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Arathusa Safari Lodge - Male lion

Male lion from Othawa pride by Ryan Johnston

Monday

So yet another week gets going out here in the bush, and we couldn’t have asked for a better winter’s morning to kick it off with. After watching a breathtaking sunrise, we bumped into an impressive breeding herd of elephants. While watching the elephants go about their morning, we heard lions calling in the distance and headed off to find them. We didn’t see any large males, although we did manage to track down the young Styx male. He was all by himself and clearly not very happy about the fact, as he spent the entire time we were with him contact calling in a bid to locate his grandmother and sister. From there we went to check on Thandi to see how she was doing with the bushbuck she’d killed the night before. We arrived to find that she’d moved the kill to another tree, and then fetched her young male cub to join her for brunch. He hasn’t had much exposure to the vehicles, and so isn’t that relaxed around them. We waited patiently however, and he eventually came out of hiding and joined his mother in the tree. Showing a great deal of interest in the vehicle en route. This experience was wonderful for him and us, as we got a chance to view a leopard cub up close and he in turn was able to see that we weren’t a threat to him.

The afternoon started off with a great sighting of some elephants. We watched as the large herd fed their way through a round-leaved Teak thicket, leaving a path of destruction in their wake. A young rhino bull and cow grazing peacefully next to one of the main roads provided a wonderful opportunity for guests to view these great grey beasts up close. We didn’t visit Thandi again as our policy is to not use spotlights around cubs younger than eight months. We were lucky enough to bump into Mvula – the little guy’s father – and spent a bit of time with him before he disappeared into some thick bush where we couldn’t follow.

Tuesday

Arathusa Safari Lodge - Female leopard

Safari – female leopard by Ryan Johnston

Morning drive was nothing short of amazing. Shortly after heading out we found Shadow close to the lodge, and followed the female leopard for a long time as she moved with intent through the bush. We heard another leopard calling in the area, which might have accounted for her purposeful gait. A short while later we found a possible culprit in the form of Kwatile. The young female leopard was heading south away from where Shadow was. Next we found a group of six rhinos, and then headed east where we came across a large herd of buffalo drinking at a dam. Shortly after leaving them we saw the young Styx male again. He was most probably following the buffalo to see if there were any young or injured ones for him to hunt. His endeavours proved unsuccessful however, and when we left him he’d gone to rest on a termite mound to rethink his strategy. We were on our way back to the lodge when we heard a series of loud squeals. On following up we found Mafufenyane with a freshly killed warthog. No sooner had he tucked into his meal when Safari arrived to see what was going on. The resulting commotion hadn’t eluded the ever alert hyenas either, and pretty soon they pitched up to see if there was anything on offer. Safari immediately scaled the first tree, while Mafufenyane delayed his exit strategy long enough to grab his kill, before racing up another. Things hotted up considerably when the three Styx females arrived with one of the Majingilane males, scaring the would-be hijackers off in the process. Much to our amazement the young Styx female climbed the tree and began arguing with Mafufenyane. He hit her on the head a couple of times, but the brazen lioness still managed to snatch the warthog and beat a clumsy retreat back to terra firma. Her chutzpah was for naught unfortunately, because the Majingilane male rushed in and took possession of the kill. Knowing full well that they’d be wasting their time by hanging around, the lionesses then left the area. We stayed and watched the dominant male enjoy his free meal, while Mafufenyane and Safari sat in their respective trees looking very frustrated and sorry for themselves.

This afternoon we went back to the area and found Mafufenyane resting not too far from where he’d been robbed. We also found the three Styx lionesses sleeping about a kilometer further along. The Majingilane male was nowhere to be seen, but heading back to the lodge just after dark we did see Safari just ambling about. It seems everyone involved in this morning’s palaver was left unscathed. The Majingilane male was more than likely safely ensconced in a thicket somewhere, enjoying what remained of the warthog. No doubt he was also the only animal to benefit from the action.

Wednesday

Arathusa Safari Lodge - Male lion

Male lion from Othawa pride by Ryan Johnston

This morning we found a male rhino sleeping on the road alongside a young female. We also spotted the Majingilane male that had stolen the warthog asleep close to the southern boundary. In the west we came across a group of lions that we don’t normally see. We later found out that the three females, two young males and year old cub were from the Othawa pride, and had come north from the south-western sector.

In the afternoon we found a small herd of elephants feeding next to the road, and then just before our sundowner stop we were lucky enough to see a rhino cow with a small calf. After enjoying a leisurely drink we continued on our way, and found two of the Majingilane brothers snoozing. When they eventually woke up we followed them through the bush to two lionesses with four cubs. These females usually stay on the Kruger National Park boundary, and their youngsters are roughly eight months old. We’re almost certain that these cubs are the first to be fathered by the dominant Majingilane coalition since they took control of the area about a year ago.

