Rangers Diary: 13-19 November

Sunset at Arathusa
Sunset at Arathusa by Ryan Johnston


Another week, and with it some more surprises. This morning started off with us finding one of our territorial male rhinos. After leaving him we then came across the tracks of the four young Tsalala lionesses and the Styx male. It didn’t take us long to find the five of them all sprawled out in the road and fast asleep. After finding them together for the first time yesterday morning, it was really great to see that the young Styx male was still with the girls. Next we found a large herd of about 200 buffalo resting up on one of the firebreaks, so we spent some time watching the large bovines soaking up the early morning sun. Thandi was also out and about with her young male cub. The female leopard wasn’t looking too happy as she marched all over the place roaring and scent marking. She just ignored her youngster, who knew better than to harass his mom when she was in a mood. There was obviously another leopard in the area, which was why she was so disgruntled. After advertising her presence for some time, she then called the little guy and headed off at a pace. We decided to leave her to herself, rather than risk irking her further by following her.

A large elephant bull came down the waterhole for a drink and a mud wallow just as we were about to head out on afternoon drive, so we immediately headed around to join him. He put on a great show for us, and guests managed to get some fantastic photos. We then received a call that the two male cheetahs we sometimes see were close to the Kruger National Park boundary, so off we went to have a look. Both males were fast asleep when we arrived, clearly us humans weren’t the only ones struggling to stay awake in the heat. Apart from swatting flies out of their faces every now and then, the pair showed no signs of life. To round off the afternoon, we came across Mvula just ambling along. The big male showed some interest in a herd of waterbuck and impala, but the alert antelope got wind of him long before he had a chance to act.


The year may be coming to an end, but our sightings certainly aren’t. Although it’s been more than four weeks since we last saw Safari, we haven’t given up hope that this old leopard will show her face again. This morning got off to a fairly slow start, but then we found Ntima scent marking and calling to the east of the lodge. It’s possible that she is already looking for a prospective male to mate with, since she lost both her cubs a while back. After spending some time with her, we moved on to see what else we could find. Four buffalo bulls were lazing in a small waterhole enjoying some well deserved “me time’, while the resident terrapins obligingly removed ticks from them.

This afternoon we ran into a herd of elephants with a very small calf just to the west of the lodge. They made it very clear that they did not want us to get too close, so we enjoyed what we were allowed and then moved on, so as not to stress the young calf or its protective herd members. Following up on some fresh rhino tracks, we were fortunate enough to discover the large herbivore wallowing in a mud pool left behind after the recent rains. A radio call alerted us that two male lions had been seen, and we arrived in the areas just in time to see the two Kahuma brothers crossing over our western boundary.


The bush was perfectly still this morning as we drank in a picture perfect sunrise. Lions roaring close to the southern boundary soon startled us from our reverie however, so we went to follow up. Unfortunately all we found were their tracks crossing back over our southern boundary. We’d passed by some fresh female leopard tracks while trying to locate the lions, so we decided to see if we’d have better luck finding the leopard. After some very nifty tracking by two of our trackers, we discovered Ntima stalking a steenbok. A Dwarf mongoose alerted the presses though, and her prize quickly ran off. While watching Ntima we’d heard elephants breaking trees in the vicinity, so we left her and set off on yet another tracking adventure. Our efforts paid off, and we were treated to a small herd drinking at one of the smaller watering holes.

It was an extremely hot day, so we kicked off the afternoon drive by moving between the waterholes to see what we could find. We saw a herd of ten buffalo bulls wallowing with a lone rhino bull, which was quite a sight and a real treat to watch. Observing the many birds cooling themselves off was equally entertaining, but after spending quite a while at the waterhole we eventually dragged ourselves away and went in search of other game. Further north we discovered Nduna, a young male leopard, up a tree with a young impala that he had killed.


Kahuma male lion
Kahuma male lion by Ryan Johnston

Today was definitely one for the leopards, with seven different individuals being spotted. First we found Xivambalana, Karula’s young male cub, resting up in one of the drainage lines. His mother passed by a little while later, so we decided to follow her instead. She looked to be very keen on hunting, and we watched as she tried her hand at stalking a herd of impala. The buck kept moving away from her however, which meant she wasn’t ever able to get into the right position. In the end she gave up on the idea of an early lunch and let the prey species wander off in peace. Next we came across Ntima, who was hot on the trail of a male leopard. The female called constantly as she stopped to smell where he’d been, and then scent mark herself. To top off our fantastic cat-filled morning, we were also lucky enough to come across the two Kahuma male lions. We stayed with them for a while, but then they crossed a drainage line and we couldn’t keep up with them any longer.

