Monday morning started out on a very quiet note – I saw a solitary herd of impalas in the first hour and a half of my drive as I scouted the eastern sections checking for the return of the Timbavati Pride of lions, but there weren’t even the usual zebra and wildebeest herds out in the east. Luckily, as the morning heated up from its chilly start, the animals started showing themselves, first in the form of a few giraffe and waterbuck, and followed quickly by a large herd of giraffes with zebra and impalas as we headed west towards where Duma male lion had made his way back into our reserve following his long walk up the Argyle Rd. Although he had been on the move most the morning, when we arrived just after 8am, he had eventually settled, and whilst he was posing nicely when we arrived, within a minute he flopped down and didn’t stir again for the remainder of the sighting – although inactive, it was great to see this impressive boy again after his journey of some 45km back west to the Balule Private Nature Reserve. We left him and headed for some coffee on the banks of Mbali Dam with some hippos and a distant elephant bull, and then carried on to the lodge, not ticking off much before closing down for breakfast. The best news of the morning though was finding where Shongile female leopard had made a kill and for the first time in our area, brought her cub(s) to the kill – tracks were not conclusive, but Goodman said it looked like she had two cubs, whilst Marka said only one. She was not around in the morning and gave us something to follow up on in the afternoon, as did the elephants that had visited the lodge for a drink in the middle of the day.
Checking the northern sections of our concession when we headed out, we came across some warthog, impala and three elephants feeding along the Sohebele riverbed, but when they moved east, and we went around, we couldnt find any sign of them, so decided to leave the area. As we were crossing the riverbed again, one elephant appeared, and the youngster was soon followed by a whole family that came running down the hill past the vehicle into the riverbed before carrying on east where we spent some more time with them before they moved into a thicket and we left them to it. We went to check up on where Shongile’s kill was stashed under a fallen knob thorn on the banks of the Sohebele, quite close to the lodge. At first we could only hear the sound of crunching bones as Shongile fed in the thicket, with a few spots showing. After some time of sitting waiting quietly, a hyena came walking in, attracted by the crunching bones, and rushed in causing Shongile to leap away with what few scraps remained – she managed to get up a very thick tamboti tree where she left the bones and climbed down to rest on the ground and groom. The hyena then came walking towards her again and she sat up and hissed at it, and it sauntered off to the north…that was when we heard the sound that I won’t forget in the hurry, and neither will Shongile…the hyena had bumped into the cub some distance north of us, and the yelps sent Shongile charging in that direction; although we didn’t see anything, we could hear the panic as she tried fearlessly to get her cub back from the jaws of the hyena. Growling, howling, yelping – it was a cacophony of sounds that left me cold and in a mild state of shock. We all sat there. Silenced. The hyena had grabbed the unseen cub and in all likelihood, the results weren’t good. After a few minutes, we made a move in that direction, and found the hyena walking around, blood on its forelimbs, and Shongile sitting helplessly in a tree. The outlook looked almost certain now. The cub was dead. Once Shongile descended and walked off calling for it, we left the area and decided to stop for one of the most sombre drink stops I have ever had. It was nature, yes. But it still wasn’t pleasant to witness, even if we only heard it happening some distance away. The shock was still with us as we made our way home, for an early night, and an uneasy rest. Elsewhere this afternoon the guides and guests saw elephant, rhino, buffalo and elephant, as well as good general game in the north, but that was little compensation for what we had gone through.