Friday the 17th of June
It’s time for a big cat catch-up yet again. The air was electric with excitement and anticipation as the radio crackled into life with reports of a young male leopard making his way through Djuma. He wasn’t just any leopard however, the cumbersome tracking collar gives the game away, Sindile has returned to the Northern Sabi Sands. James and Wium made haste and soon WE were reunited with Shadow’s only independent cub. Sindile made his way through the dense block taking the odd opportunity to rest up in a patch of sun on a termite mound. He has certainly grown quite substantially since his stint in rehabilitation. The golden colour of his coat was enhanced by the sun as his blue-green eyes scanned the landscape. Soon he moved on using the thickness of the undergrowth to expertly conceal himself from prying human eyes.
(Sindile, Screenshot Credit: Gail Murphy, safariLIVE, Djuma)
Saturday the 18th of June
A roaring start to the day with two of the Nkuhuma pride lionesses. Initially it was thought the possible new moms were making their way back towards potential den sites. They were determinedly walking through the bush as the first pale gold rays of dawn light illuminated the bush. It’s clear from the red tinges on their damp, tawny coats as well as their swollen bellies a good meal was had. The lionesses soon disappeared into a steep and shadowy series of drainage lines. Yet after some patient searching WE managed to catch-up with the committed cats.They continued on each step more committed than the last. The lionesses took us on quite an off-road journey and eventually to the discovery of a buffalo carcass. In a twist of fate as only an African tale would have it the lionesses were unable to enjoy any more of their hunting spoils. The Djuma hyaena clan are there in force, excited whoops and giggles emanate from the surrounding bush before the lionesses slink past, ears flat in fury, their prize stolen.
(Nkuhuma lioness, Screenshot Credit: Debra W. Baudoin, safariLIVE, Djuma)
For the time being it seemed the hyena’s had won the battle of the buffalo kill. However, this is the wild and anything can happen at any time. The safariLIVE crew had a big afternoon ahead of them as the first of the live televised Father’s Day weekend special safari’s was about to unfold on National Geographic Wild. Jamie and Bryan saddled up and made their way back to the kill site, eager the find out if any more action had unfolded during the course of the unusually warm winter’s day. Upon arrival only a few of the smaller clan members were present crunching their way through what little remains were left. The hyena’s left one-by-one as each had eaten their fill until only one clan youngster remained. Out of no-where an aggressive blur of spots exploded out of the yellow undergrowth. Mvula’s charge had been successful and what once belonged to lions and hyaena now belonged to the leopard. Although the former dominant male leopard is no longer in his physical prime he spirit is as strong as ever. He devoured what he could in the brief time the hyena were scattered. But soon the hyaena had regrouped and reinforcements flooded the area. Mvula, a black and gold streak of lightning bolted into the nearest tree while the hyena’s swarmed at it’s base showing off their success by waving the odd buffalo bits in a taunting manner at the leopard. Eventually the scene calmed and Mvula was able to make his way off into the gathering darkness as the hyena’s slept off a victorious food coma.
(Mvula, Screenshot Credit: Marieke van Nistelrooij, safariLIVE, Djuma)
To the West an epic and tragic tale was unfolding. Sindile, the prince of leopards, had been found again. He was not alone this time, he had managed to reunite with his mother, Shadow. The attempted reunion however was tainted as Shadow continually hissed and snarled at her long lost son. Her ears flat and her hackles up she charged at her grown up cub constantly preventing him from approaching her. Sindile kept his distance, seemingly confused as to his mother’s reaction. Shadow then began to call out to her newest little cub, Sindile reacting with his own submissive calls at a loss as to why she would be calling him and then chasing him. The ritual between the leopards was grueling and emotions ran high as the sighting unfolded. Shadow’s constant panicked calls grew louder and more agitated as the afternoon wore on yet there was no sign of her cub.
