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Finally a week of all sunshine and no rain! As the skies cleared, the vegetation flourished and the bush transformed almost overnight. Between mud-wallowing elephants, cheetah watching buffalo, bloodthirsty eagles and a curious leopard cub, there was nothing to be missed. Enjoy the Week in Pictures…
The first week in a while without rain brought beautiful sunrises over Londolozi.
Early on in the week we were treated to a lovely sighting of the elusive Vomba Female. Unfortunately her cub was not with her, but we watched as she scoured the banks of the Sand River for prey. She bumped into a herd of elephant which chased her into the reeds… another reminder of the difficulties of life in the bush for a mother leopard!
Afterwards we watched the same herd of ellies as they discovered a mud wallow and excitedly bathed themselves, particularly this youngster.
One of the sub-adults seemed almost proud of his new adornments!
We weren’t expecting to come across the Scar-nosed Majingalane Male early one morning close to the Sand River. He was calling for his brothers, but would not find them that day.
He looked across the clearing and spotted a small herd of buffalo, which he tried to pursue but they fled far too quickly for him!
As he settled down for the heat of the day, we had a gorgeous close-up sighting of him, regally staring into the light.
Another surprising sighting was this male hippo crossing the airstrip mid-morning, when it was already very hot.
Usually when out of the water during the day, hippos are shy and run away upon being spotted. However, this confident bull seemed quite happy to give us a good view!
One big highlight of the week was the 3-day sighting of the Camp Pan Male mating with the Nottens Female. Both relatively older leopards (Camp Pan around 10 years old and Nottens about 17), they both showed no signs of their age! It will be interesting to see if Nottens does fall pregnant, as it seems that the chances of conception in female leopards decreases with age.
Leopard mating always provides for exciting viewing!
A Black winged stilt at Two Pans.
At the Maripsi densite, a young Hyena cub relaxes and enjoys watching our vehicle.
There are at least five different sets of youngsters at this densite, ranging in age from about 6 weeks old to about a year. It is nice to be able to compare sizes and the changing coat patterns of the different ages.
Hyena cubs are born all black and gradually grown their tawny spotted coat. This is one of two of the smallest hyenas at the den currently – very rare to see such a young one!
The large herd of buffalo sprints across the open plains that have flourished with green growth after the rains.
Another surprise this week – the return of the Tsalala and Sparta Young Males! These two underdogs have been laying low south of Londolozi since the Majingalane reign began. However they returned this week after being pushed by males from the south. They are very recognizable lions – the Tsalala Young Male because of his striking beauty, and the Sparta Young Male because of his half-mane.
The next morning, clearly tired from their hunting efforts, the two found a shady spot in which to lie for the day. The history behind the union of these two males is extremely interesting in that they are from two very different – and rival – prides. The Sparta Pride ‘adopted’ the young Tsalala Male after he was separated from them, and then the males of similar ages broke off when the Majingalanes took over their territory.
A fairly rare bird for this area – a Namaqua Dove – rests on the road. We had a few rare species sightings this week including a Gorgeous Bush shrike and a Narina Trogon – neither of which I was quick enough to capture with my camera!
A second sighting of the Vomba Female this week began with her stretching before a morning hunt. We had hoped to catch her with the cub – but unfortunately for us she hides it away very nicely! Regardless we watched her for a couple of hours as she stalked impala.
We are unsure of how this young giraffe could have sustained this nasty wound. Luckily, however, he seemed to be just fine in spite of it – playfully chasing after his mother.
It is always interesting to me to see how different species react to one another. We thought the cheetah would be more stressed by the presence of the buffalo, but he nonchalantly watched as they passed by – within 10 meters from him!
We had a couple of close encounters with elephants this week – one of my favourite features is the amber eye and long eyelashes.
Sometimes we forget that some of the most formidable predators are airbourne! Early one afternoon we came across a Wahlberg’s Eagle swooping down on this Yellow-billed hornbill, grabbing him with his talons and taking him to a nearby perch.
As the Wahlberg’s started feeding, we assumed the hornbill was dead, as it had been lifeless for a few minutes. However, it began thrashing around – it was stil alive! The ruthless eagle continued to feed on the poor bird – and we ending up leaving as we couldn’t watch any longer!
I think for most rangers, trackers and guests this week, the big highlight was the discovery of the Piva Female with her 6 month old cub on an impala kill. The hoisted carcass allowed for about three days of continual viewing, as the leopards gradually consumed their prize. Here, the little one gets a turn to feed. She is eating meat but also still nursing from the mother.
The two leopards weren’t the only predators lurking, however. There were at least three pesky hyenas beneath the tree, waiting for something to drop. Here the Piva Female stares irritatedly at them, as one had just chased her cub up another tree. Hyenas are a huge threat to leopard cubs, and in this case the youngster was lucky to get away.
Regardless of the hyena ‘incident’, the little cub was all too happy to relax in the tree. ‘Relaxed’ is an understatement when it comes to this cub – in various sightings of her this week, she has been investigating the vehicles at close range, even licking the tyres occasionally!