As we enter the peak of the dry season, it seems that the Concession’s predator activity is at its maximum threshold. Leopards, lions, cheetah, wild dogs, and hyenas seem to be popping out of every corner at the moment, producing exceptional sightings for our guests and guides to cherish. It is also the time of the year where you don’t even need to leave the comfort the lodge to immerse yourself in the Kruger National Park’s astounding biodiversity. Elephants, buffalos, and an array of antelope species wander past the lodges for a drink from some of the few remaining permanent water sources. As the sun begins to set and the activity around the lodge settles for the night, our resident big cats then take their turn to quench their thirst. The night comes alive as we turn in for the night with the howls of our resident hyena clans and the roaring of our lion prides. It is one of our favourite times of the year to say the least!
In this edition of our Newsletter, we also give you an insight into our identification kits for our favourite residents in order for you to be able to identify your personal favourites the next time you join us on safari!
LIONS OF THE MLUWATI CONCESSION:
The Hamiltons Pride:
The Hamiltons Pride has finally regrouped, and the Pride is regularly spotted with between fourteen to twenty-one individuals. Four of the females have cubs, which range in age and size from a couple of months to just under a year. Blondie and Madala continue to spend the majority of their time with this Pride. It is interesting to note that Madala has now totally stepped back from mating with the females, whereas in the past he was the only male who mated with the females. Blondie, who is still in his prime, is now responsible for the survival of the pride. It is not uncommon for the dominance amongst a coalition to shift over time, with the younger members growing in dominance as the older ones begin to age. However, Madala is now often found on babysitting duty, and he hardly shows any aggression towards the cubs—even when the pulling of his tail, ears, and even lips are being tested to the limit! On one memorable late afternoon, the smallest set of the cubs was found using Madala at the centre of a very crazy game of trampoline, where Madala was the actual trampoline, and each cub had a go-to see who was capable of jumping from his tummy and onto his head!
The Talamati Breakaway Pride:
Two females from this Pride have been seen a few times throughout the month, particularly around the Imbali Safari Lodge waterhole. They seem to be enjoying quite a bit of hunting success in this area as each time they appeared at the waterhole, their tummies were very full.
The Imbali Pride:
The Imbali Pride has been spending a lot of time along the Manyeleti cutline due to the Einstein male (otherwise known as the S8 male) having taken up more permanent residence in the Manyeleti Game Reserve and Buffelshoek/Pungwe region of the Sabi Sand Wildtuin. Though the Imbali Pride is dominant primarily within our Concession, lionesses will often shift their territories to be within the territory of a stable dominant male. As the Imbali Pride has cubs, it may be that they are seeking the protection of the Einstein male and therefore moving to align closer to him. It is sad not to be able to spend time with this Pride as often as we did, but we hope that the Einstein male will eventually make his way back onto the Concession when he is forced out of that area.
There are two unknown males that are moving around the Concession again, which is causing the mornings and evenings around Hamiltons Tented Camp to come alive with the incomparably booming, spine-tingling roars of these special cats. The roars of unknown males are swiftly followed by the replies of Blondie and Madala. We suspect that these are the same males that we had seen during the initial lockdown period last year, and it seems as though they still searching for a territory that is no longer under hold by any permanent males.
Lion Identification Kits
Each individual lion is identifiable from the unique lion whisker spots found on each side of the face. Other characteristics such as ear tears, facial shapes and scars are useful too. However, lion whisker spots are one certainty that generally remains unchanged throughout a lion’s life.
Another handy identification tool is their side profile, although with age (and especially for males) this needs to be updated more frequently.
It is the general rule however for us on the Concession that we know the prides and we know how many individuals make up the groups. The area where we find them is also important when it comes to confirming the identity of the prides.
As you can see from the above example it does get quite a bit more complicated when it comes to the lions. Male, because they grow manes, are an easier reference when it comes to identifying them. Also, noticeable scars and scratches can be used in order to identify males and females.
LEOPARDS OF THE MLUWATI CONCESSION:
Our star leopard was unfortunately last spotted more than a month and half ago when we had a brief sighting of her and another male with a kill close to our Borehole. We are suspecting that she has moved off in search of her own territory, or alternatively that she may have her own cubs hidden somewhere as she had been seen mating with one of the unknown males prior to her disappearance. We certainly do hope that it is the latter as she holds a very special place for everyone on the Concession. It would also be a behaviour that we know her mother Nkhanye displays whenever she has young cubs. We will be sure to update you if and when we get any information.
Nkhanye continues to amaze us with her prowess as a mother. Just when we thought that she had lost another cub, all of a sudden out of nowhere a female cub appeared looking roughly the same size as her mother! It is truly astounding to witness Nkhanye’s ability to raise offspring without us even noticing, only to find them when they are just reaching independence! Nkhanye has been spending a lot of time skirting around the edges of the S125 Loop South and the Quarry, as well as down to Hamiltons Tented Camp and around the weir. The amount lion activity seems to keep all other smaller cats in hiding at the moment with four of the lionesses now having cubs.
