We have all heard of the saying, “It’s quality, not quantity” but this cycle has had equal measures of both. Out of all my 4,5 years at Sabi Sabi, this has certainly been the toughest blog to try and narrow down my best photos over the last 6 weeks.
Let’s start it off with what has been on everyone’s lips – the lions. For the first time since I started working here, we have had 4 different prides venturing onto our property. We are sometimes expected to always know the various prides or coalitions but it is difficult when we have never ever seen them before. It is a constantly changing dynamic which never ceases to inspire – it is what gets Rangers up every morning with a broad smile and a cup of coffee in one hand.
All be it rather brief, we had two young male lions up in the northern sector, apparently, the Avoca males. These two youngsters were a first for me and their display of affection was heart-warming to witness them reaffirming their bonds.
The Sparta/Eyrefield Pride has also been moving further south west and this cycle I have seen them more than I ever have. One thing that strikes me about this pride is how both the adults and the youngsters walk around with their tails aloft, providing excellent photographic opportunities.
Sadly, there was recently an altercation between the Sparta and the Mhangeni Breakaway prides which resulted in the death of one of the Sparta females. This puts huge stress on the existing Sparta females who seem to be doing their best, seen to be killing not necessarily big prey, but standing together they will prosper.
The six Mhangeni Breakaway females are impressive to say the least. The best sighting I had with them was when they lay in a riverbed on an extremely hot day. It was not surprising that they didn’t pay us much attention but gave us wonderful photographic opportunities.
The originals – the Mhangeni’s and the three Majingilane males also paid us a visit and a sighting that was certainly one of my favourites as they killed and devoured a large kudu cow. The noise was of epic proportions and even echoed well into the night after we had left the sighting.
Given the pressure from the north by all three of these prides, it is not surprising that the Southern Pride has decided to take refuge in the Southern section of their territory, an area which historically they have run to when under threat. Given the fact that they have many mouths to feed and ever growing cubs, as well as they have no support from the Charleston males who have spent the last couple months in the Kruger National Park, it’s difficult to see how all the cubs will survive. However, having an experienced lioness like Floppy Ear (Mandleve) at the helm, who has seen all this before, they will always have a chance.
Apart from feeling the chill of the morning safari that has been creeping up for some time, we can start to see that winter is on its way by the arrival/joining together of breeding herds of buffalo who have been moving through the grasslands from water source to water source.
Leopard sightings this cycle have been absolutely crazy! It was one of the reasons why, as a child, I wanted to work in the Sabi Sands having one of the highest densities of leopards in the world. It all started with an incredible sighting of the Little Bush female and her cub on a huge granite outcrop as they feasted on a small Duiker.
The interesting aspect is that this area is the central and integral part of the Kigelia female’s territory, Little Bush’s older, now independent cub. It must be confusing for the Kigelia female who inherited this from her mother – does she feel that she still has rights to that area?! It was evident when we followed Kigelia to this exact spot 2 days later to aggressively scent mark. I was certainly not complaining as she gave us every pose possible in an iconic setting, with stunning light. What more could a guide ask for?
Little Bush’s cub has been doing well and given us countless amounts of entertainment. She also has an amazing ability like the rest of her bloodline to hold a pose.
Another one of Maxabeni’s offspring, the young White Dam male, is probably the shyest of all the above-mentioned leopards but I’ve noticed a change in him this cycle. He is becoming more comfortable and relaxed around the vehicles – something we have given him over time, not putting pressure on him allowing him to develop his personality. I’m sure you can agree by the photos below, that he is certainly becoming a relaxed individual.
I have never seen Maxabeni and the White Dam male in a sighting together and given the youngsters age, he should have been chased out of his father’s territory by now. So, one of my most memorable sighting was when Maxabeni and White Dam were on a kill with a large clan of hyenas below. The White Dam male was extremely submissive given that it was his father’s kill, and Maxabeni showed little attention to him.
It’s certainly been an eventful cycle with plenty to ponder for the next 42 days but if its anything like this cycle, I certainly will not be complaining about the quality and the quantity.
Blog by Terry Ennever (Selati Camp Assistant Manager & Ranger)
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