As the first raindrop fell on the dry earth we breathed a sigh knowing that the heavy clouds would settle the dust and summer would start to show her bloom. Every day after it was noticeable that the green buds of new life were forming and growing, and even guests commented that the area started to look a lot greener than when they first arrived a few days prior. The early mornings were still cool for the first few weeks of September, but as the month progressed the fleece ponchos were being left behind along with the hot water bottles (fondly known as ‘bush babies’ that are placed on your lap to keep your hands warm during the winter months). Departing on the early morning game drives whilst watching the sunrise over the horizon is definitely a highlight in the summer months. There is often a game vehicle on a crest watching the sun come up as its occupants capture several memories before moving off to track lions or follow up on a hyena call in the distance as the early morning chorus of various bird species echoes along the valleys.
Leopards: The Hlabankunzi female and her cub have been viewed regularly in the vicinity of the lodges. On two separate occasions we saw the Nyelethi male leopard accompanying them at carcasses. One of the carcasses was a nyala bull, which was later hoisted by the Nyeleti male. This was an impressive view of strength from a larger male leopard.
Buffaloes: There have been a few smaller herds of buffalo that have been moving around in the southern sections. Various large herds of buffalo have been seen moving through the grasslands, in particular the areas that have been purposely burnt by our environmental team. The green flush in the area has not only attracted the buffalo but also various other species such as zebra, wildebeest and impala.
Lions: During a few of the days in September there were three prominent prides being viewed during the morning and afternoon game drives. It was quite exciting listening to the radio as the various guides called in the movements of the individual sightings. Two of the Matimba male lions were also seen in close vicinity to where two Majingalane male lions were moving. The guides set predications as to what may occur during the afternoon game drive. The large Matimba male lions retreated back to the southeast with the Majingalane males roaring behind them. With all the hype of the large Matimba male lion coalition extending their territory west we had wondered if these two ‘gladiators’ would challenge the Majingalane male lions.
Hyena: A number of single hyenas have been seen in the area. After watching the Mangheni pride kill a zebra, a clan of six was seen in the area. Unfortunately due to the size of the pride, there was not much of the carcass remaining for the clan, however they were persistent to remain in the area until the lions departed.
Wild dogs: There have been very few wild dog sightings during this month. A large pack has been reported to be active around a den area in the western section of Sabi Sand. Hopefully within the next few weeks the wild dog pack would begin moving with the puppies.
Read the full report here: Singita Sabi Sand Wildlife Report September 2015
- Average maximum 26.6˚C (79.9˚F)
- Average minimum 16.9˚C (64.4˚F)
- Maximum recorded 34˚C (93.2˚F)
- Minimum recorded 12◦C (53.6˚F)
- Recorded for the month 52mm
- Recorded for the year 169.8mm
The midday temperatures have been mild and the morning game drive times have been moved to an earlier departure time. The first signs of spring are on our doorstep and receive a warm welcome.
Lions: The Mhangene pride continues to follow large herds of buffalo. Recently we have noted that one of the male lions from the Xmungwe pride has joined up with the Mhangene pride. The pride members were reluctant with his presence at first, however it has now been recorded that he has been moving with the pride. The Othawa prides three lions are doing well and we have been encountering them periodically.
Leopards: We experienced some very interesting behaviour between three leopards over several days – Leon elaborates later in the journal. The story involves a father, a son and a female leopard…
Buffalos: Two very large buffalo herds exceeding more than 300 each were active during this past month.
Hyena: A large clan of hyenas exceeding 20 was viewed feeding on the remains of a hippo carcass. The hippo died of natural causes.
Wild dogs: Sightings over the last few weeks have been scarce due to the prospects of them increasing their packs. Generally this time of the year the packs will use den-sites that they may have used during the previous year. A pack moved into an area north of the river briefly, along with their puppies. Unfortunately they moved again shortly after establishing a den-site due to the lion activity in the area. We look forward to encountering more sightings of wild dogs as the puppies get older and start moving with the pack.
Birds: 188 species recorded. The highlight for the month of August was a melanistic form of Gabar goshawk. Yellow-billed oxpeckers were seen amongst the buffalo herds. There were early appearances of yellow-billed kite and a black cuckoo.
Read the full report here: Singita Sabi Sand Wildlife Report August 2015
- Average Minimum:14.6°C (58.2°F)
- Average Maximum:26°C (78.8°F)
- Minimum Recorded:8°C (46.4°F)
- Maximum Recorded: 30°C (86°F)
- For the period:1 mm (0 in)
- For the year to date: 402.3mm (1 in)
With four weeks until spring, it’s an exciting time of the year. The cold winter mornings will be turning into cool mornings with warm midday’s, well worth spending around your private plunge pool.
Lions: As usual the lions have been busy with movements in a very erratic pattern, particularly the Mhangene pride. They have been a very busy pride moving vast distances in search of the large herds of buffalo and have been fortunate enough to encounter a few old bull buffalos, which have sufficed them well. With the ever-growing pride members it’s tough to keep thirteen lions content with food.
