April 2021

Singita Sabi Sand: April 2021

Share:

Singita Sabi Sand: April 2021

Misty layers blanket the bushveld ground contrasting the crispness of the glassy blue sky above. Autumn is upon us. Grass stems begin their yellowing, whilst the first leaves begin to drop. April brings about the familiar rutting calls of the impala rams as they hastily chase each other in attempts to overthrow the current dominant male. Burnt sunset skies illuminate the dark silhouettes of elephant herds as they wander through the grassland plains of the south. Nights bring a new chill and the mornings are welcomed with firepits and hot chocolate at the lodge. 

Here’s a Sightings Snapshot for April:

 Lions

  • With rutting male impalas drawing the attention of many predators, it’s been a busy month for the Mhangene Pride. We’ve watched them kill impala rams a number of times, making for some excellent game viewing.
  • The Othawa male killed a buffalo calf close to one of our pans in the south providing an exciting but emotional sighting.

Mhangene Pride with an impala kill, photographed by Gareth Poole

  • We are unsure of the number of newborn cubs within the Mhangene Pride. On the 8th April one guide was lucky enough to find a mother with four new cubs, however they haven’t been seen since. It’s always hard to say if they are alive or not, as there are so many factors against their survival. We continue to monitor the pride’s movements and hope to see some small pawprints alongside the adults. 

Elephants

Elephant bull, photographed by Marc Eschenlor

It takes close to twenty years for a marula tree to reach its full height, achieving three and a half metres within its first eight years. Although fast growing, it takes about ten minutes for an adult elephant to strip a ring of rich red cambium from the marula’s trunk, ending its life in a sweeping moment. There are an incredible amount of elephants on the property at the moment, from large breeding herds, to bulls in musth. This has brought about a noticeable amount of ring-barking on many marula trees this month. 

Wild dogs

The Othawa Pack were briefly seen in the north on a number of occasions, however only staying on our property briefly before moving on. 

Leopards

The Schotia young male leopard, photographed by Gareth Poole

  • The Schotia female’s cub has a curious and confident nature. One fresh misty morning we followed up on monkey alarm calls around Ebony Lodge and located this youngster walking parallel to the river on the southern bank. He continued towards the river crossing and hesitantly began to journey across the rocks to the northern bank. Watching him leap from rock to rock was quite a special moment as we haven’t seen him cross the river by himself before. We followed with curiosity as he continued his solo walk west along the northern edge of the Sand River. A fairly relaxing and aesthetic sighting suddenly evolved into a dramatic scene as impala alarm calls just north of this male signalled he wasn’t the only leopard in the area. The Hosana male appeared a few hundred metres from the young male, seemingly unaware of where the youngster was, but head high smelling/sensing his presence. If these two leopards were to meet it would mean a nasty fight as the Schotia young male leopard is competition for the Hosana male leopard and the latter would have no problem in chasing away the opposition. This tense sighting transpired into the Hosana male trailing the young male along the riverbank until he eventually located him. Luckily though, the young male also noticed the dominant male and sprinted south, managing to cross the river in the nick of time! Continuing south, he escaped the confrontation with the Hosana male and maybe will think twice before crossing north into this large dominant male’s territory. The Hosana male remained north of the river that day, but maybe one day he will be the one venturing south…
  • With 38 sightings this month, the Schotia female remains our most viewed leopard. She’s been seen several times hunting through the tall yellowing grass and continues to successfully provide for her youngster. 
  • The Misava male has been seen less, although still nomadic across the central region of our property.
  • Interestingly the Finfoot female leopard, daughter of the Nhlanguleni female, has been seen around Castleton a few times this month. We hope to see more of her, although this terrain is territory to the Mobeni female. 
  • Sightings of the Ntoma female leopard are very rare however we’ve had five different viewings of her this month. She’s been viewed in the south-western parts of the reserve with hoisted impala kills. 
  • The Nyeleti male leopard continues his dominance around the central parts of the reserve. At the age of twelve, he’s showing signs of age and it’s with anticipation that we watch his continuing journey. With the younger Thamba male dominant to the west, Xipuku male south and the Hosana male to the north, it’ll be interesting to see if and how the Nyelethi male’s territory changes shape…
  • The Thamba male leopard made a brief appearance towards the end of the month. We located him walking along the tall wall of one of our dams. He moved through the area scent marking with urine and later hunted and killed an impala ram. Although he managed to consume the majority of the kill, he didn’t hoist the carcass in a tree, and lost it to hyena. 

Cheetah

  • Cheetah viewing has been incredible this month. A mother and two sub-adults have been seen regularly, once killing an impala ram although losing this to hyena shortly after. These three were also chased off another kill by the Mhangene Pride in the middle of the month. We enjoy seeing their playful nature and hope to see more of them as the bushveld beings to open up in winter. 
  • A male cheetah has also been located a few times this month, moving through the southern grassland planes. 

Buffalo

Several large herds of buffalo have groomed the grassland carpet of the property, and, for over a week, they were around the Sand River west of the lodges. Buffalo herds haven’t moved through this area in a few years, so it was a delight to see them in their numbers. 

 Buffalo breeding herd, photographed by Marc Eschenlor

 Bird List

The bird list for April includes two new bird species, bringing our yearly total to 269, so far. The two birds sighted and added were the half-collared kingfisher and trumpeter hornbill.

Jenny Hishin
By Jenny Hishin
Author / Guest Guide