Ten through the lens of Matt Meyer
This week’s images are through the lens of ranger Matt Meyer. He has captured some beautiful images of the wildlife at MalaMala.
The MalaMala Ranger Team
The Treehouse Male makes his feelings shown towards the Tamboti Female
The Eyrefield Pride rest in the heat
An Eyrefield Pride sub-adult
A young lion in a familiar pose
A glory full sable bull
A curious cub in darkness
A cub of the Kikilezi Female awaits her mother's return
A cold stare-down
An update on the wild dog pack recently introduced to Tswalu
In recent years a small pack of wild dogs that lived on Tswalu disappeared and we believe that in all likelihood the pack left Tswalu and was destroyed by nearby farmers. We were obviously very concerned and disappointed with their disappearance but felt that Tswalu, because of the size of the protected area and the abundant prey numbers, could continue to make a contribution to wild dog conservation and so we made arrangements for the introduction of another pack.
A wild dog pack that was in danger of being killed by farmers, was located in the eastern part of South Africa last year and moved to a holding camp on Tswalu. We have taken some time to ready Tswalu for this introduction but I can now report that we have recently introduced this pack of 12 animals onto the reserve and they are doing very well.
In order to learn as much as possible from this introduction and also to have an early warning should the pack leave Tswalu, we have fitted two satellite collars to animals in the pack. These collars are currently providing us with 4 locations a day. In addition, we have also fitted two radio collars which allows the pack to be followed with tracking equipment at any time . The combination of the satellite collars and radio collars means that the Tswalu guides can locate and keep up with the pack and as a result Tswalu guests are currently enjoying excellent viewing.
The dogs will face a number of challenges. If they leave Tswalu, they will almost certainly be killed by surrounding farmers. Our perimeter is fenced but given the number of aardvark, porcupine and many other animals that frequently dig under the fence, we will need the dogs to ‘behave’ and hopefully stay within the reserve. Also, because of their extremely social nature, the wild dog is particularly vulnerable to disease spreading through the pack. Diseases such as canine distemper and rabies are a constant threat.
It is early days for this introduction but all indications are that the pack has settled down and will thrive.
The dogs have settled in the northern areas of the Korannaberg section of Tswalu. The alpha female selected a den site in an open plain approximately 6 km north of Motse close to “Christmas dune” (below tower mountain). Last weekend, the obviously pregnant alpha female went to ground and all indications are that she has given birth.
An average litter is about eight animals and so we wait with great excitement to see the pups when they emerge in three to four weeks’ time. The den is about 7km north of The Motse and as long as the pups survive, we can expect the pack to stay anchored in the area for at least three months. They are restricting their movements along the western side of the Korannaberg southwards down to Gosa Dam and up northwards up to and along the northern boundary.
They are frequently now seen passing The Motse, Kraal and Stables on their feeding forays and they have made a number of stops to drink water in front of The Motse en-route back to the den.
Go Away Bird!
We came across the young male leopard we know as Mfana just as he was waking up from a nap.
He started to stretch and begin his leisurely grooming ritual when his ears suddenly perked up.
Following his gaze we looked just ahead of our Land Rover, where a group of unaware impala had just stopped to graze. Would we be lucky enough to actually witness a chase and kill?
A cry from above startled us all. “Go away! Go away!” cried two grey birds from the top of the tree. The leopard stared daggers at them from below.
If a leopard could kill with a look, we would have two less Go Away birds in the Timbavati.
The impala snorted their alarm call, now all on high alert. There would be no chase, no kill and no easy dinner today.
We drove away leaving a perturbed looking leopard to resume his bath.
Ten Through the Lens of James Moodie
The Eyrefield Pride play in the Sand River
This week’s images are through the lens of ranger James Moodie . He has captured some amazingly stunning pictures of wild cats and other game seen at MalaMala.
The MalaMala Ranger Team
The Airstrip Male lays claim to an impala kill
Brother and sister pose for a shot
Zebras on the western bank
The Airstrip Male ascends a weeping boerbean
Predator becoming prey
A young cheetah at dusk
A pack of fifteen cape hunting dogs
An alert lioness watches a waterbuck in the distance
The Battle of the Predators for Flockfield, by ranger Nic Moxham
Elephants and buffalo in eastern Flockfield
This winter we are bound for some epic duals. As the land dries up, the struggle for territory intensifies and predators must battle for the right to prevail in one of nature’s harshest seasons while looking to stamp their claim on this bountiful piece of land in the heart of MalaMala: Flockfield.
Zebra and impala graze on a summer's day in Flockfield
An extremely rare sighting of a Sable Antelope in Flockfield
Situated on the central parts of the property, Flockfield is a farm of two lights. In the west, the river promotes growth and life flourishes. The lower reaches of the Kapen River and the Tamboti Thickets are prime areas for leopards and their prey. Tall mahogany trees provide an ideal loft for an unlucky bushbuck, and the thick undergrowth presents the perfect cover to hunt. In the east water and shade give way to grass and sky as green turns to yellow. Open plains offer cheetah sufficient ground to gather speed, and lions will look to take advantage of the vast territorial space. It is prime property and predators and prey must find a way to make it their own.
The Bicycle Crossing Male sleeps soundly
So we begin with the leopards, and the boss of Flockfield: the Bicycle Crossing Male. “The Bike” – as he is affectionately known in these parts – is a MalaMala legend. He has been the dominant male in Flockfield for almost a decade now, and doesn’t seem to be slowing down. He walks with obvious confidence and fears little. Recently we watched him side-stepping his way through a herd of buffalo as he tried to catch a bellowing buffalo calf. He taunted with the large bulls that were blocking his way through, and eventually he was chased off. We also found him alongside the Treehouse Male and an unidentified Female leopard at Dudley crossing last month. The female tried, in vain, to mate with the Treehouse Male and the Bicycle crossing Male chased her off several times. Eventually she realised that mating with the older male was the wiser option. He is the one that all want to be like, an immaculate example of the ultimate predator. But he is old now. At fourteen years in September, he will begin to feel the lack of exuberance and power that he once possessed in his prime. So who will benefit from the passing of this great?