Leopards:Hlabankunzi’s cub has been a real highlight this month. As he becomes more adventurous and confident, he is exploring his new world and making for some epic viewing. The male leopards Khashane and Nyeleti had a stand off for a few hours late one afternoon – we still are not sure “who won” but both have been seen since in prime condition, suggesting that nothing other than a reminder transpired of rules the roost!
Elephants: Elephants have dominated along the Sand River for most of the month and conditions are forecast to get even drier in the coming months, thus this trend will hopefully continue. A young elephant playing in the water and trying to determine the use of its trunk is so special to watch.
Buffalos: A large herd has been seen in the south moving in various directions around the available water sources, however the movements has been influenced by the movement of the lion pride.
Hyena: Two clans of hyenas were seen intimidating the Mhangene pride as they finishing the remains of a buffalo carcass. The commotion of the two clans was enough to annoy the lions and they soon became restless and moved away from the carcass towards Giraffe pan.
164 species recorded.
Read the full report here: Singita Sabi Sand Wildlife Report July 2015
- Average minimum: 13.3˚C (55.9˚F)
- Average maximum: 24.3˚C (75.7˚F)
- Minimum recorded: 11.0˚C (51.8˚F)
- Maximum recorded: 31.0˚C (87.8˚F)
- For the month: 4 mm
- For the year to date: 4 mm
Chilly mornings (by our standards), have made way for glorious hot afternoons this month, and the sightings have been terrific:
We’ve seen some interesting movement and behaviour this month between our various prides and coalitions of males. It seems that the drying conditions have been putting pressure on the prey species and thus drawing the lions towards the permanent water. We have witnessed interesting interaction whereby different prides have congregated on kills and shared the spoils. A coalition of four males has certainly and opportunistically made the most of this and spent more and more time with the lionesses – over 70% of our sightings of this coalition have been associated with the prides. It looks like their days of bachelorhood are coming to an end!
With the Hlab N’kunzi female still traversing the core of her home range, she’s remained the most-viewed leopard, with a third of our leopard sightings attributed to her and her young male cub. They are currently providing such great viewing as the young cub tests the waters of personal boundaries. Male leopard sightings were high in June; this is possibly as a result of a number of newly-independent younger males moving within the area and drawing the attention of larger, older territorial males who hold territory.
We enjoyed a great increase in cheetah sightings as their main competitor, lions, concentrated close to the water sources, and cheetah could safely increase their presence in the marginal areas.
There’s been a surge of elephant sightings, and what is notable is their change in feeding habits, with a large focus on roots and bark and less on grass.
With less palatable grazing available, the larger herds have divided, with sightings of breeding herds of between 50-100 individuals.
186 species recorded.
Read the full wildlife report here: Singita Sabi Sand Wildlife Report June 2015
- Average Minimum:11.2°C (52.2°F)
- Average Maximum:24.6°C (76.3°F)
- Minimum Recorded:7°C (44.6°F)
- Maximum Recorded:28°C (82.4°F)
- For the period:0 mm (0 in)
- For the year to date:397.3 mm (6 in)
Winter creeps in and lies in wait during the early morning and late evening drives, and you can feel its grip as you drive down drainage lines. It leaves no doubt that the change of season is upon us.
There are so many elements that make this area beautiful. The landscape, the small creatures, the tall creatures and the many that have unique patterns and beautiful markings. You might think that the next photo is of caked mud, but it is actually a close-up view of elephant hide. Pictured below that are the dazzling black and white patterns of zebras.
Read the full wildlife report here: Singita Sabi Sand Wildlife Report April 2015
- Average minimum 14.3°C (57.7°F)
- Average maximum 31.5°C (88.7°F)
- Minimum recorded 10.0°C (50°F)
- Maximum recorded 36.0°C (96.8°F)
- For the period: 29.9 mm
- For the year to date: 88.8 mm
I have chosen to type this article out in the field, sitting in the tracker’s seat of my Land Rover, parked in one of my favourite parts of Singita Sabi Sand. Why not? After all, I feel that I can be far more creative while out in the fresh air and sunshine, with the pleasant aromas of elephants and dry grass wafting past my nostrils, than I could ever hope to be, cooped up in an office! Zebras watch me inquisitively, while rollers and drongos swoop down to hawk insects that are flushed by a couple of warthogs grazing nearby.
After several consecutive seasons of high or above average rainfall, we are now in a situation where at the end of March, we have a season total of only around 340 mm (less than 14 inches) of rain. The average summer rainfall is in excess of 650 mm (26 inches).
