Djuma Private Game Reserve » Xivambalana Experience the Magic of Djuma Live! Sun, 12 Feb 2017 02:41:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Fair well but not goodbye Tue, 31 Jan 2012 11:44:27 +0000

A flower I have not seen before. It looks to be an orchid of sorts. If anyone can help with the id please do!


Hi everyone!

 I finally managed to get out on drive a couple of days ago and yesterday and was hoping to have some pictures of the queen herself, but sadly she is playing hide and seek! Karula and the kids were seen down by room 8 yesterday by the staff, but by the time I could go down and look for them, the royal family of Djuma had vanished!

Carmine bee-eater. First time I have seen one at Djuma!

There is some interesting news though I had from a couple of viewers who I joined on drive on Sunday. They saw Xivindzi with her father Yambilu-Jordaan down on the other side of Gowrie dam on Sunday morning! I wonder where Karula and her son were and wish I could have seen them before I left!

The Mluwati viewing from Gowrie Main

I did go and visit the hyena den, but there was no one at home, although Pete says he saw a young hyena close to camp as he came in last night. I think they have been hanging around lately because every so often I find tracks out side on my own beach outside my room! (Oh yes, I forgot to tell you I had a river bed outside my room when I arrived back, from all the sand washing through camp!)

The river bed opposite twin dams, it is now a beach!

The lions have been active lately. We heard a couple of lions calling all through the night last night to the north of camp, who must have been the 2 Nkuhuma females that have been seen over the last couple of days and 8 of the Styx were seen at Arathusa airstrip this morning! Only 4 lionesses remained in the pride after the Majingilanes are thought to have reduced their number for reasons only known to them. I am not sure the how many of the 8 were adults and cubs but it is great to hear they are further north than Mala Mala, which is where they have been for many months now.

The younger of the 2 ladies. Notice the pink on her nose!

The Nkuhuma ladies were looking well, if not a little scarred, when I saw them Sunday evening. One is extremely pregnant, due to pop very soon! What made the sighting even more wonderful was the approach of 2 rhino (which is why I didn’t want to say where we saw the lions!) One of whom was a male we saw from the crash of 6.  The old bull who had what looked to be a very uncomfortable and peculiar swelling between his legs.

Our bull rhino

I am sure you will remember him if you have met him before! They were extremely weary, which I am not surprised about as one of the tawny cats had just toileted and believe me even I could smell it!

The elder of the 2 Nkuhuma lionesses

It took a while for the lionesses to notice the onlookers but both parties after checking the other was not going to suddenly charge, were unfazed by the other’s presence and the 2 ton heavyweights continued on their way after having a little tiff between themselves, leaving the ladies to doze a while longer!

Female telling our bull to keep his distance!

I did see the Gowrie gang very briefly again. They seem to be keeping a low profile and they are just too quick for me to get a snap shot of them! I did how ever get a nice one of the young giraffe who was out on the open area. I would say roughly around 2 years old.

 I thought I would add a few pictures in to show you the transformation of some of the Milowathi river bed and other areas. Most of the roads are drying out. Tree house dam was unchanged and I have heard Buffleshoek dam is still in tact. I think the most amazing sight is baboon pan which is now being nicknamed baboon dam!

Baboon pan, aka baboon dam! Notice the road going in!

Phillamon's dip at the pump house.

This is going to be my last blog for a while from Djuma. I do hope to return to check in from time to time on our favourite animals. While I am away I will be handing the reins over to Jaco and Texan and I for one look forward to seeing their blogs. (They have been briefed on who especially you would like to hear about as well as all the goings on in the reserve!)

Spaghetti junction, looking towards vultures nest. The tree blocks the road on the left of the frame.

Take care everyone, thank you for reading and until next time, keep smiling, people will wonder what you are up too! I will leave you with one of my favourite moments, not the best picture but to have all the family in one shot was very special!

From left to right: Karula, Xivindzi, Xivambalana, Yambilu-Jordaan.

 Written by Tara

]]> 22
Great friends and awesome memories! Wed, 23 Nov 2011 05:34:56 +0000

Xivambalana 22 Nov

Hi everyone,

With a couple of days left, we are still seeing some awesome sights and making memories which I am sure we will continue to do right up to the last. Xivambalana came to visit camp again so everyone was treated to a tour of WildEarth camp along the way on yesterdays AM drive!

We have been amazed this week by a black mamba sitting on the road clearly focused on some potential meal in the bush, it didn’t even glance in Marc’s direction! I was so excited at seeing such a tiny warthog baby the other day and such a perfect picture moment that I had missed but luckily others caught, of the baby standing underneath mum’s belly! Priceless!

We have played with dung beetles,

watched tortoises courting,

visited the leopard orchid,

had the elephants drop in to say hi,

and even met the cub of a female leopard who we have rarely seen, Inkanyeni. Her cub is around 6 months old and was sitting in an apple leaf as the rain started to fall! WE couldn’t stick around to see his mother return but at least we saw this pale eyed young male who must be the offspring of Mvula!

Our favourite leopards have not been disapointing us either!

Xivambalana 17 Nov

Xivambalana was realxing by the side of the road on the 17th, struggling with the emense heat of the day, but as the temperatures dipped slightly it was time to move on and we caught up with him again as he inspected the road and bush in his own time! Dusk fell and as he approached the open area he was startled by Xivindzi as she popped out the bush! She called to him as if her maternal instinct was taking over and the pair continued their stroll back into the vegetation towards Graham’s old house. The sound of the even chorus was punctured by the shrill call of a bushbaby that was most put out at Xivambalana’s attempt on it’s life and made sure his ears were ringing of it!


We were blessed to have had 2 of the Matimbas join us briefly for the day of the 18th as well as Induna, both of which were sleeping on our boundaries, but thankfully far enough away from each other not to be a problem for Induna. The boys headed north as the sun set and were no longer visible from Buffleshoek cutline, but at least they had swung by to pass on their regards!Matimba males

That night Marc was lucky enough to find Xivambalana and Karula on Vuyatela access road after drive. As he watched Xivindzi joined them and the young family headed back to the West, but sadly we couldn’t find where they may have had a kill on drive the following morning. One guide had found Xivindzi in the same area but by the time we arrived, she had disappeared into the bush, leaving no trace of where she had gone too.

