April was a busy month for Marataba. The quality of game viewing has been top class. A highlight was the numerous sightings of lions with new cubs, who are most entertaining! One male cub is particularly bold. He likes to show that he is not scared of anything – not even a vehicle – and greets us with confidence at the game viewer.
We have seen lions mating in the last few weeks, too. Lionesses have a gestation period of approximately 110 days, so we could have more cubs walking around the reserve by the end of July. We were also treated to the sound of males roaring, which could be heard from Safari Lodge and Mountain Lodge every other morning and evening as they made their territory patrols.
Elephants have been spotted up and down the river, and by the main road to the lodges. Certain combined herds were up to 60 members strong – remarkable sights! They have also been viewed during Miss Mara water safaris, swimming and wrestling in the Matlabas River. Hippos are also scattered around the waterways.
As we come into winter, the bush is drying up and big herds of up to 50 buffalo have been seen along the banks of the Matlabas River, towards Mountain Lodge. They have slowly started making their way further west, right past Safari Lodge. A few Dagga Boys – solitary buffalo bulls – are hanging around the northern parts of the river system.
The plains’ game – zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, warthog, and antelope – are in abundance. The impala rams have all got full swing into the rutting (or mating) season, which usually lasts around three months. Their deep grunts and loud snorts can be heard throughout the day as these testosterone-filled animals battle it out to become the dominant ram of the herd.
We had a few sightings of male leopards patrolling their territory. Guests also saw porcupines – there was an amusing encounter between one and a young male lion, who was trying his luck with, what he thought would be, an easy meal. His lack of experience resulted in a few quills stuck into his backside, but it was his pride that was injured more than anything else.
Other exciting encounters included: an African wild cat hunting gerbils on the plains; caracals, on a few separate occasions; African rock pythons, during Miss Mara water safaris; puff adders on the roads; and honey badgers running around a game viewer at night. Most of the migrant bird species have left by now, but overall the sightings were brilliant. We saw Verreaux’s eagles soaring over the cliffs, snake eagles perched, African harrier hawks hunting on tree trunks, and plentiful water birds.
Words and photos by: Adriaan Mulder