September is one of the best months for wildlife viewing. The landscape is dry, the animals congregate at waterpoints, and the weather is sunny and hot. You can see from the photographs in this journal how the palette has changed to metallic copper, silver and gold. Thankfully guests are starting to redeem their bookings that were delayed due to the pandemic, and some intrepid travellers are booking safaris because we’ve all realised the importance of living in the now and making our dreams come true!
Here’s a sightings snapshot for September:
- Southern Pride: We’ve enjoyed good sightings of this pride that has one cub. One of the best sightings was watching the two adult females trying to hunt a zebra, but the cub spoilt the hunt by failing to conceal itself. The zebras didn’t evade these predators for the whole month though because on one of our drives we saw the male feasting on a zebra while the rest of the pride waited their turn.
- River Pride: We’ve viewed this pride the most this month. Two males were showing interest in one of the females, while the other females with a cub were nearby. Later they all started roaring close to the vehicle which was extremely impressive! They are all in great condition. Their kills have included a zebra, a young buffalo and a bull buffalo.
- Nduna Pride: One of the best sightings of this pride this month was when we saw their four beautiful cubs sitting on top of the sandstone rocks waving their paws at us! Our guests got to photograph the cubs playing and all sitting together while posing and looking down on us from a large jutting out rock. One of the two adult male lions seen with this pride has a large cut on his nose, most likely the result of a dispute with another male.
- Two young adult males: We’ve been seeing glimpses of two young skittish males, that have possibly made their way from Gonarezhou on to Malilangwe. It’ll be interesting to see how the coalitions are challenged in the next few months, and the resultant changes to pride dynamics.
- We’ve had a couple of sightings of the relaxed female leopard whose territory includes the area closest to the lodge. We followed her one evening after an enchanting bush dinner, and she led us to the Malilangwe Dam shore where she had a drink. On another occasion, after a sunset safari on the boat, we saw her slinking down the lodge’s cobbled driveway!
- Other leopard highlights include seeing a leopard on the banks of the Chiredzi River, seeing one on the cliffs near Lojaan Dam, and the quintessential sight of a leopard relaxing in a rain tree on the side of the road before Ray's Drift.
- On a day trip to Gonarezhou a male leopard was spotted lying on top of a big rock at Chionja Hills.
African wild dogs
The pack with the pups that we’ve been seeing are on the move and hunting far and wide now. We had excellent sightings of six adults and six pups drinking at Mabhakweni Pan, then resting in the shade and waiting while the adults went hunting. On this occasion the adults found a dead kudu (possibly they had killed it a few days earlier), but the rotting carcass did not put them off – they fed from it while a lone hyena skulked about in the wings, waiting its turn. A short drive and sundowner stop at Sosiji Dam was made unforgettable when four wild dogs arrived to have a drink.
- Sightings of these spotted characters have included: A spotted hyena running along the road carrying a buffalo hoof. 15 hyenas feeding on a wildebeest carcass.
- Hyenas feeding on a giraffe carcass.
- An adult male hyena fishing for barbel at the Nyamasikana Crossing, close to Kwali.
- If you want to see black and white rhinos in the wild you absolutely need to include Singita Pamushana on your safari itinerary. This month’s highlights include:
- Seeing three black rhinos feeding in the open areas of Banyini, then spotting mother and calf black rhinos on our way to Hwata, and while at the pan for sundowners counting 12 different white rhinos that came to drink.
- Spending a couple of hours at a favourite waterhole and counting 18 white rhinos by the time we left after sunset.
- Being charge by a black rhino while on the boat! It was incredible to see this huge animal splashing into the water while we were safely cruising on the boat.
- Guide Mark Friend and his guests saw a total of six black rhinos in one afternoon drive. They had sundowners at Hippo Pools while watching three black rhinos drink nearby. Upon leaving by vehicle and driving towards Ray’s Drift they saw a further two black rhinos, and then another black rhino at the elephant skull located on the Old Binya Road as they headed back to the lodge.
- With all the food still available at this time of year the elephant sightings have been great.
- Bull elephants have been observed daily from our underground photographic hide, resulting in extremely close yet safe viewing of elephants drinking.
- One bull was seen pushing down a huge tree and feeding on the foliage he wanted.
- Breeding herds with their little ones have been seen at Nduna Dam, at the swamps, and from the boat in the upper reaches of the river system.
- A highlight was seeing a breeding herd of buffalo at Hwata Pan, as it is usually only the bulls that one sees there.
- A huge herd of about 600 buffalo were seen at the swamps on the western side of the Chiredzi River.
- Plains game including giraffe, kudu, impala and warthog abound. We’ve also had good sightings of Lichtenstein hartebeest and sable antelope.
- A newborn giraffe calf, with a wet umbilical cord.
- Finding a dead civet and trying to determine the cause of death.
- A striped polecat.
- A black mamba sloughing its skin.
- Four-toed elephant shrews playing around in front of the vehicle.
- Our sunken photographic hide at the edge of a pan that attracts prolific game is a highlight of any safari during the dry season.
- This month guests have been enchanted by (and taken wonderful photographs of) elephant bulls, black and white rhinos, zebras, impalas, giraffe and Lichtenstein's hartebeest.
- It’s the best time to do bush walks and our guests have loved seeing the smaller creatures and details of the ecology, as well as approaching some of the big game like white rhinos while staying undetected.
- Walks are also the best way to get out and appreciate the rock art that adorns the sandstone outcrops of the area.
Water safaris and fishing
- The sunset water safaris are idyllic! Hippos and abundant birdlife are guaranteed, and every now and again breeding herds of elephants and black rhinos make an appearance.
- The fishing is hotting up! Some feisty tigers have been landed and some big tilapia weighing in at 2 kg have been caught. Fishing expeditions are addictive and our guests fervently discuss plans to return to catch “the big one”.
- All our summer visitors have arrived making the birding even better!
- Some of the highlights have been watching a secretary bird walking around, and suddenly catching a dove and eating it! A crowned eagle was seen with its kill, and a juvenile martial eagle caught a rock monitor.
- Birders have loved seeing the bee-eaters, barred owlets, yellow-throated longclaws and scops owls.
Gonarezhou day trips
These long trips into Gonarezhou National Park are so worthwhile. Breakfast and lunch are enjoyed along the way, and guests get to see a different area where elephants and the Chilojo Cliffs are always guaranteed. Now that black rhinos have been reintroduced there it is yet another reason to visit the area.