Sightings update: March safari highlights!

Posted by Emily on Tue April 9, 2024 in Sightings Report.

As summer slowly gives way to the first signs of winter, March has proven to be wildly drier this year than last. The grass is already withered to hues of yellow and gold and the once raging Klaserie river now slowly ebbs and winds through the reserve. The forecast of an ‘El Niño’ drought is ringing truer than ever…. However, it is no secret here at Klaserie Drift that our prime location alongside the river is particularly favoured by local wildlife in such times. With a bumper series of sightings this month, we could hardly disagree. Here are a few of our favourite moments over the last few weeks…

Saseka’s big news

The most exciting announcement of all came with the unveiling of female leopard Saseka’s tiny bundles of joy. At over eight years old and yet to have successfully reared a litter, we have longed for the moment that this incredible leopard finally becomes a mother. Then, on one (much-needed) rainy morning, there she was with her two cubs perched in a tree trying to escape the downpour. Now roughly 2-3 months old and capable enough to climb and escape any nearby danger, these adorable cubs are at an age where we feel confident to sit and enjoy them. So, despite the pouring rain, that’s exactly what we did!
In complete awe, we watched as Saseka used her body to provide cover to her precious babies before attempting to groom their sodden fur and comfort them through the storm. Round-bellied and bright-eyed, the cubs fawned over their mother’s love and it is clear that she has at last found her footing when it comes to motherhood. With such a challenging past, as well as the high mortality rate when it comes to leopard cubs, we are still holding our breath that these little ones can buck the trend and survive their first, difficult year. But, for the first time, there is a slight pang of hope in our hearts that she will finally become the leopard, and parent, we always knew she could be.

The failed lion hunt

Coming across a large herd of buffalo one hot, March afternoon, it was no surprise to discover their scent had also caught the attention of 8 lions of the River pride. The two mortal enemies crossed paths as the sun slowly began to wane and the hungry felines set into action. However, perhaps due to lack of experience by the immature males, their first attempt was bungled and their cover blown. The element of surprise now lost, the buffaloes took advantage and closed ranks, moving the youngsters and females to the centre of the herd whilst the large bulls faced their attackers on the frontline.

For more than an hour, the two ferocious species were frozen in deadlock. At one point a desperate lioness made a move, attempting to sneak closer to the herd undetected. However, with so many eyes, ears and noses on high alert, she was quickly thwarted and chased up a tree by a large and irate bull. The commotion caused a reaction amongst the herd, who stampeded in her direction, putting her in immediate peril. However, a second lion appeared from nowhere, throwing the scene into chaos and allowing just a moment’s grace for the lioness to slip away into the bush. No longer visible to the herd, an unsettled calm resumed as each side planned their next move.
Eventually, darkness crept in and the deadlock showed no signs of waning. Thus, we decided to leave the animals to battle it out in peace. As it happened, the tracks showed the following morning that the plucky herd had managed to escape and move swiftly west, narrowly avoiding the pride’s grasp on this occasion.

A wild dog reunion

Charismatic, playful and highly sociable, African wild dogs are one of the most magical species that we adore here at Klaserie Drift. Located mid-morning, the pack was highly mobile as they charged through the bushveld in search of prey. Dashing in every direction, our guides fought a constant battle to keep up with the speedy pups, followed as always by a few stray hyenas looking to capitalise on their kill.
Ultimately, then guides’ perseverance paid off as the pack, unsuccessful in their attempts, settled in the grass just a stone’s throw from a nearby dam. However, it was soon obvious that something wasn’t right. The wild dogs were restless and unable to relax. Shortly, the answer revealed itself as one dog, then another, launched into the haunting ‘hoo’ call that is used only to contact missing pack members. A minute passed with no reply. They called again, this time three of the five members joining in. And then it happened….
The wild dogs erupted into streams of high-pitched twitters, leaping into the air and dashing behind us. There, less than 50 metres away and closing, were the other half of the pack. In no time at all they arrived on scene to what can only be described as pure delight. Each dog could barely contain its happiness at reuniting with its family. The air filled with audible yelps of joy and the pups chased each other in erratic circles, around and around our vehicle like excited children playing a game of chase. For several minutes, the joy was irrepressible until, at last, tranquillity resumed. Now at peace, the endangered carnivores relaxed at last. Watch the frenzy here!

Words and Photos by Emily Whiting