We are now half-way through 2018 and in the middle of our winter months. Fortunately, we had quite a bit of rain towards the end of our wet season and the vegetation levels are still relatively high. However, the water levels in the river and dams are dropping quickly. The fresh water at the lodge has thus been very attractive to animals in close proximity, and elephant bulls in particular are constantly in front of the rooms.
This has also forced hippo to congregate in larger dams, as well as in the large pools in the Sand River. With the cooler temperatures in winter, it has also meant that the hippo are often found on the banks of the waterholes, sunning themselves and providing some of the best hippo viewing possible.
There is also a couple of very young hippo adding to the quality of the sightings with their antics!
As the young always attract so much attention and generate so much enjoyment, it is great still to have the three Ottawa cubs doing very well. They have relaxed completely around the vehicles, and we are privileged to witness incredible interactions between the various individuals within the pride. Initially, the mother was wary with the approach of the sub-adult male and would aggressively defend the young cubs.
However, it didn’t take long for the mother to trust the male and, more importantly, for the male to accept the youngsters. They now seem to seek him out and attempt to play with him all the time, almost like a big brother who will protect them if need be.
And then, as expected, there are the many tender moments between the cubs and the mother. She looks after them well and they are in great condition.
The Mhangene youngsters continue to be an incredible story. They are gaining in confidence, and are starting to believe in their own abilities. They still move large distances, but have made two buffalo kills this month on our concession. On one occasion, the buffalo was very weak, and it surprised us all how quickly they were able to bring it down.
They managed to get a good meal from this kill, but sadly they lost it to a large clan of hyena the next morning, who chased them up a fallen tree nearby.
The following buffalo kill was only three days later, but this time they managed to hold on to the kill a little longer. It was only during the following day that enough hyena had gathered to outnumber the lions, and once again chase them up a tall tree nearby. For a video of this interaction, have a look at this clip.
This month has once again been brilliant for cheetah viewing. There have been fewer individuals, as we have not seen the female with her two cubs again, but the two young brothers appeared once more. This time we were fortunate to see them on an impala kill, and they were much more relaxed.
The older dominant male has been seen regularly this month and has been giving us some incredible viewing! With the cooler temperatures during June, he has been more active than normal, and we often get to see him jumping up onto fallen-over trees to scent-mark and advertise his presence.
On one occasion, he came over the rise in a clearing to see the interaction between the Mhangene youngsters and the hyena. Fortunately for him, he was far enough away, and they were more interested in one another. So, after a short view of the goings-on, he turned and headed out of the area once again.
The sightings of Tlangisa and her cubs have blown hot and cold. She is brilliant at hiding them, but this month she started moving them around more. We would go some time without managing to find her, but when she and the cubs did appear, it made all the waiting worthwhile!
The male leopards have been very busy this month and Nyelethi has kept up the pressure on Dewane. After following Dewane for a short while on one occasion, Nyelethi suddenly appeared behind him, without Dewane knowing he was there! After following a short distance, Nyelethi pounced on the unsuspecting Dewane and a massive fight erupted. With Nyelethi’s element of surprise, as well as being younger and stronger, it was inevitable that Dewane would come off second-best! Once the battle was over, Dewane high-tailed it out of the area and, although he has been seen fairly regularly since then, it seems that he has become silent and is not scent-marking any more. Nyelethi, on the other hand, is still very confident and becoming more dominant. For a clip of the fight, click here.
Ravenscourt continues his dominance over the majority of the Western Sector, and once again has been seen together with Basile on numerous occasions. However, on the odd occasion they were rudely interrupted by other animals!
Every time Ravenscourt is seen, it is an impressive sight and he remains one of the best-viewed leopards.
The younger males continue to be nomadic in the sense that they are not challenging for any territory yet and remain below the radar of the big boys. They still remain in the general area where they grew up and we are getting some good views of them. Euphorbia, son of Hukumuri, is still unsure of himself and is initially nervous when the vehicles come upon him. With time, this will change and we are sure that he will relax more.
Nweti was always more relaxed to start with, having Hlabankunzi as his mother. Leopard are not very fussy hunters and often supplement their diet with smaller animals such as rodents and birds. On one occasion, we were lucky enough to see him catch a scrub hare that jumped up in front of him.
We had a brief view of the wild dog this month, but the alpha female must be close to denning and so they are probably starting to look for a suitable site.
The mega-herbivores have been doing well and there are quite a number of young around. We mentioned in the last blog that there were a number of species with young, but one never tires of this.
Giraffe have never been abundant in the Sabi Sands, but of late we have been seeing quite a few of them and also a few young here as well. For many people, the giraffe is one of the quintessential species to see, and the first sightings are always breath-taking!
We leave you with a pair of male ostriches that were seen for a large part of June. Having not seen them often in the past, it was quite special for us to have regular sightings on our clearings. It seems that the competition for dominance in this area is increasing, as we witnessed these two having a display ‘dance’. Click here for a short video of the dance!
Neil, Natasha and the Savanna Team