Welcome back to yet another instalment of our Rangers Journal !!
Suicide month is almost at its end with the promise of rain in the air becoming more and more apparent as we are all on our knees praying for the life-giving liquid to fall out of the sky and kickstart the transformation from dry and dusty to clean, green and fresh.
There are already signs of the amazing event that will unfold within the next few weeks as soon as the first big rains are expected to arrive within the next week, such as this Devil’s trumpet flower amongst the dead grass, which exacerbates the struggle of Life vs Death.
However, it seems as if “Life” will always win.
Ok, let’s get into what is the latest bushveld politics here in Madikwe for this month.
To Start with the cheetahs, Savannah, our local female has been doing really well, and has been seen regularly also making various kills this month, and she continues to impress us with her tenacious ability to pull down prey items such as full-grown male impala. This will bode well for her as she prepares to have her cubs… Yip, she has been showing us signs of her advanced pregnancy stages with her teat line getting bigger by the day. We are super stoked for her, and we wish her well for her last month of pregnancy.
The two Phinda males have for the most part been spending all their time in the north west of the park, and are also looking supreme, and seem to be ruling the north of the park. They are also almost never struggling to kill prey, as they seem to always be full bellied when we see them.
Our local lion pride have been acting rather weird this month, as on one occasion they ganged up on the Monomoholo male and inflicted bite wounds to his back legs, which put him out of action for a week or so, but he has fully recovered, and seems to have reinstated his dominance over the girls.
The Kwandwe male has been spending most of his time without Monomoholo in the north west looking after the Tchaba pride. This seems to be the boys way of keeping the females from both prides happy, and also making sure that there is dominant presence from these two brutes everywhere inside their now massive territory.
There is however a threat which is growing in power to the east. This comes in the form of the Kwandwe male’s sons… The Mahiwa brothers, which means “GIFT”, and are seemingly setting up territory in an aggressive fashion around the Vlei pan area and further eastwards towards the river, but every now and again are finding themselves wondering into the far eastern boundaries of their father’s territory, so we are very anxious to see how this story will pan out in the near future once these 3 young males will find their confidence and possibly come west to challenge Monomoholo and Kwandwe for the right to own the females.
They have also been absolute killing machines this month and have been responsible for killing on a regular occasion, and also brave enough to pull down even the strongest of adversaries, the old male buffalo.
The Mica Pride with its mix of experience and youth has given us some great photo opportunities. One fine morning we located on the pride at Vleisfontein, the old missionary station which is situated on the ancient ivory trade route between Mafikeng and Bulawayo in Zimbabwe, and is now our park headquarters.
On arrival, the 2 youngest members of the pride, Boipelo and Bontle were in a jolly mood and for the next half hour, they entertained us with their acrobatics and power display which the photos will show you below.
On the other side of the waterhole was the legendary Mica female which is now over 17 years old !! Yeah, she is a living legend and is till looking as majestic as the first day I saw her almost 14 years ago for the first time.
Her teeth are still looking good, and as long as she can eat, she should be ok, especially as she has passed on her finely-honed hunting skills onto her daughters which will definitely be looking after this awesome lioness as long as they can.
General game in the area has been epic, as large herds of zebra and wildebeest are always great to see, as they fill up the blank spots between the predator sightings, and if you really sit and look at their behavior for a while, it can create some good photo opportunities.
Munye has been a little evasive this month and has had us pulling our hair out a little as he has been spending a lot of time to the west of the lodge in the rocky sections which we cannot access easily. However, we had one awesome tracking session on him this week, with me and Andre going out after breakfast to see if we could track him down for the afternoon safari. It was a successful attempt, and after about 3 hours we eventually found him chilling out and taking a siesta underneath a guarri bush trying to avoid the now intense sun.
On returning in the afternoon with our guests, he had not moved an inch, until much later where he headed out in search of his next meal.
We also had a great sighting of the ridge monster ! This guy is huge , and he was on one of the mountain slopes one morning, where we watched him carry his honey badger kill into the rocks to eat it in peace.
I unfortunately could not get any images of him, but we are excited that he made no attempt to run away from us as he usually does, so it seems like our persistent attempt at habituating him to the vehicles is paying off slowly, and we will not give up, until we have his trust in our pockets.
We also had a good sighting of a pair of ostriches that were presenting us with their brand-new offspring, and it was awesome to see the little chicks trying to keep up to their giant parents as they trundled down the road.
Rhino and elephant sightings are off the charts this month, as the heat of the midday gets them all down at the waterholes. The cacophony of mud splashing and baby elephants screaming for their mothers to open the front legs to free the teat is sometimes deafening while you are sitting in the hide only meters away from them at the lodge.
Out there in the bush, waterholes are a good place to get your fair share of paciderm bliss as the sunsets and or dramatic dust bathing will get your shutter burning up.
We have had awesome black rhino sightings too this month, and on many an occasion the feisty buggers have come to within meters of the vehicles as they show us why you do not want to bump into them on foot out here, stopping in a cloud of dust and then snorting before turning tail and disappearing into the distance with the sound of the bush cracking as they charge off.
There is also something about being in the presence of the gentle giants of Madikwe, in the form of the old elephant bulls, which just exude the immense enormity of the largest land-based mammal on this planet. When they get close to you, you will not believe the power they possess as they quietly walk past without a sound.
We also located on a giraffe which had died from natural causes, and had some lions feed on it before leaving it once it became a little too rancid for their liking. This gave the opportunity for the scavengers to move in and remove what was left. The stomachs of these beasts must be made of cast iron, as that rotting meat will put most of us mere mortals into the grave without a doubt. We are thankful for their role in the system as they can clean the environment of all the bacteria which could possibly otherwise create a disease outbreak here in the bush. Madikwe is one of the few places in South Africa, where you can find both the Brown and Spotted hyena living in harmony.
Well…. Until the rains come….
Catch you again next month….
Gavin and the T-Team.