Currently there are four young leopards in this area that pose a threat. We have talked a lot about the Treehouse Male and his confrontations with the Bicycle Crossing Male over the last year. But there are still more viable contenders.
The Treehouse Male with a bushbuck kill at the Treehouse
At five and a half years old now, the Newington Male will be looking to establish a territory with available females to mate with. He is a big leopard and is beginning to take the shape of his father, the Princess Alice Pans Male. Over the past year he has been crossing east through the Sand River into Flockfield more regularly. It could be because of the pressure being put on him by his father, but he is a very valid threat to the Bicycle Crossing Male if he decides to challenge him.
The West Street Male takes to a tree
Recently the West Street Male has been elusive. He has moved from his original home around West Street Bridge to establish himself in the more eastern parts of the reserve. He could also return closer to the Sand River in winter, and we wait to see if he challenges any of the younger leopards in Flockfield.
The River Rocks Male seems to have made western Charleston his home. He is also very familiar with the advantages of being dominant in Flockfield after been raised by his mother, the Dudley Female, in these parts. He could look to challenge if he decided to push north.
It’s not only the male leopards who have their eyes on Flockfield. There is also a race between the females in Flockfield.
The unidentified female in western Flockfield
A particular young female leopard was first seen opposite Rattray’s Camp last year. She appears to be between 6 – 8 years old with a paler complexion than most leopards. Over the past year she has been found mating with the West Street Male around Buffalo Pans and Paddy’s Pools, and was then seen mating with the Bicycle Crossing Male more recently. With the apparent disappearance of the Flockfield Female, she is the most likely contender to take over Flockfield. She was seen recently following the Daughter of the Dudley Female around Flockfield Lookout, keeping an eye on her possible future threats. She moved off scent-marking and roaring, a sure sign of her intention to stay.
The Dudley Female and cub
The Daughter of the Dudley Female has been a common sight over the past couple of months. At just over two years old she lacks experience and has a noticeably nervous demeanor. She is a beautiful young female and will most probably be spending the winter within her mother’s territory hoping to avoid any potential threats. It will be an interesting winter for her and we wait to see whether she embraces her new lifestyle as an independent cat.
Lion confrontations should also intensify this winter.
A Fourways Male in motion
Historically the Eyrefield Pride spends a lot of time in Flockfield during the winter. They cross the shallow river regularly to look for prey along the watercourse. They enjoyed a highly productive season last year with numerous buffalo, giraffe and kudu kills throughout western Flockfield and along the banks of the Kapen River. They did have an encounter with the Fourways Pride during a buffalo hunt last winter and this type of interaction could be common in the future. The three strong males from the Fourways Pride are a considerable threat to the Eyrefield sub-adults, and the lionesses must be weary of this danger.
The unidentified pride blending into their surroundings
Another pride has been seen frequenting these parts. They have nine members and generally enter in the east and make there way south through the central parts of the property. The pride consists of three lionesses, five sub-adult males and one sub-adult female. The sub-adults appear older than the Eyrefield Pride sub-adults although the males lack the emerging manes. The lionesses are also relatively small and stocky and will struggle to match the bulk of the Eyrefield lionesses.
The Manyelethi Males have also been scarce. They have been enjoying a battle with another coalition in the west and are looking to possibly take over the two remaining prides in the western sector. We will see if the lack of the males’ presence in this area encourages new young males to make it their home.
A young male from the Fourways Pride
Singita – First Sighting of the Hlabankunzi Leopard Cubs
Experience, Sabi Sand, Safari, Wildlife
Last week was a very special one for visitors to Singita Sabi Sand, as the brand new Hlabankunzi leopard cubs made their public debut! The female has moved into the territory of the Ravenscourt female, who was killed roughly a year ago, and now patrols a prize piece of Singita’s 45,000 acre concession. Briefly before the cubs were spotted for the first time, Head Field Guide Mark Broodryk sent us this report:
“We suspect that she has her cubs under the deck of Room 11 at Singita Ebony Lodge and is as comfortable around the lodge as the Ravenscourt female was. Field guides Dylan, Ruel and I saw Mobeni’s new cubs for the first time yesterday morning, still very tiny and not exactly sure of numbers just yet. She has them close to the Khosa pan area in the Ximobanyane drainage. She seems to be a different leopard now that the Ravenscourt female has gone, she is not nearly as nervous as she used to be and we are able to view her fairly regularly. Her son has become independent and if approached correctly, also provides good viewing. Just yesterday we followed him for about 1½ hours and he curled up to sleep about 10m from the vehicle! Overall we seem to have come out on top with our leopard viewing and looks like the legacy of the leopard viewing for this reserve will continue.”
Lion Line Up – Sabi Sand, Wildlife
This photo of the Mhangeni pride walking in what appears to be military formation through Singita Sabi Sand, was taken last week by Field Guide Ross Couper. Of the unusual and entertaining sighting, he says: “As the honey coloured morning light filtered through the mist on the horizon, we knew we were in for a very good morning.” Ross’ stunning photo was even featured in the Cape Times a few days later, aptly captioned “Dawn Patrol”.
New departure point for Tswalu guests at OR Tambo opens soon
Tswalu will soon be moving its Johannesburg departure point to Fireblade Aviation, the first 7 Star VIP aircraft facility at OR Tambo International Airport.
The facility will open in the next few months, and will offer a world class FBO service which includes:
- International and domestic arrivals and departures
- Customs and immigration
- Safe aircraft parking and / or hangarage
- Fuel facility
- Luxury lounge services – restaurant, private lounge, spa, day rooms, VIP rooms, gym
- Private meeting rooms
- VIP and crew transport
- Aircraft support services
- Operations assistance
- Charter services
What this means for our guests is that they will have full access to our private lounge when travelling to or from Tswalu, including an à la carte restaurant; luxurious relaxation lounge; private terrace; a gym and spa with shower facilities; meeting venues; a boutique; exclusive VIP relaxation venues; complimentary Wi-Fi; and complimentary transfers to and from the main terminal.
We will update you in the next few weeks with more details on the offerings ….. watch this space!
