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As would probably be expected, the dry heat and lack of rain has been dominating discussions around dinner tables and on land rovers, as well as among the staff and fellow guides. Dams and rivers are the lowest we have seen them in 20 years, and some of the prominent waterholes are completely dry. There have been a few promising storms that have built up in the late afternoons, providing some fantastic lightning shows, but in the end, very little rain followed.

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The pans in front of the lodge have been attracting a lot of activity, especially from elephant. Not only are these a constant supply of water, but as they are filled from a borehole, they are also the freshest source of water in the area! Elephant are very selective if they can be and so our guests are enjoying frequent visits of both herds with small calves, as well as the resident groups of bachelor bulls.

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Georgie’s dam is a regular visit as well, as it is the perfect place to have a mud bath in order to cool their body temperatures down.

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The Sand River, although just a trickle, is also a constant playground for the larger herds of elephant. Their spirits seem to lift significantly when in or near water, and hours of delight is had by all watching…

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Every opportunity is taken by all to drink when passing near a waterhole. This is fantastic from a viewing point of view, as this always presents great photographic opportunities.

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One animal which is always associated with water is the notorious Hippo! It is not too often that one actually finds them outside of the water… One particularly grumpy male was found near the Sand River quite late in the morning, and he seemed a little put out that a land rover had come between him and his water! With very little warning he gave us quite a serious mock charge, which fortunately stopped short in a cloud of dust! It was all we needed to heed his warning and make space for him to get to the river!

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November has seen the start of the birthing season and most of the impala ewes have dropped their lambs during this month. We have also seen quite a number of the wildebeest cows drop their calves already, and hopefully their numbers will increase well this year as a result of the bush being more open due to the lack of rain.

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Our lion viewing has been very hot and cold this month, but they always return… The Ximungwe sub-adults are continuing with their fenceline patrols, and we assume they trying to avoid any conflict with dominant prides by remaining on the periphery. They are, however, gaining in confidence, and with the absence of adults to teach them what to or not to hunt, they are discovering and perfecting their own technique. And, surprisingly, it seems that they have developed a knack for buffalo! Unfortunately it is a slow technique, where they debilitate a lone bull by attacking its legs. Then they take their time and slowly tire the animal out until the end. This does, however attract hyenas, and on this one occasion, enough hyena arrived to hound the lions every time they had another go at the buffalo. They eventually had to abandon the badly injured buffalo, which died a few days later from its wounds, and was devoured by the hyena.

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We also had a visit from the impressive Mhungene pride! With their 9 sub-adults becoming almost mature, the 13 lions walking toward you is a very impressive sight indeed! We are all hoping that the 6 sub-adult females split into a separate pride in time, and establish a new pride on our concession.
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The Majingilane males and the Ottawa pride have been seen occasionally, and have tended to stay close to the Sand River right on the edge of our concession. Both the males and the females, as well as their cubs are in good condition and seem to be doing very well.
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Our leopard viewing, in contrast to the lions, has been nothing short of phenomenal, and has been dominated by the two ‘nomadic’ males. Early in the month, Torchwood stole a kill from Xikavi while she had left the kill to fetch her cub. He took the chance of a free meal, which was hoisted into a large marula tree. He obviously enjoyed his luck, but continued to nervously look over his shoulder in the direction Xikavi went to make sure he had no trouble!
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He was also central to an amazing series of sightings over a few days in the south. Initially, he was found with a young impala kill in a tree and a dead hyena at the base of the tree. It is unclear who killed the sub-adult hyena, but when he was done with the small impala, he dragged and hoisted the hyena into a large jackalberry. He continued to feed on the carcass of they hyena for 3 days afterwards. It is the first time that any of us here had seen anything like this before!
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While watching Torchwood in the tree, we heard another commotion with impala alarm calling a few hundred meters away. Upon investigation, we found a male cheetah with another young impala kill in the clearing.
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It didn’t take long for the vultures to find the kill and to start descending. This often attracts other predators, and it was the case with Torchwood in the tree nearby! The cheetah had only had a few bites before Torchwood came down the tree and headed toward the kill. As soon as the cheetah got sight of the approaching leopard, he abandoned his kill and took off with haste to avoid any possible confrontation.
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He once again took advantage of the free meal, and quickly dragged it away from the clearing into a gully, to avoid him losing the kill to any other predators in the area.
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When not stealing kills, he tends to steal the show by posing perfectly for the serious and amateur photographers alike!
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Ravenscourt too, has been seen on many occasions this month, and although the sightings have not been as eventful and exciting as Torchwood, every chance to view this incredible leopard is taken. He is starting to fill out nicely now and is developing into a very impressive looking male.
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The dominant males have been doing what dominant males do best. Move a lot, check the boundaries of their territory and look for food and females! Dewane in particular is moving a lot and it is amazing how far he can move overnight!
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Kashane has only been seen a few times and it seems that he is either moving his territory further east, or he is being pushed. When we do see him, however, it is always good value! On one occasion while resting near Nkombe dam, he spotted a stray young buffalo calf. The buffalo was only about 18 months to two years old but already was quite a size. This didn’t prevent Kashane at least going over to it hoping there might be an opportunity! After following it for some time, and being chased off a few times, he eventually decided that it was not worth the risk!
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Xikavi and her cub are doing well! Having not successfully reared a cub to independence before, it is great to see how well she has done with this youngster!

