The week has drawn to a close, and what an enjoyable week it was. Our winter game viewing proved just how good it can be with sightings of lots of cats. There were a couple of slightly breezy days, but overall it was a pleasant and mild week very typical of this time of year.
The highlight of the week was getting to see a stunning family of four cheetahs in the plains in the far western side of our concession. The group had been around for a couple of days before our guide, Scotch, headed there with his guests one afternoon. Fortunately, the mother and her three one-year-old youngsters (two females and a male) were around the next morning when I made the long trek to see them, and we arrived to find that they had caught and amazingly almost finished a large impala ram out in the open. I say amazingly, as catching such a large kill in such an open setting usually results in it being an easy target for the ever-present scavengers. Despite a hyena lurking in the near distance, it didn’t dare come closer to steal the kill. We joked that it clearly didn’t want to mess with a group of four leopards, as had it realised they were just cheetahs, it wouldn’t have hesitated to run in and grab the meal. We spent a good part of the morning with the family before leaving them resting on a termite mound in typical cheetah fashion.
Our leopards didn’t want to be outdone this week, and they too showed themselves with pleasing regularity through the week as we saw them on a daily basis. The most incredible event of the week was when we were following Nyeleti female one afternoon. She was looking well fed and clearly on a mission. As she got closer to the area where Xigodo had been hanging around in for three weeks straight, she started calling softly. Thinking I was hearing things, I simply ignored it. As she walked, the calls became clearer, louder and eventually resulted in her giving the typical rasping, sawing roar intent on getting the attention of her son. After three weeks away, she had eventually come back to fetch him for a meal, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for the struggling young male. We spent a good deal of time with her hoping that she would reunite with Xigodo, but her calls went unanswered and we left her to it.
The next morning, Nyeleti was found just north of Tanda Tula Safari Camp with a female impala kill hoisted up a leadwood tree, but there was no sign of Xigodo, and our hearts all dropped a little. However, upon following up in the afternoon, Nyeleti was still in the same spot she had been in the morning. She was perched uncomfortably in the sun as she couldn’t descend because of the three hyenas sleeping at the base of the tree. Happily we spotted Xigodo 30m away in the shade! The presence of the hyenas prevented him from getting to the kill, but later in the afternoon the desperation for food got too much and he managed to get up the tree and get a meal at last. The two spent the rest of the week hanging around Tanda Tula Safari Camp, and we saw them from the verandah on several occasions. We also found Xigodo wandering around at night hoping for a meal in the form of one of the camp nyalas.
The Thumbela female also provided us with a couple of great sightings this week. After a morning of tracking we found her and watched as she stalked and caught a scrub hare in front of us. Later in the week she was found up a leadwood tree trying to evade a nearby male lion; after the lion moved off, Thumbela descended and her now very-confident son soon came to join her before the two moved off. The boy was seen around Machaton Dam on his own a few times too.
N’weti female gave us a few good days of game viewing when she was found with an impala kill as we were chasing after some wild dogs one morning! The pale-eyed male leopard was found with another kill, and he was showing signs of getting more habituated to the vehicles, helped possibly by the presence of Nyleti at the same kill.
Even our lions showed up again this week, with the cubs in tow! The week started off with us tracking down two of the Sark Breakaway Pride members close to Nkhari. Despite having been away for ages, the next day the Nharhu male pitched up in the same area and set about searching for the intruding lions, but without luck. This was because the two Sark lions had headed north of our concession and joined two Western Pride females on a dead giraffe carcass. After a few days they did return to the area, but only because the Nharhu males had picked up on the giraffe carcass and chased them off. Frtunately the Nharhu males made an instant return to the south and we were able to track them down to the rest of the River Pride that day.
We found the adult lionesses early in the week, but this was the first time we had seen them with their cubs in a couple of weeks. The cubs are getting much bigger now, but that being said, they were looking quite under-nourished. The mothers had eaten earlier in the week, but with the general game being so scarce in that part of their range at the moment, it is not a surprise to see them looking a little hungry. We are hoping that this need for food will push them deeper into our concession where the general game really picked up this week.
We also got to catch up with the wild dogs one morning this week when we were just casually driving up a road following tracks for the male lions and two pack members came sprinting across the road in front of us after an impala! We spent the next half hour trying to keep up with them and watching them hunt. They were successful in their efforts and soon headed back north towards the den.
Closing off the great sightings for the week we can report on the fact that not only were the elephant herds regular within the central area, but we also had two breeding herds of buffalos joining us for the week; one numbered close to 300, and we hope that now they know that there is still water and plenty of food in the area, they start spending more time here. Giraffes, zebras, wildebeest, impalas and kudu also showed up regularly to complete a well-rounded week of game-viewing, as can be seen from this week’s selection of images.
Be sure to check out our Facebook page for more photos from this week, and until next time, stay safe!
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