Monday the 15th of August
Cub cuteness commences the week with a sighting of the tiniest Nkuhuma cubs. Brent and the youngest three of the eight Nkuhuma’s spent a pleasantly warm afternoon wriggling and tumbling around mom. The cubs are growing fast and need to get those all important hunting skills honed to perfection and mom’s tail presented the perfect target. Once the cubs were convinced the adult lioness twitching black pompom was well and truly dead they moved on to something a little tougher….each other! Their uncoordinated attempts to pounce on one another resulted in only heartwarming tenderness as vicious attacks quickly turned into playful swats and affectionate cuddles. Eventually once the cubs had completely exhausted themselves and mom, the three little terrors settled down to further gorge their fat little bellies on mom’s milk. Eventually Brent left the sighting as the sun sank beyond the western horizon with all four cats soundly sleeping in the ebbing darkness.
(Nkuhuma cubs with mom, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)
To the far east on the vast open expanses that comprise Cheetah Plains, James had his own spot of cub luck. It seems that all eight of the Styx cubs have been found. Yet there is an obvious difference between the fat fluffy Nkuhuma cubs and the somewhat skinny and scraggly looking Styx cubs. It seems all the Styx cubs have fallen victim to a fungal infection of the skin, their ears were tipped with dark and raw nodules and their tawny fluff has fallen flat. The cubs were also left in a rather peculiar position, three of the eight were stashed rather riskily in the open expanse of a dried up pan while the other five huddled close together on a nearby termite mound. All eight of the cubs, licked and scratched at their little bodies constantly, seemingly unable to gain any relief from their relentless skin condition. Things were certainly not looking up for the latest members of the Styx pride as their mother were nowhere in sight, yet as anxieties intensified a report came through on the game drive radio. The three adult Styx lionesses had been located on Mala Mala and were making their way north towards the cubs. James then left the fidgeting felines and managed to catch up with the Styx lionesses who by that time had already gone flat and were enjoying a late afternoon nap. After a brief sighting James decided to move on, all hopes high that once darkness arrived the lionesses would fetch their cubs.
(Styx cub, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, Cheetah Plains, safariLIVE)
Tuesday the 16th of August
Another dawn broke warm and muggy. The temperatures are definitely starting to increase in the mornings here, a definite fact not gone unnoticed or unappreciated by the safariLIVE crew. As Brent set out, booming roars broke the predawn silence and he was off to the northeast at pace to try and catchup with the Birmingham males. Yet as he made his way into the area reports indicated the cats had gone flat a mere 400m from the Djuma boundary. Slightly disappointed he decided to try his luck at Buffelshoek dam and, as fate would have it, Brent’s lion luck returned in full force. The Nkuhuma lioness known as Amber-Eyes was resting regally in the road, her expression was one of concentration as she called out to her pride mates. Eventually she repositioned to a sunnier spot on a high bank over-looking the lime green shallow contents of the dam. WE watched Amber-Eyes sunning herself and calling out to other Nkuhumas, soon another lioness appeared with three very special surprises in tow.
(Youngest Nkuhuma cubs, Screenshot Credit: Debra W. Baudoin, safariLIVE, Djuma)
As far as WE know this is the first time the three littlest Nkuhuma’s have ever been introduced to another pride member. After a few hesitant approaches, the bravest of the cubs touched it’s face to Amber’s, with no ill effect. As the day began to warm however a few of Africa’s other iconic animals decided to make their way to the dam and appeared in the form of elephants. Not long after arrival the elephants caught wind of the lions and trumpeted their displeasure, this seemed to motivate the lions to relocate. Brent followed closely and soon the bush was crawling with lions as the other five cubs accompanied by three adult Nkuhuma lionesses reunited with their pride mates. This is definitely the tiny cubs first introduction to the pride (watch video here). The older cubs bounded up to the youngsters with endless enthusiasm only to be met with an angry swat and growl from a very protective mom. Eventually after a few more reprimands for rough behaviour all thirteen of the Nkuhuma’s settled down for their daylight cat nap and WE left the sighting feeling truly elated at our unbelievable luck! Later that afternoon Brent returned to the scene, although the majority of the pride had now moved off, one proud lioness with her three fuzzballs remained completely exhausted from the morning’s exertions. The cats spent the afternoon dozing in late afternoon warmth with not a care in the world.
(Oldest Nkuhuma cubs with mom, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)
Wednesday the 17th of August
The morning began warm and muggy, thick grey clouds hanging in the sky served as an insulating blanket trapping the sun’s heat from the sunny afternoon before. Distant roars to the east did not go unnoticed and James made his way swiftly to Buffelshoek dam hoping to catch up with the Nkuhuma pride. After some skillful off-road weaving in the Wendy, James found himself with one very proud mom and the three littlest Nkuhumas. The cubs scampered about attacking the odd and unfortunate baboons tail plant and taking turns to re-murder mom’s black pompom tail tip. It seems with each passing day the courageous cubs become ever braver and today was no exception. The cubs repeatedly approached the vehicle, coming within mere centimeters of a delighted James and Wium (watch video here). Eventually even mom strolled nonchalantly towards the vehicle before placing herself directly behind Wium with not a single concern about her close proximity. She allowed her little terrors to suckle briefly before heading off towards the Buffelshoek dam. While en route she encountered a few hapless and unawares impala, she became torn between the instinctual desire to hunt and the relentless, demanding attentions of her cubs. Yet as fate would have it, her cubs gave the game away with their continual contact calling, the impala snorted in alarmed disgust and the lioness was forced to continue on her way. Eventually the four felines ambled down to the lime green edge of what should probably be named Buffelshoek puddle. The lioness drank for quite some time as her cubs tumbled on the bright sandy shores before the heavens open and released a brief but not entirely insubstantial amount of rain. The lions made haste into a thick and sheltered block when James decided to leave them to their morning’s activities.
