Lion (Panthera Leo)
2019 has started very well with great lion sightings in this first month of the year. The western pride has been sighted several times around Figtree, Nkongoni plains and the area around the western airstrip. Just like all other cats, lions by nature are very territorial and we have viewed them on few occasions vocalising, their mighty roar echoes through the valley as they announce their presence in the area to other intruding lions on the reserve. One of the reasons why animals mark their territory is to make their presence in the area known to avoid unnecessary fights and also disperse individuals evenly on the reserve. Dinokeng male lion was observed mating with the young lioness from the southern pride in Sterkstroom valley. If all goes well, we hoping to be getting new cubs in few months as their gestation period is very short (only 110 days). Thembe male lion have been also spotted a few times in Sterkstroom valley hoping to spoil Dinokeng’s honeymoon.
Leopard (Panthera Leo)
We have had a decent amount of Leopard sightings so far already in this new-year. On few occasions, we have seen a leopard between the access road to our lodge and site 33. This individual was sighted mainly on our way back to the lodge from our sunset drive as these elusive cats are known to be strictly nocturnal. Their secretive nature makes them a very difficult animal to find which has made them not only to be included on the Big Five, but also on the Shy Five list. We also have seen three Leopards together a couple of times in Sterkstroom valley close to Gearbox. This is very unusual as these elusive cats are known to be strictly territorial and solitary in both sexes. The three which consists of a mother and two sub-adults have invaded our sun-downer picnic spot close to site 32.
Buffalo (Syncerus Caffer)
Buffalo sightings have been quiet so far in the beginning of the year, as they have moved to the top of the mountains to utilise grassland patches on top of the kopjes which provide good grazing for them during dry season. We hoping the sightings to improve in few coming weeks due to decent amounts of rain we have received this month which will improve the quality of grass in all the grassland plains on the reserve. We have had a fair amount of lone bulls in mainly in Sterkstroom valley and Jackal road. We were lucky sometimes to see them mud wallowing, which is a common behaviour performed by old males to suffocate external parasites and also protecting their skin against sunburn.
Elephant (Loxodonta Africana)
Elephants have been scattered everywhere on the reserve. A breeding herd was seen several times moving and feeding between Tsetsebi drive, Ibhubesi plains and Figtree plains. We have enjoyed watching a few of them drinking and swimming at Leopard and Rhino dam. They are few very small baby elephants within the herd and as usual, we have observed their mothers being overprotective as they do not want anyone to come too close. Elephants gestation period is almost 2 years so mother elephants cannot afford to lose any of their young one after such a long pregnancy.
Cheetah (Ancinonyx jubatus)
Cheetah sightings have been great this month. A female cheetah has moved from the south to occupy the area around our lodge. She walked through the camp one day as we saw her tracks close to staff quarters. We followed the tracks and we found her hunting on the old eastern airstrip. She managed to take down an impala and we watched her feeding. This was a treat to all our guests that checked in to the lodge on that day as they were given a surprise welcome. There were other good cheetah sightings spread around the reserve but the other highlight sighting for the month was that of the mother with 4 cubs. She is hanging around Caracal plains where she is teaching her 4 youngsters how to hunt. Another day we watched her hunting and we could see the eagerness of the young ones to participate in the hunt which sometimes spoils the hunt as they spook their prey too soon. Cheetahs have a high success rate in terms of hunting and catching their prey and on this day she managed to take down an impala as they are the preferred prey of this remarkable cat.
Our safaris at the Lodge is not about the Big Five only, we appreciate the beauty of all aspects of nature including birds. In this month, we had some good bird sightings which included: a variety of Kingfisher and Bee-eater species, Paradise flycatcher, Verreaux’s eagle, African hawk eagle, Spotted eagle owl, Lark-like bunting, Lilac-breasted roller and many other interesting species.
Other interesting sightings this month:
- Black backed jackal
- Honey badger
- Lesser spotted genet
Other news on the reserve and around the lodge:
We had good amount of rain in January and the veld is turning lush green with a lot of flowers blooming like the grapple plant above. Most of animal species on the reserve have young ones now and there is a lot of activities starting from predators hunting and prey animals trying to raise their young ones as quick as possible to improve their chances of surviving in the savannah bushveld.
From around the lodge:
We have had some cheetah tracks, zebras, waterbuck, kudu and impala around the lodge.
Dwarf Chameleons, because of their unusual behaviour of being able to change colour to blend in with their immediate environment, chameleons never end to amuse and fascinate nature lovers. At Clifftop Lodge we are so privileged to be able to see and enjoy these mysterious yet amazing creatures in their natural environment. This is because these creatures are very rare as they are not found worldwide, but mainly restricted to Africa, Madagascar and surrounding islands. Whilst returning from your late sunset game drive, you may ask your ranger to spot one for you.
Till next month
Elias, Dan & Jean
The Clifftop Field Guides.