Xivambalana on impala road

While we had reports of Karula in the South on Chitwa Chitwa the following day, Xivambalana was found on Impala road that afternoon and we managed to catch up with him briefly as he settled down for a snooze. But it was Marc’s find of Induna the following day that proved the most interesting!

Induna was lying not far from tamboti dam and was panting heavily, with a female impala watching him close by. It was only when Marc returned were his suspicion of a kill confirmed. The impala mother was still around, while Induna rested on the opening to a nest which Marc later found to have empty egg cases inside.

Floppy ear, the hyena clan matriarch, caught Marc’s eye as they sat with the unlikely couple, but it was distracted by something in the tree;  a baby impala. Realising she had her eye on his dinner, Induna made a bee-line towards the tree and climbed quickly she charged in! It was as if he was gloating, this time he was the victor!

Induna and floppy ear

And so as the bush opera continues, it is time to reflect on what has been and what will be. As much as it is heart breaking, at least we can say we have been privileged and honored to have been able to watch and share so much much of their lives and all these amazing times, will be forever etched in our memories and enjoyed the world over with friendships found and made along this incredible journey we have traveled on together.

Once again, a big thank you for sharing your wonderful screen captures of which I am going to miss a lot. I will stay in touch, as I am sure Marc and Seb will do, on our facebook pages both public and private. I have my own blog page for those who are not on facebook and I do twitter when the latest blog is out too!


Thank you so much to everyone for all your support, encouragement, loyalty and most importantly your friendship, it has been a huge pleasure and a fantastic experience to have been on safari with you. This is not goodbye, but fair well until we meet again…..

Written by Tara

]]> 22
Grandfather protects cubs? Sat, 12 Nov 2011 13:33:33 +0000


All boys together, fantastic collage of the rouge male, Mufufunyane and Xivambalana!

HI everyone!

I am still amazed at what transpired on the afternoon drive of the 10th! After a false start in the morning, the team became full on technicians to resolve the issue which prevented us going on drive. With the help of Pete and Skype, (what a wonderful invention!) We found ourselves standing around the Ganda just like Melusi and Alex had done so many times before with their laptops open working out where the fault was! It really was like a Eureka moment!! It also meant afternoon safari went out with no technical problems which was to prove perfect timing for sure!

Starting at quarantine open area in the hope of seeing the new born impala lambs who were seen the day before, we introduced Eugene, one of the lodge managers of Vuyatela, who was joining us for the drive. With no luck in the lamb department, we headed off on in the direction of one of the water sources, with it being so hot I thought it was a great place to start!

Violet backed starling

We bumbled around tree house dam looking for the cubs who had been seen there earlier in the day Enjoying a spot of birding we slowly made our way to the wall to view the weaver nests a bit closer. Just as I was saying to Eugene and Seb, “have a good look on the other side of the dam wall in case the cubs are there”, they both shouted, “there, there, there!” Indeed there was Xivambalana looking proud of himself, busy eating what turned out to be a squirrel!

Xivambalana caught eating his meal.

We watched him finish his snack and settle down to digest it, hoping Xivindzi would turn up, but alas she didn’t. As much as I wanted to stay with him, I thought it was a good point to excuse ourselves and have a bit of a drive around!

White backed vulture chick

Not too much was happening at twin dams and after checking in on the vulture chick which is probably around 2 months old now and close to fledging, we headed back to tree house dam in the hope, once again, of seeing Xivindzi. We had heard she happened to show up just after we left earlier!

The mystery cat!

As we approached Graham radioed saying Yambilu-Jordaan, their father, had just shown up too! Wow! I couldn’t wait!! We pulled in to find Xivambalana keeping his distance and coughing at his father. I though it was a bit odd, but thought the way he snarled at him last time, maybe he had decided to keep clear!

The mystery cat drinking from the small pool by tree house dam wall

The old boy found the spot Xivambalana had been sitting eating his lunch and as he sniffed the area we were able to gain a better view of him. It was not Yambilu-Jordaan!  It was possibly Mufufunyane, who was the cubs granddad! This could be why the cubs had been wary of him. Last time they met, he had chased them! Xivindzi had high tailed it out of there, but Xivambalana sat on the dam wall to watch his relative drink from the same puddle he had also quenched his thirst at earlier. I must admit something wasn’t sitting right in my mind though.

This male was a little lighter than Mufufunyane and something in his face seemed different, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. His is ears were more rugged than I remembered too, but it has been a while since I have seen him and I don’t know his spot pattern all that well. I had also heard from guides the night before he didn’t look well, he was seen salivating and had a swelling on his neck. This male was salivating slightly, I didn’t see the swelling, but a few others did, this coupled with another guide saying it was Mufufuyane, I thought well it must be him, maybe just in a bad way!

The rouge male taking a break

He followed the young cub’s trail on to the dam wall where he rested his thin body. He was clearly hungry. Xivambalana still was not sure of this old cat and watched from behind a termite mound quietly sounding his displeasure at his presence! The old boy saw him but luckily made no attempt to chase him. The heat of the day and his illness had obviously taken it’s toll on him over the day, so instead he chose to rest for a while, probably enjoying the cooling breeze and cooling temperatures!

The Intruder trying to be as flat as possible!

His relaxed mood changed in the blink of an eye, flattening his body and ears, with full attention focused on something on the opposite side of the dam. Someone excitedly shouted it’s Xivindzi! Sure enough there was another spotted feline strolling towards the water’s edge from the Southern side. Suddenly our old boy was seen. The other cat stopped in it’s tracks assessing the situation, then to our amazement continued walking towards the dam. In doing so we could see clearly this was another male! Someone else shouted it’s Yambilu-Jordaan! Dad has come! But looking through the binoculars, I couldn’t see the distinctive heart that is so clear on his head. I kept saying “no! it’s not him, I can’t see the heart!” Then I noticed the trade mark thick black lines running from the eyes of none other than Mufufunyane himself! This was the real grandpa to the cubs!

