We had 10mm of rain a few days ago, and it has been just enough to get one or two green grass shoots to poke their heads through the dry earth. Not enough to make the grazers happy, but enough to remind us that life is waiting just below the surface, ready to burst out again.
Ideally, what we want when the drought breaks is a long period of light rain; enough to raise the water-table and get the grass to establish itself properly to prevent real runoff and erosion when further big rains (hopefully) arrive.
The big news this week was the Tsalala pride killing a buffalo cow right in front of Varty Camp Deck while guests were having their morning coffee. In front of an incredulous crowd, the two lionesses brought the cow down and then went to collect the cubs to bring them to the kill. The Matimba males arrived two days later, and the last two nights have been full of roaring as the adult lions bellowed from the rocks in front of Granite camp.
The full story of that sighting will have to wait a while as we assemble the various guests’ and rangers’ footage, so for now, enjoy this Week in Pictures…
Happy Birthday Raymod Mabilane! Ray refuses to tell the rest of us how old he is today, but from the varied answers he’s given, we estimate his age to be somewhere between 21 and 63! Whatever the case, we wish him a fantastic day! f5.6, 1/500s, ISO 640
A lioness from the Mhangeni breakaway pride stalks directly towards the vehicle, allowing for riveting eye contact. We were parked down in the Sand River, and a male nyala had appeared on the bank directly behind us. She chased him up the slope but without the rest of the pride helping she missed by a mile! f5.6, 1/500s, ISO 800
An impala snatches a quick drink from Winnis’ Wallows. With this waterhole being situated right in the middle of the open grasslands, there has been a tremendous amount of activity around it, mainly from rhino and buffalo, but with many elephant herds as well and the Mhangeni breakaway pride often putting in an appearance. f5.6, 1/1250s, ISO 160
The Nkoveni female on the move in the late morning. Unfavourable light gives one the opportunity to experiment with different camera settings, and I was on a low shutter speed here to blur the motion and accentuate the leopard’s movement. f25, 1/50s, ISO 100
We found the Nkoveni female again later that same evening, and watched with our hearts in our mouths as she stalked to within 10m of a herd of impala. Unfortunately for her they drifted just too far out of her ambush zone and she was forced to move off into the dusk. The next morning however, she was again tracked and found by Freddy Ngobeni, and she had a bushbuck kill to show for her night’s hunting. f5.6, 1/80s, ISO 5000
Elephants like to drink the cleanest water they can, and will often splash at the surface of a waterhole before drinking in order to get rid of debris and dirt floating on the surface. f6.3, 1/1000s, ISO 640
Young elephants on the other hand, often can’t reach the water that their older contemporaries with their longer trunks can access easily. They sometimes have to resort to various contortions to get themselves a drink. f5.6, 1/1000s, ISO 320
One can see how this dead trunk has been rubbed smooth over the years by countless herbivores like rhinos, buffalo and warthogs scratching themselves on it. This rhino follows the example of many of its predecessors and gives its bum a good scratch. f6.3, 1/1600, ISO 800
I was out with tracker Freddy Ngobeni in the Open Areas grasslands, and he recognised this enormous bull rhino from the north of the property. With scant grass cover available, rhinos have been forced to move far and wide to find adequate grazing, and some of the territorial bulls have been forced to travel long distances to get the nutrition they require. f5.6, 1/2000s, ISO 800
What is serious drinking time for more mature elephants can be playtime for some of the younger members of the herd! Although it might appear wasteful that this young elephant is squirting half a trunk-load out, especially in such dry conditions, the water is simply falling back into the waterhole to be drunk next time around. f7.1, 1/1000s, ISO 640
The two Matimba males were found with two buffalo carcasses in the central parts of the reserve, although we strongly suspect that it may have been the Mhangeni breakaway pride that killed them and the Matimbas simply robbed them. Whoever made the kills, the fact was that very little of the carcasses was eaten by the Matimba males, and it was the vultures that enjoyed most of the feast. Here a whitebacked vulture.investigates the feeding potential around one of the buffalo’s back legs. f5.6, 1/500s, ISO 2000
Two of the Mhangeni breakaway lionesses move past a hippo at Winnis’ Wallows, the same waterhole mentioned in the impala photo above. Hippos have been turning up in random little pans all over the show, making do with shallow mud wallows as they forage far every night for enough grass to eat. f2.8, 1/2000s, ISO 800
As mentioned earlier, rhino bulls have been forced to venture out of their usual territories on the hunt for good grazing, which can lead to confrontations. Here an angry bull bellows at a rival, again near Winnis’ Wallows. f6.3, 1/800s, ISO 800
A Matimba male crosses a clearing near the airstrip, in a scene reminiscent of something out of the Kalahari. f5.6, 1/6400s, ISO 1600
This photo is actually a number of different pictures all stitched together in Lightroom. A longer lens meant I didn’t have a wide enough angle to capture the whole scene, but the Lightroom software is able to overcome that. Callum Gowar, Jerry Hambana and guests look up at the Mashaba female resting in the sausage tree above them. f3.2, 1/160s, ISO 1250
This is another stitched image, of some of the Tsalala breakaway pride resting in front of Ximpalapala Koppie. f7.1, 1/500s, ISO 640
The same Tsalala breakaway pride, being investigated by a curious journey of giraffes. Out in the open like this the lions have almost no chance of bringing one of these huge animals down, and they continued sleeping. f13, 1/160s, Iso 640