Sleep under the stars at Tswalu’s Malori sleep-out deck
Imagine sleeping in a luxury king-size bed on a raised deck in the middle of a game reserve, surrounded by the calls of nocturnal animals, with nothing between you and the brilliant stars of the Kalahari night sky!
Tswalu Kalahari’s sleep-out deck, The Malori (meaning ‘dreamer’ in Tswana), offers guests the unique experience of a safari sleep-out on a magnificent 100,000 ha five star private game reserve.
The Malori deck boasts a raised platform with a thatched overhang for protection should it rain. Guests can choose to sleep under the thatch or further along the deck where it is completely open. The quaint bush suite also has weather-proof blinds which can be rolled up or down according to preference.
There is no compromise on luxury. The king-size bed is dressed with exquisite Aldona linen. Luxury towelling robes and slippers are provided and an adjacent outdoor toilet, basin and shower are just a short distance away along a lighted walkway. A simple fold-up table and camping chairs and a cushioned couch complete the barefoot luxury.
The Malori deck is built to maximise the exquisite surroundings and has panoramic views of the vast plains of the Green Kalahari. It is orientated to showcase the incomparable Kalahari sunsets.
Guests are escorted to the sleepout by a guide on a game vehicle from either The Motse or Tarkuni Private Villa. On arrival, the guide will introduce you to the facilities and help set up drinks and snacks and a pre-prepped dinner.
Guest are then left to begin their Kalahari sleep-out experience, with sundowners, dinner and a cheese and biscuit platter to enjoy with a night cap.
Lie in bed and count the shooting stars while you listen to the call of the wild. Wake at sunrise to birdsong and the sounds of the early morning in the Kalahari. Help yourselves to tea or coffee from the camp station before radioing your guide to fetch you for breakfast at The Malori.
Or you can choose to take a horse ride, walking trail or game drive back to the main camp, stopping for a picnic breakfast along the way.
Tswalu also provides children’s camping beds, so the whole family can enjoy an exhilarating Kalahari sleep-out under the stars.
A battle between Wild Dog & Hyena, on foot!
To come across the rare wild dog on a game drive is always a special experience, but to encounter a large pack on foot while they battle it out with a hyena clan over a kill, is simply unheard-of.
It all began at Tanda Tula Field Camp yesterday morning where Tony Park and his wife Nicola, along with Janine Mare from Africa Geographic, Anna Rich from Fairlady and the prize winners of our recent Africa Geographic competition, were spending some time soaking up the African bush at the new Tanda Tula Field Camp.
What an incredible sighting on foot.
We had set off early in the morning in the hopes of successfully tracking rhino and possibly some other large game. After a short drive away from camp we set off on foot and it wasn’t long before we came across fresh rhino tracks. With Dale and Ginger at the lead, the tracks showed we were close and so we cautiously followed them.
Just as Dale and Ginger confirmed we were in close proximity to the rhino, we heard a clan of Hyena making a raucous not far away. The call was made to quickly head off in the direction of the hyena to see if we could spend a few moments with them, before returning to continue tracking the rhino.
Everyone in high spirits. Image by Tony Park
Some calls you make are fruitful, while others can be fairly uneventful. This call was most certainly a good one as shortly after setting off after the hyena Dale went from being very focused on locating them, to very excited! As he explained what was in front of us, so the excitement spread through the group.
As we moved around thick bush and into the open, we encountered a large pack of wild dog moving in from the right while on the left were a few hyena darting in and out of the pack. The battle between these two strong predators was truly spectacular with the hyena making a great raucous. From what we could gather, the wild dog had made a kill which had attracted the hyena who came in for a closer look.
Hyena vs. Wild Dog!
After some back and forth, the wild dog eventually decided it was not worth the risk of continuing the battle and so they heading off away from the hyena in search of more food.
Of all the truly great sightings to encounter on foot this has to be right at the top of the list. Perhaps Tony Park was our lucky charm!
Here are a few additional photos:
Hyena vs. Wild Dog!
What an incredible sighting on foot. Image by Tony Park
Baby Steps for the Styx Pride
A mother's affection
It seems that this summer has really proven to be a season of new life, which brings an extraordinary excitement to rangers and guests alike. Watching young predators in their first phases of development is both entertaining and intriguing, and we have been blessed with plenty of action as the Styx Lion Pride and Kikilezi Female leopard have both shared their cubs with us. But with this new life comes unavoidable threats.
The situation with the Styx lion pride is by far the most fascinating. The oldest lioness in the pride has given birth to two females and a male cub, which look to be close to four months old now. The younger lioness in the pride has had a more recent litter, but her cubs have been kept in an inaccessible area and have not as yet been seen.
Mother and cub
Oldest lioness and cub
As rangers, we are trying to avoid getting attached to these youngsters, as their future looks uncertain. Having being sired by a nomadic male lion from the north (which they call the Nkuhuma Male), the cubs are under severe threat from the dominant Manyelethi Males to their south. It is in the blood of these brothers to eradicate any non-related progeny and to only preserve those from their bloodline. If these male lions had to run into the cubs and the lionesses, there would almost certainly be blood spilt.
The one thing going for these Styx lions is that the Manyelethi Males haven’t been seen with Styx Pride for over 14 months now, and so it is no surprise that the lionesses sought out another male to mate with. This being said, the Manyelethi Males do still venture into Styx Pride territory fairly regularly. Time will tell, and we wait in anxious anticipation.
As is the natural order, the cubs do have other threats in the form of leopards, hyenas and other lions. We do however feel that as long as the pride can avoid the Manyelethi Males, their cubs will have a future – even if it means finding a new territory to raise their young under the safety of the nomadic male.
Styx cubs playing
The Manyelethi Males are also facing serious competition, and could possibly be ousted by the end of the year, presenting new issues for the Styx Pride. New coalitions would actively seek out prides in their territory and exterminate any young cubs sired from a previous coalition to force the females into estrus, thus commencing their own reign as quickly as possible.
The cubs also face a threat from the prevailing coalition of six large males in the north, which spends time within the Styx Pride territory, as well as the roving Fourways Pride and their three maturing males. They are wedged between a number of very brutal forces, with a single nomadic male as their only protector. Could it work out in their favour?After all, the Kruger Male did it with the Selati Pride in the south. He single-handedly dominated the large pride despite the neighbouring males being eager to take over his bounty. We shall see if the ‘Nkuhuma’ Male has what it takes to replicate this feat.