Mufufunyane in all his glory!

He was so nonchalance in his approach towards the stranger, taking his time as he advanced along the water’s edge on the side of the dam wall, but as the the gap closed he stopped and looked directly at him. I thought a fight was about to erupt between them, but the intruder, it seemed, wanted to avoid any conflict and without some much as a snarl or a hiss, he fled. Mufufunyane didn’t follow, he seemed content to watch his dust settle. Having a quick check of the immediate area, possible to make sure he had indeed left and hadn’t just gone to hide in the nearby bush, he then returned to the water and to where his grandson had watched the whole episode from.

Mufufunyane, Xivambalana’s grandfather

Clearly the young cat was still a bit wary, occasionally coughed to tell him he wasn’t sure off him, as he approached his grandfather. Not greeting him like he did his father, but watched him with respect as Mufufunyane busied himself with smelling the scent of another being, not paying too much attention to his young observer. The last time we know of when these two had met was at the same dam, Xivambalana had not gone too far, bit hide awaiting the arrival of his mother. Later that afternoon Karula came to collect them, she hissed a little in her father’s direction, but did little else to berate him! She even sat on the wall a while, waiting for her daughter to also respond to her calls, while her son was eager to show her how much she was missed! Xivindzi had disappeared once again like she did that day too. This time though Karula has no where to be seen.

Xivambalana watching the intruder from a safe distance!

Xivambalana may have remembered this day and decided a metre or 2 was close enough and with his old relative not really that interested, he left him to his own devices. After refreshing himself with a quick drink, Mufufunyane went back to where the mystery cat had been sitting, almost like he was picking up his scent. He then started to follow what may have been his trail, heading back into the drainage line. Following where we could, we eventually lost him. He had been salivating a bit but not as much as had been reported to us. We are unsure what has caused him to drool it could be any number of things but he looked in better shape than the mystery male he was now following! A final lap of the area reviled where the little boy chose to hide which was now on the Southern side of the dam. But with night falling rapidly, I felt it was the best cover for him in case the other male was still around and left the cloak of darkness to conceal him once more. I need not have worried though, just moments later, the rouge male was found already at twin dams by another guide!

Xivambalana and his grandfather Mufufunyane

Thanks to some wonderful detection work by a number of people, the mystery feline seems to be the Marthly male from Mala mala. There is another which also goes by the name of Tyson, but this is not him!

The rouge male looks to be the Marthly male

WE also found out from Seb in the morning, that he bumped into Mufufunyane on Gowrie Main later on that evening, heading in the same direction as the rouge male! Probably making sure he was long gone out of his territory! It could be the old boy was forced out of his original territory and is now a nomadic male skipping from one territory to the next trying to keep out of the way of the owners! It seems to me he was just hungry and came to find what had been eaten in case there was a scrap left for him. The cubs although in some danger were also clued up and kept a  safe enough distance to be able to out run the older male with ease.

Collage of Mufufunyane

What is interesting is the interaction between grandfather and grandson. I wonder if Xivambalana remembered how his mother reacted to Mufufunyane and that he was chased by him when he was younger. But he was more willing to approach his relative than the he was the non-related male. Mufufunyane has been known to kill very young cubs, even his own offspring, maybe he knew Xivambalana would be able to run away or fight for himself. What ever the reason he wasn’t interested in him at all. Could it be he was watching out for his younger relative? There’s no doubt he didn’t want the male there and it will be mostly intolerance to another potential rival, but still it makes you wonder, was he protecting the cubs that day too? I wouldn’t put the possibility of anything past this family anymore!

Karula was seen the following day with Xivambalana by Vuyatela access. She wasn’t best pleased with him as he kept getting in her way while she was trying to hunt! It is thought Xivindzi was seen around the lodge late in the afternoon, almost as if they have an understanding to meet her there if they get lost!

Thank you everyone for sending in the pictures, if anyone has a picture of the baby vulture to share please send it through and I’ll add it to the Blog!

Written by Tara

]]> 6
The return of the pachyderms! Wed, 09 Nov 2011 11:52:34 +0000

How we found Xivindzi on 6th Nov

Hi everyone!

After the amazing sightings of the leopards, they still seem keen to share more time with us!

On the 6th Nov, it was a quiet morning but as we drove down mvubu road I happened to glimpse Karula’s little princess sitting like one on a termite mound taking in the sights and sounds around her! We spent a wonderful morning with her as she meandered this way and that eventually finding a huge mound on which she could take a proper siesta! Her brother had been found thanks to some impala alarming closer to the dam than Xivindzi had been, but after spending a lot of time with her it was only fair to continue looking for the long lost elephants!

Xivindzi 6th Nov snoozing!

We didn’t have to wait too long, as dusk was closing in that afternoon, Marc and I heard a blood curdling cry in the drainage line at mamba road and twin dams road junction. As Marc went to investigate a 10 year old bull elephant charged towards us and stopped a couple of meters from the Ganda. He regarded us as he stuffed a few leaves into his mouth before taking flight again at top speed around the vehicle towards the road, giving another scream as he went.

He was clearly distressed and it started to become clear he had lost his herd as he headed south to look for them. A couple more cries echoed in our ears and led us to where we managed to catch up with him briefly on Elephant Skull as he motored across the road. We tried once again to relocate him on weaver’s nest which seemed to be the next possible road to have an encounter with him.

He was probably so engrossed in what he was doing, he didn’t realise the herd had moved on and now he was panicking as dusk was setting in. We found no sign of him, thinking he might have had success, we tried Chela pan where suddenly the missing herd appeared. The young bull had chosen the wrong direction!

