and we only saw a herd of elephants. Unfortunately they were down in a deep gully, and we were unable to get close to them.

Salayexe - Ryan Johnston
Salayexe – Ryan Johnston

Wednesday

We were hoping that we would have an exciting morning after yesterday’s quiet drives. We found a lone young elephant bull at the airstrip, and he amused us by chasing some zebra around for no apparent reason. Then we were treated to a wonderful sighting of Salayexe. She had just killed an impala when a hyena showed up and stole her kill. After a while, and to our surprise, the hyena ran off unexpectedly, and Salayexe reclaimed her kill and hoisted it up a tree. We watched her in the tree for a while, before becoming aware of some movement in the nearby bushes. We were thrilled to see her young cub hidden in a thicket close to us. He stayed well hidden, as the hyena came back to see if it could get any scraps.

Salayexe's cub playing with a stick - Ryan Johnston
Salayexe’s cub playing with a stick – Ryan Johnston

Our afternoon drive was exciting as well. We found a rhino bull on the way to see Salayexe. She was still at her kill, and her cub was also there. We then headed east as we had heard a lion roar in the distance. After carefully scouting the area, we eventually found Gogi, the old Styx lioness, close to a dam. There was no sign of the rest of the pride, and she roared and called frequently, but there was no reply. After our sundowner stop we headed back towards the lodge, and suddenly came across a pair of leopards taht had just come onto our area from the south. It was Lamula and Kwatile, and we saw them mating briefly before disappearing into the thickets for some privacy!

Thursday

Having had reports of mating leopards moving towards our area the previous morning, we made our way to where they would most likely cross the boundary. We found tracks, and after following the spoor for some time, the mating pair was located. Unfortunately we only had visuals of them from afar, and watched their tails disappearing as we were unable to follow. It seemed to be the female leopard, Kwatile and a male known as Lamula. The oldest female lion from the Styx pride was located, where she huddled in the thick grass trying to keep warm. Every now and then she lifted her head and gave off a few contact calls, trying to locate on the rest of the pride. We stopped for a short coffee break where we were interrupted by the sound of yet another mating pair of leopards. We found the pair, and they were identified as the female from the east – Ntima, and Mvula – a territorial male leopard from the area. They seemed to be in the beginning stages of their mating, as Ntima was trying desperately to entice Mvhula to mate her. One of the other rangers located a large herd of nearly 300 buffalo that were still bedded down, ruminating in the thickets trying to get shelter from the cold.

Having had few elephant sightings during previous safaris, elephants were our aim this afternoon. While looking for the pachyderms, we found the lone Styx lioness again. She hadn’t moved at all during the day, and was still huddled in the long grass trying to find shelter. We left her, hoping to make the most of the fading light to find a herd of elephants. We received a call that a small elephant herd had been found and we headed off. We watched the herd as they grazed amid the thickets, looking to escape the chilly wind. Darkness was decending, so we headed off. Ntima and Mvhula, the mating leopards, were found again close to a large dam. They weren’t far from where they had been seen that morning. The mating couple was joinded by a young male leopard, Wabayiza. The Rangers watched them mating a few times before they escaped across a drainage line. They continued following Wabayiza as he weaved his way out of sight of the rangers.

Friday

This morning the weather was bad again, and we drove in a light drizzle. The big game was not to be seen, but the general game sightings were good, and we managed to see a lot of zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, etc.

This afternoon’s drive turned out to be a lot more productive. Not far from the lodge we managed to find a small herd of buffalo bulls resting right next to the road. After leaving the old boys, it didn’t take us long to locate one of our dominant rhino bulls. He was feeding on the lush green grass in one of the drainage lines, and we sat with the “big guy’ for some time. We then found three elephant bulls feeding on one of the open areas. One of the bulls was in his musth cycle, and it was interesting to see how the other two males made sure they stayed out of his way, giving him a wide berth. Just after our evening drink stop, we found one of our young male leopards, Xivambalana. He was obviously not impressed with the weather, as he was curled up in a tight ball, and that was the way he stayed.

White rhino bull - Ryan Johnston
White rhino bull – Ryan Johnston

Saturday

We went looking for the leopards again this morning. There was no sign of Karula, and she had not made a kill as we had hoped. We found tracks for the mating pair, and followed them as long as we could until the tracks disappeared into a thicket. We did find four buffalo bulls during our search, before returning to the lodge.

Our afternoon drive was quite successful, and we discovered buffalo bulls, elephant bulls and the large rhino bull called Londoz. We also found the tracks of a male lion, and went off in search of him, but without any luck. As we were leaving the area we unexpectedly saw a leopard sleeping in the grass. It was Xivambalana. He paid no attention to us at all, and we stayed with him until he eventually got up and disappeared into a thicket after dark.

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

Until next time,

The Arathusa Team

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