The bush is still really thick for this time of year, thanks to great rains, and the grasshoppers are making the most of this abundance, as are ground-nesting birds and little rodents like elephant shrews. Stepping up the food chain the insectivores are having an absolute feast and many birds and raptors can be spotted flying off with crunchy bugs in their beaks. Most of the baobabs have lost their leaves, and many are hanging heavy with round or oval fruit. Finding a baobab fruit, cracking it open and sharing the sherbety seeds with guests is a tasty treat. The serenity of the wilderness is punctuated with loud roaring rutting calls from male impalas advertising their virility, but at the same time alerting the concealed predators to their whereabouts.
We thought we’d had the last of the season’s rain, and all the natural pans were drying to muddy wallows, but then a spectacular storm at the end of the month astonished and delighted us with thunder, lightning and up to 85 mm of rain in some areas. It was so intense it flung branches off trees and turned the reserve into a soggy quagmire!
Guests flying in on Federal Air now land at Buffalo Range to clear customs, and then re-board the aircraft and hop over to the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve to land at our Lone Star airstrip. They are picked up in a game viewer and enjoy a short game drive to Singita Pamushana Lodge. Imagine the delight of the guests who stepped off the plane, onto the game viewer, and immediately saw two male lions en route to the lodge.
Here is a snapshot of April’s sightings:
- We are delighted that the Southern Pride has two new little cubs, that are about four weeks old.
- A pride in the north caught a buffalo and fed on it for a few days, providing great sightings.
- The two River Pride males have been in evidence, patrolling the Banyini, Hwata, Buffalo Fence area.
- The rhino viewing is extraordinary, as always. A delight was a newborn white rhino calf seen with its mother who was drinking at a pan. It’s so little it looks like a warthog! In the cover photo of white rhinos drinking at night it is hidden behind its mother’s legs, making the total of nine white rhino in one frame.
- The full moon created a priceless scene softly illuminating numerous white rhinos while they drank.
- At one afternoon/evening session at the photo hide guests were mesmerised by a total of 11 white rhinos, as well as a lone buffalo bull, an elephant and a black-backed jackal trying to catch birds.
- Several sightings of black rhinos have been had. A great way to see them is on a boat cruise, and on one water safari guests saw two black rhinos browsing on the banks of the Nyamasikana River while others could be heard in the area, vocalising with their high-pitched squeals.
- We’ve enjoyed excellent sightings of a relaxed, large, breeding herd of elephants, with many youngsters, feeding along the river and between the river and the dam.
- Hefty old bulls, some currently in musth, have been seen with the breeding herd, or on their own, or with their askaris. They’ve been leaving deep round wells in the muddy soil!
- There are large herds of buffalo (some numbering over 100) that have been seen in the central and northern areas. They are looking great – grass-fed heftiness, with glossy black coats and shining horns.
- The dagga boys are in their element rolling in the sloshy mud pans.
- The highlight was a sighting of 15 wild dogs, relaxing in the middle of the airstrip. It’s time for them to start denning, so we hope the alpha female will choose a safe spot on the reserve and raise her little pups there, away from prying eyes.
- With the grass still so long and the bush so thick leopard viewing has been scarce.
- Glimpses of the spotted cats can be had here and there – the highlight of the month being a leopard hiding at the side of the road trying to hunt (unsuccessfully) impala.
- We haven’t recorded any cheetah sightings for the month – we normally see them hunting in open grasslands, and no doubt we will when the plains open up again in the dry season.
- The hyenas still have the monopoly around the central areas, and all our guests this month have enjoyed sightings of them.
- A highlight was a mother hyena with three curious juveniles near the Nyamasikana River crossing on West Valley. One cub was carrying a baobab fruit in its mouth as a play toy, which was very entertaining.
- On one drive we followed a hyena with two sub-adult cubs, who were tracking the scent of a leopard which led to them meeting a black rhino. There were great interactions between the hyena and rhino!
- Plains game like impala, zebra, wildebeest and giraffe abound, and are in excellent condition.
- The less abundant and secretive plains game have been seen too – six Lichtenstein hartebeest were observed and a herd of ten sable antelope made their stately appearance.
- It’s a great time for birding, thanks to the abundance of seeds and invertebrates. Birds seen in the month include grey-headed parrot, little sparrow hawk, shikra, barred owlet, Verreaux's eagle-owl, dwarf bittern, African hawk eagle, African crake, Dickinson’s kestrel, Wahlberg’s eagle and eastern nicator.
- A juvenile honey badger that was incredibly tolerant of our presence, allowed guests a great sighting.
- Crocodile tracks were tracked going up the hill at the Acropolis, all the way down Ultimate Drive, and then almost all the way to the Binya Road. That night the large reptile was seen in the middle of the Binya Road, then it moved off heading towards the Chiredzi River.
- The water is a touch cooler, but that hasn’t stopped the fish biting. Several big Mozambique tilapia have been landed, and some feisty tigerfish.
Rock art and walking safaris
- It’s a lovely time to get off the vehicle for a short walk to appreciate some of the rock art sites.
- Our guides love taking guests walking, such as the adventure to see the biggest baobab on the reserve.
Day trips to Gonarezhou
- Day trips to Gonarezhou are a must if you have the time – it’s looking so beautiful and wild at the moment, with many breeding herds of elephants encountered on the way to Chilojo Cliffs.