Our “resident” nomadic male has spent a few days between Nkhombe midden and Tswyeni River Crossing. Over a period of three days, we saw an unidentified male leopard scent marking along Big Pan—the following morning Wabayisa was found scent marking along the same route. The very next afternoon, a large male leopard was found walking the same line as the previous two cats—each one was a different leopard! Wabayisa never stays in an area for very long, which is good in that there is always the opportunity for new genes to come in by the way of other males in the area, but we do tend to think about him when he is not around.
We cannot even begin to explain how exciting it is to sit up and take note of all of the unknowns that have been moving around the Concession. A large male was found walking around on Ride Road late one afternoon. There are two to three unknown males around Hamiltons Tented Camp, and there are two large males found fighting on the Kruger National Park corner.
There is also an unknown female who has been spending quite a lot of time around Hoyo Hoyo Safari Lodge lately. She is often found to the side of the concrete bridge, lying in the riverbed. Although she isn’t very skittish of the vehicles, she still keeps a safe distance outside of the Lodge and keeps away from the movement of guests until the very early hours of the morning when there is dead silence.
Leopard Identification Kits
A question often posed to us by our guests is “how do you know which leopard that is?” – there are a few ways some may sound technical but once explained it becomes easily understandable.
- We can create an ID kit – for this to work the best we would need to collect pictures of the flanks (sides) and any other pictures that shows the animals at a different angle, especially if there is a flank (side) shot missing
- Frontal or side shouts are the most important and useful photos which are collected
- Once we have the photos, we start to find individual patterning as per the below examples
Tiyasela –again you will see the same Batman type pattern but this time it has small half circles next to the large ones.
Nkhanye – if you can picture the bat man logo this is the spot pattern, we recognise her with almost immediately also she has a V Shaped notch in her right ear (when she is facing head on it will be our right)
Wabayisa “the Naughty one”- literally when you look at Wabayisa face it is as if he has horns on his head
It does take time for us to identify the various leopards on the concession and we don’t always know who it is, but there are a handful of individuals which our guides come to know more than others and that makes it special not only for us but for our guests as well that they are able to learn the individuals and also what their characters are like.
WILD DOGS OF THE MLUWATI CONCESSION:
With the denning seasons reaching the end, the pups are finally out and about with the adults. We were spoilt a few days ago when we went out on Sunday afternoon down the S 36 – with the idea of toasted sandwiches or pizza from Satara Rest Camp. We had heard from the other guides that they had been seeing a pack of dogs over the last 3 days in the same sort of area so we decided to go and have a look to see if we would be lucky enough to find them. Coming around a tight corner the sign of a vehicle stopped, and in front of the vehicle lying all over the roads were 10 of the cutest pups we had ever seen! Once we arrived at the sighting the youngsters started playing a friendly game of tug of war. We sat watching them wondering what they were using for this game only to find out it was the “runt “of the litter that was being used in this friendly game of theirs. Eventually leaving the gem this poor youngster appeared onto the side of the road – it looked like he has been pulled through a bucket of water. Two other youngsters found a small opening on a termite mound which of course just had to be explored. The same tug of war pup went over to have a look at what they were busy with and landed up in another tag team biting game as they were not interested in sharing this with them.
SIGHTS AND SOUNDS OF THE MLUWATI CONCESSION:
Huge herds of buffalo immerse themselves in the river at Hamilton’s in the late afternoons especially now as the days are really beginning to warm up. Large herds of elephants are seen daily around Imbali, Hoyo Hoyo and Hamiltons, even the ones we do not mention are visiting the waterholes occasionally. It has been a month of incredible sightings, from the largest of elephants to the smallest of insects there has been something for everyone. It has been such a long time on the concession since we have had the privilege of seeing Aardvark and one of our vehicles managed to find one sitting out in the open on a termite mound. White-Tailed Mongoose, Serval, Civet, African Wild Cat, you name it everyone has been in awe of the number of animals which we are seeing nowadays.
Amphibians, mammals, and plants today
All reply on oxygen to stay
Microscopic bugs so small and hidden away
Sometimes fight viruses to keep them abay
Flowers in the garden blown in the wind and sway
For bees to collect nectar
To make honey next day…
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Every August, South Africa celebrates Women’s Month as a tribute to the vital role that women play in laying the foundations of societal progress and development. As an organisation, we believe that women are the driving force for positive, meaningful change in every society. On behalf of everyone at the Mluwati Concession team, we would like to extend our deepest gratitude and appreciation for all the women who make the experiences on our Concession so memorable.
According to the ILO, whilst women perform 66% of the world’s work, they earn less than 10% of the income and own only 1% of the property. In honour of Women’s Month, we explored the accomplishments and obstacles that our tourism industry—in which women make up the majority of the workforce—has experienced in promoting gender equity and women’s empowerment in 2021.
“Any society that fails to harness the energy and creativity of its women is at a huge disadvantage in the modern world” – Tian Wei
THE GUIDES OF THE MLUWATI CONCESSION