Saturday the 2nd of July
Leopard luck kicks off the week with a sighting of an old safariLIVE favourite. As Jamie made her way around Cheetah Plains the bright white flick of a tail caught her attention. Thandi, Karula’s daughter, was lying in full spotted glory surveying her territory from the top of a termite mound. Yet the leopardess was restless and soon made her way onto the dry and yellowing bush. Her coat of rosettes made for the perfect camouflage as she wound her way through the undergrowth clearly on the hunt. The general rounded shape of her belly suggests that she could be the next to continue the great legacy of the northern Sabi Sands leopards. She moved with determination until WE eventually lost her in a thick drainage line, not wanting to interfere with her morning plans Jamie moved on to see what other wonders the great plains held.
(Thandi, Screenshot Credit: Debra W. Baudoin, safariLIVE, Cheetah Plains)
Further to the west queen Karula had been found yet again with her royal cubs. The remains of yet another kill dangling from the wide boughs of a nearby tree. Sharp little teeth were making quick work of what remained as Karula and her male cub sunned themselves regally at the base of the trunk. Eventually the beautiful brown-eyed female cub descended from her lofty perch to pounce on her brother. This is one of the first times WE have been lucky enough to see a playful interaction between the queen and her two cubs. All three practiced pouncing and stalking each other in the dappled shade before eventually falling flat, exhausted from a morning of feasting and frolicking.
(Karula’s male cub, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)
James moved on from the leopards after a report of one of the Birmingham male’s loitering near the Djuma dam. Golden light only served to enhance his tawny coat and orange mane. Yellow eyes scanned the surrounding wilderness before stiffened legs were put to use. The impressive male made his way into a more sheltered area attempting to escape the icy wind sweeping across Djuma. He eventually went flat again once suitably sheltered in his nest for the day.
(Birmingham male, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)
Of course the day’s leopard sightings would’ve been incomplete without a sighting of Karula’s other daughter, Shadow. The dominant female to the west made a brief appearance on the boundary of Arathusa. She was highly mobile and clearly on the hunt. The leopardess posed haughtily on the side of a large termite mound before disappearing off our traverse with a flick of her fluffy white tail.
(Shadow, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Arathusa)
A cat packed day indeed, WE finished off our sunset safari with James and two of the Nkuhuma lionesses on a fresh buffalo carcass. The older, larger and certainly more pregnant of the Nkuhuma ladies got the lion's share. Low growls warned the smaller of the twosome that she would have to wait her turn. As the afternoon light faded away behind the mountains the lionesses slowly became more active. The gathering shadows then slowly came to life as the Djuma clan of hyaena closed in on the kill site. The pregnant lioness waddled off to safety as the youngest of the pride buried her face in the remains of the carcass. Luck favoured the lion this evening, not enough members of the hyaena clan were present to intimidate a large hungry lioness. WE stayed with the action until the final moments of the sunset safari knowing that the battle for the kill was only beginning.
(Nkuhuma lioness, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)
Sunday the 3rd of July
Fortune favours the cats this time. Upon returning to the buffalo kill the next day the youngest Nkuhuma lioness is still in firm possession of the carcass that has severely diminished in size overnight. Laughing scavengers kept their distance from the lioness yet intent was etched their every movement. However, without more numbers, the hyena’s were relegated to watching the apex predatory cat chew over the last good portions of the buffalo. Later on the sunset safari reports indicated that the hyaena clan had eventually managed to wrestle the kill from the last Nkuhuma.
(Nkuhuma lioness, Screenshot Credit: Roy Smith, safariLIVE, Djuma)
This however was not the most interesting event for the lions today. Jamie had managed to relocate a mating pair of lions in the heart of Djuma. Yet the amorous pair were not alone, lying nearby was another one of the stunning Nkuhuma lionesses. Although she attempted to keep her distance from the mating pair, her Amber-eyed pride mate could not have been less interested in her Birmingham male counterpart. The already unusual situation only became more bizarre as Amber-eyes the repeatedly mounted her female companion. The male, left as the candleholder, looked on in what can only be described as deep confusion. Once he came to his senses he then rushed in, separating both females in a blur of dust and growls. The second lioness, now confirmed as the female with three cubs, meandered her way north away from the mating pair. Amber-eyes attempted to pursue but found her attempts repeatedly blocked by the unimpressed male. A brief game of hide-and-seek then ensued around the safariLIVE vehicle accompanied by low warning growls and even a few distressed contact calls. Jamie eventually left the lion love triangle as the final moments of the sunset safari drew to a close.
