Savanna Blog - May 2018

It seems that the month of May was definitely a ‘baby’ month! Although there were a few cubs seen last month, it has definitely continued and even improved. We knew last month that the one Ottawa female had dropped her cubs, but they were too young to come out of the den. On the 10th May they finally made it out and have been providing fantastic viewing since then. 

They are super-relaxed and are already giving the mother a few headaches when she wants to sleep and they need a drink of milk! Their aunt is also not too keen on the new arrivals, and shows them a clean set of teeth if they get too close to her. 

There are also many tender moments that melt our hearts, but remind us that we should not mess with the mother at all! For a short video of the cubs, please click here.

Tlangisa has also brought her two cubs out for the first time this month. She has chosen the same den in the north that she had used the last time and it is just perfect for leopard cubs. There are plenty of rocks to play on and a few very good climbing trees to practise their skills on, yet at the same time plenty of cover for the youngsters. 

As we have mentioned so many times in the past, the attention and care that Tlangisa bestows on her offspring is remarkable. She is still one of the most fantastic mothers we have seen, and the obvious joy she exhibits when playing with the cubs is a privilege to watch.

The hyena den also provided some great viewing during the first few weeks of May. They seemed to have moved during the latter part of May, but hopefully we will find this den soon, as the two cubs are still very young.

Baby elephants are always a major hit and this month we have witnessed quite a few youngsters and some newborn calves that have just managed to get the hang of walking! 

Those who have managed to get full control of all of their limbs, under the watchful eye of the mother, soon become cocky with the Land Rovers and seem to attempt to protect the herd all on their own!

Thanks to the wonderful support of many of the guests and the incredible dedication of our anti-poaching team, as well as the hard work from all of the Sabi Sands staff, our rhino population is well protected. The results are showing and we are privileged to see the next generation flourishing here as well. 

We were even blessed to have a female cheetah and her two youngsters arrive here for a few days! It has been quite a number of years since we have seen a female cheetah, so one can imagine the thrills and excitement during these few days. Unfortunately, they did not stay very long and the few that saw them were very privileged indeed.

When there weren’t any babies involved, quite often the act of making babies was witnessed! This was particularly true of Ravenscourt who was seen mating with Basile on a few occasions. She is definitely ready for a new litter, having lost two litters already. Hopefully, she will soon be able to raise her first litter to adulthood. 

On the lion side, the Majingilane males have all succumbed or disappeared and, as expected, it didn’t take long for the void to be filled. Without the roaring of dominant males, the Matimba males from the east quickly moved west in search of space and females. Although these two brothers are also getting on in life (they are approximately 13 years old) they have taken over the area with confidence. They are strolling around as if it has been theirs all along, and vocalising regularly, as if announcing their presence to the wild. 

They quickly found the Ottawa female with no cubs and wasted no time checking her reproductive status. The Flehmen grimace is used to waft the chemicals found in the urine across the vomaronasal organ, which in turn allows the male to ‘test’ her reproductive readiness. Sadly, as these males are pretty old already, it is very unlikely that they will be able to sire and successfully protect their cubs to independence. 

The remaining nine Mhangene sub-adult lions have continued to surprise us and hold on, despite the odds against them. Although a few of them are looking pretty good, the smaller and weaker ones are still in need of a good meal. They are truly nomadic, moving as far south as the Sabi River and back again. But the good news is that if they get through this, they will truly be a serious pride to contend with!

We mentioned the female cheetah with cubs earlier, but they were not the only new arrivals for May. We seemed to have a sudden influx of new cheetah this month. A new relaxed male pitched up in the south around Savanna, firstly with a young waterbuck kill, and then a few times after that. He is very relaxed and hopefully will stay in this area for good!