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Scotia is becoming a fantastic viewing leopard. She is amazingly confident, and it is surprising to see how big her territory is becoming, considering her young age! She has been enjoying the new-born impalas and we found her on a few occasions with them hoisted into perfect marula trees!

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Her mother, Hlabankunzi, has paid us a few visits, and it seems that as her young male cub becomes older, she is venturing further afield. The male is now just on a year old and is as relaxed as its mother!

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As is usual, Tassleberry has not been seen often at all, but we had one particularly interesting sighting when she had killed an adult female impala, and proceeded to share it with a sub-adult hyena that pitched up! It seemed neither was confident enough to chase the other, and so just shared the kill!

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Tlangisa, and her two daughters are still occupying the north. Kokovela, the more relaxed of the two, is seen more than Basile, and it is going to be interesting to see where these two daughters settle, and how much Tlangisa will tolerate them in the north.

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With the relative absence of the lion, we have been spoilt with wild dog viewing. Their numbers and activity is directly as a result of the presence or absence of lion, and so the dogs have flourished this month in the Western Sector! With the abundance of young, vulnerable impala lambs, we have been witnessing numerous kills, and sometimes two or three per drive! At this stage we have 11 adults and 8 pups remaining.

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General game numbers have picked up, almost certainly as a result of the lack of rain. It is well documented that species such as wildebeest and zebra prefer the more open environments as it allows them a greater chance to spot any possible predators around. Giraffe too, have been providing great viewing in between the sought after Big 5!

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The smaller things also often attract quite a bit of excitement, especially from the guides, as these are often missed or passed by! One such a creature was a Thick-tailed bushbaby, or Greater Galago, which is usually only seen at night and in large trees along the prominent river systems. So it was with great surprise when one was spotted high in a tree in which Torchwood was feeding off the hyena! We think it was caught out in the open when the leopard went up the tree, and it was too nervous to move and attract any attention! So we managed to get a fantastic view of this seldom seen and rare creature.

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As always, we like to highlight some of the beautiful and regal birds we get to see. All of the migrants are back, and it is a birders paradise at the moment! Here is a small selection of images we would end this months incredible recollection of brilliant sightings.

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Speaking of birds, the Sabi Sand has become heavily involved with the Mabula Ground Hornbill project in assisting them with trying to save this highly endangered species. It is estimated that only 500 breeding females remain in South Africa and the MGH project is needing to build a specialised hand-rearing facility. Please have a look at the following link if you are interested in helping.

Please also have a look at the following link to see the incredible work that Rinske and her team have been able to achieve through their hard work and dedication, as well as the phenomenal support from you, our guests.

With warm wishes
Paddy and The Savanna Team
www.savannalodge.com

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