So it's been a while since blogging about what we have been seeing and experiencing and an update is long overdue! There are so many to choose from but I think for me two sightings stand out beyond the rest.
The first being the return of the Mahlatini Males, who came at a time when we all were desperate for Lion, and what a return it was, providing us with four days of great viewing! It all started with us finding a herd of buffalo, which in turn drew our attention to a couple of vultures collected at a drainage line not far off, when the guys investigated further they found all three Mahlatini's on a recently killed buffalo bull, their speciality!
If the feeding of three aggressive male lions in their prime was not entertainment enough, it was only to get better, as the buffalo herd made their way in the direction of their fallen comrade. Once they got scent of the Lions the older more dominant bulls moved to the front of the herd while the females and young hung back. These older bulls slowly advanced towards the carcass making sure to keep as a unit, the lions stood their ground but now put the carcass between them and the advancing herd. Once they both got site of one another a stand off ensued but this was quickly broken as the buffalo came to the realisation that it was one of their kind that had fallen prey, they immediately charged, with one particularly large bull leading the way, sending the Mahlatini's scampering for the shelter of a nearby termite mound. The bulls collected around the carcass investigating it, while the lions made a half hearted attempt to approach but were put in their place swiftly by the large bull. A game of cat and mouse followed with the buffalo eventually conceding as they came to the realisation there was nothing they could do to help their fallen compatriot. We were to hear later that that the buffalo returned once more to chase off the lions, maybe double checking there was nothing they could do, or just to issue the Lions a final warning.
The carcass lasted them four days and provided many hours of great sightings although towards the end, it did start to smell rather fresh!. Jackals, hyena's, and vultures were all attracted by the potential of a scavenged meal but to be honest when the lions eventually moved on, they did not leave much for the others to fight over.
Another sighting that lasted six days, which surprised us, was that of Vyeboom dam male who killed an impala less than a kilometre from camp and conveniently placed it in a Marula tree for all to see. We have found him a number of times around camp with kills and he seems to like the area but not the attention, with him usually hiding himself or relocating his kill so he may dine in private. He is more relaxed when viewed by a single vehicle and a lot more confident at night. So it was interesting to watch how he became accustomed to the attention over the days and how his confidence grew once he established that we were not a threat, with him eventually not even acknowledging us as we came and went. It is from positive encounters that the animals that we view learn we are not a threat and thus increase their comfort zone and allow us to approach quiet close without altering their behaviour.
As for other sightings its been a case of Feast or Famine, with one day not being able to keep up and the next, not finding a thing! Our struggle for Lions continues, as the White Lions have not returned and it appears those that chased them off have also done a disappearing act. We went a stretch of seven days without Lion, it may not sound long but it felt like a lifetime. The pressure to see Lions is somewhat higher than other animals, which is strange as most of the time you are looking at a big tawny sleeping cat, that is as active as a plank of wood. Luckily for us we have a number of animals that step up when the lions go AWOL, so much so, that they often compete with one another for our attention. As was a couple of days ago when within a five kilometre radius we had Tenga Tenga, a particularly large White Rhino, in the midst of a huge buffalo herd.
Round the corner we had Ntombi and her cub, both female leopards, on a Duiker kill and a pack of eight Wild Dogs sleeping in a riverbed down the road.
I think the Lions fear being outdone and have returned, with us not only finding the Mahlatini Males but also a pride of three females and an adolescent male that no one seems to recognise, let alone know where they herald from. Will have to consult “The Chad”, but think they may have Jacaranda Pride roots! On that particular drive we also found the pack of ten Wild Dog, that have been hanging around the area, plus the guys in the South found another pack of seven Wild Dog. As I said, Feast or Famine!