Singita Kruger National Park: December 2021
December marks the first month of summer. This month there have been multiple thunderous showers where the lightning turned night into day. Some roads have been so inundated with the copious amount of water that they had begun to flow like rivers! We had many temporary pans forming on the side of the roads, in the middle of the bush, and in any small depressions in the ground that could hold water. For the first time, in a very long time, the weir below the lodge overflowed for the entire year.
A number of snakes having been sighted. The insects have also begun surfacing from the depths that they had been in during a state of torpor, filling the air with the humming of their wings and the gentle rustling of their busy bodies. This has been great for the birds and insectivores who have been swooping in to have their fill of the bounteous yield. The trees and shrubs have also begun to produce a great harvest with the fruit providing sustenance to all in need. Particularly the white berry bush and the sour plums which have pushed their nutrients from the leaves and their roots, to their fruit that look like white and red Christmas ornaments dangling on the branches, inviting onlookers for a nibble. The marula trees have begun fruiting but they are still small, hard and green and not yet ready for the harvest.
The great amount of rain we have received has all but transformed the bush with grass levels in some areas reaching over a meter, which is enough to conceal stalking predators. The abundance of water and vegetation has transformed the herbivores with their winter/spring physiques from slender and lean to muscular and bulky, providing them a little edge to flee from prowling predators - and thus continues the evolutionary arms race, with nature serving both predator and prey alike.
Here’s a Sightings Snapshot for December:
- A portion of the Shish pride, one adult and three sub-adult females have been sighted on a number of occasions in the southern part of our concession. One of the sub-adult females has taken on a personality of her own which involves a lot of sass and play, which is remarkable to observe and see her coming into her own.
- The Mananga pride have established their territory firmly in the north-west part of our concession, and their cubs are growing both in size and wisdom.
- What we believe to be the Northern pride have been, as their name suggests, sighted on a number of occasions in our northern parts of our concession.
- The newly founded coalition consisting of the experienced Kumana male and the strong Maputo male have been seen more apart than together in the month of December, but closer to the end of the month this changed and when observed, there seemed to be no tension between them. The Kumana male has also been seen on a number of occasion with some of the females from the Shish pride and, on 30 December, a Shish female was seen with the Kumana and Maputo male and three very young cubs around the granophyre’s, giving us hope that the once dominant pride in the south are on the journey to rebuild their pride numbers.
- The Xhirombe male has been seen across the Mozambican fence enjoying water that flowed from drainage lines in South Africa into Mozambique.
- The Mountain pride is still 11 strong and have been seen on a number of occasions in the north eastern mountainous parts of our concession, looking like they are in great condition. They have managed to consistently maintain their pride numbers between 10 and 12 for the beginning of the year until now, even with the losses they have endured this year.
- The two Shishangaan males have been seen on a number of occasions patrolling their territory and also spending time with the Mananga pride. We have not seen them in the presence of the Mountain pride this month, as they have focused their energy on the Mananga pride who still have very young cubs (younger than four months old).
- Two unknown young males were seen feeding on a giraffe carcass in the far north western parts of our concession with innumerable vultures and some hyenas descending for their share once the males left, which created an eerie symphony enjoyed by spectators. Leopards
- The Euphorbia male, who has proven to be a capable hunter at his young age, has been seen on numerous occasions around the southern parts of our concession not wandering too far from Euphorbia Crossing from where he got his name. On most occasions, he has been seen feeding or with a satisfied belly.
- An unknown big male has been seen keeping watch of his territory which seems to extend west of our concession, stretching as far north to the Gudzane/Basalt area, east of central, and as far south as Nyala Road.
- A number of unknown females have been seen scattered in all corners of the concession - some relaxed around vehicles while others disappeared into the safety of overgrown v•
- The Mbiri-Mbiri male has been sighted on a number of occasions towards the central regions of our concession slowly being pushed a little further north and east possibly by the big unknown male.
- One of the two Dumbana female’s cubs has been sighted on the concession around the Ntsibitsane area, extremely relaxed.
- An unknown male has been seen wandering the gorge that emerges from Mozambique into South Africa.
- The Lebombo male was seen around the lodge, heading east.
Cheetahs have made a big comeback on our concession, after they spent a large portion of their time in the areas that underwent a controlled burn during the winter months, where the grasses are shorter, making it easier for them to run down their prey.
- A female cheetah and her sub-adult cubs have been seen moving in unison across all available grassland in our concession, hunting, feeding and playing.
- A female who was seen early in the year sporting a leg injury has been sighted again wandering the western parts of our concession, with her injury now being healed.
- A female cheetah was seen around the sticky thorn region with two very young cubs that were bouncing around the grasses that all but swallowed them.
- A number of males and females have also been seen in and around the public park roads.
- A pack of ten wild dogs were seen dashing around the concession and around the western boundary road, always in motion, either feeding or attempting to hunt.
- A pack of six wild dogs were seen in the central part of our concession.
- The hyena den off Xikelengaan Fly Camp is still active with two different aged cubs. All five of the cubs are starting to explore further and further away from the den, and they are slowly growing out of the blackened fur that they wore from a young age, and are slowly sporting spots on their tiny bodies.
- A number of clans have been seen around the concession, some in the central parts of the property playing, some in the northern parts feeding on a giraffe carcass.
- Numerous solo hyenas of different ages and sexes have been seen in every possible corner of the concession, hunting, feeding, scent marking, trailing and/or stalking. Elephants
- Large breeding herds of elephants have been seen gently wandering the concession, some as big as over fifty individuals and others less than ten.
- A number of elephant bulls both solo and in bachelor herds have been seen scattered around the concession.
- Buffalo breeding herds of over 100 individuals have been seen around the northern parts of the concession feeding on the new, lush green grasses.
- A steady number of buffalo bulls have been seen on the concession wallowing and resting.
- We have had great plains game sightings with dazzles of zebras around all parts of the concession enjoying the plentiful grass.
- Wildebeests have also been seen in smaller numbers around the concession.
- Giraffes have also been seen across the concession with some towers as large as twenty individuals in one area.
Rare animals and other sightings
- A number of black-backed jackals with pups have been seen around the concession in our sodic areas. One particular pup was getting harassed by the cheetah mother and three cubs, they would catch it then let it go and hit it around a bit until it finally managed to dash into the safety of the den, all while the adult jackals stood in watch as there was no way they could interject without getting injured
- Sharpe’s grysbok and steenboks have been seen in their pairs and individually across the concession.
- Most of the migratory birds have made their way back south and can be heard filling the summer air with wonderous songs. There have been 220 bird species recorded this month!
- There have been flocks of Amur falcons seen perching on trees across the concession.
- Flocks of red-billed queleas have been seen in large numbers blowing from one tree to another.
- With the abundance of food, a number of raptors have been seen all across the concession waiting in ambush and hovering in the sky.