However, it didn’t take long for the regular male to pitch up and he was clearly aware that a new male had arrived. He very quickly followed the same routes as the new male, and scent-marked profusely in an attempt to discourage the newcomer. He was always very alert, focusing continuously on his surroundings in case he spotted him. On one occasion, we were fortunate to see the old male take a break from his territorial marking and successfully chase down and catch an adult male impala.

Two young male cheetah who had clearly just become independent also arrived briefly in May. This brought the total number of cheetah seen this month to seven different cheetah! These two youngsters were clearly nervous of their new environment and were initially very skittish of the vehicles. After a short while, however, they relaxed quite significantly. 

With elephant, it is not only the cute young calves that attract all the attention. What makes elephants such remarkable and fascinating creatures is their many similarities to humans. The bulls that are found in small bachelor groups, learning from one another and acting cocky and brave, or the older single mammoths that walk by so close to the vehicle that you can smell them, all make for breath-taking experiences. 

And then you get the huge herds, filled with individuals of all ages, from grandmothers and aunts, through to the various teen years and all the way down to the clumsy calves, learning from their elders. This is very much how we humans used to enjoy the massive family get-togethers over the holidays. Please click here to see a short video of a massive herd of close to 120 elephants!

Of course, the usual leopard viewing has been up to its usual high standard, excluding the cubs! When Basile is not gallivanting with the resident males, she is posing perfectly on large boulders!

Her sister, Khokovela, is also becoming a force to be reckoned with, and has for all intents and purposes completely displaced Xikavi. She is now owning her territory around the river, and is heard vocalising regularly.

After all the pressure Dewane has been under from Ravenscourt and Nyelethi, he is somehow still holding on to a portion of his territory along the river. He is also still looking pretty good, despite some superficial scarring from his battles last month. 

It was also interesting to see Torchwood again after a very long absence. He has settled into his new territory in the concession east of us and has apparently been doing very well. He has obviously grown in confidence and is looking really good! It will be interesting to see how his territory shifts and grows as he gets older and more confident.

Some of our youngsters who have recently become independent have also been giving us some good viewing. Euphorbia has been moving a little further south, away from his mother Hukumuri’s territory. He is now two and a half and filling out well. He was seen recently with a duiker kill hoisted in a large Marula tree.

Tlangisa’s young independent daughter, Sasekile, has been seen a few times in the north. It is a long way to get up to the area she frequents, so it is seldom that we find her, but when we make the trip north it is always worth it. Being the daughter of Tlangisa, she is extremely playful as well, and loves running up and down large trees.

As always, the viewing of the general game has been just as great. When stopping to sit with some of the more common species, one always finds something special, such as mating hippo, an impala catching a ray of sunshine or a posing journey of giraffe!

And then there are the rare animals which often excite the guides more than the guests! Guests that return, however, have usually learnt which of these are seldom seen, and share in our excitement. One of these species is the Serval which was seen late afternoon one day and was especially relaxed! We spent quite some time with it as it hunted in the long grass. 

Summer is more known for birds while all the migrants are here, but we have been blessed with some incredible sightings lately. The birds shown below are a Spotted Eagle-Owl, an African Openbill, the stunning Lilac-breasted Roller and two Malachite Kingfishers. A rare sighting of an Ostrich was also enjoyed by all.

The work in the community continues to flourish, together with the support of our guests, as well as hard work and dedication from community members. For an update on our community projects, have a look at this link

If you would like create a beautiful memoir of your trip to Africa, we now have photobooks with a Savanna template available on our website at www.savannalodge.com.

After an incredible journey at Savanna over the past 24 years, Paddy has finally decided to take a break from full-time guiding and retired as of this month. Paddy played an important part in the start of Savanna and put his heart and soul into the lodge. Although he will be sorely missed, his sun has not set, and he fortunately will be returning regularly to visit and remain an important part of the Savanna family. 

He has also just published his second incredible book and, for a preview of the new book, please click here. If you would like to order a copy, please contact Molly at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

With warm wishes,

Neil, Natasha and the Savanna Team

 

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