Styx Pride and cubs
Onto the issue of the sub-adults, which is equally interesting. The two young males and two young females turned three years old last month, and are entering a critical phase of their life. It is inevitable that the young males will leave the pride, as the presence of much larger males in the area will make it almost impossible for them to remain with the older lionesses and new cubs. Whether the females will remain with the pride is another story. It would certainly benefit the pride to retain the young females as a support to the older lionesses for protection and hunting. The temptation to leave with the males would undoubtedly be appealing, as the older lionesses focus a lot of their attention on the new litters. Furthermore, they have grown up with their two brothers, and there is little doubt that the bond between the siblings is currently stronger than that with their mothers. This could lead towards an instinctive decision to leave with the males, and to attempt to begin a new pride somewhere away from MalaMala.
Styx lioness and sub-adult female - will the young lionesses stay with their mother?
Styx sub-adult male after feeding off buffalo kill
Of course, this is all speculation. No one really knows how lions, or any animal for that matter, truly feel. Nor can we state with certainty the rationale (if any) behind their decisions. But speculate we do as we live with them day in and day out. Personalising them, and trying to find reason for their behavior makes us feel closer to them, and a part of the natural system of things.
Weekly sightings of the MalaMala Seven 23 February – 1 March 2014
Sightings for the week ending on 1 March 2014
Number of lion sightings: 9
Number of leopard sightings: 20
Number of elephant sightings: 28
Number of buffalo sightings: 24
Number of wild dog sightings: 0
Number of cheetah sightings: 0
Number of rhino sightings: 0
Singita Kruger National Park
Lebombo & Sweni Lodges
For the month of February, Two Thousand and Fourteen
|Average Minimum: 20°C (68°F)||For the period: 38 mm|
|Average Maximum: 32°C (89.6°F)||For the year to date: 154.8 mm|
|Minimum recorded: 17°C (62.6°F)|
|Maximum recorded: 35°C (95°F)|
What's that funny face and smirk all about? It is something which most of us have seen before since it's actually not all that uncommon to observe in most domestic house cats. You've possibly seen the expression, the one which is followed by an intense sniffing session. This upward lip curling and exposing of the front teeth and gums is a behaviour which is practiced by carnivores big and small, and even hoofed animals, and is generally a means of testing and analysing different scents. Scents can be checked for any number of reasons but are predominantly used to determine sexualcondition or to investigate a newcomer within a territory.
This is done through a specialised organ called the vomeronasal organ, more commonly known as the Jacobson’s organ. It is situated in the top palate and the grimace is in an attempt to ensurethe scent reaches the organ in the roof of the mouth.
Huge python makes an impressive catch
Early one morning we headed out on game drive and found fresh leopard tracks not too far from the lodge. We followed them but were unfortunately not successful in finding the leopard and decided to continue in a northerly direction. Towards the end of our drive we decided to head back to the area where we found the leopard tracks earlier that morning, and much to our surprise saw a few vultures perched in a dead leadwood tree, in that same spot. This got us very excited hoping that we might find the leopard with a kill. Little did we know what was waiting for us!
These photos were taken by guest Amay Barros)
As we approached the spot where the vultures were perched we found some drag marks across the road. We started investigating the signs and came across this magnificent sight. We didn't witness the whole kill, but to see a Southern African rock python (Python sebae natalensis) of this size (3.5 - 4 metres), killing an adult impala was something not often witnessed in the bush, as pythons this big are very rarely seen.
The Southern African python is listed as vulnerable in the latest South African Red Data Book and may not be killed or captured. Unfortunately, to this day both its skin and fat are still used in traditional medicine.
The dagga boys
Oval depressions with the periphery darkened by moist soil, accompanied by slush green dung spilt on nutrient- rich basalt land. The tracks of the buffalo look at least 12 hours old, two maybe three bulls heading straight to the Xhikelengane drainage. This was quite a common phrase given to guests when the tracking of buffalo started in the early Kruger morning.
Studies of animal behaviour show that many species have a hierarchical structure and use an array of body language in order to survive and have the best possible mating opportunities. In Cape buffalo behaviour the most experienced females are known as pathfinders. These females are responsible for taking the herd to the most beneficial grazing and waterpoints in the breeding herd’s home range, which changes throughout summer and winter. As the pathfinders follow the rain to nutrient-rich grazing they contribute to the health of the grasses due to trampling and seed dispersion caught between the hooves of these dark beasts.
The breeding herds of the N’wanetsi section have been few and far between on the concession as they have been concentrating in the interior of the basalt flats to the west, traversingnorth and south as the rain comes and goes. Estimates of 500 plus have been recorded in these herds, which always baffle the eye when the horizon darkens with horns swaying side to side and grass being mowed at a phenomenalrate.
Older bulls post mating, as well as bulls in prime mating condition, sometimes leave the females in summer. Post mating bulls often depart permanently, while males in prime mating condition leave the breeding herd periodically to reach better grazing, which results in higher testosterone because of increased nitrogen levels in the highly nutritious grass. This type of grass grows along the Xhikelengane drainage and up along the Mozambique border. Lone ‘dagga' boys ('dagga' means muddy) or bachelor herds of up to 30 can meet in these areas - and this is sometimes where they meet their final fate by way of lions.
The tracks took us to the drainage area and there we found these buffalo bulls - one completely smothered in thick black mud and another battle-scarred and belligerent, both taking a moment out of their grazing regime to stare us down.
The concession is flourishing with amazing birdlife at the moment. Below are just a few photographs:
Above a beautiful southern carmine bee-eater (Merops nubicoides) and a female golden-tailed woodpecker
(Campethera abingoni). These two photographs show how different feeding habits require different beak adaptations. Although both are insectivores, the manner in which they feed is extremely different, the bee-eater pictured left is an insect eating bird catching most of its prey in flight and the woodpecker uses its strong robust beak for tunnelling away for food under the bark of the trees.
