Sunday the 8th of May
A wonderful start this week with the discovery of a very pregnant looking Nkuhuma lioness camping out at Buffelshoek Dam. Suspicions were raised again as to whether she may have chosen a possible den site in the area. Judging by the discomfort she seemed to be experiencing and the bulbous appearance of her stomach it is certain she is in the final stages of gestation.
(Nkuhuma lioness, Screenshot Credit: Marieke van Nistelrooij, safariLIVE, Djuma)
On the southern boundary Jamie located the Queen and her two gorgeous cubs. Karula had made a kill. The fully grown impala ram could not have been an easy target, but in the height of the rut an impala’s thoughts are not of leopards. A truly magnificent sighting ensued with both of her cubs creeping out of thickets to feed and play. Eventually the young and confirmed male cub began to suckle while his smaller sibling bounced around mom. Later in the afternoon all 3 were present again. Karula, now fat and flat, flicked her tail constantly for her energetic cubs to pounce on. Eventually, the little male became bored of this and after a few minutes of absence popped his little head out of the top of a small tree. Finally it became too dark to spend any more time with Karula and her precious cubs. What a way to spend an amazing Mother’s Day in the bush!
(Karula’s cub, Screenshot Credit: Claire Armendinger, safariLIVE, Djuma)
Monday the 9th of May
Dawn broke cool and damp with a slight hint of drizzle in the air. Karula had now hoisted her kill into the boughs of a large tree. A discovery made by Sam during the sunrise safari. The Queen was present, sleeping soundly in the high limbs. After a few minutes of peace the serenity of the scene was broken when a large hyaena came prowling through the thick undergrowth. With no confirmed sighting of the cubs, instant concern was raised. But Karula’s relaxed demeanor was soothing, her lack of concern about the spotted hyena’s presence was a sign that the cubs are safe but out of sight. There was still no sign of the cubs later on during the sunset safari. With her appetite now satiated, Karula hung in the fork of her tree no doubt sleeping off a severe food coma! Once the sun had set it was time to leave. With no confirmation of the cubs in the area spot lights were not used on the magnificent leopardess at night.
(Karula, Screenshot Credit: Hélène van Dijk, safariLIVE, Djuma)
To the north of the reserve James found himself with three of the Nkuhuma Pride lionesses who were flat and huddled at Buffelshoek Dam. The lions spent the majority of the morning sleeping in each other's company, no doubt in an effort to combat the cold and slightly damp morning air. The heavily pregnant lioness was still in attendance and the least enthusiastic of the lot. Sam returned to Buffelshoek Dam during the sunset safari and as he arrived an impressively large breeding herd of buffalo made their way down the sandy banks for a much needed drink. Soon after they arrived however something appeared to spook them. The buffalo stampeded off and soon after Sam discovered why. The lionesses had, unsurprisingly, remained exactly where WE left them earlier. Still flat and lazy they barely moved for the remainder of the sunset safari.
(Nkuhuma lioness, Screenshot Credit: Kaarina Pietiäinen, safariLIVE, Djuma)
Far over to the west as the sun began to descend upon the Drakensburg, Jamie wound her way through some thick bush. After a few minutes she arrived at a buffalo carcass, made that way by the rarely seen Mhangeni pride of lion. Only one lioness was present on site, the remaining nine were reportedly drinking at Simbambili Dam outside of the WE traverse area. The subadult lioness slept for a good deal of time. As the day cooled she slowly came alive, simultaneously realising that her pride had left her as a sentry over the carcass. Boredom shortly followed, she gazed around the environment patiently until the last seconds of the sunset safari.
(Mhangeni lioness, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Arathusa)
Tuesday the 10th of May
Karula was still in the vicinity of her kill when the dawn broke bright and fresh. The leopardess, now sitting on the ground, was as relaxed as WE had seen her all week. The kill, hanging by a few bones and a sliver of skin remained almost finished on top of the tree. After some time spent watching her groom and stretch, she arose and began to meander slowly south. Eventually she crossed Gowrie Main and disappeared into the bush. Perhaps her cubs had already made their way across the boundary, with no confirmed sighting only time would tell.
(Karula, Screenshot Credit: Kaarina Pietiäinen, safariLIVE, Djuma)
As the sunset safari kicked off reports of lions at the Arathusa Dam came flooding in! There was much debate over which pride this could possibly be, that is until a rather distinctive tailless lioness made an appearance. The Tsalala pride are back in the north and looking fitter and healthier from when last WE saw them. Eventually Jamie was able to make her way there for an incredible sight. A tiny and very much alone hippo calf had made its way some distance from the water. The young calf grazed blissfully while the lions watched carefully. Eventually the little calf ventured far enough away from the safety of the water for the lions to begin their stalk. Patience is one of a lion’s most useful weapons and the Tsalala’s weren’t going to let this go without a proper attempt. The lions lay down in waiting on the top of the dam wall and Jamie then left the sighting to allow guest vehicles a chance to spend time with the magnificent pride. There were no further updates from the hunt and by the next morning the pride had crossed back south.