Given that it was another hot day, we decided to employ the same tactic as yesterday and check all the waterholes. Our efforsts paid off yet again, as we managed to find rhino, elephant and buffalo. They were all either enjoying a cool drink or simply lying in the mud around the water. We then went to check up on Nduna to see how he was doing with his female impala kill. He’d been gorging for most of the day, so by the time we arrived he could barely muster enough energy for a cursory groom before passing out in the shade. We then spotted Inkanyeni up a Marula tree. This female leopard’s territory is usually to the north of us, so it was fantastic to finally catch a glimpse of her in our neck of the woods. After enjoying our requisite sundowners (there’s nothing quite like sipping on a G&T in the middle of the African bush while watching the sun disappear behind the horizon) we headed off to see if we’d have any luck with a new leopard that arrived in the area recently. When we’d last seen the skittish male he was on a bushbuck kill, but when we found him again this afternoon he was resting miserably in the riverbed. We soon discovered the reason for his discontent when we spotted Mafufunyane up in the tree feeding on the carcass. The young male was completely unimpressed with the situation, but there was no way past the six hyenas loitering around the base of the tree. After eating his full, the older male proceeded to spread himself out to digest his meal, but not before first growling a warning at the youngster. At this point we decided to leave the two to themselves, because it looked like they’d reached a stalemate.


Young male leopard
Young male leopard by Ryan Johnston

This morning we started off by checking to see who was hanging out on the airstrip. We found an abundance of general game – big herds of zebra, Blue wildebeest, impala, and even a couple of giraffe. The sunrise, which was nothing short of breathtaking, promised a hot day ahead. Heading to the eastern sector, we’d stopped en route to look at something when heard a leopard calling not too far away. Further investigation revealed Ntima calling and scent marking close to a waterhole. We followed her for a while, watching with interest as she stopped every now and then to listen and look around for some food. She eventually headed off into an area where we couldn’t follow, so we left her to do her thing. We also enjoyed a great sighting of about 10 male buffalo feeding right next to our vehicle.

No sooner had we left the lodge this afternoon, when a big bull elephant approached the waterhole to have a drink. We watched as he alternately drank and sprayed himself in a bid to cool down. From there we carried on towards the eastern sector, where we came across another big bull elephant just as he was leaving a waterhole to feed in the riverbed. A little later we came across two rhinos, and the pair milled surprisingly close to our vehicle as they grazed. After stopping for a drink, we managed to find Ntima again, as her calling gave her position away. She was still marking her territory, and eventually ended up at a waterhole, where she was joined by the young male leopard from the south that’s been moving in and out of the area. They followed each other for a while, and eventually disappeared in to riverbed.


This morning started off with us finding an elephant and rhino bull in close proximity to one another. From there we moved further east and found a couple of buffalo bulls next to the main road. We then received news on the radio that two of the Matimba male lions had been spotted. Heading into the area, we discovered the pair sleeping with exceedingly full bellies, so they’d obviously just had a good meal. We left the area and found Mvula sniffing around at one of the small watering holes. All in all a very productive morning.

Our first plan this afternoon was to follow up on Mvula. Thanks to some expert tracking by our trackers, we found the male leopard feasting on a freshlu killed baby impala. We were on the verge of leaving him when he decided to stroll down the road ahead of us to quench his thirst at a nearby waterhole. This reminded us that it was time for sundowners, but when we arrived at our chosen spot we discovered that we’d been beaten to it by three buffalo bulls and one elephant bull. We sat and watched then for a while, and then moved on in search of a safer location to enjoy our drinks.


After a beautiful storm last night, we fully expected today’s viewing to be a little on the quiet side. And for the first past of the morning drive that was definitely the case. Apart from a lone rhino bull and a couple of buffalo bulls, there wasn’t too much going on. It was only right at the end of the drive that we ran into Xivindzi, Karula’s female cub. She appeared to be taking advantage of the nice cool weather to explore her surroundings. The youngster kept us entertained by showing interest in absolutely anything moved, including birds and squirrels. She tried her best to get close to them, but the little creatures only succeeded in frustrating the young leopard. She obviously still has a lot to learn from her mother.

This afternoon got off to a quick start, as we received an early call to let us know that the two cheetah brothers were on the property again. We headed out and found the brothers resting together. Their full bellies indicated that they’d eaten sometime during the day. After leaving them we found one of our territorial male rhinos scent marking all over the place. We then discovered Mvula sleeping at the base of a large Marula tree. After a while we noticed the impala lamb in the tree above us, and pretty soon the big guy was up in the tree feeding. We sat with him until he’d polished off the entire carcass. With all the impala lambs out there at the moment, it’s no wonder the leopards are all looking so fat and healthy at the moment.

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

Until next time,

The Arathusa Team

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