Text and photographs: Murray Forbes
Winter is in full swing here at MalaMala, with the cooler mornings comes much excitement for our game viewing. In a fairly short space of time, many of the water sources like Buffalo Bush dam, The Windmill, and Princess Alice pans have all but dried up. The Sand River is fast becoming the central hub of animal activity on the property and here are a few of the highlights.
The ever resilient Charleston lioness has been keeping her young cubs from view for almost five days. Fortunately this trio were spotted during the morning drive, allowing a few moments of viewing before disappearing into some thick vegetation. They all relocated later that day to the eastern bank of the Sand River, adjacent to the central parts of Sibuye drive, enjoying an adult male kudu kill.
There has been a steady increase in the number of buffalo herd sightings in close proximity to the river, and lion sightings have also become more frequent. The seasonal Eyrefield pride, who spend most of their time on our west bank during the summer months, have asserted their presence yet again. This pride have been covering vast tracts of land, being spotted as far away as Clarendon open area which is right in our north eastern corner.
In the last two weeks we have viewed lions on three buffalo kills. The two Styx males, two Charleston males and the Eyrefield pride have been the successful parties involved.
A large male cheetah captivated our attention over two days between the airstrip and the western bank of the Sand River. On the second day this cheetah was seen, one ranger and his two guests spent almost the entire morning game drive (five hours) with this fine specimen, and were finally rewarded for they patience as they witnessed him bring down a large male bushbuck. Our MalaMala 7’s certificates have been flying off the shelf from the frequent sightings of Cape hunting dogs and cheetah!
The maternal bond between the Kikilezi female and her two 17 month old daughters seems strong as she is still sharing kills with them. It would seem that the Tamboti female leopard who reportedly had cubs is no longer a mother as we have seen no further indication of suckle marks in quite some time. In addition to this, we have seen her mating with the Treehouse male leopard. These signs confirm suspicions that the cubs have passed — a stark reminder of the difficulties of trying to raise cubs in an area with such a high density of other predators (hyena, lion and leopards). Let’s hope she has better luck with the next litter. On the topic of cubs, we all wait eagerly for the elusive Emsagweni female leopard to reveal her cubs again, as well as the young lioness from the Styx pride.
As the dry season continues here at MalaMala, who knows what will be in store over the next few months — watch this space.