Download the full wildlife report here: Singita Sabi Sand Wildlife Report March 2015
- Average minimum 17.3˚C (63.1˚F)
- Average maximum 35.2˚C (95.3˚F)
- Minimum recorded 11˚C (51.8˚F)
- Maximum recorded 40˚C (104˚F)
- For the month: 5 mm
- For the year to date: 340 mm
We are fortunate enough to have a small garden where we live behind the lodge, and in the garden we have a bird bath which we ensure is full daily. This bird bath is a hive of activity at different times of the day. At any time of day we get birds coming to drink and bathe and either the family of vervet monkeys or a female Nyala and her young come to drink. Every day is different and sometimes the times change too. On this particular day I noticed a female Ashy flycatcher swoop down into the water, which was pretty low as it had been a busy morning at the bird bath. She looked around to scan for any danger that may be present, had a quick dip herself and then all of a sudden she was joined by three young flycatchers. What a treat to see three young flycatchers as this particular species is parasitized by Cuckoos, in particular Klaas’s cuckoo.
Download the full wildlife report here: Singita Sabi Sand Wildlife Report February 2015
- Average minimum 20.8˚C (69.4˚F)
- Average maximum 36.6˚C (97.8˚F)
- Minimum recorded 14˚C (57.2˚F)
- Maximum recorded 41˚C (105.80˚F)
- For the month : 40 mm
- For the year to date: 335 mm
Lion roaring Article by Francois Fourie
It’s a sound that can be heard from kilometres away and one of the greatest things of living in the bush. Sitting around a fire with friends and hearing the roar of a male lion from afar calling to his brothers…A lion’s roar is not only used for the purpose of making contact with their pride members but it is also done to announce his presence in his territory and to make sure that any other potential intruders stay away. It truly is one of the most special experiences sitting with a male lion only 10 metres away and he starts roaring. That feeling is one that you can’t put into words… even more so when it is a pitch dark night with only starlight above and he starts to roar… your whole body can feel the vibrations of the roar right to your very core! Once you’ve heard Africa’s biggest cat roar then you can truly understand why people call this magnificent animal the “King” of the jungle!
Download the full wildlife report here: Singita Sabi Sand Wildlife Report January 2015
- Average minimum 18.8˚C (65.8˚F)
- Average maximum 33˚C (91.4˚F)
- Minimum recorded 16˚C (60.8˚F)
- Maximum recorded 41˚C (105.80˚F)
- For the period: 13 mm
- For the year to date: 13 mm
It was another typical summer’s day out in the lowveld, with blistering temperatures and a slow breeze. We set out that afternoon to follow up on the Mhangene pride that had been seen earlier in the morning. Luckily with the day being as warm as it was we were quite sure that the pride wouldn’t have moved too far from their last position and, sure enough, they had only moved a few hundred metres away from where they had been seen in the morning. They were all trying to find some shade underneath some bushwillow trees, but the shade didn’t last very long and they started to become a bit restless.
In the south we could see a big cumulonimbus cloud building up, an indicator of impending rain and lighting. We were quite lucky that it just blocked out the sun and everything cooled down quite quickly, which was just what the lions were waiting for so they could start moving about. Slowly but surely there was movement – stretching and yawning, which is always a good sign. Then, within seconds, all 13 lion heads popped up and stared intently in the same direction. We tried to keep very quiet in the hope that we could hear what they were hearing, and in the far distance we heard a herd of buffalo – and that is exactly what they heard as well.
It was getting dark quickly and the lions were on the move straight towards where we heard the buffalo. Everything was in their favour; the wind was blowing quite strongly from the buffaloes’ direction so the lions’ scent was well masked. We stopped with the whole pride in a stalking position in thick vegetation, and then my tracker Rebel said to me, “Francois, warthog!” He pointed straight towards the pride and this large female warthog appeared, completely oblivious of the lions. In seconds chaos erupted with one of the sub-adults chasing the warthog straight towards the buffalo. Now the whole pride was in motion and running towards the 600 strong buffalo herd. For about 30 seconds we just sat there and listened to the sound of 600 buffalo stampeding from a pride of lions.
What an incredible experience to have shared with our guests!
Read the full wildlife report here: Singita Sabi Sand Wildlife Report December 2014
- Average Minimum:19.61˚C (67.3˚F)
- Average Maximum:34.35°C (93.83˚F)
- Minimum Recorded: 13.0˚C (55.40˚F
- Maximum Recorded: 41.0˚C (105.80˚F)
- For the period:172 mm
- For the year to date:282.5 mm
Glorious summer Article by Ross Couper
With our heightened lookout for young impalas over the last month, it’s been hard not to notice all the other young around at this time of the year. A friendly wager amongst the guides as to when this season’s first newborn impala would be seen had us all waiting in anticipation to spot a long-legged youngster and call it in over the radio. This year’s winner was Dylan – the lucky date was 4 November 2014. Lambing time has meant that impalas have had more human attention than usual during game drives, with very pregnant impalas moving off on their own and newborn lambs struggling to stand or wobbling on their stilt-like legs. There are lots of “ooohs” and “aaahs” being whispered during the game drives.
Download the full wildlife report here: Singita Sabi Sand Wildlife Report November 2014
- Average minimum 18.2˚C (64.7˚F)
- Average maximum 33.1˚C (91.5˚F)
- Minimum recorded 11.0˚C (51.8˚F)
- Maximum recorded 41.0˚C (105.8˚F)
- For the period: 51 mm
- For the year to date: 110.5 mm