The preserved plains of the Sabi Sand Game Reserve and Kruger National Park hold one of highest concentrations of game per hectare on the planet. This, coupled with ethical and responsible conservation management, have resulted in animals which are habituated to human presence. Our safari vehicles pose no threat, and we able to get really close to countless animal species – including predators, general game, reptiles, insects, and birds-a-plenty.
The Big Five
The Big Five is comprised of the lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant, and rhinoceros. These animals earned their title as they were regarded as the most dangerous animals to hunt on foot. We certainly wouldn’t want to put that to the test!
The Leopard: The Most Elusive Predator
- Once you have clapped eyes on a leopard, you will never forget it – they are, by far, the most beautiful, vividly colourful, graceful, and (usually) most active of the big cats
- The best time to look for a leopard is either during the first hour or two of the morning game drive or from sunset onwards, as these are the leopard’s most active periods
- The best way to find this elusive cat is to search the type of areas its prefers and then track it – once its spoors are located, the field guide and tracker will try to determine when it was there, if it was hunting or just passing through, and the direction in which the leopard is moving
- Leopards are solitary animals, only socialising when males visit females to re-establish bonds and check for signs of oestrus, or when a female has cubs
- Being rather shy, the leopard moves through its area leaving very little evidence of its presence, only vocalising to find a mate or let other leopards know that this particular territory is being used
Leopards Regularly Seen at Lion Sands
The Lion: King of the Savannah
- The male lion’s posture when sitting or walking is unmistakably stately and aloof, visually portraying raw power and control over its environment. The lioness is a lot more cat-like, agile and stealthy, often initiating the pride’s movements and activities. Cubs, when in a boisterous mood, are very playful, alternating between mock-attacks on each other, and their parents tails.
- The best time to look for lions is in the early morning and late afternoon. As it gets warmer, lions become less active, preferring to spend their time socialising and resting in the shade. This inactivity has often been described as laziness, but is actually a strategy employed by lions to conserve energy for the hunt.
- Hunts usually take place at night, where the lion’s nocturnal vision is better than its prey, although if the opportunity presents itself lions may also hunt during the day.
- Tracking lions is comparatively easier than tracking leopards as lions tend to be in a pride, and therefore leave multiple sets of tracks, giving guides and trackers a better chance to stay on its trail.
- Socially Lions are gregarious, living within prides of related males, related females and their offspring (males are not related to the females). As large cats they require large prey, and the Lion has evolved a strategy of co-operative hunting, whereby each member of the pride has a specific role to play in the hunt.
- After the prey is consumed, Lions spend a lot of time grooming each other, re-establishing bonds that may have become frayed during the inevitable squabbling over the carcass.
Lions Frequently Seen at Lion Sands
- Avoca male coalition (2 brothers)
- Mantimahle coalition (4 brothers)
- Tsalala coalition (3 brothers)
- Eyrefield lionesses (2 females)
- Southern Pride (4 lions now, but in the past has been 22+)
- Sand River Pride (11 lions)
The Buffalo: Powerful and Gregarious
- Herding Buffalo are gregarious, non-territorial animals which utilise a home range. The basic herd structure consists of clans of related females and offspring, sub-herds of bachelor males, high-ranking males and females, and old or invalid animals. Young males keep their distance from the dominant bulls, which are recognisable by the thickness and roughness of their horns and their larger bulk.
- Old Buffalo Bulls or Dagga Boys are old bulls who have ‘retired’ from the daily hustle and bustle of a herd, and often spend long periods of the day wallowing in mud and water. These old (but still very powerful males) will leave the main herd and live either as solitary bulls or in a small group, only joining up with main herds for breeding purposes, but as they are in a regressive fertility stage, these reproductive forays diminish with time.
The Elephant: The Largest of All Land Animals
- The African Elephant is unmistakable, with its massive body, huge ears, curved tusks, an elongated trunk, and wrinkled skin. Elephant tends to take on the colour of the soil from the area, due to their habit of mud wallowing.
- Because of the elephant’s mammoth food requirements, they spend around 16 hours of every 24 feeding. The rest of their time is spent sleeping, resting, drinking, wallowing and socializing.
- Elephant herds are led by a particular female (matriarch), who makes the decisions for the group. These matriarchs gain their position through seniority, size and reproductive condition, with the matriarch usually being the oldest and largest reproductive female within a group.
- As the matriarch (and other old female elephants) reach a certain age (between 50 to 60 years old) where their condition drops due to poor food assimilation, they may gradually wander away from the group or be left behind, with the next oldest and largest reproductive female taking over the role of matriarch.
The Black and White Rhinos: The Most Endangered Inhabitants
- Due to the sensitive nature of the present poaching situation, and our full support of aggressive anti-poaching efforts, no information on these wonderful and very vulnerable creatures will be published on this website.
The Cheetah: The World’s Fastest Land Animal
- Cheetah can sprint up to 120 km/h, average about 93 km/h during chases and can accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in 3 seconds.
- To maintain high speeds, Cheetah have enlarged nostrils to facilitate oxygen intake, and enlarged heart and lungs to circulate the oxygen.
- The Cheetah has a flattened paddle like tail which acts as a rudder, enabling it to take tight corners when chasing high speed prey.
- Cheetah cubs have a mane of downy fur on the neck, giving them the appearance of Honeybadgers, possibly to scare away potential attackers.
- Female Cheetah adults are solitary and non-territorial, whereas males are territorial and may form coalitions.
- Cheetah have a hunting success rate of about 50%, and about 50% chance of losing their kill to a competing predator.
General Game Species at Lion Sands
Although The Big Five is often the drawcard of a safari, there are so many other animal species that are just as beautiful, and very spectacular. These species include (but are not limited to):
- Did you know bushbuck avoid open areas and plains, only venturing into the open to look for select food sources or the presence of other bushbuck?
- Black-backed jackal. Did you know that black-backed jackals ignore the calls of strangers, only answering the calls of related individuals?
- Did you know caracals can leap up to 2 meters into the air from standing, enabling them to capture birds?
- Grey duiker. Did you know that this tiny antelope has been known to eat small birds?
- Giraffe. Did you know that giraffe use their 45-50 cm tongue to trap twigs laden with leaves against the roof of their mouths, to effectively strip off the leaves?
- Hippopotamus. Did you know that although slow and cumbersome looking, on land, hippos can sprint up to 36 km/h, in an emergency?
- Impala. Did you know that when the first female impala within a breeding herd calves, the other expectant females within that herd may also calve within 24 hours?
- Did you know that when lying down, the klipspringer is able to straighten out its front legs?
- Did you know that mature kudu males have large impressive horns that twist 2½ times, and which, were they to be straightened, may reach a length of 120 cm?
- Did you know that dominant nyala males advertise their status by digging and tossing clods of damp soil with their horns?
- Did you know that, relative to its body size, servals have the longest legs of any cat, mainly due to greatly elongated metatarsal bones in the feet?
- Spotted hyena. Did you know a spotted hyena is able to consume about 15 kilograms of meat and other organic matter per sitting?
- Did you know that the warthog’s tail comes upright like an antenna if the animal moves any faster than a walk, and drops as it slows down?
- Did you know that the waterbuck secretes a scent to repel predators?
- Blue Wildebeest. Did you know that distant thunderstorms may stimulate wildebeest to travel up to 25 km towards the resulting green flush from the rainfall?
- Did you know that zebra foals are able to stand, walk and suckle shortly after birth, and have been recorded to be able to run within an hour?
- Chacma Baboon. Did you know that the male Chacma baboon has canines longer than a male lion?