It really is all about the wildlife

Game drive with mating leopards

Ranger Timothy Smythe with the Airstrip male leopard and his unidentified female companion by Roan Ravenhill

When we say it’s all about the wildlife, that’s exactly what we mean. Below is Gary Hill’s ‘ranger report’ for some guests he looked after recently.

“By the time the party arrived at MalaMala, they’d already been to three different camps in Botswana where they had seen everything except rhino and cheetah. They saw their first rhino en route to Rattray’s Camp to check in. They were excited, seeing it as an omen of good things to come. After that they saw rhino every day, which by the end of their stay amounted to 15 rhinos in 8 different sightings (with a mother and her very young calf being the highlight)!

A large herd of some 250 buffalo was viewed drinking from the Sand River, and lone bulls were also seen on occasion. The guests enjoyed the buffalo sightings immensely, as all previous encounters were at a distance, with the animals skittish.

We encountered elephants on a daily basis, although this didn’t enthrall them too much since they had seen a lot of them in Botswana. They were however very happy with the many giraffe sightings, as these long legged beauties had been scarce at the other camps they’d visited.

We spent most of the first evening with the Fourways lion pride. The three cubs and two females became active shortly after sunset, so all in all it was a good sighting. The Styx lion pride also provided us with some excellent viewing. Each sighting had both cubs and male lions present, neither of which they’d seen that many of before coming to MalaMala. In total, members of the Styx pride were seen on four occasions. We saw the two lionesses, two cubs and a Manyelethi male together on one occasion. A further two lionesses, two cubs, and a different Manyelethi male were spotted on the top of Campbell Koppies. During this sighting the pride’s newest addition, a three week old cub, was hiding nearby in some thick bush. We returned in the evening to find the youngster in full view, suckling its mother and occasionally playing with the older cubs. Three lionesses, two cubs and two of the Manyelethi males were also seen on the Wild Dog Rocks.

The guests got to see six different leopards during their stay, including a great sighting of a young male with a kudu kill in the Sand River. He hid in the reeds as soon we approached though, so we moved some distance away on the river bank. We waited with the carcass in full view, and he eventually came out to feed again. We also saw the Ostrich Koppies female and her young cub, the Kikilezi female, an unidentified young male feeding on the remains of his civet kill, and the Airstrip male patrolling his territory while at the same time dodging two hyenas.

The third morning was exceptional. We watched a pack of 10 wild dogs on the new airstrip for a while, until they ran off into Sparta. There were also two male cheetahs at Clarendon Dam, a herd of elephants drinking at Wildebeest Crossing, the Styx lion pride at Wild Dog Rocks, the Airstrip male leopard, and two rhino bulls drinking at Flockfield Boma Crossing. Six “Dagga” boys (old buffalo) in front of the deck after morning drive completed the MalaMala Seven. And that was just the morning drive!”

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