Little lost boy

I think the strong wind might have confused him as to where the scent or even replies of the herd were coming from as I am sure if they heard him they would have responded. Elephants are capable of producing sounds which are inaudible to us, so they may have been calling him but we couldn’t hear it!  Where we originally found him and where the family were located was less than a kilometer apart and it is believed individuals can be recognised just over this distance. It could have been a different family group, but I doubt it. They couldn’t have moved too far from where he was and as we sat watching the rest of the group make their way out of the bush. We heard him again, only this time he sounded like he was coming our way, towards what must have been his family. Night fell as the ghosts of the bush silently disappeared and with no more peace shattering cries that echoed in the bush we can only assume our little lost boy did find his mum in the end!

Induna 7th Nov

Induna graced us with his presence in the afternoon of the 7th. After loosing another parade of elephants to the thick bush, we joined him as he was checking the area Karula had been on the 2nd Nov with an impala kill. Finding nothing of interest, he made a bee-line for the drainage line we had watched him meet up with his siblings and father just a few days previously. What ever he had been doing it had taken it’s toll on him, so he decided that was as good a place as any to rest!

Induna taking a break!

After a slight adjustment of the location he proceeded to pass out! At which point we returned to find the pachyderms had chosen the open area on Zoe’s road to have their sun downer feast! There had been a report of Karula being on Gowrie main and Little Gowrie junction, around the same time we were with Induna, but as a space opened for the sighting, she went South!

Xivindzi 8th Nov

Xivindzi wasn’t happy about her brother stealing the spotlight, so posed beautifully for an opening shot the following morning for Seb in the drainage line between Zoe’s and the quarantine open area. She had a look around the vicinity, before settling down in a different marula tree to take an early morning snooze! We had hoped to find them that following afternoon, but they had other plans! It was only this morning did we have another report of Karula and her young family, who were relaxing at tree house dam. The lady herself left just before we arrived to find both cubs were battling a little in the early morning heat! Xivindzi strolled towards better shade than she had been under, while Xivambalana was not prepared to move anywhere! Here is hoping he keeps that in mind today and doesn’t wonder too far before next drive!

Thank you to everyone for the pictures at the last minute!

Written by Tara

]]> 3
A leap of leopards! Fri, 04 Nov 2011 10:04:30 +0000

Wow wow wow! Did I say Wow already?!

Hi everyone! What an incredible sighting we had on the 2nd Nov! Father, son of 3 years old and cubs of 1 year old together!

Floppy ear nursing her cubs

Drive started slowly due to it being so cold. I was completely wrapped up in bennie, scarf, fleece and wind breaker with just my eyes showing through! Seb took us to the hyena den where we found floppy ear giving her cubs their breakfast, while teddy and the gang had to satisfy themselves with cuddling for warmth.

One cub even went to lie next to the nursing cubs, resting it’s head on the back of one! Everyone seemed content until Floppy ear noticed and tried to lunge at the intruder while her own children were still feeding from her! The cub got the message and went to sit on it’s sibling while it proceeded to wash itself. Teddy on the other hand was watching from a safe distance at the den entrance, for once keeping out of trouble!  Eventually everyone settled and went back to snoozing, so we took our que and left.

Teddy waiting!

It was an hour or so later we ended up around tree house dam and while we sat watching the orange-breasted bush-shrike we heard something call.

I thought it was a leopard calling, but with my ears covered by my hat and hood, I could barely hear it! Seb thought it was the end part of lion’s roar, but with the machines buzzing it was difficult to say for sure! Happy at the prospect lions could be in the area, we hoped to hear the calling again to get a direction at least, unaware at what we were about to witness!

Orange-breasted bush shrike

Driving off the dam wall, we noticed floppy ear following her nose with a cub in tow, heading straight for the drainage line. She looked to have the scent of something, but thick bush deterred us from following the two hyena, so we tried a little further along the road to to see if we could relocate her. Eagle eyed Seb caught sight of a duiker, who suddenly clocked us and sped away! But both of us we so busy watching where the dwarf antelope had just been, neither of us had spotted the 2 leopard cubs sitting quietly on the side of the road also spying on the duiker!  It was only when Xivindzi darted in front of the Ganda in the direction of where the duiker disappeared, did we see her! At which point I turned to see where she had come from and sure enough there was Xivambalana curiously watching his sister! Could it be the duiker saw the spotted felines and was fleeing for it’s life rather than us? What ever the reason, the cubs tried to follow but lost interest as they climbed the banking on the other side of the drainage line.

Yambilu-Jordaan – the cubs father

At this point we moved to get a better view of them on the other side, not being too far from the junction Elephant skull and Weaver’s nest road, we could be with them in a minute or 2. Just as we arrived to where they were relaxing, something caught their attention, tails were twitching like mad! Following their gaze I could see another larger leopard approaching out of the bush from the South, my heart was in my mouth I saw it was a male, but luckily it took moments to realise it was Yambilu-Jordaan…their father! He had seen them! Karula was nowhere in sight and I wondered how he would react as he strolled out into the open.

 Y-J and his daughter Xivindzi!

Xivindzi took the initiative, obviously she recognized him as a leopard to trust. She eagerly walked right up to him and greeted him, even took a swipe at his nose! Xivambalana took his time but also came to greet his father but didn’t get as warm a response as his sister did! Once again Yambilu-Jordaan looked like he was taking on babysitting duty!

Yambilu-Jordaan and his son Xivambalana

The cubs soon tired of dad and started to make their way back across the drainage line at which point he started to follow. Unable to see any of them we once again moved giving us a better view of the Northern side of the drainage line. Literally where we had first seen Xivindzi there was another leopard who the cubs had gone to greet. I immediately thought it was Karula. It wasn’t dad they had lost interest in, it was the return of mum! This assumption was completely blown out of the water when “Karula” turned towards the camera and we could see the markings and neck of non-other than Induna!!

Arrows point to where the 4 leopards were in the same shot, although fairly close together it was one of the few times we had all 4 in shot!