(Sindile, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)
Sindile, exhausted flopped onto a termite mound and took a moment to rest. Shadow finally had her opportunity and while Sindile was preoccupied she sped out of the area. Brent, not wanting to miss a single moment of action followed closely to a jaw dropping sighting. Shadow’s newest cub was alive and well, waiting patiently for her mom and calling out for her protection. The pair reunited and wasted no time moving on and away from Sindile as fast a possible.
(Shadow’s cub [left] & Shadow [right], Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Arathusa)
Sunday the 19th of June
The dawn was red and warm. It seemed as though summer had crept back into the Northern Sabi Sands over the Father’s Day weekend. The great open spaces on Cheetah Plains were bathed in golden morning light as two of the fastest mammals on earth patrolled their territory. The two unnamed cheetah brothers glided through what little grass remained in the dry season, scent marking as they went. The leader of the coalition seemed to be walking with a rather pronounced limp, the injury most likely incurred during a hunting attempt. Yet despite his clear discomfort while walking, the sleek and slender cat still managed to lightly ascend a termite mound and gaze across the wilderness. The brothers slowly made their way south eventually crossing into Mala Mala and lying up in some soothing shade.
(Unnamed cheetah coalition, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Cheetah Plains)
The luck of the leopard seemed to be favouring the safariLIVE crew. During the second and last of the televised safari’s WE were able to locate Sindile yet again. This time the sub-adult leopard was in very close proximity to the hub of all the safariLIVE action, lying up only a few hundred meters from the safari tent. Jamie spent a wonderfully relaxed afternoon with the prince of cats as he dozed peacefully in some dense shade. Yet as the sun began to sink he yawned stretched and began to make his way directly towards the crew stationed on quarantine clearings. He eventually positioned himself perfectly with a clear view of all the commotion, before slowly slinking away into a dense block.
(Sindile, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)
Monday the 20th of June
A rather relaxed Monday ensued after all the TV pandemonium. The afternoon was quiet but truly beautiful as the dry season dust filled the air giving everything an orange glow. Once the sun had set the daylight warmth continued into the balmy evening, minutes before the closing of the sunset safari WE were treated to a spectacular sighting. An african wild cat out and about and on the hunt. The slender feline payed the vehicle no attention as it picked it’s way through the shadows, ears pricked for any sound indicating a possible meal. WE stayed with the wild cat until it eventually melted into the darkness of the night time bush.
(African wild cat, Screenshot Credit: Alena Allens, safariLIVE, Djuma)
Tuesday the 21st June
The dawn broke crisp and fresh, another cool morning as a constant reminder of winter’s presence. James wasted no time in heading straight into the area where it was reported Karula had left her cubs. Sure enough after scanning the area, he noticed two bright blue eyes watching cautiously from the upper boughs of a tall tree. Karula’s male cub made no move and simply kept a close eye as WE watched. A short while later Karula’s little lady is found sunning herself on top of a nearby termite mound, both cubs in clear view from the others chosen hiding spot. As for the queen, there was no trace, her location and actions only thought of in speculatory terms.
(Karula’s male cub, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)
An unusually warm day was upon the safariLIVE crew yet again. To the west Mvula had been found feasting on a warthog lifted high in an overhang of Arathusa’s main drainage line. The aging male leopard reclined as gracefully as only these big cats can. He spent most of the morning dozing in a natural hammock created by the twists and turns of his chosen tree. Later on that afternoon he had picked a new spot on top of a nearby shady termite mound. He lay in feline regality, his earlier hunting spoils half eaten and still stashed nearby.