(Youngest Nkuhuma cub, Screenshot Credit: Katrina Kissinger, safariLIVE, Djuma)
The afternoon brought with it a spot more luck. Karula had been successful in taking down a yearling impala ram and of course Xongile and Hosana were there to enjoy the spoils. Brent arrived at the rather sedate sighting on Arathusa to find all three spectacular spotted cats relaxing in leopard splendor, rotund fluffy white bellies preceding their golden spotted pelts. Xongile and Hosana are developing at an alarming rate and are fast losing the baby-faced, fuzzy appearance of young cubs. Clearly gorging on impala ram is a taxing process and both cubs spent the duration of the sighting enjoying the relief of cooling pools of shade. Karula on the other hand soon leaped up the tree and started on her afternoon tea. Eventually Brent needed to leave the sighting to make way for other safari goers and afford them a chance to spend some time with the Queen, the little prince and the beautiful princess of Djuma.
(Xongile, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Arathusa)
Thursday the 18th of August
Another overcast start to the morning. Clouds hung thick and ominous in the predawn gloom as Brent and James made their way out of camp. Yet again luck was on Brent’s side as he soon managed to locate 10 lions, comprising of 4 adult Nkuhuma lionesses, 5 of the picture perfect Nkuhuma cubs and one Birmingham male in all his glory. The lions spent the start of the sunrise safari mobile through some very thick bush and certainly putting Brent’s driving to the test. Eventually the lions decided to break for a while after their extreme exertion of energy. The cubs scampered about the adults playing and pouncing on anything that dared to move within their sharp eye line. Eventually chaotic cub collective settled for a morning nap, much to the relief of their harassed looking parents, ensuring the survival of 5 overactive cubs is certainly no easy feat! Later on the sunset safari all cats were flatter than pancakes as they lazed in cooling shady relief. The scene presented itself as calm and tranquil until of course the Birmingham male made a social faux pas. One of the lionesses approached him to have a sniff, he growled in response and then all hell broke loose yet again. Two lionesses launched at the unfortunate male swatting him from all angles (watch video here)! Once the tiff was over he roared out his displeasure and dominance until eventually choosing a safe spot to rest right next to the vehicle. The cubs, clearly provoked by the fight, joined in with their little “roars” sounding more like strangled house cats. Just when WE thought it could get anymore exciting the cubs then squabbled among themselves over access to mom’s milk. Eventually the sighting returned to a soporific state of heavy eyelids and gentle breathing as the cats napped away the rest of the afternoon.
(Nkuhuma cub, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)
To the far east however a new safariLIVE favourite was on the move with murderous intents in her eyes. Inkanyeni proweld the brittle grey winter bush focussed intently on the hunt. Her cavernous belly gave away her intentions as she slunk from termite mound to termite mound. Rumour had it that she had stashed her cubs on the southern most boundary and although WE were not fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of her cubs, it is certainly good news to hear that both are alive and doing well. The fluffy tailed leopardess spent the afternoon alternating between states of liquid stalking and solid resting. Eventually she crossed south into Mala Mala where she rested on an ancient termite mound gazing in a sultry manner over her shoulder at Brent, almost teasing him. Soon a small dazzle of zebra caught her attention, spots and striped existed in harmony for a brief period before Inkanyeni eventually crossed back into Cheetah Plains and then immediately into Kruger. Brent stayed with the stunning feline until we eventually lost sight of her in the growing darkness of the early evening.
(Inkanyeni, Screenshot Credit: Linda McCaslin, safariLIVE, Cheetah Plains)
Friday the 19th of August
Lions, lions everywhere! Another roaring start to the day with the Nkuhuma pride, the cubs and the Birmingham males! The cat collective came to a total count of twelve lions, four of the Nkuhuma lionesses, five of the cuddly cubs and three of the Birmingham males. As with most families, it appeared that dinner had brought them all together and it came in the form of a rather smelly buffalo carcass. The cause of the bovids death is not 100% certain but Brent reckoned the buffalo brute had been killed by the three Birmingham males a few days prior, especially judging by the smell! All the cts spent the morning sleeping off substantial food comas, the chests rose and fell at a rapid pace as their protruding bellies rested on the cooling earth. WE managed to have a brief sighting of the cubs yet laziness was certainly the order of the day. Later on the sunset safari the lionesses and cubs retreaded into the shady thickets while the males slept soundly near the carcass.
(Nkuhuma lioness and cubs, Screenshot Credit: Gail Murphy, safariLIVE, Djuma)
Of course the afternoon could not be complete without a sighting of the Queen herself. Karula was found ambling her way down to Twin dams, more accurately described as a puddle, where she paused for a long refreshing drink. Once finished she continued on her way south and eventually came to a stop on the southern boundary. She sat and gazed pensively across the boundary, tail in a constant state of twitch. The Queen however is full of surprises and soon exploded into a jog across the boundary before flattening herself to the ground stalking. Her almost liquid like movements were mesmerizing as she carefully picked her way through the undergrowth. Eventually we lost sight of her as her perfectly camouflaged pelage blended expertly with the yellow and grey dappled colours of the winter bushveld.
(Karula, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)