So now we had 4 leopards in the sighting, I must admit I did wonder if I had miss identified Y-Jordaan and it was in fact Induna, but he would have to have flown and changed direction pretty quickly to have been the same leopard. This leopard appeared to have come from the north and looked towards where we had last seen Yambilu-Jordaan heading into the drainage line. Moving once again as Induna started to walk towards the drainage line, the fourth leopard was reviled for a second time We hadn’t miss id’ed him! There was a proud father sitting in the shade, with his son of almost 3 years making his way passed him and his youngest two following their brother with curiosity.

Induna on the left and Yambilu-Jordaan, his father on the right

Induna seemed to be less than interested in them and proceeded to come and sit right by the vehicle, making it difficult to see him. This was a catch 22, do we move and risk scaring him or stay put and not see what would happen if the cubs came to see him. We stayed put as Xivindzi couldn’t help herself and came to see her older brother, who didn’t greet her with open arms, being less than friendly towards her, maybe he remembers her batting him on the nose! We took the risk, Induna flinched but stayed put realising we were backing off from him. It was a little too much for Xivindzi and with a negative reaction from her brother, she removed herself.

Brothers together!

Next to investigate was Xivambalana but Induna was even more put out with this! He tried to stand his ground and snarled at his sibling when he tried to get closer, at which he just snarled back. For a little while it looked like a trews had been agreed, with both looking in different directions, but when one caught the other’s eye there were words again! Induna eventually give in and moved off for some peace and quiet!

It was fascinating to watch Xivambalana follow his brother. It was almost like a younger brother watches an elder in admiration and not getting the attention he wants so just becoming annoying instead! Yambilu-Jordaan also decided it was time to move on, stopping every so often to his mark territory.

Yambilu-Jordaan on the right and his daughter Xivindzi on the left

Induna followed his father and being almost 3 years old, he added his scent to the mix and once again Xivambalana was keen to join them! A couple of times Induna reitterated his irritation at his younger brother tagging along, each time he was dissuade for a longer period before  continuing to follow!

Induna telling his brother to stay away!

Xivindzi seemed to not want to miss out on any action, so she brought up the rear watching her male relatives go about their business! Eventually though she decided, after another irritated growl from Induna, to leave them to it and headed back towards the drainage line. We had lost visual of the boys as they headed South across the road and with Xivindzi disappearing on us, it seemed the right time to say goodbye.

Xivambalana, waiting  for his brother to move on!

While we were with this incredible sighting, we heard Karula had not been too far away from this drama. Another guide had found the remains of an impala in a marula tree close to the junction Weaver’s nest and Elephant skull road. We decided to have a quick check, so we knew where it was for afternoon drive. Sure enough it was a little way in to the bush, but there was Karula, the carcass and little Xivindzi, who was busy adding a few extra mouthfuls of breakfast to her belly! She must have gone straight back to feed once she decided to leave the boys!


What an amazing morning, the interactions between all the leopards, the lack of Karula being there to chaperone her elder son. I wonder if she was watching from her vantage point while guarding the kill to make sure Induna wasn’t going to steal it! It did look like he had come from that direction now we know a little more of the puzzle. It could have been Yambilu-Jordaan who we heard calling and Induna may have responded to the call. I have no doubt they can recognise each other’s voice. There are any number of scenarios that could account as to why they were all in the one area. One thing I know for sure was that it was magic and I hope we get chance to see more interactions between the family to try and understand more about these intriguing felines!!

Afternoon wash before bed

We did go back that afternoon, but bumped into the young family as Karula escorted her cubs towards Inga’s house where they ended up resting and digesting their meal! Xivambalana must have had more than his fair share as Xivindzi’s belly didn’t look as full as his. She seemed to be more alert and we watched as a sound caught her attention. Slowly she made her way to a bush and pulled out a young chelonian which she promptly ate. She then disappeared following what was possibly another potential snack, leaving her brother and mother behind!

Thank you once again to everyone sending in such wonderful pictures to help make the Blog possible! If anyone missed the amazing interaction here is the link to muttluver’s video on you tube.

Written by Tara

]]> 7
Practice makes perfect! Sun, 30 Oct 2011 13:07:05 +0000

Hi everyone!

Despite the fantastic thunder storms and rain which ceased play for the morning drives over the last few day,  we have still had a wonderful time with our spotted felines as they have been practicing their hunting skills!

Just as Xivambalana was found sitting on the side of Aulbury’s road by Marc and Seb, the rain started to fall and internet decided to work against us on the morning of 28th Oct, so we had to leave him to his own devices. But thankfully all was up and running and dry for the afternoon drive to allow us to spend time with Xivambalana while he lounged about on a branch and eventually even Xivindzi came to say hello too. It was so heartwarming to see them lie next to each other, one using the other as  pillow at one stage! Now they are approaching a year old in a couple of weeks time, who knows how often we will see them together as they grow more independent by the day!

Xivambalana using Xivindzi as a pillow! 

As the cubs snoozed an impala herd crept closer while they grazed, but the cubs remained oblivious to their presence! Xivambalana was briefly distracted by a ground beetle which could squirt acid at it’s foe if it felt threatened. The face he pulled said it all! He had experienced this before and left it well alone, even when it came within cm’s of his paw!

Xivambalana and the beetle, 28th Oct

Eventually Xivindzi decided it was time to toilet, on waking up and finding a suitable spot, she suddenly noticed the herd. Her brother also came too, taking a while to really take in what she was doing, he had his own things to focus on….us!

As she went for a closer look, it was thrilling to see our young cub go into stalk mode. She did well to keep out of sight and remained undetected for a while. Even her brother started to join in, but gave the game away fairly soon after he moved from his hiding place. The alarm had been given, but not for Xivindzi. The ram was quite intimidating and it is possible Xivindzi thought better of it because of him!