A female double-banded sandgrouse (Pterocles bicinctus) shows how effective her cryptic colouration can be on the sandy soils. There is a very interesting bushman story about double- banded sandgrouse - it tells us if these birds are disturbed the first direction they take off in is towards the closest water. So if they were hunting in an area they weren’t familiar with they could find fresh water by simply chasing these birds.
They take off vertically then fly in the specific direction towards water.
A male saddle-billed stork (Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis) glides effortlessly towards its nest on the concession. Interestingly, this pair is using a nest that they stole from a pair of white-backed vultures! A total of nearly 600 birds can be seen in the Greater Kruger National Park. The saddle-billed stork is part of the Big 6 of birds. The Big 6 of birds is a list made up in an attempt to mirror the famous Big 5 of mammals, and in turn increase the popularity of birds and show guests what diversity and splendour there is within the birds of Kruger National Park. The Big 6 are: the saddle-billed stork, martial eagle (Polemaetus bellicosus), kori bustard (Ardeotis kori), lappet-faced vulture (Torgos tracheliotos), southern ground hornbill (Bucorvus leadbeateri) and the Pel's fishing owl (Scotopelia peli). With the exception of the owl, the other five can be seen on the concession year round.
The male red-crested korhaan (Lophotis ruficrista) is most famous for his kamikaze display which he does to impress any potential mates in an area.
He starts by calling, as in the picture, to get the attention of any females. After a while, when he’s sure she is looking, he flies vertically into the sky and once he reaches about the height of a giraffe he tucks in his wings and comes barrelling down towards the ground! At the last possible moment he will open his wings and softly land on the ground.
Apparently the idea is that the male who can open his wings closest to the ground is the strongest, bravest and most genetically impressive and therefore ought to be chosen by the female as their mate...another member of their own species.
Jumping spiders of the family Salticidae are most active during the day. They have excellent vision which they use to hunt prey and recognise mates and enemies. These spiders can leap more than 20 times their own body length and are propelled by their back legs. When hunting the eyes of jumping spiders see in three different ways using the different sets of eyes. They work like telephoto lenses and have a movable retina to increase the visual field, allowing them to distinguish prey at 30 - 40 cm.
Jumping spiders are the only spiders known to respond to their own image in a mirror, taking up a threat posture as they would on encountering
The Xhirombe pride's eye spy of the Lebombo rooms.
The false eye markings of a mopane moth.
Ten from the lens of ranger Jonathan Short
Elephants crossing the Sand River
It is said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It stands to reason that the way the bush is experienced and appreciated will differ from person to person.
We bring you ten of the best pictures as experienced through the eye (and lens) of ranger Jonathan Short, all taken on safari at MalaMala over recent months.
Which is your favourite?
The graceful flight of a saddle billed stalk
The cub of the Tamboti Female
Sub adult Cheetah
Marthly Pride lioness and mother of the 3 cubs
Hippo and terrapin
Charleston Pride sub adult male
Buffalo at dusk
A young hyena cools off
A White backed vulture prepares to land
A Cuckoo-Starling Affair, by ranger Michael Lentz
On Tuesday 11 February 2014, while out on game drive, we found this juvenile Great Spotted Cuckoo on the Marthly region of MalaMala. It was perched perfectly on a dead tree, and making a highly stressed sound. What we didn’t expect was for the cuckoo’s host to make an appearance, and leave us with an experience that won’t be easily forgotten.
A Burchell’s Starling arrived, and it immediately became apparent why the cuckoo was vocalising. It was hungry and begging for food from its host! Despite the well-known fact that cuckoos are brood parasites (they lay their eggs in the nests of other bird species), it’s very seldom that one gets to watch the interaction between them and their surrogate hosts. Furthermore, the Burchell’s Starling is not a very popular brood host, with the Pied Starling, Cape Starling and Lesser Starling being better options.
The above image is of the cuckoo being fed a termite from the starling. While this was fascinating to watch, we could hardly believe what happened next!
The obviously still-hungry cuckoo made a lunge for the starling, attempting to bite the host bird! This sight was a first for us, and we all agreed that it could not have taken place in a better location, especially with the clear blue sky on that particular morning.
Considering the Burchell’s Starling is not a very common host species for the Great Spotted Cuckoo, we were reminded of how opportune this chance encounter was. Summer intra-African migrants such as the Great Spotted Cuckoo often get overlooked, but this was definitely not the case on this particular game drive!
Highlights from our Wildlife Reports
One of the most popular features of our website is the monthly Wildlife Reports, penned by Singita’s field guides and including many of their incredible photos from twice-daily game drives with guests. These journals cover recent wildlife sightings, seasonal changes in the local flora, birding highlights and stunning landscape shots from all five regions in which Singita has lodges and camps. Here is a selection of photos from some recent entries for you to enjoy:
Singita Kruger National Park
Elephants in the Kruger National Park must be some of the most dynamic landscapers to this environment and a safari would simply not be complete without seeing one of these colossal giants strutting its stuff. These giants move prodigious distances over a large home range area rather than marking and protecting a territory, – and this makes sightings of them unpredictable and erratic. Over the past month we had an extraordinary total of 89 sightings, with at least two sightings per day. Even with the huge number of elephants scattered throughout the park and with years of research, theories and estimates on these mythical beasts, so much is still unknown about the species.
Singita Sabi Sand
The Nyaleti male had made his way up the bank of the river and appeared in front of us. He casually walked along the bank until he reached a couple of big boulders. Instead of walking around them, he promptly hopped from boulder to boulder all the way across the river to the other side. (Watch the video – http://youtu.be/jMxeZEZGjdQ) We followed him slowly for about five minutes before a herd of impala struck his interest. We stopped and watched from a distance as he stalked the herd.
8 DAYS AT MALAMALA
Ranger Ross Forbes shares with us an overview of what he and 3 of his guests saw on safari at MalaMala over an 8 day period.
