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Another incredible month in the Mabula Private Game Reserve has come and gone, leaving guests, and guides with wonderful memories and experiences. As the greens and lush colouration of summer begin to fade, I can’t help but be excited for the change in season. From beautiful orange sunsets to browner, natural, and drier open landscapes once again, the change in season is always something to behold.

Morning and evening safaris have been just as eventful with giraffes, elephants, buffaloes, cheetahs, and many general game activities around the plains on the reserve and incredible lion’s sightings occupying Lake Kyle territory just south-east of the reserve. With the dry season slowly approaching, we expect to see even more wildlife activity over the coming months. As winter approaches, with no perennial river sources on the reserve, flora drop their leaves, creating ideal conditions for exceptional game viewing.

What makes this time of year on Mabula Private Game Reserve so appealing to so many? Well, a few things are at play. The warm summer temperatures have dropped to a point that in the early mornings, a fleeced jacket is essential while, in the evenings, a roaring fire draws our guests to its warmth. The summer rains, for the most part, are a thing of the past, yet the landscape still holds a lush, green vibrancy that complements the long rays of the sun at dusk and dawn.

Lions of Mabula

Time…it is such a strange concept and sometimes it really seems to fly, while in different circumstances one feels that it stands still. The great news is that the lion cubs have continued to thrive and, as would be expected, have dominated our viewing this month. It is amazing how quickly they grow and change. A few months ago, they were still very small, unsteady on their feet, and quite pale.

However, as they have grown through the month, they have become much more confident, tackling each other, practicing their stalking techniques, and even taking on the adults at times! The adults have been very successful hunters of late, and on one occasion many of the lionesses managed to take down zebras and wildebeest. Zebras and wildebeest tend to be preffered prey for a large pride of lions and there is quite a bit of competition for the best part of the carcass among the members of the pride. A much-needed drink after the kill is always welcome.

One morning while we were out on a safari a call came through the radio from one of the guides announcing that lions had made a zebra kill on Lake Kyle dam, right by the dam. This immediatley changed our plans as we were on our way to explore the south-western reaches of the reserve. We headed to Lake Kyle dam in search of the lions. A good thing was we were the last vehicle to reach the sighting as everyone was heading back to the lodge for breakfast, giving us some time with the lions.

My guests were lost for words, there was no other way to explain what was unfolding right infront of us. There was not much that lions had eaten from the carcass, it might have been they were not hungry and they killed the zebra simply because it was in the wrong place at a wrong time. The cubs were playing on top of the carcass and jumping up and down, while the adults were sitting down and watching them. These cubs had no idea how hard the adults had worked to take down the zebra.

We went back in the afternoon, with intention to see if there would be more activity around the carcass. We found the pride laying next to a waterhole for most of the afternoon before they started eating again.

After feeding, the cubs started playing and chasing each others around. One lioness wanted to pull the carcass across the dam towards the shade and hide the meat, however with the big body of water infront of them she couldn’t, and decided to leave the carcass and move to the shade.

Some of the cubs fell asleep while the others were suckling from their mother. Lioness can do communal breeding, where cubs can suckle from any lioness. Lionesses often synchronise their breeding. This is useful as all the mothers will then mutually nurse each other‘s cubs.

This also helps each lioness as they are ensuring their own offspring’s success by helping to raise other lionesses cubs. However, if there are very new cubs in a pride as well as cubs who are 3 months and older, the mother of the younger cubs will keep her offspring away from the pride for longer than the usual six weeks. This is because the older cubs are stronger and have easier access to the milk on offer.

Between the ages of 6 and 10 months, the cubs are weaned from their mother’s milk. The cubs are still dependent on their mothers for their food as they will feed off prey killed by their mother or other pride members. Male lions generally do not play a role when it comes to raising cubs. Females are therefore responsible for teaching cubs how to hunt. Learning how to hunt is one of the most important skills that cubs will ever acquire. In the early days, hunting is a combination of play, instinct and observation.

Lionesses will take care of their cubs until they reach the age of two or three. The mother will then go through estrus (her heat cycle) and carry another litter of cubs. The pride will then force out the male cubs who will either take over a pride from an ageing or sick male or they will start their own pride with females of a similar age.

This may seem on the cruel side, however, it is a crucial part of eliminating competition. This also prevents inbreeding in the pride. Female adolescent cubs will either become part of the maternal pride or form a new pride with other female adolescents.

Lion cubs are full of life and spend most of their day playing with their sibling or with other cubs in the pride. They will stalk and wrestle with each other, and while this may seem adorable to watch, it is vital for them to develop these skills which they will use later in their life when they start to hunt for themselves. This type of play also builds family bonds with other cubs in the pride.

The playful cubs frolic close to their mothers, their innocence a stark contrast to the wild majesty of their surroundings. Together, they paint a picture of familial bonds woven amidst the untamed beauty of the savanna.

Through their playful antics, they hone essential skills for survival, fostering strength, coordination, and social bonds that will shape their future as rulers. It is nothing but a privilege to receive regular glimpses into nature’s boundless wonder, where every playful leap is a lesson in growth.

Pied Kingfisher still fishing at Main Dam

The bird most synonymous with the kingfisher family would have to be the pied kingfisher. A striking black and white bird and, other than when the woodland is in residence, the most common found on the reserve. They can frequently be observed hovering high above the water’s surface, scanning for prey, before tucking their wings in and diving beak first into the water – sometimes even able to catch two fish in a single dive.

Watching the sun dip below the horizon, you find yourself with a gin and tonic in hand, surrounded by the African bush and its nocturnal inhabitants of the Mabula Private Game Reserve, while your ranger and tracker exchange thrilling stories of wildlife encounters. Sunsets and Silhouettes! A breathtaking scene to finish off yet another incredible safari in the open grasslands of the reserve.

Sunsets make me smile. Always look around you, you may just be surprised to see that there is beauty in everything!

Until next time…

From Isaiah Banda & Mabula family.

Safari Greetings.