Friday the 16th of December
The drive kicked off with another sighting of a safariLIVE favourite. Shadow had been located once again but this time she was on the move and scent marking, staking her firm claim on her territory in Arathusa. She wondered for a bit, climbed castle like termite mounds and stood gracefully atop a tall and slender marula tree. Her belly and mammaries looked as swollen as ever and hopefully WE should soon get to meet the new royal litter.
(Shadow surveying her territory, Screenshot Credit: Marieke van Nistelrooij, safariLIVE, Djuma)
Saturday the 17th of December
The warm summer morning was off to a roaring start with Mfumo, the largest of the Birmingham males. Somehow, he had picked up a new injury under his right eye which was already red and swollen. He soon disappeared into a thick drainage line. Later that afternoon WE caught up with him once again as he slept off the heat of the day. Once the sun had set and the air cooled he was up and scent marking and even treated us to a few bone rattling roars! Little did he know however, that while he had been walking through the bush, a stowaway had crept into his mane. A tiny baby chameleon was climbing furiously through his thick and darkening locks.
(Mfumo waking up from an afternoon catnap, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)
Sunday the 18th of December
Another great day of big cat action. Tingana, the dominant male leopard in the area, had been found pacing determinedly through the bush. He scent marked and prowled his territory with intent before he eventually gave us the slip.
(Tingana scent marking his territory, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)
Not to worry however, later on that day WE had another spot of luck. Young Hosana, Karula’s young prince had been located on the southern boundary. He was determined to catch himself a terrapin that was bobbing in a muddy pan. There were a few heart pumping moments as WE all though he may take a plunge into the murky water after quarry. Yet he soon lost interest and crossed out of our traverse to the south.
(Young Hosana trying his paw at terrapin fishing, Screenshot Credit: Hélène van Dijk, safariLIVE, Djuma)
But that wasn’t all from the big cats! The Nkuhuma pride had once again been located on Arathusa. Full to bursting after their latest beefy buffalo meal, they spent the afternoon fat, flat and perfectly happy. All five lionesses were present and accounted for as well as their six healthy cubs. It seems the Nkuhuma pride are back on the up!
(Sleepy Nkuhuma lioness getting ready for another nap, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Arathusa)
Monday the 19th of December
The morning dawned with a visit from our two favourite spotted speedsters. The cheetah brother coalition were making their steady way south across the open plains. They were definitely hungry and on the lookout for any hunting opportunity. Just such an opportunity presented itself as they attempted to hunt a herd of zebra. Unfortunately for the world's fastest cats they just weren’t quick enough. Soon after they decided to relax in the shade, avoiding the taxing heat of the day.
(Male cheetah gazing out over the plains, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Cheetah Plains)
Not far from where the two cheetah brothers were relaxing WE were also able to catch up with Inkanyeni and her 14 month old male cub Vutomi. Inkanyeni had made a successful impala kill and the breathtaking leopards were found with full round bellies. They spent the day relaxing in the shade digesting their latest meal.
(Inkanyeni relaxing after a night of feeding, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Cheetah Plains)
To the west however, the Nkuhuma pride had been found. Once again they cat napped the afternoon away after yet another intense feeding session on their latest buffalo kill. As the sun began to sink low contact calls could be heard and all of a sudden four of the lionesses were up and soon followed by all six cubs. They jogged easily through the bush until they settled once again this time with the previously missing and contact calling lioness.
(Nkuhuma cub suckling, Screenshot Credit: Hélène van Dijk, safariLIVE, Arathusa)
Finally the last sighting of the day was a real treat indeed. Both Hosana and Xongile had been found on Djuma not far from camp. Karula had managed to kill a small impala lamb and left the carcass for her two hungry and growing cubs. The great queen herself was nowhere in sight. So WE spent the afternoon with the little prince and princess as they dozed away the afternoon.
(Beautiful Xongile gazes at the camera, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)
Tuesday the 20th of December
The morning began full of hope as sightings of one of the Nkuhuma lionesses came flooding in from the Djuma dam cam. Soon after WE were with them as they lazed about in the heart of Djuma. Once again all five lionesses and their six cubs were present, although not as full as they had been earlier in the week, they were still content to spend the day snoozing in the shade without too much worry over finding food just yet.
