This was an interesting month for us. The winds of August had arrived early, toward the end of July, but then just seemed to disappear, leaving the earth dry, barren and eerily quiet! Of the deciduous trees which still managed to hold onto some of their leaves, few had remained, leaving very little for the browsers to feed on. These browsers, such as giraffe, were forced to remain close to the watercourses where the evergreen trees still offered some sustenance.
As would be expected, the water is still a major attraction for most of the game, and it will remain so until the rains come. Along the Sand River, the pod of hippos grows in numbers as the number of pools diminishes and they are forced together. This understandably causes some friction, and constant tussles occur between young and old.
A few large crocodiles are also found in these remaining pools, but they tend to stay out of the way of the cavorting hippos and soak up the sun on the banks, patiently waiting for unsuspecting prey to come along.
The large herds of elephant do not wander far from the lifeblood the river offers, either. Both food and water can be found here in relative abundance and the young calves do not have to move too far and waste energy, which is conserved at all costs at this time of year.
Bird life is also thriving along the river, and there is a sense of anticipation as they are becoming more vocal in preparation for spring and the onset of the breeding season. Cormorants, herons and kingfishers litter the river’s edge and make a drive along the river a paradise for birders!
The elephant bulls tend to enjoy the areas further south, and so spend a lot of their time around the dams: if not to drink, then to enjoy a quick bath and play in the larger, deeper dams.
As a result of the drier times, this time of the year is well-known for its incredible sightings, and so far it has not disappointed. One of the highlights for the month of August was the return of the wild dog! They have been absent from our concession for nearly 4 months now, as they had been denning some distance east of us. The pups, however, are now old enough to move to temporary dens, which they set up on our concession during August. There are a total of 12 pups from two different females, so we and our guests have been royally entertained by their antics.
There is also never a dull moment around the adults, either! We have been fortunate to witness them on many hunting forays, as the demand for food for 23 wild dog is immense. One of the most incredible incidents happened around Cutline Dam after the pack had chased a bushbuck ram, which was forced into the dam to escape the immediate threat of the dogs. Fortunately, there was no crocodile in the dam, and except for an inquisitive hippo, there was no major threat for the bushbuck in the water. The pack, however, showed great patience and kept trying to get at the ram as it got close to the edge of the dam. Eventually, exhaustion started taking its toll, and the bushbuck had to get out of the water, where he tried to defend himself against the pack with his horns. But it was to no avail, and the pack eventually managed to get their prey. For a short video clip of the incident, please click here, but be warned that it is graphic and may upset sensitive viewers.
The other major highlight has been the constant sightings of Xikavi and her cubs. Throughout the month we have been witness to these two very relaxed young cubs as they fight the odds of making it to adulthood.
Sadly, one of them lost this battle late in August, but the remaining cub is doing very well. We are all holding thumbs that Xikavi can shake this monkey off her back and successfully rear a cub to adulthood…
The dominant males have been seen regularly without too much excitement happening around them. Kashane makes his weekly rounds, checking his territory before moving off east again. Interestingly, it seems that he has lost some ground to Nyelethi along the river and perhaps age is starting to catch up with him. Whatever the case, he is still an impressive animal, commanding great admiration as he stares regally over his domain.
Dewane is seen more often, as his whole territory falls within our concession and he has been a little busier. For a few days he had a female nyala kill hoisted into a very open marula tree, providing fantastic viewing for all. He was also sought out by the Dam 3 female, who wandered quite far out of her territory to find him and mate for a few days.
The young guns have been stepping up and providing phenomenal viewing. Torchwood has been very prominent this month and the subject of many a photograph. Being nomadic, Torchwood is never in a rush, and often lies quietly and perfectly as he observes his surroundings, looking only for food and possible danger.
There are, however, signs that he is growing up, and fast! We recently witnessed him meet up with the Boulders female and waste no time in mating with her. What made this sighting even more special was that it was in an open clearing with a rhino and a herd of wildebeest in the same photo!
Ravenscourt has not been seen all that often, but he too has shown signs of growing up, even though he is a year younger than Torchwood! While following him one morning, his behaviour seemed strange, as he was walking in circles, nose to the ground, and even vocalising regularly! The reason soon became apparent as the Mobeni female appeared, rushed up to him and commenced mating! She is usually a shy female, seldom seen and more often much further east, so she had come far west to find him.
We have seen Scotia quite a number of times this month, and often with kills as well! She also seems to be moving much further south as she explores her territory and tries to define the boundaries. At one time she was just north of our camp so we hope this trend will continue and she will become a regular sighting down in the south.
The skittish male in the north was seen a couple of times this month, and we even managed to get a photograph of him. He has been battling it out with Dewane on a number of occasions recently, and it seems Dewane might be winning this fight. The northern male looks to be quite a bit older, so maybe his days are numbered… We suspect he must be the father of Tlangisa’s two cubs, so fortunately they have taken after her and not their father in their temperament!
Due to all the fantastic viewing further south, Tlangisa and her cubs have not been seen too much, but all are doing well! It won’t be long now before her daughters move off and become totally independent.
Once again, the lion viewing has been on and off throughout the month, whereby at times we are falling over them at every corner, and then at other times we cannot seem to find a single track! This is mainly because of the Ximungwe pride still being very nomadic and hardly being seen this month. They did come down briefly, however, and gave some great viewing on top of King’s Rock, before disappearing again.
The Mhungene pride has also been noticeable by its absence, with only one or two visits during the month. They are really starting to dominate the western part of the Sabi Sands and are moving long distances. This is most likely to prepare for the anticipated split between the mothers and the daughters when the sub-adults become confident enough to be on their own. We will have to wait and see if this does, in fact, materialise.
The Ottawa pride has therefore been our go-to pride, and has been doing a great job holding the fort! They have tended to remain close to the river, where the majority of the prey has been concentrating. The three young cubs seem to be recovering excellently from a skin disorder which might have been mange or possibly some type of ringworm.
The Majingilane males have been dominating the area still, and showing a lot of interest in the Ottawa pride. We have been seeing quite a bit of mating with the remaining two females who do not have cubs yet, so hopefully more little ones will be on their way soon.
Our hyena dens are providing brilliant viewing of these fascinating animals, and we have a number of different ages at the dens. Being very inquisitive and bold, they come up to the vehicles frequently to investigate. When the adults are further away, they tend to lie close to the entrance and observe from a distance.
As always, cheetah are scarce, and those fortunate enough to be at the lodge on the rare occasions that they come around, relish the opportunity to observe them. The two male cheetah were seen this month at different times, once with a kill but most often using termite mounds to scan their environment or to relax.
We have had a massive number of buffalo on our property this month and at times we have had three different herds down in the south. At one stage all three of these herds joined together, and we estimated that there were in excess of 1500 buffalo together. It was quite a sight, and the dust they kicked up created fantastic photographic opportunities of animals that are usually quite difficult to photograph.
Once again, we have had a few sightings of the relaxed serval that has been seen around Mackenzie Airstrip. This shy and nocturnal cat does not normally sit long enough to be enjoyed, so this particular individual has been a real treat.
We end this amazing month with some images of our more general game which, although not as famous or sought after as the Big Five, still provide brilliant viewing and enjoyment.
We look forward to bringing you news of the arrival of Spring and hopefully some rain to settle the dust and signal the time for change…
With warm wishes
Paddy and The Savanna Team
Categorized in: Client News