Singita Kruger National Park: August 2021
There is a noticeable change in the air as the sun is setting later and the days are generally punctuated with windy but increasingly hot conditions. The cold winter mornings are almost a thing of the past, although we have also experienced the tail-end of a few cold fronts that made their way across the country from the Atlantic Ocean earlier this month. The dry windy conditions are common during August in the lowveld and this year is no exception, they have kicked up dust and made for spectacular red skies during sunset.
The knobthorn’s (Senagalia nigrescens) creamy white flowers bloomed in the early part of the month, the blood red flowers of the flame creepers (Combretum microphylum) are draping over the rhyolite cliffs that rise above the N’wanetsi River. The sjambok pod (Cassia abbreviata) are dotting the concession yellow with their beautiful flowers. We have also been surprised by some of the migratory birds making their return, with the first yellow-billed kites and Wahlberg eagles already having made an appearance after their journey from central Africa.
The N’wanetsi River is showing signs of drying but tributaries are still flowing. The water levels usually have dwindled down to a few motionless pools by spring. This supply of water has brought in many herds of elephants, but also dispersed the usually concentrated numbers of general game along the winding river, making the generally predictable lion movements ever more surprising.
Here’s a Sightings Snapshot for August:
- The two Shish lionesses (one is the limping female) have been seen more frequently together with the Maputo male, who has now become completely at ease in the presence of the vehicles. They have been spending most of their time along the N’wanetsi River and south of the lodge. Towards the end of the month a third lioness joined them.
- The Kumana male, however, seems to be putting up more of a fight against the take-over of the Maputo male. We found him with two lionesses feeding on a waterbuck and kudu kill for a few days, and it was only once they had moved off that the Maputo male arrived to finish the remains of the carcass. This appeared to have given the Kumana male a confidence boost as he was seen the following day moving around his territory, roaring and scent marking, actively making his presence known once again. Towards the end of the month the Maputo male was found feeding on a large buffalo bull. On the second day the Kumana male arrived and there was a brief confrontation which included a lot of growling but no actual physical fighting. That evening the two males where seen feeding with their heads almost touching, and a few days later they were still together, lying around digesting their big meal.
- The Mananga pride has be sighted regularly around Gudzane Dam with all seven cubs still alive and growing fast. On one occasion early in the month they were found feeding on a zebra with Xihamham and his brother. We had the two males move far south-east in response to the Kumana males’ territorial calls, but Kumana managed to elude them. Later in the month the Mananga pride were found feeding on a large buffalo bull quite far east into our concession, probably due to the lack of presence of the Shish pride.
- Mountain pride were sighted only a couple times this month, as they seem to be spending the majority of their time in Mozambique.
- Nhlanguleni female was seen on a few occasions in the central parts of our concession. She was seen one morning, scent marking and ‘sawing’, perhaps looking for a male?
- The Ndlovu male, during the first half of the month, was seen regularly around Puff Adder Crossing and then moved north towards Green Apple Hill.
- Mbiri-biri male was seen feeding on a large old warthog towards the end of the month with the Nhlanguleni female even making an appearance at the sighting. Cheetahs
- We have had a few sightings of cheetahs this month. Two males were seen in the grasslands on the H6 on the way to the airstrip and a single female on the road to the staff village.
- We are awaiting sightings of the wild dogs that were thought to be denning to the south of our concession. The pups should be old enough now to be able to keep up with the pack and the number of impalas in our concession is very inviting. We have seen tracks on the concession but no sightings of these incredible animals just yet… Spotted hyenas
- We have had quite a few sightings of these interesting creatures this last month. We have also managed to locate a den-site that is now active, with cubs. Unfortunately for us this den is situated on top of a rocky ridge, and we are not able to get close to it.
- There is another den that is being used that is on the public road between the camp and the airstrip. There are a few youngsters there, including at least one cub that is still very dark in colour (they are almost black in colour when first born and only start getting their spots when they are between two and three months old). Fortunately, many of our guests get to see these youngsters when they first arrive or when they depart the lodge. These hyenas are presently using a culvert under the road as a den-site. 3
- On one occasion we saw a group of hyenas chasing a young male leopard. We also saw a clan of hyenas, one morning, that were skulking around the base of a marula tree in which a leopard had hoisted her kill.
- Over the few days that the Kumana male lion was feeding on a zebra there were at least six hyenas that were seen in the close vicinity, hoping to scavenge from the carcass once the lion had finished.
- Elephants have been unsurprisingly busy this month, with many sightings recorded and a large amount of those being breeding herds. With the drying conditions at this time of year and the concession is still holding a lot of water in comparison to the surrounding areas and there have been multiple sightings daily. There is still water along the N’wanetsi River, Gudzane Dam on the west, and Pony Pan in the middle of the concession.
- We have had good views of large herds of buffalo, as well as groups of dagga boys along the Xingkelengane Drainage and N’wanetsi River.
- There are large herds of zebra, wildebeest and giraffe present at the moment, particularly in the central and northern areas of the concession. Large groups of waterbuck are present all along the N’wanetsi as well as the always-present large groups of impala.
Rare animals and other sightings
- A serval was seen on the H6 by the staff bus.
- Porcupines are seen on some of evening drives back to the lodge.
- A pair of honey badgers are becoming a common sight around the lodges at night.
We have seen a total of 168 birds for the month. Birding has been good considering the dry conditions. A purple heron at the weir in front of the lodge was a great record for the area. We have started to see some of the migrant birds returning after wintering in the tropics.