Rangers Diary 27 June – 3 July

Arathusa Safari Lodge - Game drive
Armand “Mabonzo” Minnaar (ranger) & Roy Mkansi (tracker) with the young Styx male by Ryan Johnston


The morning drive proved very quiet, and we drove for ages without finding much. After much searching we eventually we came across a male and female rhino couple peacefully grazing on an open clearing. From there we headed north to see if we could find Karula and her two leopard cubs. We were in luck because we found the leopard feeding on an impala kill in a tree, while her cubs played and wrestled nearby. Once she’d eaten her fill Karula then descended to join her youngsters, and the rambunctious pair immediately used their mother as a jungle gym. Great fun for them as well as for everyone watching.

In sharp contrast to the sedate morning we had, the afternoon was very busy. We kicked off by finding two groups of rhinos and a 30 strong herd of elephants. Ntima was seen wandering through her territory, while one of the Styx lionesses took a leisurely stroll along the airstrip. We then headed north, and were yet again fortunate enough to see Karula and her two cubs playing. Five Tsalala and two Nkohuma lionesses were feeding together on a buffalo kill, which was very unusual. But apart from the odd growl here and there, there was no serious aggression between the rival groups. We were curious as to which one of the two had actually made the kill, and which one had merely gatecrashed the feast.


Arathusa Safari Lodge - Safari
Female leopard: Safari by Ryan Johnston

It was very cold when we set out his morning. We quickly found a herd of elephants feeding out on one of the open areas however, which served to both distract us from our icy woes and set the scene for a spectacular sunrise. Before long it started warming up, and the animals began showing face. We managed to find Safari drinking at one of the small pans before settling down on top of a termite mound where she soaked up the warm morning sun. A couple of buffalo bulls moved through the area and she just watched lazily as they passed her by. We then found three members of the Styx pride – two lionesses and the young male – on the move. We stayed with them for sometime, but when they eventually went to sleep close to the lodge we decided to leave them to enjoy their day.

The first thing we did when we left this afternoon was to check on the lions, and as expected, they were still doing what cats do best…sleep. We sat watching them until a herd of elephants grabbed our attention. The herd proved infinitely more interesting because at least they were awake. We also came across three rhinos not too far away from the elephants. All in all a really amazing drive, especially when you consider that we stayed around the lodge for pretty much the entire time.


A dense fog meant a very slow start to the morning, although we did manage to relocate the lions we’d seen yesterday in spite of poor visibility. They’d obviously fed in the early hours of the morning because the young male still sported some blood in his mane. Whatever they’d caught obviously wasn’t enough to satisfy their hunger though, because they were on the hunt again and stalking a herd of impala. Unfortunately the young male got over excited at the prospect of a second breakfast and blew his cover too early, which immediately sent the impala scattering. Next we found a large herd of about 400 buffalo. Sitting quietly at a waterhole, we watched as the large bovines ambled down for their morning drink.

One of our rhino bulls has been very active around the lodge over the past few days, so it was no great surprise when we once again bumped into him right outside of the lodge. He looked extremely agitated so we decided to move along rather than risk incurring his wrath. Mixo had killed a young kudu sometime during the day, and we were lucky enough to arrive just in time to see the nicely plump male leopard finishing off his first feed. The kudu was too large for him to hoist up a tree however, and unfortunately he lost his kill to hyenas during the night.


We’d barely left the lodge this morning when we came across a young male leopard. We followed him for more than an hour, watching as he occasionally scent-marked on the rather brazen assumption that he’d be able to claim the area for himself. Dominant male leopards like Mafufenyane and Jordaan would more than likely disagree with his notion and chase him off…or worse. Needless to say we’re all waiting with baited breath to see how things turn out when he does eventually encounter one of them. The five Tsalala females were resting on a termite mound, and from the obvious lack of wounds their shared meal with the Nkohuma lionesses must have ended on a peaceful note.