(Mvula, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Arathusa)
As the heat of the day began to diminish some more big cat action began to unfold. Having left the somewhat sleepy Mvula Brent made his way back to Djuma. Upon arrival at quarantine clearings it became clear that there were three very lion shaped mounds huddled against the icy evening wind. Once the darkness had settled the Nkuhuma pride began to show a few more signs of life as they yawned and stretched their taught tawny bodies out. The lionesses certain hunger confirmed by the lack of round hanging bellies. Once the sunset safari had finished a few members of the crew took an opportunity to go and have a look at the lovely ladies and within minutes they were stalking. Suddenly great black masses in the form of buffalo burst through the bush as the lionesses gave chase. Thunderous hooves created columns of dust and once the dust had settled the lions were left separated and still hungry. It was decided to leave the Nkuhuma’s to their nightly adventures with the hopes of finding them in the morning slightly better fed.
(Nkuhuma lioness, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)
Wednesday the 22nd of June
Winter has struck back with a vengeance. The greyness of the cloudy morning only reaffirmed by a bitter wind. Brent decided to check to the east to see what trouble he could get himself into. After arriving on Cheetah Plains the long cold drive payed off. One of Karula’s now independent sons is attempting to sun himself in the protection of a large termite mound. He lazed for a while before deciding he’d have more luck elsewhere. Moments later he descended the termite mound, walking by the vehicle as if it wasn’t there. WE followed as he sauntered down an open road. The young male leopard then came upon a patch of dust that obviously smelt particularly delicious, after rolling in the sand for a short while he stood, shook himself off and continued on his way. This extreme expenditure of energy had clearly taken its toll as Quarantine then made his way to the top of yet another termite mound before collapsing in a heap of spots. Brent stayed with the gorgeous male until the last moments of the sunrise safari.
(Quarantine male, Screenshot Credit: Debra W. Baudoin, safariLIVE, Cheetah Plains)
Friday the 24th of June
Another day with a spot or two of leopard luck! Freelance safariLIVE presenter Byron spent the morning in the company of a seriously flat Mvula. The former dominant male seemed to have huddled himself in a very comfy nest consisting entirely of elephant dung. A dung pillow for his spotted head and tatty ears as well as a dung down bedding for his tired body. He barely moved except for the odd ear and tail flick aimed at irritating buzzing of the flies. There he remained for the majority of the morning before eventually sneaking off to the west.
(Mvula, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)
Not far to the south from where Mvula was lying, WE found young Sindile. He was back in his oldest and most favourite haunts. The young male was found sitting pretty on the peak of a termite mound surveying the surrounding bush. It seems life as a dispersal male is doing him well, his belly is full and he gets bigger with each passing day. Yet his face is no longer as flawless as it once was. He has now picked up a few new and rather distinctive scratches to his muzzle, no doubt fighting with his mother and various other males in the area. The prince of cats slowly made his way down the termite mound and directly into a nasty thicket comprising of the vicious black monkey thorn. James was forced to let Sindile get on with his morning away from the limelight. After searching for him during the sunset safari James eventually threw in the towel and stopped to have a look at some beautiful little birds. Unknown to him Sindile had been quietly slinking up behind them the entire time. James turned and saw the graceful cat slip off the road and through the undergrowth. WE then had a brief but spectacular sighting before he made his way off of our traverse.
(Sindile, Screenshot Credit: Debra W. Baudoin, safariLIVE, Djuma)
The morning was not all about seeing spots however. While driving the reserve James managed to find a young and unknown male lion. The youngster was a clear fit of starvation as he relentlessly chased an adult giraffe over the uneven ground. His attempt did not result in success and as soon as he had appeared, he disappeared. The identity of the young male seemed to stump both the crew and the viewers, after much debate it was proposed that this youngster could be Junior Nkuhuma’s new coalition partner. But without confirmation his identity will have to remain a mystery for the time being.
(Unknown male lion, Screenshot Credit: Debra W. Baudoin, safariLIVE, Djuma)
More lions later in the afternoon as Byron managed to catch up with one of the Nkuhuma ladies. The lioness lounged in the dimming sunlight yawning and stretching at her leisure. She eventually overcame her constant state of inertia and padded her way off into the darkness no doubt en route back to her pride mates.
(Nkuhuma lioness, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)