Although we are in the grip of winter, our Zimbabwean lowveld winters are comparatively mild and we still experience glorious, sunny warm days. The vegetation is relatively thick given the time of year, thanks to all the rain we received, but the colours have turned to the muted metallics.
It’s been a busy month with guests and sightings, so here’s an overview:
- The River Pride males were found cuddled up together in the morning sunshine, trying to warm up.
- The Southern Pride have been seen near the boundary in the Benzi area.
- The dedicated lion scouts track the lion prides daily, so all guests should see lions at Singita Pamushana.
- There’ve been some lucky sightings of leopards this month. Two of the highlights were of a young adult leopardess sitting on a large mound near to the road, bathed in late afternoon golden sunlight, and another stalking and hunting impalas and nyalas.
- The clan of hyena in the central areas is so formidable. Eight of them were seen near the airstrip trying to locate some wild dogs that had been in the area, and they’ve been making kills and feeding around Simbiri Dam.
- Excellent sightings of rhinos, as always. Many of the sightings are at rhino middens where a dominant bull marks his territory, and other rhinos show their submissive acceptance of the territorial bull.
- One of the most enjoyable white rhino sightings was on the Banyini open areas of a bull patrolling and marking his territory while a mother and calf happily grazed while basking in the warm sunshine. Another was of a white rhino bull with a long needle-sharp horn, posing beautifully while backdropped by the typical African scene of an umbrella tree.
- The elephant sightings are also excellent, thanks to the drying vegetation and the need to drink from the pans that have a year-round supply of water.
- A lovely breeding herd sighting was when they were located moving across the Mubangweni Road. The elephants with their babies happily walked in front and behind the vehicle, appearing and then disappearing like great grey ghosts from the mopane woodlands.
- A memorable bull encounter was had on the eastern side of the Banyini where there was a large elephant feeding in the mopane. The guide stopped on the road at about 50 metres from him and the giant then stopped feeding and walked straight to the guide and guests, stopping only about eight metres from the vehicle. He looked everyone over, then crossed the road and started feeding nearby. The guests spent about 10 minutes watching him in silence, loving the experience and seeing him feed at such close proximity.
- The vast herds drink daily and watching this is quite a spectacle. Here’s one account, “A cloud of dust started to emerge from the eastern tree line, and we knew it was something big. We positioned ourselves at the water. What a sight it was… an estimated 800 or more buffalo came pouring in for water. Like a swarm they quickly engulfed the waterhole and waded in, providing us with front row seats to some spectacular viewing of the unforgettable event.”
- Wonderful scenes of the abundant plains game, as well as the more reclusive eland, sable and Lichtenstein’s hartebeest.
- There was a great sighting in the evening of an African wild cat.
Underground photo hide
- The Hwata photo hide is very popular with elephants, rhinos, buffalo, plains game and guests!
- Now is the very best time for bush walks. Some guests have spent time on foot watching two white rhinos graze nearby. Other guests watched a bull elephant drink from a spring that flows from a hole in a rock, while four buffalo bulls grazed nearby. Their guide helped them to climb onto a rock right above the scene and watch from the safe vantage while being in complete awe of this experience. Then they continued to another spring and spent time watching a herd of over 100 buffalo pour in for water. Apart from the wildlife that can be seen on foot it is wonderful to experience great vistas and views, and to stand next to some of the biggest baobabs that stand sentinel over this landscape.
- Here’s an account from the daily reports of one guide’s excursion with guests to see some of the rock art, “We enjoyed a beautiful walk through the Malilangwe hills, navigating highrise rocky passages, never knowing what lay around the next bend. On the one corridor we turned up, we came through the vegetation to be blown away by the sheer scale and multitude of ancient rock art on the rock face. We spent nearly 40 mins just admiring the huge variety of paintings. Eventually we had to press on and continued to Chimbiya spring, passing more rock art and taking some time to just absorb the tranquil environment we found ourselves in.”
Gonarezhou day trips
- One of the day trips into Gonarezhou National Park included visiting Chivilila Falls and having tea on the platform, then continuing on to Chilojo Cliffs where elephants, kudu, zebra, nyala and other plains game were seen en route. At the cliffs a couple of elephant bulls were cooling their feet in the river directly below the colourful cliffs, creating a most memorable iconic scene.
Water safaris and fishing
- The sundowner water safaris are simply sublime at this time of year.
- The fishing is less prolific in these colder winter months, but some monster tigers have been landed by devout enthusiasts!