(Nkuhuma lionesses, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)
Monday the 4th of July
The morning was bright, brisk and quiet. No reports of any of our favourite big cat characters came in over the radio and it appeared the lions had taken their saga to the north. Yet later on during the sunset safari WE received some incredible news from the west. Shadow had been found on a kill in the southern sections of Arathusa, Jamie raced through to the sighting and was not only greeted by Shadow, but also by her gutsy little cub. Upon arrival Shadow was making short work of a young and highly unfortunate vervet monkey. Her stunning little ball of fuzz stalked leaves and sticks courageously mere meters from the vehicle. Eventually Shadow then left the monkey kill and her youngster then pounced on the remains with ferocity. The little cub sank her tiny needle like teeth into the kill and shook it vigorously assuring herself that it was indeed dead. She then hauled the carcass out from under a shady bush and lay in the sun eating her fill. Shadow then approached her precious daughter only to be greeted with raised hackles and bared teeth. Not even mom is getting a hold on this monkey now! Jamie then left the sighting so as to allow others a chance to witness the daring of Shadow’s new and sassy daughter.
(Shadow’s female cub, Screenshot Credit: Kaarina Pietiäinen, safariLIVE, Arathusa)
Tuesday the 5th of July
Puppy pandemonium is on the books for the morning. James had been enjoying a lovely relaxed morning in the company of a stunning African fish eagle sunning himself at Arathusa dam. The radio came to life and it was all stations go as the dogs coursed through the bush. James made his way into the area standing by for any sign of painted coats and satellite ears. Soon three adult wild dogs trotted onto the road in full view their ears revolving, listening carefully for the smallest movement. They dogs then ducked into a thick block and WE of course followed not wanting to miss any of the action. Unfortunately as soon as they arrived they were gone. James then returned to the serenity of the dam as reports came through indicating the dogs had managed to successfully hunt and kill a steenbok.
(Wild dogs, Screenshot Credit: Kaarina Pietiäinen, safariLIVE, Arathusa)
Wednesday the 6th of July
Another cool, yet bright winter's morning dawned over the northern Sabi Sands. Excitement and anticipation were rife as Jamie teased us with a special surprise. The Nkuhuma lioness known as “Spotty nose” was on Djuma. Anyone who has been following our LIVE safari’s knows that Spotty nose is a proud mom to three perfect bundles of lion cub cuteness. Yet until now she has been keeping them a well guarded secret to the east of our traverse. But no longer! She was here and in the presence of her incredible cubs. The sighting could not have been more perfect as the three cubs huddled together against the cold and across their mother’s legs. Play time then ensued, the cubs pounced and played all over a very sleepy mom. When this game became old it was time to hunt and kill a nearby piece of elephant dung. WE watched the cubs mewing and flopping all over the place, proudly displaying their elephant dung carcasses until Spotty nose eventually retreated into the shade of a nearby drainage line and out of our view.
(Nkuhuma cubs, Screenshot Credit: Marieke van Nistelrooij, safariLIVE, Djuma)
The lion love saga seems to be picking up just where it left off. This time with two mating pairs, consisting of the Amber-eyed female as well as the youngest lioness of the Nkuhuma pride. Both lionesses were each escorted by a Birmingham male. Again the lionesses seemed far less interested in their male counterparts and far more interested in reuniting as a pride and going on the hunt. The empty bellies of the lionesses stood as testament to this while they desperately tried to meet up. Yet again both lionesses found their efforts to be together thwarted by single the tracked males. More low and aggressive growling emanated from the lionesses as they attempted to wind their way past the larger and more powerful males. The young Nkuhuma lioness even went as far as taking a few vicious swats at the baffled male, yet this did not deter his affections. Amber-eyes on the other hand seemed to have given up for the time being and huddled in the sun with her back firmly positioned towards the amorous male. Her bored and tired face said it all as he consistently tested her in the hopes of mating. Eventually an unenthused Amber-eyes gave in to the inexperienced male. Jamie then left the lions, their complex business put on hold for the day as the warm winters sun sent all four lions into an exhausted sleep state.
