Rangers Diary 26 August – 1 September 2012

Little bee-eater by Bob Cooper
Little bee-eater by Bob Cooper

Sunday

The first thing we did when we headed out on this morning’s safari, was search for two lions that had been spotted the evening before, hunting a large herd of buffalo. We were hoping that during the night the lions would have nabbed one, and we’d find them on a kill. We eventually found part of the buffalo herd – the other half had moved off, and we were in no doubt that the the group had been split after being chased by lions. The herd was still bedded down, enjoying the morning sunlight, but after a short while left to continue our search for the two lions – the Kahuma female and a young male. Unfortunately we were unable to find them as the buffalo had walked all over their tracks. After a short stop we continued moving east, and, as the day was getting hot very rapidly, we went down to a waterhole on our way back to the lodge, and found a big white rhino bull that had come to drink, before heading off through a thicket, grazing as he went. Then we heard impala alarm-calling further east, and on investigation we spotted Tingana, a large male leopard, who was moving slowly down the road, scent-marking as he went. He soon came to rest in the shade of a Gwarri thicket. Just before closing the morning safari, we located a young elephant cow with her calf of about three years old, just outside the lodge. They were also moving towards the water, and headed straight towards the lodge where we later watched as they drank.

In the afternoon we headed out north, passing the waterhole in front of the lodge. We came across fresh tracks for a male leopard not far from the lodge, and it looked as if the big cat had come to drink a few minutes before we’d found his tracks. We followed the tracks and it wasn’t long before we found Tingana lying on top of a termite mound, in full view of us. The mound gave him a good vantage point from which to survey his surroundings, and he then spotted something along a drainage line not far off. Unfortunately the bush was too thick for us to follow, so we soon lost sight of him. On our way east we bumped into a breeding herd of elephants – they were all charcoal grey in colour as they had just finished “mudding” themselves in a nearby wallow, cooling down in the process. A report came in over the radio telling us that a pride of lions had been found not far from us, so we responded and arrived at the sighting. It was the Styx pride – three lionesses and four cubs. With the fading light the cubs began getting restless, and we watched as they stalked and chased each other, with the females joining the game before heading off west in search of food.

Monday

This morning we were unable to find any of the lions or leopards again. We were very fortunate with sightings of other large game, though, while searching for the cats. We found a rhino and a herd of 20 elephants. The highlight was a large herd of 400 or more buffalo which we found close to the dam in front of the lodge.

This afternoon we found the large herd of buffalo again, grazing to the northwest of the lodge. The rhino that we had seen this morning also came to have a drink at the dam in front of the lodge. We were happy to find Karula this afternoon walking around the northern edge of her territory and followed her as she was scent-marking until she crossed the northern boundary.

Tuesday

With the morning’s sightings being a little slow, we went to follow up on a dead giraffe in the hope of finding some vultures and hyenas feeding. On entering the area, we found nine hyenas sleeping next to the old giraffe carcass, and viewed them for a while. Then something moving to the west of us caught our attention. On closer inspection we found a young male leopard that we were unable to identify, moving quickly through a bushwillow thicket, hot on the tail of a warthog – which he soon took off after, and we were unable to locate him again in the thick vegetation. On our way back, as we approached the lodge, we came across the large buffalo herd again, and they eventually “joined us for breakfast’ as we were able to watch them from the deck of the lodge as almost 600 of these large animals came to drink.

With a strong wind having picked up during the day, the animals had moved into thickets seeking shelter, which made finding them a little tough. We came across a small breeding herd far to the east and followed them out of the thickets to a waterhole, where we were also joined by about twenty buffalo bulls on their way past the water.

Wednesday

This morning’s game drive began with us finding one of our large rhino bulls resting close to one of the smaller waterholes. It was still fairly early, and he had not been joined by any red-billed oxpeckers just yet. It wasn’t long though before they found the big guy and dropped down onto his back. The large rhino was startled, stumbled to his feet, yawned and then headed down to the water where we watched him drink. We then spent a fair amount of the morning tracking the Kahuma lioness, that is off with her young male cub. The duo were all over the place chasing zebra, and so it was difficult to pick them up. We eventually found the two resting in the shade together, obviously tired from their activities the evening before. We ended of the morning with one of our female leopards, Ntima. It was already hot by the time we found her, and she was resting so we decide to leave her after a while, to return and spend the evening with her rather.

