This past week I didn’t spend as much time on traditional safari but rather driving the specialised Photographic Vehicle, which meant that we were able to stay out in the bush all day, patiently spending large amounts of time with individual animals. Our guests were particularly keen birders, and therefore in addition to tracking the usual suspects like the Sparta lions and various leopards, we had the privilege of being able to sit in great birding spots to enjoy the view and hone our bird photography skills – in my mind the most difficult animals to photograph. The three days we spent on the Photographic Vehicle came to its pinnacle on the final night when we discovered a new access to the den site of the younger Tsalala cubs. We spent a few breathtaking moments as these youngsters curiously approached us… see for yourself!
With a warm spell in the Lowveld this week, we started to view more reptiles who had been hiding away for the winter months. Here, a Blue-headed tree agama soaks up some sun on the side of a Leadwood tree skeleton.
This stunning pair of African fish eagles has been frequenting the area of the Sand River close to camp. Shortly after this sighting they were seen attacking a Goliath heron! Luckily the heron got away unscathed.
A Greater blue-eared starling drinks at Marthly Pools. While we were waiting for the Tsalala cubs to appear from their densite nearby, we were able to observe such birds come to the water in the Manyelethi River as Brown-headed kingfishers, Go-away birds, starlings, herons, and the rarely seen Malachite kingfisher.
The Maxabene 3:2 Young Male made an appearance this week, albeit with an injured eye. It seems that the injury may have been a result of a fight, most likely with another male, as this young individual is still seeking to establish a territory. Even though it looks severe, when we have seen this type of ailment in leopards, it usually heals quite quickly.
We had a brief sighting of the Wild dog pack this week. It was a hot morning so the pups were finally sitting still! Luckily all the numbers seem to be in tact: 6 adults and 5 pups.
The rocks in front of Granite Camp sparkle at sunset.
A Hamerkop fishes at Pipeline Pan. These birds are known for their hammer-shaped heads and hammer-like motion of the neck while hunting, as well as their giant nests also utilized by other, larger birds.
What a week for the Sparta Pride. In total they killed three giraffe at Londolozi! The Majingalane Males have also been tailing them and reaping the rewards of their hunting, yet here one lioness was able to enjoy the marrow of a leg bone.
Not too far from the den site of the Tsalala cubs, another animal has been raising its young: a White-backed vulture on an old Martial eagle's nest. We had a brief glimpse of the white fluffy chick, but for the most part it remained concealed in the sturdy safety of the nest.
We were also lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the Ravenscourt cub this week. Despite the recent death of its sibling, this little guy seems to be faring well.
The Ravenscourt cub treated us to some acrobatics in the River elder while its mother slept below.
Giving new meaning to 'going out on a limb'... this flimsy branch was right above the flowing river!
A White-fronted bee-eater takes off from its perch in search of prey. They are incredibly agile fliers with acute eyesight, allowing them to hunt on the wing with swift manouvers.
When sitting still, the striking colours of this bird become apparent. Most of the bee-eaters migrate during our winter, but this particular one sticks around.
The Dudley Riverbank 3:3 Young Male. We have been viewing this 2 year old leopard more frequently away from his mother, the Dudley Riverbank Female. Unfortunately it seems at the moment he has an injury to his back leg, limiting his movements for the time being. Luckily he was able to secure himself a kill last week, keeping him fed, but hopefully the leg will heal itself before he runs into any other predators.
The four older Tsalala cubs are starting to look like 'real' lions! They have been seen close to the Sand River this week, on both sides, frequently crossing with the females, as some of the rangers have been lucky enough to witness! On this morning, we tracked them through a riverine thicket to find them basking in the sun with their mother.
Young boys will be boys... The hippos at Taylor's Dam were minding their own business when a young male elephant became bored feeding with his family and decided to terrorize the youngsters, sending them back into the water! The adults looked on nonchalantly.
Finally, we saw the Tsalala youngsters up close and personal! After waiting patiently for the lionesses to return to the densite, they disappeared over a rocky crest and our hearts sank. Freddy wanted to try one more tactic though: try to see where they were headed from the other side of the koppie. His instinct were correct: after pushing the Land Rover to its limits through a very rocky and dense area, Freddy spotted the lionesses and shortly afterwards, the four tiny cubs wandered straight up to our vehicle!
After weeks of remaining elusive, it was amazing to see these cubs so closely, nevertheless altogether!
Even though it was wonderful to finally capture photographs, the first moments spent with these little ones were unforgettable, as they seemed just as excited to see us!
Thank Geri! The Sparta Pride is a bit confusing of late, as the presence of the Majingalane Coalition seemed to drive them apart for a while. There are 5 females in the Pride, and 2 young males we see mainly with another male who is originally from the Tsalala Pride. We were viewing 2 of the females together and the other 3 together, but now it seems they’ve rejoined… probably why they have been able to hunt big things successfully! I’m sure the ones you saw were the group of 2 lionesses (you’re right it was mother and daughter) while they were separated and one of the young males. We haven’t seen those males lately, but they could be lying low on the southern side of Londolozi, out of the Majingalane’s territory.