(Nkuhuma cub greeting her pride mate, Screenshot Credit: Gail Murphy, safariLIVE, Djuma)
To the east WE we once again managed to catch up with Inkanyeni’s young male cub Vutomi. As playful as any young male leopard should be, he moved with youthful easy grace through the bush over logs and under branches. Eventually the bright brown coat of a steenbok caught his attention and he went into stalk mode. He snuck up as best he could until eventually he was spotted and his potential victim bounded away through the wilderness. Later that afternoon we caught up with him once again, this time he had a friend with him, well friend is a strong term… “Tony 2 Step” the spekes hinge tortoise, found himself clamped firmly beneath the paws of young Vutomi. After a harrowing scuttle to freedom, Tony found himself under the safe shade of a Cheetah Plains guest land cruiser. Vutomi then lost interest and scampered through the bush before coming to rest on the tip top of a large termite mound.
(Votumi gazes up at us while having a drink, Screenshot Credit: Hélène van Dijk, safariLIVE, Arathusa)
Wednesday the 21st of December
Another night on the prowl eventually lead the lions right past the safariLIVE crew camp. Right before the sunrise safari began we caught a glimpse of the big cats crossing a clearing in front of the gate, all five lionesses with six cubs and two Birmingham males in tow. Once safariLIVE began WE came to realise all was not as it seemed. The lionesses growled and snarled at the big male showing clear displeasure at their presence. Eventually Nenha and Amber Eyes separated from the group for more amorous activities as the other four lionesses wondered west with the cubs. WE stuck with the larger group of lions before they eventually went to shelter in the shade for the day.
(Little floppy ear Nkuhuma cub watching her pride mates, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)
Of course how could any day in the bush be complete without a leopard sighting. Well the young princess Xongile provided us with just such an opportunity. We caught up with the latest royal cub as she lazed in all her regal beauty on top of a termite mound. Eventually she made her way to a second taller mound where she spent the rest of the warm summer afternoon.
(The young princess Xongile resting atop a termite mound, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)
Thursday the 22nd of December
Another volcanic day began in the lowveld as the blinding sun peaked over the eastern horizon. Xongile and Hosana had been located near Twin Dams exploring and playing. A small herd of waterbuck then passed by and both leopards flattened themselves and playfully snuck closer to the herd until loud snorts gave the young leopards away. Next they were up the the tall slender trunk of an ancient torchwood tree playing freely. Soon they came back down and eventually settled near the water’s edge taking refuge from the blistering heat of the day. Later that afternoon only the young prince Hosana was found playing near a muddy pan.He gazed curiously at the bobbing terrapins, thirsty diving birds and his own reflection before going flat for the afternoon.
(Young Hosana looks at his tail with unbound curiosity, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)
To the far east another young male leopard was spotted. Vutomi had been found once again on Cheetah plains, the young male played shy for a while before play stalking through the yellow grass. The young male then decided it was time for a twilight cat nap.
(Votumi looks at us playfully over the top of a termite mound, Screenshot Credit: Ravi Teja, safariLIVE, Cheetah Plains)
Back on Djuma Tingana had been found resting near Buffelshoek dam, he lay in the cool sand regally until eventually he was up and on the move. He paced through the verdant bush scent marking as he went until eventually he crossed out of our traverse, east, and into Torchwood.
(Tingana looking out over his territory, Screenshot Credit: Ravi Teja, safariLIVE, Djuma)
As much as WE love the leopards however, it is always wonderful to catch up with the incredible Nkuhuma lionesses. Amber Eyes had also been spotted at Buffelshoek dam laying atop a tall bank gazing far to the west. After a few minutes of angrily swatting flies she was up and called out gently to her pride mates. She then quenched her thirst before calling out a few more times into the night. In the heart of Djuma, her call was heard by a second lioness relaxing near the Djuma pan. She in turn, gazed towards her amber eyed pride mate at buffelshoek dam. Eventually both lions melted into the darkness.
(Amber Eyes Nkuhuma having an evening drink, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)