This afternoon we discovered that our rhino bull from this morning had moved closer to the lodge, and so he was the first “big guy’ we bumped into. A small herd of buffalo bulls resting at one of the pans was next. We then decided to follow up on Ntima, the female leopard that we’d seen that morning. When we arrived in the area, we found her tracks, but also found where she had been dragging something. We followed the drag marks, and it didn’t take us long to find her with a female impala kill. This was great and also showed that leopards not only hunt at night, but during the day as well. We watched as she fed for a short time, before collapsing in the tall grass. After spending time with her, we decided to head off for a drink. As we were all getting off the vehicle, we realised we were not alone, but had been joined by seven members of the Styx lion pride! They moved off at first, but as soon as we were all seated in the vehicle again, they came back out again. The adult lionesses went back to sleep, but the four youngsters had other plans, and we watched as ran around and played. They wrestled, hunted and stalked one another, all things these youngsters need to learn, strengthen bonds and strengthen muscles.

Dark maned Majingilane by Bob Cooper
Dark maned Majingilane by Bob Cooper

Thursday

This morning while the guys were setting up coffee at the bar, they saw the four Majingilane male lions drinking at the dam in front of the lodge. As soon as we got going on our game drive, we found their tracks and followed them. The boys were moving quickly and when we did eventually find them, they had covered a fair bit of ground already. They didn’t stop and continued marching on. All of a sudden though, they all stopped, sniffed the air and changed direction. The next thing we knew, they walked straight into the four young Tsalala lionesses with a female buffalo kill. The ladies were not impressed with this and moved off, leaving the four males to fight over what was left of the carcass. A small herd of elephants finished off the sightings for the morning.

This afternoon we spent a lot of time with a big herd of elephants that was around the waterhole. They drank, swam, mud-bathed and simply had a great time. We then managed to pick up on tracks for a male and female leopard. After some great tracking, good team work and one of us getting stuck, we finally managed to find the pair. It was the male, Lamula, and Ostrich-koppies, the female. Lamula didn’t appear to be very impressed with Ostrich-koppies, for some reason, and he beat her up twice when we first arrived. It was only once we got closer that we saw that they also had a male impala kill with them. Lamula was not sharing any of it with the female, every time she tried to get closer to him, he snarled and spat at her. She was more interested in mating than feeding, but he didn’t care as she was too close to his food! We eventually left the unhappy couple as they both settled down in a drainage line to rest, Lamula positioning himself between the kill and Ostrich-koppies.

Salayexe's cub by Bob Cooper
Salayexe’s cub by Bob Cooper
Salayexe's other cub by Bob Cooper
Salayexe’s other cub by Bob Cooper

Friday

Our morning drive was exceptional. We saw a large rhino bull while searching for the cats again. We spent a lot of time following lion tracks, and eventually found the four breakaway Tsalala females resting on the road. We also found Ntima, still guarding her impala kill. Then we rushed west to see Salayexe and her two cubs for the first time! They were on some rocks in a riverbed playing around and enjoying the morning sun. The cubs were a joy to watch as they dashed over the rocks and into the bushes, and back out again.

This afternoon we were hoping to see Salayexe and the cubs again, but they were nowhere to be found. Nevertheless we had a great afternoon and saw buffalo bulls and a herd of elephants. Ntima was still relaxing undisturbed at her kill, and we also found the four Tsalala females resting in a streambed. On our way back to the lodge we found Tingana walking around the north-eastern part of his territory.

Saturday

We found tracks of a small herd of buffalo early in the morning, and the tracks indicated that they were running. On closer inspection we found that they had been running from a few female lions. It looked like tracks for four lionesses, so it must have been the breakaways. After tracking the lions for almost half the morning, we located them very far north of the area which they are normally found in. We followed them as they moved towards the water, and then moved ahead to position ourselves at the waterhole in order to get a good view when they came down to drink. They bedded down under a shady Acacia after drinking, and we left them soon afterwards. On the way back to the lodge we were passed by a small herd of buffalo bulls that moved off, grazing as they went. As we were running short of time, we didn’t hang around too long.

The wind had picked up a lot during the day, which made viewing a little difficult again. One of the rangers went north to relocate the breakaway female lions, and he found them still fast asleep under their Acacia tree. On leaving the lions, he came across one female wild dog that was lying in very tall grass, trying to escape the wind. A small herd of elephants were also located in a thick drainage in the east, but the visual was unfortunately limited.

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

Until next time,

The Arathusa Team

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