Rangers Diary 23 – 29 September 2012

Female leopard, Thandi, by Ryan Johnston
Female leopard, Thandi, by Ryan Johnston

Sunday

This morning we had a relatively quiet drive. It was very windy, but we saw a large herd of elephants and were eventually lucky enough to see a young male leopard. It was the Inkanyeni female‘s young independent son. He was just lying on top of a termite mound sleeping, taking shelter from the strong wind.

This afternoon we once again found groups of elephants. We were thrilled to come across the group of eight adult and six young wild dogs, running around frantically. We tried to keep up with them, but lost sight of them running through a riverbed. We relocated them on the other side, in time to see them greedily devouring a young male impala that they had just caught.

Female leopard, Ntima, by Ryan Johnston
Female leopard, Ntima, by Ryan Johnston

Monday

This morning our sightings started off fairly quickly, as we bumped into a large herd of elephants early on in our drive. We sat with the herd for a good while, watching them as they fed around us. While we were having our coffee break, we had strong audio of monkeys alarm-calling, so we headed off to find out what it was that was disturbing them. It didn’t take us long to locate one of our female leopards, Ntima. She moved away from the monkeys, as they screeched after her. Eventually she came across a herd of impala, and began stalking them. Ntima used the wind to her advantage, and placed herself in a great position. Unfortunately she rushed in a little early, and all the impala managed to avoid her.

The wind picked up steadily throughout the day, making the afternoon drive difficult for us all. We did manage to locate a couple of old buffalo bulls as they headed down to a waterhole for a late afternoon drink.

Tuesday

We were still on the hunt for lions! After a nice cool start to the morning, coupled with a magnificent African sunrise, we bumped into a herd of elephants early on in the drive. We watched the fairly large group of around 20, with a host of youngsters that were doing what the young ones do best – playing! We were also on the lookout for a rhino, and managed to track and find the big male white rhino bull we call Londoz, without too much trouble. We left him when we heard wild dog being called in on the radio! We found a single male on an impala kill. Wild dogs are typically pack animals so it’s unusual to see them on their own. They are quite capable of living a single existance, as this male had shown, bringing down the young impala he was busy feeding on.

This afternoon we saw a herd of elephants and a small group of buffalo. Then, lo and behold – the drought was over – we saw lions! A pride consisting of two females and one young male. They were sleeping in a thick area of bush, but it was enough for us that we saw the tawny cats! We left them to make our way to another special sighting – that of Salayexe, a female leopard, and her eight-week old cub. As we pulled into the sighting, a hyena came on the scene, and we watched in awe as the leopardess covered the retreat of her cub up a tree, showing how protective mothers can be! An amazing afternoon!

White rhino bull by Ryan Johnston
White rhino bull by Ryan Johnston

 

Wednesday

This morning started off with us seeing one of our large rhino bulls. The “big guy’ was feeding next to the road, so we sat with him with the amazing sunrise serving as a backdrop. The rest of the morning was quiet though, as the wind started picking up again. We did manage to come across two old buffalo bulls close to the lodge, and while we were enjoying breakfast on the deck, they came down to drink.

Luckily the wind died down during the day, and the weather was perfect for the afternoon drive. We started off with a sighting of three old buffalo bulls resting in the mud at one of the pans. It was clear that they loved their mud bath, as they had caked themselves in mud and looked more like statues than buffalo! We then headed out to look for elephants, and it didn’t take long for us to find some nice fresh tracks. After a bit of tracking we managed to locate on a breeding herd of elephants feeding in one of the deep drainage lines. We watched them as the youngsters played around us in the river sand. After a beautiful sunset, we headed off to have a look at one of our young male leopards, Wabayiza. It’s been great to see how the young male has relaxed as he has got older, and we watched him as he lay on a termite mound surveying the area around him.

Buffalo bull by Ryan Johnston
Buffalo bull by Ryan Johnston

Thursday

On our morning drive we saw a beautiful rhino bull and a herd of elephants. The highlight of the drive was when we unexpectedly came across a group of lions resting next to our airstrip. We saw them from a distance, and moved closer to get a better look. It was the five Tsalala females, BB and her daughters and granddaughters. To our absolute delight we saw a very small cub with them. It was BB’s new cub, and it was our first sighting of this beautiful little lion.

Our afternoon drive was superb! We saw elephants, buffalo and rhino. We managed to find BB’s group again, resting in the open clearing where we had left them this morning. They obviously do not travel very far with the cub having to keep up. We heard a leopard calling, and went in search of it. We found Lamula as he was walking across our airstrip, and followed him for a while. We then had the most unusual and exciting sighting of three leopards together. It was Tingana, Kwatile and Salayexe. Tingana was taking turns mating with both of the females, who were extremely aggressive towards one another, growling and snarling furiously at each other. At one stage some hyenas came across the commotion, and chased all three leopards into trees. The leopards eventually came down and the mating and growling continued. The two females were extremely unhappy with each other’s presence, but never had an actual physical fight. It seemed that their desire to mate only just outweighed their territorial dispute.

Friday

Well, it has been a truly an amazing week! We located the five Tsalala females and the young cub early on in the morning. They showed signs of having killed during the night, as they were all had distended stomachs and were lazing about. The young cub was having a ball, chewing on adult ears and tails, before being growled at to get away, so a nearby fallen tree made a good companion. We received a call that the Styx pride had been seen, and left the lazy Tsalalas and went straight in to the Styx as they were finishing an impala meal from a kill they had made much earlier. The larger pride were squabbling for scraps, as one impala is nothing more than an appetiser for eight hungry lions. We had a super sighting of them walking down and drinking at a nearby waterhole, before settling in for a siesta.

Our afternoon drive was off to a flying start with a sighting of a third lion pride on the property. The Breakaway Tsalalas were around, and their stomachs were full after finishing off a waterbuck. Big herds of elephants are always a pleasure to see, but it was the leopard sighting that was the cherry on top. It was Tingana, Salayexe and Kwatile, again. Yes, one male mating with two females – quite amazing! We watched as Tingana mated with Kwatile when all of a sudden two hyenas again burst onto the scene, chasing the cats into the tree. Clearly the hyenas in the area – on hearing the commotion – assumed that the leopards had a meal, and came to investigate. Seeing that there were no easy pickings to be had, they left the scene. Salayexe approached the tree that the other two leopards were sheltering in, and we thought for a minute that she would join them. Instead we witnessed Kwatile trying to arouse the interest of the male while in the tree! A precarious situation to say the least!

Saturday

This morning we saw three of the Breakaway young females resting in an open clearing. They had apparently chased two leopards into a tree, but moved off before we got there and the leopards came down and swiftly moved off as well. We tried very hard, but could not find the leopards. We also had a brief sighting of the group of 14 wild dogs as they were running around looking for prey. We also found a male rhino sleeping in a thicket.

On the afternoon drive we found the three young Breakaways sleeping in a riverbed, and also saw the wild dogs again not too far from where the lions were. We found Tingana, Kwatile and Salayexe yet again. The male was still mating with both the females, who remained very aggressive towards each other, growling and snarling constantly. On our way back to the lodge after dark, we had a special treat as we came across an aardvark as he was going in and out of a hole in a termite mound. We were able to watch this elusive and secretive animal for a few minutes.

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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