Saturday the 3rd of September
An exciting spotted twist was in store for the safariLIVE crew. A new leopardess had been spotted, by our incredible viewers, at the Djuma dam cam halfway through the sunset safari. WE sent James over right away, once he arrived at the pan the newcomer took off as fast as her agile legs could take her. James kept his distance at first, reticent to put too much pressure on the extremely pretty leopardess. Yet after a short time she had settled down and soon relaxed with the presence of the vehicle. Once we’d had a good look at her it became clear that it was a young female leopard known as Nchila. Her origins story begins in the west, she is daughter to Nsele and the Anderson male as well as granddaughter to Salayexe. This was only the second time WE had managed to catch a glimpse of her on safariLIVE. Once she had settled in a soothing patch of shade, James spent the golden afternoon with her in peace and tranquility. Here incandescent eyes gleamed in blue-green radiance as she cast soulful looks over the surrounding landscape. WE eventually left the gorgeous cat as darkness began to blanket Djuma.
(Nchila, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)
Sunday the 4th of September
Sunday morning lions are always a win and what could be better than three of the gorgeous Nkuhuma lionesses and one impressive Birmingham male. The cats began their day on the move, the Birmingham male whiled his time away by scent marking and rubbing his face on and nearby guarri bush while the females lumbered along slowly behind him. Every now and then the lions took a brief respite from the sheer physical effort of walking. Yet after the odd stretch and yawn they were soon on the move again. Eventually the lounging lions disappeared into the depths of a shady drainage line, where they spent the day sheltering from the ever increasing hot radiance of the African sun.
(Nkuhuma lioness yawning, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)
A little further to the west but still in the heart of Djuma, WE had another spot, or more accurately a rosette, of luck. Sindile, the wanderer was back! This time he was simply making his way back through the area. With no kill to occupy him, he wove his way through a rather substantial monkey orange thicket while taking well-timed rests upon the crests of ancient termite mounds. He tried his luck with what looked to be a promising impala stalk, but after painstaking and stealthy movement he was spotted. The impala dashed off snorting out their disgust and Sindile was left looking rather embarrassed. WE stuck around to observe him for a while longer, until he went flatter than a termite squashed by an elephant.
(Sindile, Screenshot Credit: Gail Murphy, safariLIVE, Djuma)
Later on that afternoon Tristan, a safariLIVE guide interviewee, knocked it out of the park with another sighting of the lions. This time all 5 of the Nkuhumas, eight cubs and their potential Birmingham suitor were present. While the adult lions slept off the warm afternoon the cubs played relentlessly. Buffalo killing was the name of the game and the cubs showed off those all important killing skills on each other, any twig that dared move as well as a few unfortunate pieces of elephant dung. At one point, two extremely brave, or stupid, crested francolins dashed past the lions and picked up two little stalkers. But little lions’ stumpy, cub legs were no match for the quick paced shuffling of the lucky avians. So the scene remained until the final closing minute of the sunset safari.
(Nkuhuma cubs playing, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)
Monday the 5th of September
With the dawn of a new week came the next installment of what can only be described as an epic soap opera. Shadow and Tingana had been located on the southernmost boundary of Djuma. Still in the throws of passion, the copulating cats lay in gold and grey marbled shade. Rumors over the radio suggested that Queen Karula was also in the sighting, it was said the great queen had been following her daughter, Shadow, and the potential father of her royal cubs ever since they had stolen her impala kill two days before. Yet her majestic and slender form had yet to materialise. Shadow and Tingana engaged in a brief copulation before settling down in the only available shade.
(Tingana, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)
It wasn’t long however, before the great queen leopardess of Djuma showed up. She emerged from copper and gold bush that matched her beautiful rosetted pelt perfectly. She cast a disapproving look in the direction of Shadow and Tingana before heading off eastwards. Jamie managed to keep up with her steady pace as she walked determinedly parallel to the boundary road. In the blink of an eye she had disappeared and WE were all left watching a tiny and oblivious grey duiker nibbling on what little browse it could find. The tiny antelope was a clear target for Karula and wandered ever closer to danger as it went about it’s morning business. With no clue as to Karula’s exact position all we could do was watched with pounding hearts. As quickly as she had disappeared she then re-appeared almost as if by magic! There she was, standing as clear as day in the center of area Jamie had been scrutinising so carefully. This just serves as another example of how unbelievably camouflaged these stunning cats are. Once the hunt was over Karula continued her eastward march and soon vanished in a thicket just south of the Djuma boundary.