The following day was also rained off, but we heard the guides had found the cubs where Marc had left them and sure enough int he afternoon Xivambalana was lying up in roughly the same place! We had heard the cubs were at play a bit earlier in the day, but after a drive around the area, there was no sign of Xivindzi. The sun sank low and it was only after night had fallen did our little boy start to wonder around. He was intrigued by a sent left on a branch and seemed to follow his senses to something in the thick bush. WE tried to keep up but alas he melted into the night! With a report of Karula heading over into Buffleshoek from Hyena road and going East, it looked like the cubs were in for a wait and would probably be a good place to start in the morning!

Sunset on the 29th Oct

You learn one thing in nature which holds true for everything, expect the expected! After checking the same area for any sign of the cubs, Seb left to go and call on the hyenas at the den. Taking Zoe’s road, half way along he stopped and said ok lets id this one. I saw a dove in the road and immediately thought it was this he was talking about. I was just about to start zooming in when the bird flew off, but Seb didn’t seem bothered. I was in the middle of asking what he was looking when I suddenly noticed a movement on top of the termite mound! It was a spotted head! Well done Seb! It turned out to be Xivambalana himself! He was alerted to movement behind him and wasted no time in reacting to it. Pouncing on a potential meal he looked disappointed as he stood up. No breakfast yet! We followed as he caught another sound, rounding a termite mound we saw the reason for his interest. 3 warthogs, 2 were piglets. There was a stand off between them. Only when they ran did he chase after them! It was all we could do to keep up with the tails and streak of spots! Over Rebecca’s road they went and melted into the bush.

Our search found nothing so back to the road we went. Following Rebecca’s road we both thought he can’t possibly have made it this far already. I saw Seb hesitate as if to turn around just before the dip, but he decided to continue and it is a good job he did! Just as we approached the dip, there was Xivambalana terrorising a dwarf mongoose. Leaping into a clump of grass and bush, he came out empty bellied. We could hear the mongoose taunt him with an alarm call and this was too much for him, he tried again. He gave it his best shot but the mongoose got the better of him! Even the monkeys were not impressed with his presence and signaled to anyone who would listen he was there. After a well earned drink he slipped back into the shadows to conceal himself once more! I wonder if Karula had picked up the cubs and moved them to a new location or if they have just moved on their own accord!

Xivambalana drinking 30th Oct

The visit to the den found no one home that we could see, so we continued towards Philamon’s cutline to see if our little boy had resurfaced. Does lightning strike in the same place twice? Occasionally! There on another termite mound was another leopard, not son but mum! Karula was looking so regal looking down on us and barely acknowledging us! She was too busy scanning for a meal. After posing for us for a while it was time to relocate to another mound and see what it had to offer. Sadly this is where we had to leave her, but who knows what this afternoon’s drive will bring!

Karula on top of her termite mound 30th Oct

Thank you to everyone sending in the wonderful pictures they always help to make the Blogs better! Thank you!

Written by Tara

]]> 5 Family reunions Mon, 24 Oct 2011 12:00:18 +0000

Hi everyone,

Once again we have had some wonderful interactions this week! We have been fascinated by the hyena clan and a few mysteries there have been solved!


We have only really seen Teddy’s mum over the last few visits with the other 2 mothers being very scarce! I was convinced floppy ear was mum to the oldest set of cubs out of the 4, but sadly my bubble was well and truly burst on the 20th Oct, when an old looking lady came back to the den with what seemed to be a kudu leg. She allowed the older cubs, her offspring, to feed on it while keeping the other 2 and even teddy at bay.  What was interesting was the fact Teddy’s mum sniffed this female’s genitals, a standard greeting, when she arrived. This confirmed to us Teddy’s mum was lower in rank to the dominant female, even though Teddy seems to act otherwise! This mother has both ears in tact and has a small pink spot under her nose which you might see on the picture.

We still were not 100% sure if floppy ear was the other mother, thankfully though this mystery was resolved when a couple of days later our lady wandered up to the den to nurse the other 2 cubs! For some reason we have just been missing the other mothers when we visit the den. Both sets of cubs are probably around 8 months old now and will soon be joining the adults when they go foraging for food, but they may continue to nurse until they are a year to a year and half old!

Floppy ear and her cubs!

The latest on the other spotted family was a report about one of the cubs being on the quarantine open area 20mins after we closed down last night! The last time they had been seen before this was by Marc on the 22nd. Both Xivindzi and Xavambalana were spending some quality time resting together on Impala plains, after some intense play with Karula. They had been found at the hyena den on Zoe’s road that morning before they made their way to the plains where Karula left her family to go and hunt. It is amazing the size difference that is already showing between the two cubs and how much both have grown almost catching mum up!

Xivambalana is sitting at the back, his sister Xivindzi in front. (Although Xivindzi looks even smaller than she is in this picture from the perspective it was taken from!)

It is a wonder where Karula had left them the day before as Seb and myself found Xivindzi down in the drainage line by Tree house dam after a squirrel was calling at the top of it’s lungs about the impeding danger! She was certainly eager for food, jumping after birds, watching anything else that moved, as she wound her way through the bush, using the odd termite mound for an advantage point. Although she did miss the impala, until they spotted her and they also gave the alarm! The other guides had Karula heading down to tree house dam, but we couldn’t stay for the reunion. It is anyone’s guess what they got up to between then and the morning when they were found by the hyena den!

Xivindzi on the left, Xivambalana on the right

Yambilu-Jordaan even made an appearance this week on the 19th and 20th we caught up with him! He had taken a male nyala down by the gate on the morning of the 19th. Marc headed back later that afternoon and found Mixo had joined his father, but sadly we didn’t see him the following morning. He may have been there and we missed him or he may have either been encouraged to moved on by his father or decided to leave on his own accord. What was great to see was Yambilu-Jordaan starting relax with us being there. He became more bothered by the flies then our presence and looked like a cub again as he struck out and tried to catch them as they buzzed this way and that!

Lastly the check list challenge is well under way with some great finds like the fish eagle, spoonbill, tree agama, leopard tortoise and even both the Nile and Rock Monitor!

