As the bush continues to dry out the roads are looking better and many more off-road sightings have become accessible, there is still only one place to cross the river to the North but that is enough! The time spent working on the flood damage has meant that the sightings have not been posted as regularly as usual but here is an overview of what has been happening for the past week:
The three male lions of the Mapogo coalition have mostly been together, they tried to catch a buffalo in the Sand river one morning but it got away. They were seen in front of the lodge shortly after that, before moving north of the river.
The four lionesses of the Ximhungwe pride and their four cubs were seen regularly, they also spent some time in front of the lodge yesterday. there were a couple of days that they were not seen and it seems that they had a kill in one of the inaccessible areas of the reserve as they are all looking well fed and healthy. The one lone male cub that had been trying to rejoin the pride has not been seen since before the floods and it seems he may not have made it in his weakened state.
Two of the lionesses of the Othawa pride were seen up in the far north eastern part of our traversing area, the third female is rumoured to have a litter of cubs hidden somewhere and we hope that she will bring them into the west soon.
With the saturated ground it has been a little more difficult with leopard sightings, however the sightings that we have had have been fantastic!
Shangwa female and her son (now bigger than her!0 were seen with a kill in the North, the Xikavi female also turned up in the same area.
The Dewane male has been busy pushing his territorial boundaries since the rain and has been regularly seen encroaching on the territory of the Xinzele male. Xinzele himself has not been seen for a while but there are plenty of tracks to suggest he is somewhere on the northern side of the river.
The Kashane male has been moving big distances as well but has not forgotten to come past the lodge on occasion! He also spent a day watching us repairing the wall of one of the dams, sitting no more than 20m away from us whilst we were working!
The Hlab’nkunzi female has been moving through the lodge regularly, we no longer know where her cub is being hidden – we do know that it is not in the lodge grounds anymore though! The cub is now old enough to go to kills so it surely will not be long before we see her again.
The Ravenscourt female has also been around Idube, she also has very new cubs that we have not seen yet – perhaps now that Hlab'nkunzi's little one is out, Ravenscourt may move her cubs into the area?
The Metsi female was seen in the south and the Tlangisa female has been a regular sighting further west. The Mobeni female was seen briefly south of Idube but as usual she stayed away from the vehicles, there was also a skittish young male seen in the same area at the same time. the skittish male is too big to be the cub that Mobeni had last year and there was no way of getting a spot pattern as he was running away so for now he remains unidentified.
With the marula fruit falling there has been plenty of opportunity to see elephants, the breeding herds wander through regularly and there are always quite a few big bulls around. The abundance of water meant that swimming elephants, and those having mud-baths were often spotted. With the ground being soft the marula trees are taking a beating, the elephants shake the trees to get more fruits to drop but the shallow roots of the tree cant stand up to the combination of soft ground and heavy elephant so many trees end up pushed over! A lot of marulas that get pushed down this way do not die and continue to grow on their side resulting in rather awkward looking trunks…
The big breeding herd of buffalo has been in and out of the traversing area regularly. The old ‘Dagga Boy” bulls have also been very regularly sighted al over the area.
There has been a huge herd of zebra hanging around in the south for a while no. Giraffe have also been seen regularly, sometimes also in front of the lodge. Smaller game like duiker and steenbok are around but are often hidden in the long grass. Impala are everywhere and the wildebeest numbers seem to have improved. Waterbuck are abundant and have been seen on most drives. Nyala bushbuck and kudu have also been seen regularly along with warthogs, monkeys and baboons. The hippos now have lots of very full dams to choose from and have been seen all over the place, some times out of the water feeding too.
Wessel showed his guests a nice big python yesterday, other reptile seen include monitor lizards, crocodiles and the odd tortoise (both leopard and hinged tortoises).
The smaller nocturnal animals have also been well hidden in the long grass but scrub-hare, porcupine and genet have all been spotted recently.