(Queen Karula atop a termite mound, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)
Back in the centre of Djuma the lions had been found once again. It seems the Nkuhumas rather like the area and have made themselves very much at home. They were spread out over a large area, some lazing in the shady relief of a deep dry river bed while others reclined in all their tawny glory. The cubs, clearly pooped from a long night of bothering their moms and aunts slept heavily in dappled shade. James eventually left the comatose cats just as the sunrise drive came to a close. That afternoon James returned to the lackadaisical lions, still firmly ensconced in their shaded glade. The cubs, still active as ever, pestered their moms for milky afternoon snacks and pounced on anything that dared move or dared not to move. The beauty of being a lion cub, you see, is that everything in your environment is a toy that must be killed at all costs. The lions lazed away the hottest hours and barely showed any inkling of motion even as the sun set and darkness enveloped the land.
(Sleepy Nkuhuma cub, Screenshot Credit: Claire Armendinger, safariLIVE, Djuma)
Tuesday the 6th of September
The boys were back in town, one of the impressive and four-member strong Birmingham male coalition were found on Djuma. Initially the maned behemoths ambled their way slowly through open clearing, taking great care to scent mark on any bush that was brazen enough to bare leaves. Eventually the toll of their nightly activity became too much, they flopped down as only male lions can and began to snooze in the ever warming apricity of the fast approaching summer.
(Birmingham male, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)
Wednesday the 7th of September
The day began in a rush of excitement. Moments before the safariLIVE crew was due to go out on the sunrise drive, two of the Nkuhuma cubs were spotted drinking at the pan via the live dam camera. The sighting however presented an unusual situation as the two little rascals were all on their own with not an adult anywhere in sight. Moments before Jamie arrived in the sighting the cubs had scampered off in a hurry behind the Vuyatela dam wall. Jamie then spent quite some time searching for them as well as the rest of the pride. With no tracks of the lions coming out of the block, this proved to be quite the early morning challenge. Jamie eventually made her way back to the dam in the hopes of maybe picking up on any sign of tawny coloured fuzzballs. Instead, she was greeted by six little Nkuhuma cubs being followed closely by the rest of the Nkuhuma pride. All five lionesses were present once again and the scene unfolded in golden hour glory as the rising sun cast it’s radiant morning rays across the Djuma pan. The lions drank long and deep from the cool water, once the cubs had finished it was back to the serious business of play time. They scampered and ran about the shallow puddles near the pan, tripped over large lioness paws and even had a little rough and tumble with good old aunty Amber-Eyes. Eventually the lions made their way back into the shaded relief of the Milawati drainage line behind the dam wall. There they slept off the hottest part of the day, they only moved deeper into the dense thicket as the sun slowly burned it’s way across the sky.
(Nkuhuma lionesses with 6 cubs, Screenshot Credit: Marieke van Nistelrooij, safariLIVE, Djuma)
Later that afternoon, Jamie returned to the flat cats with high hopes that the missing two cubs had been reunited with the pride as they had disappeared only moments before the pride arrived and mere meters from where the Nkuhuma family lay. Unfortunately this was not the case. Only six cubs were present in the sighting, which left the whereabouts of the other two a total mystery. Nevertheless, the cubs played with never ending energy, much to the disgruntlement of the sleeping lionesses. Eventually the sun sank behind the mountains to the west and it came time to leave the Nkuhumas. Only time will tell the future and fate of the two lost cubs.
(Nkuhuma cub, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)
Friday the 9th of September
The morning began with high hopes of some big cat action. But after a morning of rigorous tracking by both Brent, Tayla and Rexon WE were just that little bit too late. Smoking fresh lion tracks were found crossing Buffelshoek cutline, Djuma’s most northern boundary. The safariLIVE crew returned to camp with more questions than answers. Of course at the forefront of everyone's minds was the fate of the two missing Nkuhuma cubs. Later on in the sunset drive, Brent tried his luck at Buffelshoek dam on the off chance that the lions had returned. As fate would have it, his bet paid off and he bumped into one Nkuhuma lioness accompanied by only six of the Nkuhuma cubs. Hearts sank as the whereabouts of the missing two cubs was still a mystery. WE followed the one big cat and six little big cats as they wandered through the bush. Eventually they emerged onto the road and after surrounding the vehicle, they all went flat. As the darkness grew over the Sabi Sands, hopeful hearts sank further, it looked as though the missing cubs were in for another night on their own. A lioness then rose and dashed off away from the six remaining cubs, the reason for this odd behaviour then became clear. Two skinny and slightly roughed-up cubs scampered excitedly to the lioness, after a quick head count it was confirmed. The two missing cubs had found their way home and reunited with their brothers, sisters and cousins in the most spectacular way imaginable! If that was not enough all nine lions then set off back towards Buffelshoek dam. There WE witnessed the entirety of the pride rejoining each other! All five lionesses and eight perfect little cubs rubbed heads, exchanged licks and called out out in sheer excitement and happiness. It was a perfect way to end off the day!
(Missing Nkuhuma cubs reuniting with the pride, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)