Friday the 28th of October
The week was off to yet another great start! The lions had once again been relocated that afternoon. It appeared that during the peaking heat of the day they had managed to bring down yet another buffalo! Yet because of the heat they had hidden themselves from the sun deep within a difficult to reach drainage line. From our view we were able to catch a glimpse of at least one lioness flanked by her two potential Birmingham suitors, Tinyo and Mfumo. As a result of the poor view, WE didn’t hang around for long and were soon on our way to look for more active and visible African creatures.
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(Hot and bothered Mfumo resting up in the shade, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)
To the far east on Cheetah Plains, a spotted cat of a different variety lay in wait for us. Quarantine male leopard was discovered resting up on the shaded walls of a massive termite mound just across the boundary in Mala Mala. He, like the lions, was doing all he could to keep out of the blazing sun and close humid heat of the day. Eventually he moved off,deeper into the shade and further into Mala Mala. WE stayed until we eventually lost sight of him among the thick greening foliage.
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(Quarantine male leopard resting in the shade, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Cheetah Plains)
Saturday the 29th of October
A roaring start to the day! Five Nkuhuma lionesses, eight fluffy and not-so-little cubs along with Tinyo and Mfumo of the Birmingham coalition stopped by the Djuma pan for an early morning drink. They soon moved off and into a shaded thicket while each of the the Birmingham males sided off their own lioness hoping for a little romantic action. As it is to be expected with two competing males there was much growling and posturing between the two, defending their chosen consort for the day. The lions then slept off the muggy heat, they barely moved as vehicles past and birds chirped. Soon the sun had set and it was time to say goodbye to the big cats.
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(An Nkuhuma cub resting in the sunset light, Screenshot Credit: Kaarina Pietiäinen‎, safariLIVE, Djuma)
Once again the great wide open spaces of Cheetah Plains provided us with yet another rosetted cat sighting. This time however, it was Quarantine’s older brother Xivambalana. He was certainly on a quest as he paced purposefully through the bush and then into the open plains. He stopped briefly and regularly to scent mark and sniff around. He eventually crossed out of our traverse and disappeared into the dense thickets of Mala Mala.
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(Xivambalana patrolling his territory, Screenshot Credit: Kaarina Pietiäinen, safariLIVE, Cheetah Plains)
Sunday the 30th of October
Roars echoed out over the wilderness as another warm African day began. The Nkuhuma pride, their eight cubs and their two Birmingham consorts were discovered at the Djuma pan as crepuscular rays streamed across cloudless skies. Amber Eyes was in the company of Mfumo whose face looked to be healing well. A little further down Twin dams road was the rest of the pride accompanied by Tinyo who sought the affections of the youngest Nkuhuma lioness. Soon the pride moved off the road and into the welcoming shade of a dense thicket. Once settled the real action began. Both Tinyo and Mfumo were being particularly protective over their chosen females and growled at each other constantly. On a few occasions Tinyo even lashed out at any other Nkuhuma lioness who dared come too close. Later that afternoon WE found the pride still tucked away in the cooling relief of a shady drainage. The cats were flatter than pancakes, Tinyo was lying on a crest watching over the cubs and lionesses while Mfumo and Amber Eyes enjoyed a little time alone. They mated once before rejoining the others and sleeping off the afternoon heat.
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(Playful Nkuhuma cubs look for something to pounce on, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)
Monday the 31st of October
All Hallows eve dawned bright and hot. The sky was azure blue and the sun beat intense rays down on the bush. The lions were once again, tucked away in their favourite shady drainage line. The remained rather static for the sunrise safari and all expectations were that they would remain this way for much of the day.Yet the cats had other plans, in the excruciating mid day heat they managed to bring down yet another buffalo calf, weakened from the long dry season. Buffalo bellows could be heard by safariLIVE crew and we knew a treat would be in store for us later. Yet the lions once again surprised us! Tayla managed to catch up with the buffalo terrorising felines as they brought down a second buffalo calf for the day! The thrilling scene played out right in front of the Vuyatela lodge. Two lionesses held the calf firmly in their jaws as they allowed the cubs to practice their hunting skills. The cubs leapt to and fro, swiping at the calf hind legs and performing great aerial acrobatics as they took turns jumping on the poor creatures back! Eventually the lionesses decided it was time for the fun to end and they snuffed out the young buffalos life. The cats then fed happily, or as happily as they could being lions after all, and soon it was time to leave.
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(Nkuhuma lioness holds a buffalo calf still so the cubs can practice their hunting skills, Screenshot Credit: Kaarina Pietiäinen‎, safariLIVE, Djuma)
The lions however were not the only spot of big cat luck for the day. At the end of the sunrise safari Byron was alerted to the presence of a predator by loud barking kudu alarm calls. He raced into the area to find the Queen accompanied by her little prince and princess making their way north. He stuck with them for as long as possible and eventually they lead him to where Karula had stashed an impala kill. Later that afternoon, the closet royalist himself, James Hendry made his way to the sighting. WE all watched as the cubs fed hungrily on their mother’s hard earned meal, Karula lay watching them with pride as they fed. Eventually the sighting became too dark to stay safely and WE left the royal family to their Halloween feast.
