Saturday the 25th of June
The nights are longer and cooler than ever in the Sabi Sands as WE plunge deeper into winter and the terrors of the darkness are ever active. One unlucky buffalo calf fell victim to such terrors and as the sun rose the safariLIVE crew managed to locate the unfortunate youngster. Upon arrival there wasn’t much of the carcass left as the Nkuhuma pride had clearly feasted on their prize. WE found two of the incredible Nkuhuma pride lionesses devouring what little was left. Once they had inflated their bellies with buffalo the muscular tawny cats went flat and enjoyed a morning of sunbathing and well deserved rest. Later that evening one of the lionesses performed an appearing act on the Djuma dam cam. Byron raced to the area as the two female finished off their evening drink. WE then followed an extremely rotund lioness as she slowly yet purposefully waddled east. There is great speculation as to what exactly is causing her beachball like roundness. Theories involving both food babies and actual babies fly through the air. Eventually the final countdown of the sunset safari forced us to leave the curvy lady to her evening business.
(Nkuhuma lioness, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)
Cheetah Plains Private Reserve is once again living up to it’s name. The unnamed cheetah brothers are back and as elegant as ever. The lean slender cats glided through their territory as the afternoon light shimmered off their sleek spotted coats. Occasionally they would stop to sharpen their non retractable claws on a dead stump, urine spray to define their territory or simply rest between bouts of movement. The two brothers eventually crossed south before resting in some dense shade. All that was visible of them was their tear marked heads poking over the otherwise flat horizon.
(Unnamed cheetah coalition, Screenshot Credit: Hélène van Dijk, safariLIVE, Cheetah Plains)
Sunday the 26th of June
The Nkuhuma pride seem to be keeping their cubs a well protected secret from the safariLIVE crew. Yet the Styx pride are only too happy to show off their gorgeous bundles of cuteness! The pride did just that as the sun broke through the misty morning bitterness. Two of the pride lionesses accompanied four of their cubs south out of Djuma. James made his way to the sighting just in time to see the bundles of tawny fluff tumble across the boundary. The cubs pounced and hopped around each other practicing that ever important buffalo takedown they will need later in life. Eventually WE lost sight of the pride as they moved through the thickets.
(Styx lioness and cubs, Screenshot Credit: Debra W. Baudoin, safariLIVE, Djuma)
The day ends on a somewhat mysterious note with a sighting of two unknown subadult male lions making their way through Djuma. The young males seem to be totally new cat characters as no one is able to identify where they may be from. It is supposed they could be some of the young Tsalala males, yet it is difficult to tell without the confirmation of the pride in the surrounding area. The males made their way through the bush in a determined manner while the sun slowly sank behind the western mountains. WE eventually lost the mystery lions to the gathering darkness and the undergrowth.
(Unknown male lion, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)
Monday the 27th of June
Up until this point the day had been warm and quiet. Most animals had tucked themselves away in the cooling shade especially the cats. That was until the radio lit up with reports of a leopardess and her two cubs approaching the Djuma pan. James set off immediately in that direction. Once he had arrived a simply splendid sight ensued. The three beautiful cats were making haste away from the pan as a young elephant bull bared down on them, unimpressed with their hopes of drinking. Karula and her cubs elicited a perfect demonstration of stealth and agility melting into the thinning leaves of the winter bush. James circled round the dam and managed to locate the threesome as they moved ever further into the bush. A few minutes of off-roading later the cats were found static. Karula;s behaviour seemed to indicate the presence of a kill in the area, but no brief glance at the surrounding bush could ever be enough to locate it. James then received word from fellow safari guide Lex Hes that a kill had been stashed under a nearby thicket and was visible from his position. By this time the sun had dipped far into the western horizon and the shows of the day were growing long. James decided to leave mom and cubs to their even meal in the hopes it may still be there the next day.
(Karula and cub, Screenshot Credit: Carol Antao Klassen, safariLIVE, Djuma)
Tuesday the 28th of June
It is a wonder as to how the safariLIVE crew got any sleep. The night boomed with the sound of the lion’s roar, tearing the darkness from sundown to sunrise. Updates from our dedicated viewers lead us to suspect a fresh buffalo kill only a few hundred meters from camp. James and Byron set off as first light began to turn the eastern skies pink and purple. Not five minutes after leaving camp WE found two of the Birmingham males and two Nkuhuma lionesses on a fresh buffalo calf carcass. The largest of the males had the kill to himself, low growls could be heard from him as his coalition member and the lionesses sat patiently watching him feed. Once finished he wandered off to scent mark while his brother then took over what little was left of the carcass. The lionesses however weren’t as lucky and ended the morning lying flat and exhausted in deep shade. Later in the day Byron returned to the sight of the kill to find almost nothing left and two very fat and flat male lions lying in the shade of a very scraggly bush. The big cats remained horizontal for sometime before stretching out the muscular limbs and roaring into the night.
