Following the return of the lions on the weekend, things carried on well on the lion front with all nine lions of the Western Pride returning to the northern parts of the reserve on Sunday morning, but sadly they managed to split up during a hunt and one young male and two you lionesses were left walking about on their own as the other six, including the lactating lioness and another looking quite pregnant walked with the other three subadults and old lioness. On my first drive back, they became the focus of my drive, although I spent the first part checking the north for Shongile leopardess – although we didn’t find her, we ticked off steenbuck, impala, duiker, scrub hare, nyala, kudu and waterbuck, as well as a host of birds as the clouds broke and sun retuned to our skies for the first time in two days. The lions eventually got active and i headed to them just after sunset as they made a half-hearted attempt at a giraffe that ran off and the pride wandered to the north-east. They moved until darkness fell and then went static, so we left them to it and slowly made our way back to the lodge, enjoying the stars and some fireflies along the way.
During the night, in fact, during dinner, the six lions walked through camp, and although we knew that this meant they were heading back to Ingwelala, we still made doubly sure in the morning; there was a moment where their tracks weren’t seen crossing out the area, but on joining Marka to follow up, i found the unfortunate signs of them returning to Ingwelala. It played havoc with my morning, as i was going back and forth in my efforts to locate them, which left us seeing little besides waterbuck, impala and kudu. After a lovely cup of coffee, we carried on and checked the north for the other three lions, but only found giraffe, impala and waterbuck. On returning to camp and crossing the Sohebele riverbed, something running into a bush caught my eye – at first i thought it was a baboon, but as there were no others around, i concluded that it was a leopard. Time spent sitting still revealed nothing, so I headed into the area with the vehicle and soon we spotted the remains of an impala kill up a tree along the bank – it was old, but at least we knew there was a leopard there, albeit skittish. We decided to try again in the afternoon.
The day was a warm one as we headed out and headed to the south western corner to see Duma male lion who had been there for a couple of days with a kudu kill. A sighting of Ntima male leopard along the Nhlaralumi put pay to my plans of heading along the river, but we still managed some scenic routes. We had a nice afternoon, although it was a bit quiet; we saw impala, waterbuck, hippos, warthog, giraffe, a lone elephant bull and more good birds as we meandered south. The rain in the north has definitely left us looking a shade or two greener than in the south, and it was dry on both the grass front and the game front down there, but we arrived as Duma was at least awake…for a few minutes anyway. He flopped down to sleep near his kill after a couple of minutes and didn’t stir again until we left. With darkness falling, half a dozen hyenas were around the area and cackling as they greeted one another – with this the male lion came charging in scattering the hyenas before he scent-marked and returned to the kill. We had a long way back and saw very little along the way, but that was forgotten when we went through the riverbed crossing near the camp and found Shongile’s previous daughter lying in behind the reeds. She is not very relaxed, but after some time, and with the approach of a hyena, we ended up having a lovely view of her posing on a rock before going back towards the kill where the hyena was skulking about. At one point they came within a couple of metres of one another and the leopard showed her displeasure with a hiss, a snarl and a bit of charge in the hyenas direction before settling again. It was a nice way to end off the day, especially considering how quiet our morning had been.