Thursday

We spent the first hour of our drive tracking a female leopard, but gave up when we received a call that there was a male cheetah close to the Kruger National Park boundary. He turned out to be one of the four males we often see together. Unfortunately his front left leg was quite badly injured, which was a little worrying to see. He didn’t look malnourished or obviously sick, but the leg itself didn’t look good and he was careful not to put any pressure on it when he walked. From there we headed in the direction of a herd of buffalo we could hear in the distance. We arrived at one of our smaller waterholes at the same time as the herd, and watched as they came down to drink. On leaving the wallowing bovines we went to follow up on Karula and her two cubs. The young family had just joined up again, and it was really heartwarming to see how happy the little ones were that Mom was back. They’d obviously been napping while she was gone, and proceeded to bound all over her with seemingly endless energy.

The afternoon kicked off with a herd of elephants and a rhino bull right by the lodge. We also managed to find the large herd of about 200 buffalo drinking at one of the pans again. The male cheetah was still in the same place, so we went to see how he was doing. Whilst we were there he got up and moved about a bit, and it was good to note that he put a bit of weight on the foot when he walked. After enjoying sundowers and a magical sunset, we headed to where we’d found the Kruger National Park lionesses and their four cubs this morning. They were all sleeping when we arrived, but then something blipped on the lionesses’ radar and they were immediately up and alert. A quick look around revealed the young Styx male. At first the lionesses just eyed him from a distance, but as soon as one of the cubs moved towards him, the protective females went after him. They chased him for some distance, roaring as they went. The cubs didn’t have a clue what was going on, and like us, just sat and watched in amazement.

Friday

It was very cold when we set out this morning, so it took a while for things to get going. But even once they did, most of the animals didn’t look very enamoured with the chilly weather. One of our large rhino bulls was up first and had secured himself a nice sandy patch in the sun, where he settled down to soak up as much warmth as possible. Next we found Mafufenyane dozing in the warm light on top of a termite mound. Three elephant bulls were feeding around the base of a Torchwood tree that’s in fruit at the moment. It was interesting to watch the bulls take turns to shake the tree and loosen the fruits for one another.

The afternoon belonged mainly to the leopards. We started off by finding Karula’s two cubs. She had left them to go hunting, and the inquisitive pair had decided it was time to explore. The first big animal they came across was an elephant bull, but he moved steadily away from them. Next were two buffalo bulls, but they weren’t very exciting and so the adventurous youngsters quickly lost interest. Their last find also turned out to be their most dangerous. Two hyenas appeared on the scene, but fortunately the cubs immediately took evasive action. One scrambled up a fallen over tree, while the other one shot up a termite mound. The hyenas eventually moved off after deciding there was nothing to steal from the little guys. We decided to move on as well, so that the cubs could recover from the scary ordeal without an audience. After dark we relocated Mafufenyane, and from the look of things he was keen on hunting. He eventually found two scrub hares, but had no luck catching either as they were way too alert for the old male.

Saturday

This morning we enjoyed two separate sightings of large breeding herds of elephants with youngsters. We were also fortunate enough to find the lone cheetah male with the injured leg again. He was resting when we arrived, but when he got up we noticed that his limp had improved somewhat. On our way back to the lodge we saw Jordaan with a piece of meat that he’d just stolen from a young male leopard. But as is usually the case with this leopard, he continuously moved away from the vehicles.

In the afternoon we found the male cheetah again and it looked like his limp was improving nicely. He was even trying to stalk a group of impala, although he gave up when they noticed him. Not long after leaving the male we were very lucky to find an adult female cheetah resting on a small termite mound. After dark we found Jordaan again, this time moving through the thickets close to our airstrip. Once again he never really stopped long enough for us to get a good look at him.

Sunday

The day dawned cold and unpleasant, which meant another difficult drive was on the cards for us. It took a while, but eventually we managed to find Ostrich Koppies. We don’t often see this female leopard, so it was good to see her again. We spent sometime watching as she moved about, smelling and scent marking as she went. On our way back to the lodge we bumped into a young male and female rhino resting next to the road.

This evening was quiet as well, and again the drive took a while to get going. We found a rhino bull and a herd of elephants drinking at one of the pans, but they quickly disappeared into the thickets to escape the cold wind that had been blowing all afternoon. We then decided to call it a night and headed back to the lodge for dinner and an evening around the fire, but not before we bumped into Shadow. Although she was also on a mission to find a warm spot, and quickly disappeared into the bush as well.

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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