(Birmingham males, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)
Not far from where Byron spent his day with the lions, James spent the day with Karula. The leopardess and her two cubs made it through the night unscathed and still in possession of their duiker kill. The queen had hoisted the kill high into the limbs of a small tree and the morning was spent watching all three take turns scampering up the slight trunk to feed. The confidence of the cubs grows with each passing and day and their explorations take them further away from the safety of mum with each step. Leopards are renowned for their strong sense of independence and the royal cubs are no exception. The spotted fuzz balls seem to have inherited their mother’s stealth and are able to vanish before our very eyes when lying in a yellowing grass thicket. Although the cubs are only five months old their strength is already an amazing physical feat. WE were lucky enough to watch one her cubs attempt to reposition a carcass at least double their weight. More of the same action ensued during the sunset safari. It appeared as though one of the cubs had accidentally dropped the kill to the ground and WE were lucky enough to behold Karula re-hoist the carcass and secure it in a better position. Eventually James needed to leave the sighting so other excited safari goers could have their well deserved chance to visit the queen and her cubs.
(Karula’s cub, Screnshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)
What could top the excitement and elation of two leopard cubs with their stunning mother? Not much, but maybe a wild dog sighting! Reports from the morning indicated that the dogs had been creating their usual chaos around the buffelshoek dam area before disappearing. After a great deal of careful searching the dappled dogs were found sleeping soundly in the marbled golden light of the afternoon. Although WE weren’t treated to an off-road rampage through the bush it was truly wonderful to spend some time with Africa’s top predator.
(African wild dog, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)
Wednesday the 29th of June
Little did WE know the safariLIVE crew would be in for one of the most cat packed days when the alarms went off and the coffee was poured in the cold darkness of the predawn morning. James intended to head to the east where rumors of yet another buffalo kill had originated. Upon arrival at the Cheetah Plains pan he noticed a collective of private guest vehicles staring intently into the surrounding bush. James jumped on the radio to find out what action was unfolding and soon we were off again. WE initially by-passed the lions for an ever more exceptional sight. The cheetah coalition are back on the plains, the unnamed brothers once again strode through the open area with full pot bellies slowly swaying side to side. In the cool morning atmosphere the brothers actively patrolled sharpening their claws and scent marking the core of their vast home range. The brothers eventually crossed south and went flat on Mala Mala under what seems to be a favourite tree of theirs.
(Unnames cheetah male, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Cheetah Plains)
Once WE were totally convinced the spotted speedsters weren’t going anywhere James meandered his way back to the lions. The Styx pride along with one of the Birmingham males had managed to topple a large buffalo cow. Once WE arrived on the scene not much of the great black beast was left and the lions were devouring every morsel with enthusiasm. Most of the lions had satiated their hunger and lay full and happy in some nearby shade as the not so satisfied lionesses fed under the watchful eyes of a myriad of vultures. Upon returning to the scene during the sunset hours only one lioness remained flat, fat and completely disinterested in any sort of activity. It may only be speculated as to where the others had wandered off to.
(Birmingham male, Screenshot Credit: Kaarina Pietiäinen, safariLIVE, Djuma)
Closer to home however the royal family has been spotted again. Karula and her cubs are on the move and take Byron on quite a ride through the various drainage systems winding through Djuma. The queen and her cubs were moving intently through the lightly illuminated morning bushveld. WE got some truly spectacular views of the queen accompanied by her little prince and princess. The covert cats eventually managed to give us the slip as the heat of the day began to rise. Later on that afternoon James thought he’d test his luck as he took a slow ride through the area where they were last seen. Luck indeed was on his side as he spotted the two cubs waiting patiently in the vast comfortable boughs of an old tree. He spent the afternoon watching the cubs clamber around a perfect nature made jungle-gym. Karula however, was nowhere in sight, speculation indicated that she had gone off on the hunt and stashed her cubs in the tall wide boughs for safekeeping until her return.
(Karula’s cub, Screenshot Credit: Hélène van Dijk, safariLIVE, Djuma)
Thursday the 30th of June
Another clear cold start to the day. WE made our way into the wilderness with only hopes of finding some great action. Right on cue, the wild delivered and WE spent a wonderful morning with the little prince and princess of Djuma. Karula’s cubs were waiting at the base of a large tree, enjoying the comforting warmth of the early morning rays. The queen yet again was nowhere in sight. Karula seems to have transformed into a hunting and killing machine of late and with two hungry and rapidly growing cubs this comes as no surprise. WE left the cubs eventually in search of other weird and wonderful sights. Upon returning to the area later in the afternoon it became clear that Karula had indeed killed again, this time she brought the kill back to the cub stash site. The queen lay as graceful and unaffected as ever in the shady banks of a well parched drainage line as her two cubs alternated between bath time and supper time. With each mouthful the cubs bellies grew more engorged and left each them looking like a fluffy, rosetted exercise balls. Eventually the sun began to sink once again and James left the queen and the little royals to their afternoon tea and evening supper.
(Karula’s male cub, Screenshot Credit: Hélène van Dijk, safariLIVE, Djuma)
What a week! Cats Cats Cats, and Dogs, plus all the small stuff in between.
Thank you WE Team! MJ Bradley