Friday the 11th of November
The sunset safari was once again filled to the brim with big cat action. Jamie managed to catch up with two of the Birmingham males, Tinyo and Mfumo, both still present at the site of the Nkuhuma pride’s latest kill. The lionesses and cubs themselves were nowhere to be seen. The two big males however fed and relaxed in the peace of the reprieve of a cooler day. As the dark and cloudy sky began its descent into the night the big males began to contact call and roar into the gathering darkness.
(Birmingham male, Tinyo, looks into the light, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)
Saturday the 12th of November
The next morning brought with it another lion sunrise. Yet only one Nkuhuma lioness and five cubs were visible through the dense thicket they had chosen to rest up in. Later that afternoon the lions had moved out into a visible area where WE were finally able to get a good look at our favourite lion characters. Only two lionesses and five cubs were present as the tawny cats ambled their way down to a muddy puddle for an evening drink.
(Nkuhuma cub plays in a thicket, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)
Not far from where the Nkuhuma pride had been resting up was one of the Styx lionesses in the throws of passion with Mfumo, one of the dominant male lions in the area. The pair were mostly flat and sleepy for the duration of the afternoon. Yet the mere fact that the Styx lioness and Birmingham male are together creates great hope and promise for the future of the Styx pride. Having seen these lionesses mating in the past few weeks indicates that within the next three months WE could see a new generation of Styx cubs being brought into the wilderness.
(Styx lioness relaxing in the shade, Screenshot Credit: Agnes Zsiga, safariLIVE, Djuma)
Sunday the 13th of November
The morning began cold and cloudy once again, and this time the sombre morning mood was intensified by the discovery that one of the Nkuhuma cubs was missing. Reports from the night indicated that the lions had tried and failed to take down a fully grown hippo. Although nothing is confirmed, it was suggested that perhaps the cub had been separated during the hunt. The rest of the cubs and one lioness were found standing regally upon the Vuyatela dam wall. Soon however the cats made their way into a dense thicket and WE left the lions to continue with their daily business. Later on that afternoon it seemed two more lionesses had reunited with the pride. Yet there were still only seven cubs visible in the sighting. Reports came in indicating that Amber Eyes and the youngest Nkuhuma lioness were with Tinyo, one of the Birmingham males. WE watched the cats sleep off the miserable weather and eventually left when the sighting became too dark.
(Nkuhuma pride stop for a drink, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)
On a happier note, Queen Karula and her two cubs were located on Djuma this morning. The royal threesome made their way through the bush from termite mound to termite mound where they would spend a few minutes relaxing and taking in their surroundings. Eventually the spotted trio came upon a herd of impala. Hunting instincts engaged and the cats went into stealth mode, the impala however, were not so easily fooled. They caught a glimpse of a golden, rosette covered pelt and dashed into the bush snorting with indignation. Later that afternoon when WE returned, only the little princess was visible. It seemed Karula had left the cubs on the safety of a termite mound while she scoured the landscape alone looking for a meal. Eventually young Hosana popped his head up and the young prince and princess played with enthusiasm until it was too dark for us to stay any longer.
(The young princess Xongile on a termite mound watching her brother, Screenshot Credit: Ravi Teja, safariLIVE, Djuma)
Monday the 14th of November
Another wet start to the sunrise safari as the safariLIVE crew headed out in the gloomy dawn of another African day. The mood set by the grey clouds reflected the truly heart breaking sighting of the morning. After kicking off the morning with a sighting of the Nkuhuma pride, still one cub short, WE received word that one of the Birmingham males was having a drink at the pan. Brent raced over and managed to catch up with Mfumo as he jogged off through some thick bush. WE stuck with him and eventually he came to a halt at a single Nkuhuma lioness. She was staring intently into a small ravine and contact calling constantly. Soon WE could hear strained and distressed calls in return. Brent shifted forward ever so slightly and found the missing cub in a heart wrenching state. The cub was lying in the centre of a muddy wallow, surrounded by massive male lion tracks. Upon closer inspection it became clear that the cub was paralysed from its waist to it’s black tail tip. The cub called constantly to it’s mother for some relief. The lioness responded by approaching the cub and nudging it gently encouraging it to follow. But it was no use, the cub was unable to stand or even sit up so instead it cried out in fear and pain. Eventually Brent left the sighting, unable to bare the tragic scene any longer. Later that afternoon he returned to find the cub in the same state. WE spent only a few brief moments there before leaving and returning to the rest to the pride. This time all five lionesses were present with Mfumo. They slept off the miserable cloudy day and just as the sunset safari came to a close Mfumo treated us to a mighty roar.
(Nkuhuma lioness watches over her injured cub, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)
On a lighter note WE were treated to a sighting of some of safariLIVE’s favourite brothers. The unnamed cheetah coalition were found making their way across the vast open spaces on Cheetah Plains. The brother were full to bursting, it was a wonder as to how they were even able to move their slender (yet extremely) round bodies across the plains. Eventually they crossed the southern boundary into Mala Mala were the rested for the rest of the day. When Jamie returned to the area later that afternoon the two brothers were lying fat and flat on the open plains of Mala Mala, looking rather like to spotted beach balls! They glanced over their shoulders which only contributed further to the comical sight. Jamie didn’t stay long with the brothers as the cloudy day gathered darkness leading into a gloomy night.