Nile Monitor

Written by Tara

]]> 4
Mixo vs Xivambalana! Wed, 19 Oct 2011 14:36:53 +0000


Hi everyone!
What an exciting couple of days we have had with the drives!

WE first heard the brilliant news about Mixo, Karula’s son, being around the lodge on Sunday morning 16 Oct from the guides. With him being nearly 3 years old, he left home to explore further afield about 6 months ago and nobody has seen hide or hair of him since! This is normal for leopards of his age to start cutting his own way in the world and they usually disperse from their natal area which is nature’s way of avoiding inbreeding. Sometimes they go by themselves, sometimes they may get a nudge from their mother or the dominant males in the area.


After speaking to the guides they confirmed they had not seen Mixo since he meet his mother and younger siblings while they fed on a carcass on the quarantine open area around 6 months ago. As I understand from them, during the time they were together one of the cubs cut mixo on the nose, which is why he now has a scar!

Young Nkuhuma female with the Matimba male

Tracks were found on Zoe’s road that morning and headed north past FC. The guides went to check the other side of the lodge and found Mixo sleeping close to Umvubu road! After making sure guests had got his best side for pictures, he disappeared into the drainage line! Marc even found fresh remains of an impala that was killed on the Northern side of the open area the same morning. Unsure of who the culprit was, we could be sure who ended up with the carcass after finding drag marks across the road…hyenas! It could be possible Mixo made the kill, but didn’t have chance to hide it in the tree before the hyenas came!

Shirley and the kids, Genesis and Evelyn

The following drives brought no more news of him, but we were extremely happy to spend time with Karula on MMM while she started to search for potential breakfast. She was like a cub again, getting so exited her tail was held so high, it was like she was waving her surrender! We even had the privilege of meeting a couple of viewers as they sat with Karula just a few metres from them lounging in the Marula tree!

Teddy, with a splash of pink on the nose!

That afternoon I headed back in the hope of finding Karula or even the cubs who we had just missed in the morning. They had decided the view was good from the Western side of MMM and waited for Karula to come back with lunch and sadly that is where still Xivindzi was in the afternoon. Just as we out this information from another guide, Sebastien was trying to tell me something, but that area is notorious for radio interference, getting only “FC” each time, eventually we hear, “leopard, FC”! Putting 2 and 2 together we all immediately thought it could be Mixo!

Zoe’s road never felt so long! We finally made it to Galago shortcut, after confirming with Seb, he was heading towards that side, I turned onto a two track that leads down to Grahams house. As the dusk was setting in I strained to see any movement around Graham’s house or the open area. I noticed something out the corner of my eye and the realisation came to me and Marc at the same time..a leopard was a couple of metres away in from of the vehicle! Frantically searching for my binoculars I tried to catch a glimpse of any facial markings. I thought I saw a Y but it was so quick I couldn’t study it to confirm!


He continued on his merry way, crossing over Vuyatela access and kept low as he made a beeline to where we had seen impala on Zoe’s road. He stoped in front of us briefly looking down his nose with just the look of Mixo. The only thing that struck me was how small he was, but I had not seen him for a while and with out anyone to compare him with. I didn’t think about it any further.

He strolled down the road, stopping to look at the impala, when one signaled the alarm he was taken a back slightly! I should have realised at this stage it was a mistaken identity, but with concentrating on just keeping up with him and everything else at that stage, my brain went on leave! WE followed for a bit as he looked to be making his way towards impala plains, cutting through the bush I hoped to get a last glimpse that would give us something, but decided to leave him instead, still not 100% sure if it was Mixo or not!

After some great detective work many started to consider Xivambalana and a special thanks to 2 people, firstly to Minerva Cox who found a great side comparison of the unknown leopard on drive and Mixo. I never knew about the ZZCIS on Mixo’s right hip! Some people even noticed who narrow the face was.

The second big thanks goes to Annlyn with her great side comparison which identified our mystery cat as Xivambalana!

I can’t believe how much he has grown firstly and how far he traveled from where Karula and Xivindzi were. It could be he went to drink from the dam, I found out later that it was only Xivindzi who was seen that morning, but he seemed to know exactly where he was going! It just goes to show expect the unexpected. He didn’t even enter into my head because of where the cubs were seen! Just shows they are growing up and starting on the road to becoming independent and great to see Xivambalana is starting to gain courage on his own!

Baby elephant

Thank you so much to every one in helping in the positive id with Mixo and Xivambalana!
Not only did we have great leopard sightings, but the Gowrie gang kids were in full sing of play, crowned lapwing chicks barely a day old were running around, one of the young Nkuhuma lionesses was mating with a Matimba male, Teddy, we think is around 3 months old vocalised for us and we even saw a tiny baby elephant who couldn’t have been more than a couple of days old! Look out for it on the waterhole camera!

Written by Tara

]]> 5
Meet Xivindzi and Xivambalana Thu, 13 Oct 2011 09:09:12 +0000

 Xivindzi on AM safari 13 Oct 

Hi everyone!

It is great to be back! What a great start to the drives this cycle with a visit from 5 gentle bull elephants and Xivindzi. Now 11 months old, she really has the look of her mother and a personality to match!

Xivindzi 13 Oct

A few people said they weren’t sure how to recognise the cubs, so I thought what better way to start the cycle than to introduce Karula’s latest family members! Here are a few ways I find useful to id them, I hope it helps!

Xivindzi, which means bold, is Karula’s daughter and she does seem ready for action. You would pronounce it as Shi-vind-zze. She is already becoming highly independent and alert to everything happening around her!


Xivindzi and arrows to help id her left side.

The arrow on her forehead highlights how close the WOW is to being complete like her mum! The lines under this are at different angles, if you look below on her brother his are much more uniform underneath each other.

The red arrow points to her eye, if you look closely a single line is there which is vertical. Her brother almost shares the “Y” with his brother Mixo, which is horizontal from the eye.  Although Xivindzi also has a vertical line in the same place on her right side, it is much thicker and Xivambalana only has a single horizontal line from his right eye, not a Y. (See the pictures below)

 The easiest way I tell them apart at the moment is the marks above the whisker line, look at the lowest arrow. Xivindzi has two dots above each other and a ^ on both sides, her brother Xivambalana has two large spots side by side above his whisker line.

