Friday, 30 December 2016

The Cat Report 23 - 30 December

Friday the 23rd of December

This weeks cat report couldn’t have kicked off in a better way. Queen Karula and her two cubs Hosana and Xongile were found sharing a family meal on the southern boundary of Djuma. Karula basked on the cool sand while Xongile fed and Hosana looked on. Once Xongile had eaten her fill it was the little prince’s turn - he tucked into what was left, gobbling down as much as he could.

1 Hosana 23 Dec PM.jpg
(Hosana deciding where to place a kill, Screenshot Credit: Ravi Teja, safariLIVE, Djuma)

Slightly to the east, Thandi, one of Karula’s daughters, was found resting in a tall marula tree. She spent the better part of the afternoon fast asleep with her eyes shut to the blazing afternoon heat. Eventually we left Thandi as she showed very little interest in do anything other than cat napping.

2 Thandi 23 Dec PM.jpg
(Thandi reclining in a tall marula, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)

Saturday the 24th of December

WE spent another great morning with the royal family. At first Karula was discovered calling and sawing in the Milwati drainage line. Soon the cubs came bounding through the thick undergrowth to join her. The sleek spotted felines then made their way to twin dams for a morning drink before disappearing for the morning over the southern boundary. Later that afternoon however, WE found Hosana and Xongile relaxing next to their favourite pan at twin dams. Hosana resumed his most favourite activity of terrapin hunting while his sister lounged about at the water’s edge. The two young leopards tumbled about for a bit before eventually settling down.

3 Xongile 24 Dec AM.jpg
(Xongile stands before a huge marula tree, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)

To the far east on Cheetah Plains a large and not so fluffy surprise lay in wait for the safariLIVE crew. After a long hiatus from the limelight, it was about time that the Styx pride returned. WE only got a view of two of the big lionesses as they lounged about near the Cheetah Plains lodge. There was no sign of the third lioness or cubs. Eventually we left the flat cats in search of other African critters.

4 Styx lioness 24 Dec PM.jpg
(Styx lioness panting heavily in the heat, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Cheetah Plains)

Monday the 26th of December

Another treat to the east as we caught up with the Styx pride again. This time all three lioness and their two precious cubs were in attendance. They were also accompanied by two of the Birmingham males. Nsuku lay flat and sleeping in the shade of a dense bush while Mfumo approached the others with caution, he too eventually went flat under a nearby bush. The cubs suckled hungrily for the majority of the afternoon. Although they are strong and healthy, there is still some evidence of mange on their speckled fluffy coats.

5 Styx lioness 26 Dec PM.jpg
(Proud Styx lioness with her two little cubs, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Cheetah Plains)

Not far from where the Styx were lying up Inkanyeni and her young male cub Votumi were enjoying a few Christmas dinner leftovers. Inkanyeni was perched high in a marula tree, she watched over her hungry cub with pride as he steadily devoured what was left of their impala kill. Once there was nothing more of the kill left, Inkanyeni and Votumi set off into the sunset.

6 Votumi 26 Dec PM.jpg
(Young Votumi giving us his best and most cheeky grin, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Cheetah Plains)

The action wasn’t only in the east however, to the west on Arathusa the Nkuhuma pride had been found. All five lionesses and their six cubs were also enjoying the remains of their Christmas feast. The young buffalo carcass was almost completely consumed and the pride waddled from shady patch to shady patch, their beachball sized stomachs swaying rhythmically in time with their steps. Eventually all cats went flat for the afternoon clearly getting over their Christmas food hangovers!  

7 Nkuhuma lioness 26 Dec PM.jpg
(Nkuhuma lioness takes a long drink at Red dam, Screenshot Credit: Marieke van Nistelrooij‎, safariLIVE, Arathusa)

Tuesday 27th of December

Another roaring start to the morning as lions leapt from every bush! To the east on Cheetah Plains WE once again caught up with the Styx pride and one Birmingham male. This was unfortunately a long distance sighting as the cats were lying up on the vast open space just to the south of Cheetah Plains in Mala Mala. The cats remained flat and unmoving for the majority of the morning. The Birmingham male accompanying them was too far off for proper identification yet he did briefly show some amorous intent before being totally ignored by one of the lionesses. There was unfortunately no sign of the two cubs.

8 Styx pride 27 Dec AM.jpg
(A long distance view of the Styx pride enjoying a morning lie in, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Cheetah Plains)

Back on Djuma WE had a heart racing run in with one of the Birmingham males on foot. WE could clearly hear him calling out to his coalition mates and hurried to catch up with him. The bushwalk team eventually spotted him lying up in a dense thicket before he slowly rose and disappeared into a very thick block. Due to the distance of the sighting and the thickness of the bush WE were unable to find out exactly which Birmingham male we were looking at.

9 Birmingham male 27 Dec AM.jpg
(A well concealed Birmingham male hiding from the bushwalk team, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)

Finally the Nkuhuma pride had been found once again on Arathusa. We spent a good deal of time with our favourite lions as they relaxed in a post Christmas stupor. Their stomachs were still full to bursting with their beefy feast. The lions napped soundly in the damp morning air, only bothering to move every now and then to a more suitable spot of shade.

