A rough day for the lions!
This morning as we set off for drive we first saw a herd of zebra. As we were watching the zebra we heard some buffalo not too far in the distance so we decided to track them down. As we came around the corner we saw some of the herd but we could hear the rest further south from our position. As we continued along the road a huge group of buffalo were blocking the path ahead. They were extremely closely packed together at the base of a marula tree looking upwards and to our delight we saw a young lioness perched precariously in the fork of the tree. We also saw tracks of her three sisters moving away from the area. We can only presume that the lionesses were chased by the buffalo and she jumped into the tree for cover whilst her sisters managed to escape the stampede! Her tail was hanging down from the tree just inches from the buffalo who definitely had the upper hand and seemed intent on trying to force her from the tree. Sensibly she stayed put until eventually the buffalo moved away from the area. As soon as the coast was clear she made a quick getaway, jumping awkwardly from the tree. We followed her in the hope that she would lead us to her sisters. As she walked she was making contact calls to try to locate them. Eventually she found them and they went to get some well deserved rest in a shady erosion area. But the excitement for the lionesses was not over for the day. This evening one of the rangers relocated the lionesses early in the drive. We found the herd of elephants highly mobile in the direction of the lionesses. Once again the young lionesses were chased away – this time by the elephants! We struggled to them but eventually found them an hour later. As we followed them through the bush they stopped at a warthog burrow and poked their noses inside one by one to see if the occupant was at home. Luckily for the warthogs they were not in the burrow. The lionesses continued on their mission and as we left them they were on the way to one of the dams close to the lodge. On our way back to the lodge for dinner we came across a serval hunting in the long grass. She was unusually relaxed and presented us with a rare photo opportunity!
Rangers Blog 21 June
This morning was a brisk morning with a layer of frost glistening accross parts of the reserve which was a surprise to us all! But once again there were some fantastic sightings in store for us. We first came accross two female rhinos still busy sleeping at the side of the road. Even the sound of us approaching did not disturb them from their slumber though there was some characteristic ear movement signalling that they were aware of our presence. We left them to continue their slumber in peace. Last night late in the evening one of the rangers found a lioness and her two cubs (now almost a year old) so we moved into the area to see if we could pick up any tracks and establish their direction of movement. We did find tracks in the area and started to follow them. We followed the tracks for almost 45 minutes when another ranger called in a sighting of our male lion not too far away. A hippo had died in a nearby dam two days ago (we believe in a territorial battle) and the male lion had gone for an effortless snack. We immediately thought that the lions whose tracks we were following were going in the same direction. We found them and they did eventually meet up with the male who had just quenched his thirst at the dam. As we left they had moved into a shady area close to the dam to no doubt sleep for the rest of the day. We planned to have a coffee stop at another dam close to the lodge but as we got there we discovered that our three hundred strong herd of buffalo had beat us to it and were slowly coming to the waters edge for a drink and a splash around! Rather than go somewhere else for coffee we took full advantage of the sighting in the sunshine and then returned to the lodge for breakfast with big smiles on our faces.
This evening’s drive was very eventful with all big 5 being seen across the reserve. Especially great was a sighting of four young lionesses interacting with a herd of buffalo. The sighting was in a very open area of the reserve and as we watched them the sun set beautifully behind the Drakensburg mountains. The lionesses made a few unsuccessful attempts at taking down a young buffalo but the herd stormed them and chased them away. Eventually they took a rest (as lazy lions invariably do!) and lay down on top of an old bridge. The groups of buffalo were still milling around in the area and some of the older bulls were tentatively but bravely moving towards the lions in order to chase them away. Each time the buffalo approached they would get a little closer to the lions. Then the lions would growl at them in response and they would backtrack carefully. As we left them it looked as though the lionesses were taking the upper hand. We will go back into the area tomorrow morning to follow up and see if we can see evidence of the lionesses’ success or not! Earlier in the drive we were rewarded with a rare sighting of two Southern Ground Hornbills hunting for dinner. On the way back to the lodge we saw three hippos emerge from one of the dams to the east of the reserve on their daily mission for food. And we had perhaps our last sighting of a chameleon for this season. Chameleons usually hibernate during the winter times and most of them have already gone underground (they usually use old scorpion or ground dwelling spiders’ holes).
For the past two days I have been the only ranger on game drive on the eastern side of Kapama Game Reserve, but luckily sightings were as impressive as always. We had a female cheetah eating on a baby nyala kill, elephants, rhino, buffalo and the pride of lions together. Also the resident male lion put on an impressive display serenading us with deafening roars a mere five meters away! General game sightings included kudu, waterbuck, impala, duiker, giraffe, zebra and a host of birds including vultures. One thing I saw stands out and that was two Hamerkop birds in an apparent courtship display with one hopping onto the back of the other and flapping its wings! Indeed a very relaxed few days!
Sebastiaan Jansen Van Vuuren
Kapama Main Lodge