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