10 Nkuhuma lionesses 27 Dec AM.jpg
(Nkuhuma lionesses resting in the shade, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Arathusa)

Cheetah Plains lived up to it’s name with a sighting of the unnamed Cheetah coalition. The two brothers seemed a little less relaxed than usual, although was most likely due to the presence of the lions lying on the wide open plains. The brother’s lay peacefully on a termite mound before re-marking their territory and then moving off into a dense thicket.

11 Cheetah brothers 27 Dec PM.jpg
(Cheetah brothers mark their territory, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Cheetah Plains)

A little further north but still in the heart of Cheetah Plains, Inkanyeni had been found gracing the boughs of a tall marula tree. She epitomized the term “cat nap” as she slept the afternoon away soundly. Aside from the odd ear twitch and paw reposition she stayed completely still. Eventually we left the super flat cat in search of Africa’s other incredible animals.

12 Inkanyeni 27 Dec PM.jpg
(An exhausted Inkanyeni naps the afternoon away in a tree, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, CHeetah Plains)

Wednesday the 28th of December

The day kicked off on a quiet note. Right until the last minutes of the sunrise safari it didn’t look like WE were going to see anything both hairy and scary but that quickly changed as WE got a long distance view of the cheetah brothers lying up and resting on the open plains of Mala Mala. The cats were flat and resting up in the shade out of the blazing morning sun.

Thursday the 29th of December

Morning dawned steely grey, windy and wet as drizzle fell gently upon the wilderness. The lions were vocal as the muffled light began to creep up the eastern horizon. WE spent the better part of the safari tracking the tawny cats with very little success. Only minutes before the sunrise drive came to a close WE were notified over the radio that the lions had just killed a buffalo on our northern boundary. WE made it there with only minutes to spare as the Nkuhuma pride began to tuck into the beefy breakfast.

13 Nkuhuma lioness 29 Dec AM.jpg
(Lonely Nkuhuma lioness waits in the rain for the rest of her pride, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)

Friday the 30th of December

Another dreary wet start to the morning, but at least the Nkuhuma lioness from the day before was no longer alone in the rain! That’s right, the rest of the pride had finally joined her at her hard won buffalo kill. When we arrived all five of the Nkuhuma lionesses were feasting on their beefy breakfast along with their six very hungry and troublesome cubs. The lions growled and swatted at each other as they fed displaying their famous table manners. Eventually most of the lions were satiated and it was time for a nap in the foliage and away from the rain.

14 Nkuhuma 30 Dec AM.jpg
(Soggy Nkuhuma cub about to tuck into her breakfast, safariLIVE, Djuma)

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

safariLIVE December Rehearsal Schedule: The finishing touches!

Well safarians WE are less than a week away from our safariLIVE series debut! WE is heading towards our primetime television series in 2017. The Premier of this will be on January 1st at 10pm EST on Nat Geo WILD in the USA. We are all bursting at the seams with excitement for this next installment of your very own LIVE and interactive African adventure!

This does however mean WE will be doing a few more private rehearsals to polish up our act and put on those all important finishing touches. A private rehearsal does however mean there will be no safariLIVE broadcast during those times.

But it’ll all be worth it when you see what amazing things we have lined up for you over the first two months of 2017! All of our LIVE drives to Nat Geo WILD will of course be simulcast on our usual internet platforms, this means our loyal and dedicated viewers will never miss a second of the action no matter where in the world you may be watching from.

The series will run for eight weeks starting on the 1st of January at 10pm EST only on Nat Geo WILD. WE have all kinds of mind blowing safari action to look forward to in the new year and of course without YOU, our incredible viewers, WE would never be able to do it! So don’t hesitate to jump on the back of Wendy and Rusty, put your boots on for a wilderness walk, or recline in style and entertainment in the safari tent!

Please see the updates to the safariLIVE drive schedule for your time zone below:

30 December
Sunrise safari

29 December

Sunset safari
16:00pm - 19:00pm
14:00pm - 17:00pm
30 December
9:00am - 12:00pm
6:00am - 9:00am
31 December
Sunrise safari

30 December

Sunset safari
16:00pm - 19:00pm
14:00pm - 17:00pm
30 December
9:00am - 12:00pm
6:00am - 9:00am
01 January
Sunrise safari

31 December

Sunset safari
16:00pm - 19:00pm
14:00pm - 17:00pm
01 January
9:00am - 12:00pm
6:00am - 9:00am
02 January
Sunrise safari
6:00am - 8:00am
4:00am - 6:00am
01 January
22:00pm - 00:00am
19:00pm - 21:00pm
Sunset safari
16:00pm - 19:00pm
14:00pm - 17:00pm
02 January
9:00am - 12:00pm
6:00am - 9:00am

safariLIVE Viewer Profile: Josh Gross

Josh Gross was at a turning point in his life when he first found safariLIVE. "During that time I was in a graduate program in Mental Health Counseling, and was starting to doubt if that was really what I was meant to do," he says.