"1 safari, 3 people, 8 nights, 16 game drives, more than 65 hours spent in the bush, hundreds of elephants seen, herds of over 500 buffalo witnessed on several occasions, 21 different lions from 3 different prides plus a coalition of 3 dominant male lions, 11 different leopards, 2 male leopards witnessed fighting over an impala kill up a tree, a pack of 8 wild dogs seen on 4 separate occasions, 1 successful wild dog hunt on a bushbuck followed by 5 hyenas stealing the carcass all the while 2 herds of elephants tried chasing both sets of predators away, a successful hunt on a male impala by a female leopard no more than a few metres from the vehicle and on the final morning, we successfully tracked down a pride of lions hunting buffalo…
Some rangers would say ‘winter madness’; I’d say MalaMala Game Reserve…"
By Ranger, Ross Forbes.
The Singita Blog
Field Guide Favourites: Submerged
Kruger National Park, Singita Lebombo Lodge, Wildlife
Ross Couper is a field guide at Singita Kruger National Park, whose love for animals and the African bush makes him a keen wildlife photographer. Here he shares a stunning shot of one of the continent’s most fascinating and dangerous mammals – the hippopotamus:
The N’wanetsi River flows directly below Singita Lebombo Lodge, which makes the lodge the perfect spot from which to scan for hippos and crocodiles in the water. Some mornings, guests will see the hippos move closer to the man-made weir that allows passage across the river. Originally used by travellers to the Mozambique border post, now it allows for a close and eye-level encounter with one of the most deadly creatures on earth and by far one of the most interesting.
The magical early morning light is fleeting but casts a spell over everything it touches, making for some spectacular photographic opportunities. This particular morning, I waited patiently as the hippos moved under the water, waiting for them to surface briefly for air. Luckily, one appeared in a pool of golden light and every painstaking minute spent focusing through the viewfinder was rewarded.
This photograph was taken with a Nikon D3s using a 600mm F4 lens. You can see more of Ross’ great photos in our Wildlife Reports, where field guides from all of Singita’s lodges and camps keep monthly game-spotting journals.
Al Fresco Dining: Sundried Tomato & Peppadew Dip
Cuisine, Experience, Kruger National Park,Singita Lebombo Lodge, Singita Sweni Lodge
Singita Lebombo and Sweni Lodges lie in the southeastern reaches of the Kruger National Park, on South Africa’s border with Mozambique. Situated on 33 000 acres, Singita’s private concessionis an isolated piece of pristine wilderness where a unique wildlife population thrives across four distinct ecological-zones. This area is especially well-known for the remarkable concentration of the ‘Big 5’ and a number of particularly formidable prides of lion.
Daily game drives with professional guides and trackers provide the perfect opportunity to get up close to Africa’s incredible animals, and the late afternoon bush stops in particular are a wonderful opportunity to spot a great variety of wildlife while sipping a sundowner. To accompany a cold drink or crisp glass of wine, our kitchen teams prepare a delicious snack-time spread. Items on the menu can include crisp fried tortilla with sundried tomato and peppadew dip and creamy guacamole, a selection of local and international cheeses, fruit and preserves, smoked crocodile and springbok carpaccio, homemade breads, watercress salad and smoked salmon trout from the Franschhoek Valley.
If the sound of that makes you hungry, here is the recipe for the wonderful sundried tomato and peppadew dip for you to make at home, from head chef at Singita Kruger National Park, Archie Maclean:
SUNDRIED TOMATO AND PEPPADEW DIP RECIPE
Ingredients – you will need:
400g sundried tomato, chopped
100g peppadews, chopped (if you can’t find peppadews, substitute with any pickled peppers or capsicum)
1 small onion, chopped
150ml vegetable stock
Salt and pepper
Method – what to do:
Put a deep frying pan on a medium heat and add a little olive oil
Sweat off the onion in the olive oil until it begins to soften
Add the tomato and peppadew, and cook gently for 2-3 minutes
Add the stock and boil until it is reduced by half
Remove from the heat and then blend together until smooth (use a stick blender or food processor)
Season with salt and pepper, then allow to cool and serve
We’re giving you a taste of the eating al fresco in the African bush in our current blog series – read the first article from Singita Sabora Tented Camp! If you need to adjust the metric measurements, here’s a handy online volume converter.
“Unforgettable MalaMala”, by Greg & Jan Byrne
My wife, Janette, and I visited MalaMala in July this year, and I must say it certainly lived up to our expectations. After a long overnight flight from Sydney, Australia, via Johannesburg, we were met at the airstrip by our Ranger, Greg Baldwin, who ferried us to our Khaya at Rattray’s Camp. Once we settled in, we joined Greg for a marvellous lunch, where he introduced us to fellow adventurers, Connie and Greg from Illinois, excellent companions with whom we were to spend the next few days. This made for interesting conversations, what with three “Gregs” in the same group – most unusual.
We all met again at 3:00 pm, and set off on our first game drive, our travel-weariness melting away as we crossed the Sand River and headed into the bush. We soon encountered impala, warthog, giraffe and elephant … and then it got even better.
A call over the radio reported the sighting of a leopard west of the river, so off we went in search. We eventually found him, the West Street male, lying on a fallen tree trunk, barely 10 metres from our Land Rover, yet totally unconcerned by our presence. Fantastic! This is what we hoped to see. We stayed with him for a while, following him through the bush as he moved to a more comfortable resting place.
Later, after “sundowners”, we were heading back to camp when we heard that the Eyrefield pride were resting in the river bed opposite Rattray’s camp, so off we went to find them. Along the way, Greg (the Ranger) spotted another leopard resting in a tree, which he identified as the Newington male. We then drove into the river bed and found the pride of lions spread out along the sand, so we parked the Land Rover in their midst and watched them for a while with the aid of the spotlight. Eventually, we headed back to camp, and on the way we had to stop to let a rhino cross the track before we could continue. Back at camp, we freshened up, then joined everyone in the bar for pre-dinner drinks. The evening was capped off with a marvellous dinner in the boma, beside a crackling fire. We’d had a huge day, having seen two leopards and four of the “big five” animals on our first game drive. As we went to bed, Jan and I wondered “does it get any better than this?”
Meet Tswalu’s new meerkat habituator
Introducing Saralé Bock, the new and very enthusiastic meerkat habituator at Tswalu!