(Not-so-sleek-and-slender cheetah brothers making their way across the plains, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Cheetah Plains)
Tuesday the 15th of November
Another dawn in gloomy atmosphere, light rain drifted relentlessly from the sky as thick clouds blocked the sun’s radiant light. James’s first stop for the morning was to check on the injured cub, sadly, there seems to have been little change over night. The stillness of the dying cub was broken only by the rapid rise and fall of it’s chest as it’s breathing became shallower and more labored. James barely spent five minutes at the tragic scene before moving on to catch up with the rest of the pride about a mile to the north. The lions seemed intent on sleeping out the worst of the cold, wet morning and did so with the expertise that only comes from a lifetime of practicing 20 hour naps. That afternoon WE received a report that was relieving in it’s devastation, mercifully the paralysed cub had passed on during the day. Yet the heartache is not yet over for either us or the lions. When the muscular tawny cats eventually rose from their afternoon slumber and began to head off it seemed there was a second cub in the pride afflicted with a similar condition. One of the cubs refused to get up, or indeed move that much. Once again, the cubs mother approached the youngster and nudged it gently encouraging it to follow the pride. Yet this was to no avail. Brent stuck with the Birmingham male, Mfumo, on the move not wanting to miss any of the potential action. This gamble soon paid off, as the big male made his way into a nearby drainage he was greeted by his coalition mate, Tinyo. Initially the pair seemed most content in each other's company before chaos took over. Out of nowhere the massive males began to fight viciously, so much so that the Nkuhuma lionesses joined in the scrap swiping at both of them until the fight was over. The lions then settled into a moody stillness broken only by angry growls of warning.
(Mfumo stretches out his muscular, tawny body before fighting with Tinyo, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)
To the south the little prince and princess of Djuma had been found. Huddled together against the cold wet wet morning, Hosana and Xongile struck miserable little poses in the constant drizzle. Hosana, clearly in a state of discomfort, became restless and paced around his sister trying and failing to find a dry comfy spot to rest up and wait for Karula. Once he had settled the cubs barely made a move, clearly not wanting to get any wetter than they already were. Later that afternoon, they had managed to conceal themselves so expertly that no one was able to relocate them.
(A wet and unimpressed looking Hosana gazing into the bush, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)
They may, however, have been another reason as to why the cubs were nowhere to be found. A dispersal pack of three adult wild dogs came coursing through the area leaving a trail of pendemonium in their wake. It appeared to be the Lower Sabi dispersal pack comprising of two adult males and one female. The dogs coursed through the bush at top speed looking for any prey item to terrorise. Jamie managed to keep up with them as they wove their way through thicket after thicket. Eventually they disappeared into a viciously thick block and Jamie left, allowing them the silence they so desperately need to hunt.
(Lower Sabi wild dog pack on the move, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)
Wednesday the 16th of November
Another difficult day for the lions began with yet more gloomy weather. WE caught up with three of the Nkuhuma lionesses, five of their cubs and one of the Birmingham males. It seems yet another cub has succumbed to whatever mystery ailment is currently afflicting the gorgeous youngsters. The rest of the cubs were tucked away behind a dense thicket and they snoozed peacefully. Later on that afternoon the sun came out and the day grew hot, Brent returned to the lions to find them all sleeping off the heat of the day. This time a second Birmingham male had joined the pride. The cats barely moved and only showed a few signs of life as the sun began to set beyond the western horizon and the final minutes of the sunset safari came to a close.
(Mfumo in the afternoon light, Screenshot Credit:Karen Gilliam, safariLIVE, Djuma)
To the south a more pleasant scene played out with Queen Karula and her two cubs. Early that morning Karula had managed to capture a small nyala lamb. The lamb was still alive as she returned to the cubs. Young Hosana then approached his gorgeous slender mother and she presented him with the incapacitated lamb. As difficult as things are in the wild, this provided a perfect opportunity for Hosana to refine his hunting and killing skills. He pounce on the lamb and it was all over within a matter of minutes. The cubs then exploded with excitement and pounced on the carcass repeatedly while Karula watched on. Later that afternoon both mother and cubs were settled in and looking rather well fed. Upon arrival Jamie found Karula and Hosana relaxing while Xongile greedily devoured the carcass. Eventually Xongile finished her meal and joined her mother and brother for a few moments before all three cats were up and off.
(Young Hosana peering curiously from behind some verdat bush, Screenshot Credit: Karen Gilliam, safariLIVE, Djuma)
Thursday the 17th of November
It was a quiet start to the day for the safariLIVE crew. The Nkuhuma pride had made their way north during the night and were reported to be on a fresh buffalo kill the next morning. Yet despite the lack of big cat action for the morning the afternoon was full of our favourite felines! WE started off with some long missed safariLIVE favourites. The Tsalala pride had been found nestled in the shade on Arathusa. At least two lionesses and three young subadult males were present at the sighting. The afternoon was warm and sunny and therefore the cats were taking a shady reprieve on top of a termite mound. As the afternoon wore on the cats made their way to-and-fro from a nearby pan where they quenched their thirst. Eventually it came to time to leave the big cats as the sun began to set over the western horizon.
(Tsalala sub adult male gazing into the distance, Screenshot Credit: Gail Murphy, safariLIVE, Arathusa)
To the north, Tingana had been found, also resting in the cooling relief of a shady termite mound. He remained in this static state from quite some time until eventually he rose, yawned and slowly made his across the western boundary and into Djuma. He looked to be in great condition despite his empty belly. Jamie spent as much time as she could with the dominant male before he eventually melted into the darkening bush.
(Tingana the dominant male leopard, Screenshot Credit: Gail Murphy, safariLIVE, Djuma)