Sunset over Djuma - screenshot by Josh Gross

When WildEarth broadcast safariLIVE on NatGeoWild for Big Cat Week in 2014, Josh was watching and became "enthralled". "I had always loved animals and the outdoors, but had figured that my skills were not well suited to a wildlife-oriented career. So when I stumbled upon safariLIVE, I was instantly captivated. I couldn't believe that I could actually observe South African wildlife in real time from the other side of the globe, whilst also having my questions answered LIVE by your knowledgeable guides."

He started making time, in his already busy schedule, to watch as many drives as he could, prioritising his love for the show over completing papers for his studies. "In addition to being a great learning opportunity, the drives amplified the doubts I was having about my current path. I wanted so desperately to do something similar to what the guides were doing: to spend my days exploring the bush and getting people to care about wildlife. In short, safariLIVE helped show me what was most important to me."

Karula - screenshot by Josh Gross

When he then completed his graduate program and began to think about the path ahead, Josh searched for ways to make the shift to a career in wildlife. "Luckily I found that there are ways to use the social sciences to work for conservation, and I'm currently in a Master's program that will allow me to use my psychological training to create a better future for wildlife."

And this has change has worked out for the better. "In fact, at this very moment I'm preparing a research project that will allow me to study people's beliefs about jaguars in the South American country of Guyana."

Quarantine Male Leopard and hyena - screenshot by Josh Gross

safariLIVE remains an important part of Josh's life. He has had to adjust his schedule again, from July this year, to accommodate his new found career path, but makes time when he can to join us on the back of the vehicle and get another shot of "inspiration". "When I start to feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the challenges I've set for myself, I often think back to Hayden Turner's story. When he decided to pursue his dream and travel to Africa, his life changed in ways he never expected."

He knows that the sacrifices he makes now will have even greater rewards in the future, and says that when he's realised his own dream. "In the meantime, I can always relieve some stress by spending time in the South African bushveld with your wonderful guides."

Hosana at the water - screenshot by Josh Gross

Josh wishes to thank the safariLIVE team for all they have done for him. "You've helped to reawaken a passion I thought I'd lost, and helped to give me the confidence to pursue my greatest dreams." WE are sure you all will join us in wishing Josh luck for the journey ahead, and look forward to seeing all his aspirations realised.

If you have an interesting story to tell about your #safariLIVE or WildEarth experience, and would like to be featured in a future #safariLIVE Viewer Profile, contact us with your contributions, photo and video submissions at You could be interviewed next!

Monday, 26 December 2016

This year's Christmas Eve Tech challenge

Each year as Christmas and the holidays approach we anxiously await what challenges might be thrown at us during a time most of South Africa's businesses close down for long periods of time. Which turns anything that can not immediately be fixed or McGyvered on site into a mission to Mars - and seemingly taking just as long.

The last two years its been our vehicles that kept us busy trying to find any mechanics willing to interrupt their end-of-year repose to help us out. This year we were ready to breathe a careful sigh of relief as with the Christmas Eve drive in the bag all still seemed well and everything was up and running.

Then the storm hit... and we lost our wireless link from Djuma with the worst possible timing.

Yesterday morning Connor and Alex managed to establish on which leg of the link the problem occured and this morning, with great support from Eric at Bushguru, we managed to pinpoint it further to a broken mast pole in Hoedspruit. We then did breathe that sigh of relief as that was much easier to get to and fix than the top of Mariepskop. Connor jumped in our trusty bakkie and drove out to Hoedspruit and together with Eric quickly got the link back up and running again.

Now the question remains what caused the mast pole to snap of like that on Christmas Eve?

My brain tells me it was most likely the storm, possibly a branch snapping from a nearby tree. But somewhere deep down I would like to think that, just maybe, it was clipped by "someone's" sleigh...

Friday, 23 December 2016

The Cat Report 16 - 23 December

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.

1 Shadow 16 Dec PM.jpg
(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.

2 Mfumo 17 Dec PM.jpg
(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.

3 Tingana 18 Dec AM.jpg
(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.

4 Hosana 18 Dec PM.jpg
(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!

5 Nkuhuma lioness 18 Dec PM.jpg
(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.

6 Unnamed cheetah 19 Dec AM.jpg
(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.

7 Inkanyeni 19 Dec AM.jpg
(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.

8 Nkuhuma cub 19 Dec PM.jpg
(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.

9 Xongile 19 Dec PM.jpg
(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.

10 Nkuhuma pride 20 Dec AM.jpg
(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.

11 Vutomi 20 Dec PM.jpg
(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.

12 Nkuhuma floppy ear 21 Dec AM.jpg
(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.

13 Xongile 21 Dec PM.jpg
(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.

14 Hosana 22 Dec PM.jpg
(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.

15 Votumi 22 Dec PM.jpg
(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.

16 Tingana 22 Dec PM.jpg
(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.  

17 Nkuhuma lioness 22 Dec PM.jpg
(Amber Eyes Nkuhuma having an evening drink, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)