Saralé, also known as Skippy, joined Tswalu recently when her partner Travis took a position as a field guide here. She will be supplying us with regular updates on the goings-on at the meerkat colonies because her job involves spending as much time with them as possible so that they learn to accept human company. Tswalu’s guests and researchers can then visit the colonies without being seen as a threat or a danger.
This is what she says about herself:
I grew up in what used to be a one-horse town and has now grown into the metropolis of Worcester in the Western Cape of South Africa. It was a wonderful childhood – our days were spent catching frogs and housing tadpoles, building forts on the farmlands across from where we lived and making go-carts out of anything we could get our hands on. Weekends would be spent on friends’ farms riding horses, or sometimes sheep, camping in the Hex River Valley mountains under the stars, and canoeing down the Breede River. It was what most would call a wholesome upbringing.
When I left school I qualified through the International Academy of Health and Skin Care in Cape Town as a skin care therapist.
Health has always been of great interest to me and I have spent most of my working life working with children, as I believe that we should invest more time and energy in giving them the tools they need to make a positive impact.
I have many goals and aspirations but working with children and animals in a healthy environment is my ultimate goal.
I have recently begun a journey in yoga which I feel will be key to achieving this goal and am currently working with the children at Tswalu’s pre-school Tshameka once a week doing basic poses and helping to create body awareness in them.
We are looking forward to her posts!
Weekly sightings of the MalaMala Seven 14 – 20 July 2013
Here are the sightings for the week ending 20 July 2013:
- Number of lion sightings: 9
- Number of leopard sightings: 15
- Number of elephant sightings: 36
- Number of buffalo sightings: 17
- Number of wild dog sightings: 0
- Number of cheetah sightings: 0
- Number of rhino sightings: 0
Tswalu wild dog introduction
by TSWALU KALAHARI on JULY 29, 2013 in NEWS, WILDLIFE
Because of the heat of the Kalahari summer, most animal relocation projects take place in winter, and this winter has been rather busy at Tswalu. A variety of animals have been moved both into and out of Tswalu as part of a range of conservation projects.
Perhaps the most exciting introduction was a pack of wild dogs. The move, which forms part of a national wild dog “meta-population” conservation strategy was made possible by Thanda Private Game Reserve and the Wild dog Advisory Group.
The animals were flown from Zululand in the east of South Africa to Tswalu by The Bateleurs, a group of pilots who donate their time and their ‘wings’ to worthy conservation causes – with generous support from King Air Charters.
The pack of 12 animals arrived in good health and soon settled into their enclosure where they will be held for a few months before being released into Tswalu.
What Tswalu staff did on Mandela Day
Hayley van Dyk, teacher at the Tswalu preschool, Tshameka, sent us this wonderful pic taken on Mandela Day at the Van Zylsrus preschool in the nearby town of the same name.
Says Hayley: “The Tswalu preschool has 16 children and, thanks to the Tswalu Foundation and the goodwill of Tswalu guests, the children have excellent facilities. In stark contrast to the Tswalu preschool, the impoverished community of Van Zylsrus has a small preschool which has to accommodate 106 children, a severe staff shortage and lacks basic requirements for effective teaching and learning.”
With this in mind, Hayley decided that a fitting project to support on Mandela Day would be the preschool at Van Zylsrus. On Thursday, 18 July, Nelson Mandela’s birthday, Hayley, together with teaching assistant Anna, Tswalu nurse Betsie, field guide Barry and tracker Jonnas, invited some Tswalu guests to go with them to pay a visit to the preschool .
“Jonnas lives in this community,” says Hayley, “and so he was our guide for the day. The Tswalu delegation was welcomed warmly and our gifts of stationery and hats greatly appreciated.”
The Tswalu Foundation is committed to fostering a long-term association between the Van Zylsrus preschool and the Tswalu preschool.
South Africa Camp News – June 2013
|Weekly Sightings of the MalaMala Seven: 12 –18 May 2013|
Here are the sightings for the week ending 18 May 2013:
Special Times at Tanda Tula Safari Camp - Autumn Game Viewing
The last few weeks have delivered some wonderful sightings and experiences for our guests. From lions and leopards to our resident hippo rolling around in camp dam. The hyena den situated to the south of camp has again produced some wonderful interaction between clan members, with the dominant females dishing out some serous discipline amongst the youngsters.
As the surrounding bush dries out buffalo herds are again making their way into camp dam to quench their thirst. This makes getting back to your tent in the evening very interesting! The young Machaton pride males have been a real highlight the last few weeks. The pride have been following the large buffalo herds and have on occasion been successful in tackling one.
We have also been fortunate to see a lot of male leopards recently. Rockfig Jnr’s young male has b een enjoying the thick bush of the Machaton river system and looks to be doing well on his own. Another large male seen recently was the enormous Argyle male who looks to have been displaced from his regular territory in the north by a younger stronger mal e. He seems to have taken up residence to the west of us as the area has been vacant of a large male for some time. As you will see in the images below, general game has been prolific and large numbers of giraffe, zebra, kudu and nyala are seen on a daily basis on drive. Enjoy.
New developments at Tswalu!
We are looking forward to a host of new developments at Tswalu which we are certain that our guests will love!
This project will see the gym relocated into the bush to give our guests a more authentic experience. It will still have air-conditioning and all the mod cons, but the views of the Kalahari will be enough to distract them from the most strenuous workout! The newly renovated spa will have a welcome lounge and both a couples as well as an individual therapy room leading into a private hydrotherapy garden. Our popular outdoor massage deck in the shadow of a sausage tree will remain in pl ace for green spalovers!
We recently opened a third two-bedroom legae, or dwelling, at The Motse in response to a growing demand for occupancy. With two en -suite bedrooms, each with an indoor and outdoor shower, and a shared living area, the legae is ideal for families travelling together.
The addition of a second sleep-out deck will offer guests the opportunity to sleep under the stars, without compromising on luxury. This new deck will include a sunken bath where guests can sip champagne as they watch the exquisite Kalahari sunsets.
