Many of our regular followers would have realised that there has been a noticeable silence on our part for a while. This is because during the month of May, plus a few days on either side, we were closed for a total of six weeks in order to do some exciting changes and upgrades at the lodge. Besides the Africaonsite building team which handled the major construction work, everybody at the lodge chipped in and exchanged lodge uniforms for construction equipment such as picks, shovels and paint brushes, as we gave the lodge a bit of a facelift. It meant that we had six weeks with no game drives and no news of the happenings of the bush. Below are a few pictures of the new look of the Main Lodge, a Luxury Suite and an Executive Suite.
We reopened on the 5th June and it was with great enthusiasm that the guides and trackers headed out to catch up with the bush telegraph!
The biggest surprise we had was that Boulders had brand new cubs! She is a very cunning female and often remains hidden for some time, so we were not even aware that she was pregnant! She was found moving three very young and understandably nervous cubs to what was probably their first kill, which would make them between six and eight weeks old.
Interestingly, Mondzo who is now just over two years old and very much more independent, is still seen getting a free meal from Xikavi on numerous occasions. This may be due to Mondzo being her first successful litter, and she is showing her lack of experience as a mother. But as long as mom is providing a meal, Mondzo will definitely keep accepting the free meal!
He is growing up quickly, though, and is showing the typical opportunist behaviour that leopards are famous for! We recently found a Martial eagle feeding on a large-spotted genet in a large dead knobthorn, when Mondzo arrived on the scene and showed true intent on scavenging this meal from the eagle. Fortunately for the Martial eagle, he was very alert to his surroundings, and flew off with his kill before Mondzo could get anywhere near close enough to steal it!
We have not seen Scotia much this month, as she still stays predominantly in Nyelethi’s territory which is mostly east of our concession. This is to afford her cub greater protection from other males. She is, however, starting to move it more to kills further away, as her chance of survival is improving exponentially now that she is over six months of age. She is more aware of her surroundings, and has a greater ability to evade danger. She is also very playful with Scotia and the relationship between them is a privilege to watch!
With winter in full swing and temperatures remaining pleasantly cool, the male leopards are becoming very active and patrolling their territories. Nyelethi has been across onto our concession quite a bit this month, suggesting that he is gaining in confidence and pushing Dewane a bit further north and west. He is carrying a number of scars, clearly an indication that he has met up with Dewane on a few occasions and not always got his way!
Ravenscourt is also very active, as he has been over the past six months or so! Although he is pushing further north, he still comes south to check on the area around Savanna. He actually walked through the middle of our construction site one evening, as if to inspect the progress being made!
The Mhungene pride has remained further east for the most of June, only making a brief appearance just after the lodge re-opened. The youngsters are still looking in very good condition, which is a testimony to the hunting skills of the four adult lionesses. Keeping the 12 sub-adults well fed, when they are still not actively partaking in the hunts, is no mean feat!
We have seen the Ottawa pride many times this month. They have been utilising the entire concession, and they were seen a few times way in the south, leaving the productive Sand River to try their hand at hunting wildebeest and zebra on the plains! This did not prove too successful, and they therefore returned to the riverine vegetation, where they seem more adept at hunting.
On one occasion, they managed to bring down a large kudu bull in the middle of the Sand River, but unfortunately the Majingilane males found it very quickly! Although they were able to get some meat off the carcass, the large males devoured most of it pretty quickly.
Another great surprise for us after the re-opening was the return of the two Ximungwe lionesses! We have not seen or heard of them for nearly a year, and we had presumed that they had either been killed, or split and absorbed into other prides. But they are still together and are looking in very good condition, as well as being much more confident! They came all the way south to outside Savanna, and even popped into the staff village for an early morning drink!
During the two-year drought, there was a significant drop in small mammals in response to the lack of food, and we did not see many of our smaller cats very often, either! Since the good rains, however, there seems to have been quite an explosion of field mice. This will correspond to an increase in raptors and small predators, and David was exceptionally lucky to see a Serval high up in a dead tree during the daytime! We presume it was chased up a tree by another predator, as, although they can climb, we do not see it happen very often!
We have had reports that the wild dogs are denning east of us, which is very exciting! Once the pups are about three to four months old, they start moving the den around, and hopefully we will see some young pups running around very soon! In the meantime, the pack makes occasional hunting trips west, and we get to see them in a highly active state, as only the dogs can be! They rush west, then make two or three kills before running back to the den.
We have a wonderful hyena den on the concession at the moment and, with about six or seven cubs running around, being very inquisitive around the Land Rovers, it is always such a great treat for all the guests!
The male cheetah makes his usual visits, moving through the clearings in the south, and resting on the very large termite mounds to survey his range.
Our general game has been fantastic of late, with large herds of wildebeest and giraffe found regularly in the clearings.
There is often much said about the African sunrises and sunsets and for good reason! At this time of year it is particularly true and when the right subject, such as a large tree or elephant, is silhouetted against it, it is impossible not to stop and try to capture it on film.
We look forward to bringing you more news at the end of July!