(Birmingham male, Screenshot Credit: Kaarina Pietiäinen, safariLIVE, Djuma)
Thursday the 7th of July
Lion love is still in the air, or at least one Birmingham male thinks so. Brent managed to catch up with the Amber-eyed Nkuhuma lioness and her unwanted male shadow. Amber-eyes was hungry, there was no doubt as she attempted to hunt anything that moved, yet the cumbersome male kept blocking her attempts. Amber-eyes then began making her way through a number of thick and difficult blocks being followed closely by her Birmingham boyfriend. Eventually the cats went flat and attempted to sleep curled up against the icy wind cutting across the wild. So here they remained for the entirety of the afternoon. Eventually the lioness arose as the sun set to the west, she stretched out her muscular and lean body and started her way off into the darkness. The male yet again shadowing her every movement attempting to divert her attention away from a hunt and towards himself. Eventually after an explosive display of energy Amber-eyes bolted into the bush. WE then lost the lions in the gathering shadows, it remains to be discovered as to whether or not Amber-eyes managed to ditch her tiresome companion.
(Nkuhuma lioness & Birmingham male, Screenshot Credit: Kaarina Pietiäinen, safariLIVE, Djuma)
WE also managed to catch a very quick glimpse of a hungry and hunting Karula. She was highly mobile in the dying light of the day. She walked her famous zig-zag pattern across the drainage line near to the Vuyatela Lodge before eventually going flat behind a very inconvenient clump of sticks.
(Karula, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)
Friday the 8th of July
A battle of brothers lay in store for the safariLIVE crew on this bright and frigid morning. Quarantine male showed up with his older brother Xivambalana on Cheetah Plains. The two stunning male leopards kept their distance and they growled aggressively at each other across a small open clearing. Xivambalana is one of Karula’s older sons and has two years on the younger Quarantine who is only three and a half. Male leopard arguments rarely result in physical contact and this was no different as the males paced up and down snarling. Eventually the fight was broken up by a cantankerous old buffalo bull, unimpressed with the presence of the stealthy predators and their petty arguments. The leopards bolted in different directions and despite careful tracking neither could be relocated.
(Xivambalana, Screenshot Credit: Debra W. Baudoin, safariLIVE, Cheetah Plains)
Later, on the sunset safari Brent was able to find Quarantine, as handsome and elegant as ever surveying his contested territory from the wide comfy boughs of a large marula tree. Eventually he descended and took us on quite a ride through some thick undergrowth before choosing a particularly tall and sunny termite mound to rest up for the afternoon. There he stayed for the duration of the afternoon, as flat and only as exhausted as a leopard could be.
(Quarantine, Screenshot Credit: Debra W. Baudoin, safariLIVE, Cheetah Plains)
Meanwhile on Djuma the lion cubs had been located again. The cubs spent the morning cuddling close to their mother attempting to remain warm against the recent biting reminder of the winter months. Eventually all four of the cats went flat on the edge of a steep drainage in the heart of Djuma. There they remained for the entirety of the day concealed behind some thick bush. Upon returning on the sunset safari the lions had remained true to form, barely moving from their shady spot. Spotty nose lay in dappled shade as her cubs ambled around her playing amongst the leaves. WE spent some fantastic time with the new happy family before the descending darkness put an end to our time with them.
(Nkuhuma cub, Screenshot Credit: Kaarina Pietiäinen, safariLIVE, Djuma)
Saturday the 9th of July
A still and quiet morning greeted the safariLIVE crew, despite the booming sound track of lions roaring outside camp as the crew went to sleep the night before. No luck in locating Africa’s largest cat and tracks the only proof of their presence. Upon setting out, Jaime had hopes of following up on Queen Karula and the young prince and princess of Djuma. Her tracks littered the road in the south of the reserve and true to form Karula had pulled yet another incredible disappearing act. Jamie eventually decided to head east to the great plains, frustrated with the lack of cats on Djuma. Once there she found some very fresh female leopard tracks and followed carefully to the famous Cheetah Plains pan. A pleasant surprise lay in wait for Jamie as she approached the water’s edge. The flick of a tail and rosetted movement caught her eye. A stunning leopard was lying framed by two trees atop a termite mound. Jamie approached carefully unsure of who the individual was. But staying true to his own nature Quarantine barely paid any attention as Jamie approached. This was her first sighting of Karula’s now independent son, he lay as pretty as ever casually flicking his ears and tail to ward off the flies. WE had another spectacular morning spent in the presence of the almost fully grown Quarantine and eventually left as the last minutes of the sunrise safari came to an end.
(Quarantine, Screenshot Credit: Debra W. Baudoin, safariLIVE, Cheetah Plains)