(Tsalala pride, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)
Wednesday the 11th of May
The lion dynamics of late have been rather strange. This however, reverts to normal with the return of the Birmingham Boys. Although only two of the now four strong coalition were found on Djuma this morning by safariLIVE guide Jamie. Their return could also be a clue as to the disappearance of the Tsalala’s, the pride subadults at risk of grievous harm from the dominant coalition. The first of the two brothers was found lying in the road enjoying an early morning sunbath. Eventually he made his way into some thick bush where he collapsed in exhaustion next to his brother. The lions had not moved a muscle by the time Sam went back into the area later on the sunset safari. They spent the rest of the afternoon fast asleep in the deep, cooling shade until the darkness swallowed them. The safariLIVE crew was then treated to a phenomenal territorial demonstration of roars that lasted long into the night.
(Birmingham male, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)
Thursday the 12th of May
A rare and special surprise was in store for the safariLIVE crew tonight. In the final moment of the sunset safari James came upon a sleek and slender cat of the smaller variety. The serval stepped out into the road right in front of our cameras. Never have WE had such an excellent sighting of this rarely found cat. It slowly made its way across the road certainly on the hunt as its ears were pricking at even the slightest sound in the night. The serval wove through the undergrowth scent marking and stopping every few seconds to listen. Eventually the cat slipped away into the darkness leaving us all elated at the wonderful sighting.
(Serval, Screenshot Credit: Debra W. Baudoin, safariLIVE, Djuma)
Saturday the 14th of May
The Nkuhuma’s are back and all five of the stunning lionesses are together once again. James headed out early on the eerily misty morning and soon found the lionesses looking hungry and on the move. At first it seemed as though they were on the stalk, paying close attention to something hidden deep within some thickets. Soon however, concentration was lost and play time was on! Three of the lionesses bounded and pounced on each other in the cool of the clouded sunrise. The pride slowly made their way to the west and soon crossed into Simbambili.
(Nkuhuma lioness, Screenshot Credit: Kaarina Pietiäinen, safariLIVE, Djuma)
This was not the only surprise for James this morning. A few minutes after the lions had crossed James received word on the radio that the dominant coalition of cheetah had been found on the wide open clearing at Cheetah Plains. James raced over and found the tall slender cats rather pot bellied and flat sheltering in the shade. Soon after his arrival the brothers stood, stretched and began to make their way south. As they did so, they clawed and scent sprayed a number of different territorial posts, including a large fallen down tree. The brothers eventually crossed into Mala Mala where they went flat approximately 60 meters from the safariLIVE camera. There they remained until the closing moment of the sunrise safari. Later on that afternoon Brent returned and found the brother's exactly as they had been, fat, flat and looking more than content. Eventually it became too dark to view them and as diurnal predators WE do not spotlight them at night. Brent then moved on to see what other surprises the bush had in store.
(Unnamed Cheetah coalition, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Cheetah Plains)
As the darkness grew across the Sabi Sands and as the final embers of the day began to die, Brent found one of the Birmingham males. The impressive male lion made his way silently through the open clearings of Cheetah Plains. Soon his attentions were diverted from his evening patrol by the movement of a colossal buffalo bull pushing his way through the undergrowth. The lion’s hunting instinct was immediately engaged and the stalk was on. The prospect of a kill however, is not a bright one. No matter the killing skill and prowess of a dominant male lion, a fully grown and ill tempered buffalo is a near impossible target. Brent eventually lost the male lion to the growing shadow as the final moment of the sunset safari ticked away.
(Birmingham male, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Cheetah Plains)
Sunday the 15th of May
A special spotted surprise lay in store for the safariLIVE crew today! Salayexe, a remarkable leopardess has been spotted on Arathusa. Sam made his way into the area based on a well informed report he received. Shortly after, WE were with her in all her ambiance, excited at having a new leopard in the area. She made it clear that she is here to stay, after watching the large, slender cat stretch out her sleek spotted body she wove her way through the bush scent marking as she went. This indeed is a good sign the WE will be spending a lot more time with Salayexe.
(Salayexe, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Arathusa)
Monday the 16th of May
Lion and leopard tracks carpet the fresh sand roads this morning. Both Brent and Sam headed out with high hopes and anticipation. After about 30 minutes of skilled tracking Sam won the prize. A young adult lioness has been spotted in the distance outside of WE traverse. This fair lady is not a lioness we are familiar with. She stood momentarily illuminated by the rising sun, in the centre of the road before slowly moving off into the grey autumn thickets. Not confirmed ID has been made by reports from the day before indicate that the Mhangeni pride had been in the area the evening before.
(Mhangeni lioness, Screenshot Credit: Debra W. Baudoin, safariLIVE, Djuma)