The afternoon drive produced a small herd of elephants, followed by a terrific sighting of 300 or so buffalo at a large dam. It was all dust and bellowing as the herd members competed for water and grazing real estate just before sunset. We also found the five Tsalala lionesses once again, but they were still just resting in the last bit of daylight.


Arathusa Safari Lodge - Old lioness
Old lioness by Ryan Johnston

Our morning got off to a great start when we found Mvula soon after leaving the lodge. We stayed with the beautiful male leopard for some time, thoroughly entertained by his territorial march, scent marking and calling. We then bumped into a small herd of elephants feeding under a Torchwood tree. The sighting of the morning however, was when we spotted three of the Styx lionesses with the young male hunting giraffe. We watched as they first stalked and then rushed the herd. One of the lionesses attempted to jump onto the back of one of the giraffes, but the tall herbivore threw her off with ease. The quartet gave up once they realised that the giraffe were all way too strong and healthy to be taken down. They then collapsed into a communal ball and fell fast asleep.

A few elephant herds were hanging around the lodge when we set out this afternoon, so we started off by spending some time with these gentle giants. A little further along we found a rhino bull feeding on one of the big open areas. All the action happened after dark however. First Safari killed a scrub hare right next to one of our vehicles, and then shortly thereafter Mafufenyane bagged a Duiker. Also next to one of the vehicles.

The guests were convinced it was a setup!

A hyena, having heard the fawn bleating, arrived to see if it could score a free meal. The wily leopard was too quick for him though, and shot straight up the closest tree with his kill. Next we bumped into the Styx pride again, and they’d since been joined by the fourth and final lioness. We were watching the five of them stalk a herd of impala, when all of a sudden something caused them to shoot off in another direction. We followed the large cats as they ran to an area some distance away, which they then proceeded to scour with intent. They must have heard something and decided that it would make for an easier chance of food than the impala. We left the lions still searching and headed home , having thoroughly enjoyed an awesome evening in the bush.


The four Styx lionesses arrived to join us while we were watching the sunrise on a large open area. There was no sign of the young male so he must have broken away from the female sometime during the night. We then found a small group of buffalo bulls that were soon joined by a rhino bull. One of the buffalos decided to have a closer look at the rhino, and at one stage the two large animals were almost within a foot or two of one another. Once they’d satisfied their curiosity they both just went their separate ways. We found Mafufenyane sitting expectantly outside a warthog hole, on the off chance that it would produce a meal for him. When we left him he was still waiting.

This afternoon we ran into the rhino bull that’s been frequenting the lodge of late. He was in a much better mood this time so we spent a bit more time with him. We then bumped into a rhino cow with a tiny calf. Mom and offspring were both super relaxed so we spent a lot of time with them. After sunset we found both Safari and Mafufenyane again. The leopards were quite close together and stalking the same herd of impala. They eventually noticed one another, but by then the hunt had ended and both parties moved off in different directions. Lastly we saw the four Styx lionesses fast asleep on our airstrip as we headed back to the lodge for well deserved dinner.


This morning we found an adult rhino bull en route to our eastern boundary. Following up on some female lion tracks, our efforts were well rewarded when we arrived in time to witness the four Styx lionesses stalk and catch an impala ram. There was lots of growling and tugging as the females aggressively competed for a place at the dinner table. Eventually they managed to rip the impala in four, and each one ran off to enjoy their share of the spoils in solitude.

Our afternoon kicked off with a brilliant sighting of about 20 elephants drinking and then feeding at the dam in front of the lodge. After leaving them we found a large rhino bull, and then headed east where we were very fortunate to run into Thandi. The female leopard was moving carefully through some thick bush, which led us to believe that she might be stalking something. Our suspicions proved correct because she suddenly rushed into a thicket and emerged with a still squealing young Nyala in her mouth. The astute female wasted no time in stashing her small kill in a tree to keep it safe from scavengers. We were heading back to the lodge after sunset when we spotted Mafufenyane moving towards a watering hole. Yet another spectacular day in the bush.

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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