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(Young Hosana “the little chief” nibbles on an impala leg, Screenshot Credit: Agnes Zsiga‎, safariLIVE, Djuma)
Tuesday the 1st of November
A misty start to the day provided both humans and animals alike a little relief from the constant sticky heat. The lions were found still enjoying the spoils of their buffalo kill from the day before. WE arrived as they took their last few mouthfuls and commenced playing in the cool weather. The cubs bounded about pouncing and playing before heading down to the dam for a drink. Soon after, they were on the move once again, eventually they wound up at the other carcass from yesterday’s escapades. The lionesses dung in hungrily but this was soon interrupted by Tinyo who moved in and took over the second beefy breakfast for the morning. Later on that afternoon the lions had hidden themselves expertly and despite our best efforts we were unable to locate them.
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(Nkuhuma lioness and cub play king of the termite castle, Screenshot Credit: Kaarina Pietiäinen‎, safariLIVE, Djuma)
Wednesday the 2nd of November
Another cat filled start to the day! First up was Tayla and the extremely playful Nkuhuma pride. The rain from the night before had clearly energised the lions, the lionesses and cubs bounded with ecstatic enthusiasm as they strode with pride through the centre of Djuma. Eventually they moved off the road and into an extremely thick block. WE unfortunately couldn’t follow them as off-roading on the saturated soil would have been detrimental to the environment. But not to fear, a little later on Tayla found her second lion sighting for the morning. Tinyo, one of the dominant Birmingham males, paced furiously through a block near the eastern boundary. He called and scent marked as he walked intently through the block. Eventually he came to rest near the side of the road and fell asleep. Later that afternoon, Tayla once again relocated the pride, who had now met up with Tinyo. He was lying some distance off, clearly sidelined by the lionesses and their eight cubs. The cubs played, with an energy usually associated with nuclear reactions, before the entire pride was up and off through yet more thick bush.
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(Nkuhuma lioness and young cub sharpen their claws together before heading out on the hunt, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)
On the southern side of Djuma the morning yielded just as much luck. James did the usual morning patrol of the southern boundary hoping for any sign of the Queen and her two cubs. Sure enough, the search paid off and he discovered them walking carefree and happy along Gowrie main road. Hosana and Xongile bounded about exploring their environment and jumping on the ever graceful Karula. After a few wonderful minutes of intense leopard action Karula arrived at her most recent kill site. Hosana and Xongile took turns pouncing on the long dead duiker practicing their killing techniques while Karula watched with pride. Later that afternoon she had moved the kill deep into a cool drainage where we watched the royal family feast for the afternoon.
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(Young Hosana get’s his paws wet on the way to a duiker kill, Screenshot Credit: Gail Murphy, safariLIVE, Djuma)
Thursday the 3rd of November
Another damp and cloudy morning dawned across the northern Sabi Sand as the last few drops of rain feel from a hostile looking sky. Tinyo, one of the Birmingham male lions, was discovered having a refreshing drink at the Vuyatela dam. He spent quite some time there roaring out to his brothers, yet his calls fell on deaf ears. Reports over night also indicated that the Nkuhuma pride had once again ended the life of yet another buffalo. Finding them however, was proving easier said than done. Eventually WE caught up with the deadly cats not far from the quarantine open area. Their beefy breakfast was at its peak and WE watched as lionesses and cubs alike squabbled over the best feeding spots. Later that afternoon WE found the lions in a complete comatose state, bellies bulged to bursting point and eyes firmly shut against the warming day. Halfway through the sunset safari, reports came flooding in from our amazing viewers saying there were two lions on the Vuyatela dam wall. We made our way over to find one of the Nkuhuma lionesses in the company of Mfumo, the largest of the Birmingham males. They were, if possible, even flatter than their pride mates! WE eventually left the lions to their evening activities in peace.
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(Grubby cubs argue with a bloody faced lioness over feeding spots, Screenshot Credti: Kaarina Pietiäinen‎, safariLIVE, Djuma)
Further to the south Queen Karula and her two cubs were found resting up near the measly remains of their duiker kill. The Queen, as regal as ever, lay peacefully keeping a careful eye on her two boisterous cubs. Xongile spent a short while picking at the leftovers while her brother Hosana got down to the serious business of stalking some nearby zebra. He snuck with expert cat-like precision and stealth, keeping his beautiful spotted pelage well camouflaged. He got with a few meters before Xongile ruined the fun by pouncing on him from behind. The zebra, mildly surprised to see these two little cubs, merely gazed down their long striped noses at the inexperienced pair and trotted off into the bush. The royal family then made their own way south and out of our traverse.
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(Xongile looks at the world from a different perspective, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)
That afternoon however was Shadow’s turn. WE have not seen nor heard anything of her well being in quite sometime, so to know she had been found on a kill came as a huge relief and of course generated much excitement! James made his way over to the sighting to find Karula’s eldest daughter striding with determination through the bush, carrying her afternoon snack in her fearsome jaws. She walked up the skewed trunk of a marula tree and draped her kill across it’s low boughs. It was uncertain as to whether the kill was a tiny impala foetus or perhaps the first impala lamb of the season, without seeing the initial carcass however, it would be impossible to tell. Once Shadow was satisfied with her meal stash, she descended gracefully and sunned herself elegantly in the golden rays of the setting sun. Soon she was fast asleep and James was on his way back to camp.
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(Shadow resting in the last rays of sunlight, Screenshot Credit: Gabi Hossain, safariLIVE, Djuma)