Xivambalana and arrows to id his left side

Xivambalana means emerald spotted wood dove, on account of his shy nature. I don’t see this as a bad thing, he ers on the side of caution, especially when it comes to confrontation and this might just save his life one day! For me the bird is not bold or flashy, but if you look closely there are hidden gems and I think this sums up this little boy perfectly! You would pronounce his name as Shi-vam-ba-lan-a.

If you are new to leopard identification it is good to have a couple of things to look for on each animal. We also use the face for id a lot as that is the part we look at the most! It is possible to id a leopard from other parts of the body and tail too! The spots are rarely symmetrical so it is best to have both sides of the individual.


Here are the right sides of the cubs, you might see a unique pattern I have missed!

Xivambalana, I took this 6 Sept.

Thank you to everyone for the pictures that were sent in from today’s drive and for those I could re-use from previous Blogs!

Written by Tara


]]> 4
All the spots this week! Sun, 25 Sep 2011 09:03:03 +0000

Hi everyone,
Is it just me or do you sometimes feel there are just not enough hours in the day?!
Not only have we spent some quality time with Xivindzi, as well as the leopard family, but we even had a sighting of the rare wild hunting dogs!! Albeit briefly, but we had the pack of 6 adults plus 5 pups run out in front of us after we responded to the radio call about them. I was thinking the pack had already moved on and was working out where was best to go when all of a sudden 1 popped out and ran west over mmm road, quickly followed by another and then the rest of the pack streamed out of the bush in front of us!
They looked to be picking up the scent of something in the bush, then it was back  onto mmm. WE were surrounded by them! I even had a pup come right up to Ganda totally oblivious to us, focused on what the adults were doing. They had decided to head south and it looked like they were heading for the buffalo herd. As the pups started to follow, something caught the attention of all the pack almost instantaneously and as quick as lightning they were bolting right past the vehicles back the way they had come. With it getting dark I didn’t follow but tried to see what had scared them. Nothing showed it self, what ever it was would have to remain a mystery. What puzzled me was the appearance of an adult who seemed either totally unaware of what taken place a few minutes before or was so confident what ever it was had gone. Trotting along in the direction the pack had headed, the trail was found and it too disappeared as darkness fell!
Karula and family on the 24th Sept 2011, Sheryl Foot
The last couple of days we have had Karula with both cubs feeding from another impala, this time on the firebreak close to Tamboti dam. Graham found them on the 22nd not too long after the kill had been made.
Debra Baudoin of Xivindzi
Xivindzi was busy feeding when Seb arrived. Sadly this time of year we are going to be seeing more female impala being taken. With them being pregnant and carrying slightly more weight it will slow them down a bit, which will make them an easy target for predators like Karula.
 Xivambalana (left) and Xivindzi (right) by Kim on the 24th
I think having fed well last week on another impala, the family are taking a little longer to finish this carcass, especially when you consider barely a day had passed by before they finished that meal and fled from the hyena.
Xivindzi 20th Sept by Pat
What I have found so fascinating is to see the interactions between the family but also to see what they get up to when they are on their own! Sept 20th was when Marc and I spent almost all afternoon with Xivindzi on galago shortcut. Her brother was no where to be seen, Karula must have been off hunting the result of which caused the family to relocate to their present location on the firebreak.
Patty Mulligan: Xivindzi 20 Sept 2011
It was a delight to watch her curiosity as possibly a mouse caught her eye and then a go-away bird. After lounging around the termite mound occasionally surveying the area from her vantage point, she became restless and started to search for hidden snacks and climb trees that looked like they would provide entertainment in one way or another!
                                           Xivindzi by Bobby Hampton
At one point the female with the 2 notches in her right ear dropped by and to our amazment Xivindzi stayed put on her log and watched as the hyena approached. Her normal nemesis simply regarded her from a couple of meters away before stolling away in the direction we had seen floppy ear snoozing! This was also amazing as she was relaxing a few meters from where Xivindzi had first been sitting when we arrived!
Speaking of hyena, it reminds me of another incredible interaction we were lucky enough to witness. The morning of the 21st started slow until we had a radio call about one of the mother hyena carrying a cub towards the old hyena den on Phillamon’s cutline. I was close by so responded. By the time we caught up with the mother she was already at the den and no sign of the cub, but we were not alone. The Gowrie gang had also turned up during their search for breakfast. Understandably the mothers kept a respectful distance from the potential threat, but Gawdy, the only male in the group, made a bee-line straight towards the spotted predator. Brimming with confidence as he walked, he tried to intimidate her by shaking the tree branches he was stood on. She turned from him at which point it seemed both understood each other and their capabilities. She did take chances and squeezed into the opening, maybe checking the cub was as far back out of reach from the danger that lurked outside. We waited until eventually she struggled to back out of the hole. Satisfied, she started to move away from the hole in the direction she had just come from possibly to go and collect the other cub.
It was then that Gawdy went to investigate. Keeping his distance, he bent low to the ground, trying to see what the mother had left behind. She realised what he was upto and came charging back in to chase him off! Gawdy gave up maybe a little too easily, casually walking away from her at which point she set on her mission once again. We lost her in the drainage line East of Weavers nest and even when we returned to wait at the den, the baboons were still foraging, but there was no sign of her returning. We still don’t know if she is there, we have been back a couple of times but no sign so far, she might have moved again or something might have happened during the time she was away. Baboons have been known to kill cheetah and leopard cubs, so a hyena cub could also be taken. It is hard to say if Gawdy returned, but personally I don’t think he did, I think he was curious but was not willing to go into the hole as he was extremely weary of what could be in there!
 Thank you so much to everyone for sending in pictures, I tried to use as many as I could!
 I can’t wait to see what the next few days have in store for us!
Written by Tara
]]> 2