February 2022

Early days at Singita Pamushana

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Early days at Singita Pamushana

As part of your induction at Singita Pamushana you spend a considerable amount of hours learning the road network and names to enable yourself to have confident navigation with your guests. Fortunately each guide works as a team with a tracker, and that tracker will always assist if you have lost your bearings. The Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve is 45 000 hectares of pristine wilderness, well known for its majestic trees, prolific birding and all sorts of wildlife. The vast land, abundant game and large rivers and dams give the guide unlimited opportunities to showcase guiding skills and offer guests the safari experience of a lifetime.

The reserve is full of astonishments. From the day I set foot here it has been amazing with lots of interesting sightings from the small creatures to the big game. Some of the highlights have been seeing a leopard stalking impalas on the Pamushana Access Road less than a kilometre from the lodge, wild dogs hunting impalas at the airstrip, seeing 14 rhinos in less than three hours, and male lions hunting on the Banyini plains.

So far the sighting that’s stood out the most was when I was out one day learning the roads with my tracker Mavuto. Mavuto is an amazing guy, enthusiastic about the bush, and spending time with him is like going back to school again as he knows every nook and cranny of this reserve because he first worked here as an anti-poaching scout. His knowledge of the area has sped up my confidence and we seem to be a perfect fit and I’m looking forward to have a long working relationship with him working as a team.

On the 21st of February he took me to two rock art sites that are 50 metres apart, and as we arrived at the second site we heard elephants trumpeting and screams coming from a north-eastly direction. I was keen to see these noisy elephants as they continued trumpeting and making rumbling noises. We quickly jumped back in our bush limousine and drove towards the area. My first assumption was that there could be some predators around, but what we found was that the whole breeding herd had surrounded the fresh remains of an elephant bull that had passed away two weeks before.

We suspected that the bull’s death was from a fight over dominance or a dispute, as such disputes are normally settled on a “might is right” basis. Elephant bulls can engage themselves in some titanic battles that can easily turn surrounding bushes into matchsticks, and the only way to stop such fights is when one of the combatants is badly injured or dead.

Elephants are highly intelligent herd animals with a very good memory, and knowledge is always passed from generation to generation. It was quite evident that all the baby elephants in that herd were being taught how to respect the dead as the rest of the members were mourning their beloved member - they all had tears coming from their tear glands, also known as temporal glands.

It was very emotional watching every elephant seemingly paying their last respects by picking up bones, touching, sniffing with their trunks, and there was also a moment of silence for a few minutes which was broken by a low rumble from the matriarch as she picked up the scapular bone and started to lead all the elephants from the site.

While writing this I can still feel the goosebumps by visualizing the mourning of their beloved family member. I wish I had guests with me to experience that special moment. However, I savoured the sight with my friend, colleague and tracker. I believe one day I will meet elephants again at these remains they were on a well used elephant path. Hopefully I’ll have guests with me then!

Mike Mpuche
By Mike Mpuche
Professional Guide