The Singita Wildlife Report
Cheetahs are best known for their antics in vast open spaces like the Masai Mara and Serengeti. The large grasslands there create ideal habitat for the world’s fastest land mammal, as they chase down prey at speeds in excess of 100 km/h. That said, we have cheetahs in the Sabi Sand Wildtuin that have made this not-so-open habitat their home. The family of three pictured here joined us about two months ago, after an absence of cheetah cubs for almost five years. Singita’s most southern areas are open grassland, suitable for this family to settle and thrive. Large herds of impala often gather on the plains, giving great opportunity for the speed queen to stretch her long legs. She has had to adapt the classic hunting technique, and with several observations we have noticed that she stalks much closer to her prey than cheetah in East Africa do. She often hunts more like a leopard, in that she uses the available cover to stalk within 20 meters, or closer. A single male cheetah has also made this area his home. He is a large and strong male and has gone unrivaled for almost a year. With the arrival of the female, mating prospects have started looking a whole lot better. The only problem for no w is that she has two dependent cubs. The female will not allow him to court her whilst her cubs are still around, and this should still be the case for another eight months.
Male cheetahs are not as aggressive towards foreign cubs as their larger feline relatives. Lions and leopards often kill cubs fathered by any rival male. Male cheetahs have been observed to threaten cubs and show their dislike towards their presence, as can be seen pictured below. However, there are cases of male cheetahs actually kil ling cubs in order to gain access to the female cheetah a few weeks later. Only time will tell what will happen with these particular ones. From what we have witnessed, thus far, his disapproval of them is obvious in that he often spits or strikes at them in typical cheetah fashion. The female will intervene if things get too heated, and he usually retreats. The cubs are in great health and have always walked away from these interactions, unscathed.
Average minimum 15.2˚C (59.3˚F)
For the month 92 mm
South Africa Camp News
Weekly Sightings of the MalaMala Seven: 21 - 27 April 2013
Here are the sightings for the week ending 27 April 2013:
Number of lion sightings: 14
Special Times at Tanda Tula Safari Camp
It's been an exciting few days in our area of the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve.
The young male cub is now larger than his mother and should be self sufficient very soon and it was fascinating to watch the interaction between mother and son.
Having a tumble
Her tolerance of him grows shorter by the day, and after an initial friendly greeting tempers started to flair as he started throwing his superior weight around. Still, she put him in his place very quickly with a swift paw to the head!
I am sure she will be comin g into oestrus again very soon and will be covered by the large territorial male in the area. So time is ticking on the young male's presence in his mother's territory, as he will soon have to go out and fend for himself completely alone.
Mom and cub
Interesting times await and we will keep you up to date on his progress.
Tswalu Kalahari Reserve - The velvet raisin bush
|by Tswalu Kalahari on April 26, 2013|
The velvet raisin plant (Grewia flava), also known as wild raisin or brandybush, is a low growing shrubby plant with distinctive greyish green hairy leaves. From October to March it has beautiful sweet -scented star-shaped yellow flowers wh ich make way for the berry -like fruit that is visible from December to April.
The young male cub is now larger than his mother and should be self sufficient very soon and it was fascinating to watch the interaction between mother and son.
Having a tumble
Her tolerance of him grows shorter by the day, and after an initial friendly greeting tempers started to flair as he started throwing his superior weight around. Still, she put him in his place very quickly with a swift paw to the head!
This is a very useful plant to the Bushmen/San people who make bows from the thicker and longer pliable branches and use the thin, straight branches to make arrow shafts, wal king sticks and traditional fighting sticks.
The fibres of the bark make good rope and you can even use the end of a twig to brush your teeth if you're camping in the bush. Buck, such as kudu, steenbok and grey duiker, love feeding on the velvet raisin, as do mousebirds, grey louries, helmeted guineafowl, francolins and korhaan.
This cute pic was taken by head field guide Jo de Wilde. Says Jo: I got this shot while looking for the meerkats. Alejandro was hot and decided to use a velvet raisin bush as an umbrella!
SOUTH AFRICA CAMP NEWS
Ta Shebube to open 3 luxury camps in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
June opening date for Rooiputs
The Kgalagadi is characterised by the red, rolling sand dunes, dune bushveld, scattered pans, dune crests, the fossil river environment of the Nossob and Auob River valleys, vast open Acacia savannas and expansive, grassy plains. The dry river beds show predators and antelopes off at a premium and provide excellent photographic opportunities. Eighty well -established water holes along the Auob and Nossob Rivers attract large numbers of desert plains game and predators and, their proximity to the game drive roads makes them an ideal close -up vantage point for photographers.
With its rugged, scenic beauty, abundance and variety of wildlife, atmosphere of desert solitude, 4x4 wilderness trails and its culture, the Kgalagadi is an unspoilt and undiscovered treasure trove. Due to its extremely isolated location and harsh terrain the park gets relatively few visitors.
Predators are the area's big attraction and include: the black -maned Kgalagadi lion, leopard, brown and spotted hyena, jackal and wildcat and it is one of Africa's best parks for the ch eetah, which thrive by hunting in its fossil river valleys and the surrounding dunes. Over 300 bird species have been recorded and Nossob and Polentswa Pan are rated as one of the best places to view raptors, particularly in summer.
Rooiputs, located 25 k m north of Twee Rivieren, will comprise of 11 luxury thatched chalets constructed from a clever mix of wood, canvas and glass with furnishings reflecting the rich, ethnic textures of Africa and the desert. Whereas Polentswa and Union's End, located 190 km north, will be classic, tented camps capturing the romance of a nostalgic bygone era (9 and 6 tents respectively). A luxury desert suite and a family unit, lapa, boma, library, plunge pool, wellness massages and bird hide will be additional features at selected camps. Additionally to fully inclusive rates Ta Shebube will also be offering full board/self-drive rates.
All camps can be accessed by road and there are daily scheduled flights from Cape Town and
Johannesburg into Upington . The Twee Rivieren airs trip is a 50 minute charter from Upington.
We headed out from the lodge with our main aim being to spot a leopard. We headed south and not even ten minutes into the excursion, our tracker Sandile saw the spoor of a female leopard and her cub. We knew she must be in the area because there had been a report that she had killed a you ng impala lamb the day before. She wasn't on the site of the kill, instead there were plenty of hyena tracks and a drag mark suggesting that she lost her lamb to a hungry pack.