Singita Sabi Sand: December 2021
Pops of orange and pink scatter the land as wild flowers burst from the soil, bright aquamarine flushes of blue sweep across the skies as the woodland kingfisher darts through the air. The jewels of summer are exploding with life throughout the lush, emerald green landscape. At this time of the year, and much like the red berries of Christmas mistletoe that decorate the halls, so too does the fruit of the large sour plum’s delicious flesh bring a sweet and sour treat to many, both human and animals alike. December is a time of giving, in which nature gives back the life of our surroundings in this magnificent wilderness area through abundant volumes of rain and golden rays of sunlight. There is a particular essence of joy in the air as the young wildebeest prance across the grasslands and the fish eagle bursts out with calls of delight. It is truly the most magical time of the year, and a time to express gratitude to the creation of our marvellous living world.
Here’s a Sightings Snapshot for December:
- Last month brought the unfortunate news of the adult Tsalala female’s passing, and with that, concern over her remaining daughter’s future. However, she has proven that although she is alone, she is a fighter! A lioness with a true lion’s heart, continuing along the banks of the Sand River, hunting and persisting as a healthy young lion. It still remains a question as to what the future holds for her, nevertheless we continue to observe as she thrives.
- The lion dynamics are still constantly changing as dominant males pass and new blood makes its way into the area. We believe there to be only one remaining Birmingham male to our east with the disappearance of the second male. As his roars are solitary, the prospect for other larger coalitions to move in become very apparent. Without the protection of both their fathers, this has also caused a shift in the young Nsevu sub-adults (11) who have made several appearances on the property over the last month.
- Not only have the Nsevu youngsters made an appearance, so too have the Nkuhuma sub-adults (7, sometimes 9 with 2 adult females) who seem to have broken away from their natal pride and are beginning to roam in search of safe areas away from any new coalitions that may take their lives. The Plains Camp males along with two adult Nkuhuma lionesses (who too have broken away from their pride) continue to move frequently back and forth across the river. Their roars still piercing the air in the still evenings around the lodges each night.
- With no change to the Mhangene pride, who remain in hiding for the time being, until coalitions settle, we have noticed one young female from the pride sneaking off from time to time to be with the Nkuhuma (Nwalungu) male, perhaps she feels that he is consistent enough in the area in order for her to mate with him.
- We always find it amazing the way elephants seem to vanish for a period of time and then burst into abundance once more. With marula season fast approaching, the eager elephant bulls in musth seem to be everywhere and around each corner, always up to no good. There is a wonderful feeling brought by the presence of a herd of elephants during December.
- As they gently feed on the lush green vegetation you truly feel a sense of joy which we are sure they too are feeling in these summer months. We are looking forward to the marula fruit season and can’t wait to watch as elephants from all corners of the reserve rush to feed on these sweet treats.
- The festive month that is December marked the birth of the Schotia female’s new litter. At this stage we are not certain of the number of cubs she has given birth to, however with clear suckle marks and secretive movements in and out of the lodge area each day, we are sure that in a few week’s time, the pitter patter of small, spotted paws will begin to move out of the den and bewilder us with emotion and excitement!
- One of our guides, Paul Josop, managed to be in the right place at the right time on two occasions late December, when he managed to witness the incredible determination and strength of two of our most dominant male leopards. The Nyeleti male, who although is getting older, without a doubt has not lost his experience and strength as we watched him stalk, strategize and catch a young impala which he quickly hoisted up into a tree, away from one hungry hyena.
- The second of two once-in-a-lifetime sightings began with an early morning, exploring the northern parts of the reserve and finding the Hosana male leopard, who too was hunting with complete calculation and execution when he too, sunk his claws into an adult impala ram. As for both of these two males, along with the Thamba male and Xipuku male, all four continue to remain dominant and have guarded their territories well throughout the year.
- Earlier on in the year we discovered the youngster of the Nkangala female, who at that point in time was too nervous for us to ever gain a proper visual, however this month, in the presence of who we believe to be his father, the Hosana male, the newly named Mzemba young male has begun to show tolerance toward vehicles and allowed us to spend some wonderful moments with him.
- With an abundance of vegetation and water, larger herds of buffalo are flourishing, and the emergence of a large number of small waterholes and mud wallows have allowed for many individual bulls to enjoy the hot summer days in a cool, pool of mud.
- With more than 10 sightings of cheetah over the past month, we have been extremely privileged to witness this magnificent endangered species so frequently. On the 28th of December we were treated to one of the most incredible sunsets alongside the female cheetah and her cub.
- The bird list for December includes four new bird species, bringing our final yearly total to 300, our highest count in the last few years, beating our 2020 total by nine birds.
- Specials included a capped wheatear and a cuckoo finch.