As you can tell from the temperatures above winter is approaching but it is nothing a long hug from a hot water bottle on morning game drive can’t fix! It’s also the time when sightings increase thanks to the grazed vegetation and scant water sources. On one afternoon drive guests saw the Big 5, plus wild dogs and hyenas.
We love surprising our guests with special touches, but we can’t tell you what they are! A memorable quote from a guest this month was: “An experience beyond any adjective.” And another, after spending five minutes in silence listening to the sounds of Nature, was, “It’s like being in church.”
Here’s a Sightings Snapshot for May:
- Nduna Pride: 11 members of this pride were seen together, sleeping under the shade of a tree. A sighting with perfect soft light was had with the whole pride lying in the open green grassland. A highlight was spending time with 10 members at Lojaan Dam as they feasted on a Cape buffalo carcass which they had killed in the early morning.
- River Pride: They have infant cubs! A lioness and two cubs were spotted just before they disappeared into the riverine vegetation of the Chiredzi River. Also, just north of 02 picket, three cubs seen with the pride as they feasted on a Cape buffalo. They cubs are nervous so a respectful far distance is being kept from them. Guests were enjoying sunset drinks at Chikwete Cliffs when suddenly the air was filled with loud roaring from across the river and then return roars from the side where they were standing.
- Southern Pride: A wonderful sighting was had of this pride drinking at Hwata Pan, joined by some white rhinos.
- Territorial males: Vultures perched in a baobab alerted us to finding two male lions at a giraffe carcass.
- There’ve been some fleeting sightings, such as the one of the leopard sitting next to the airstrip road that took off, and other longer ones such as spending half an hour with a leopard as it stalked impalas one evening, and watching a female moving towards a rocky outcrop one morning, thanks to the warning screeches coming from a flock of panicking guineafowl.
- The hyenas have been doing what they do best – leeching off the wild dogs’ kills. There was big drama when they tried to steal a sub-adult kudu carcass from a pack of 12 wild dogs. The hyenas were victorious.
- One of the clans we see regularly has cubs at the moment, and it is a delight to watch these endearing creatures play and tussle with one another.
- The breeding herds with their babies are an absolute delight.
- Quite a few of the big bulls are in musth at the moment. One of them pushed down a big thorn tree and we thought he would feed on the leaves, but he didn’t, so it seemed to be more a show of strength or an expression of frustration with the tree having no choice but to be the punchbag.
- Our Rhino Ops took place this month – a time when we notch the calves, record data, do analysis and move specific rhinos to new conservancies. Guests in the right place at the right time were invited to participate in these operations and had the experience of a lifetime by meeting team experts, watching the whole procedure from darting to release, and sometimes even participating in recording the information of temperature and body measurements.
- At a favourite hotspot 11 rhinos were seen drinking together, ten white and one black.
- Guide and guests witnessed a terrifying moment whilst having sundowners and watching rhinos come to drink. A white rhino made her way to the waterhole with a baby rhino walking behind her. A lioness was stalking the baby and gave chase to the toddler. Just before pouncing it ran to the front of its mother and she chased the lioness. Other rhinos that were drinking came to the rescue and joined the chase, seeing the lioness off for good.
- Guests on a walk had an adrenalin-filled encounter with a black rhino when it came as close as 10 metres from where they were crouched behind a bush, and started detecting their presence. He charged a couple of times trying to see if they were a threat, before galloping away.
- Large herds of about 400 buffalo are seen drinking every day.
- There was a commotion between a pride of 11 lions and a herd of about 700 buffalo, resulting in three lionesses having to climb up a tree to get away from the stampeding buffalo. Not far from this scene four white rhino were grazing and ignoring the pandemonium.
- There have been prolific sightings of wild dogs in May, and the best news is that they are denning somewhere in the central areas of the reserve. We will not seek the den out, as tempting as that may be to see and photograph young pups, as it is our conservation policy to treat these endangered animals with absolute sensitivity and not cause any (possibly detrimental) behaviour change due to human presence/interference at a den-site. We are thrilled that they have decided to den on the property yet again, and look forward to seeing new pups running with the pack in the near future.
- We’ve all relished the moments where we’ve seen wild dogs lying on a road, or racing up and down it, and playing on the banks of Sosigi Dam with full bellies and excess energy.
- We’ve watched them make unsuccessful hunts on impala, waterbuck and nyala, and we’ve seen them successfully take down a young waterbuck, kudu and impala ram. They lost the remains of the kudu and impala to hyenas after co-ordinated efforts to protect their kills, but ultimately losing to the larger predators.
- Plains game abound, but the major plains game news is that the impala rutting season is in full force. The air is alive with distinctive snorts and the sound of clashing horns as rams vie for dominance and mating rights.
- The water safaris are brilliant for birding - a highlight was watching a bat hawk in full flight pursuing the insect-eating bats, while guests enjoyed sundowners on the boat.
- Last month the biggest tigerfish in 12 years, at 6.5 kilogram (14.3 pounds), was caught and released in the Malilangwe Dam. Defying the odds a 6.57 kilogram (14.5 pounds) tigerfish was caught and released this month.
- To say the competition is fierce is an understatement! Our guests have loved trying their chances for bream and tigerfish, and arrive back at the lodge with many tales to tell.
- Watching the sun set as it strokes the hills and the moon rise as it kisses the water is enough to soothe the soul of any weary traveller – indeed it’s an ideal way to spend a late afternoon on arrival at Singita Pamushana.
- There are always birds, hippos and crocodiles to see. One croc put on a show by catching a huge bream and chomping it close to the boat.
It’s an ideal time for our favourite activity – bush walks. Apart from the big game guests have loved learning about insect life, animal tracks and plants.
One of our guests was a rock art enthusiast so it was a treat to show her some of the various sites and hear her feedback on how well preserved they are.
Some of our guests had never experienced being in a sunken photographic hide before and were amazed by the experience of being at eye level with the animals. The afternoons have been starting quietly, sometimes only with doves there, but invariably elephants bulls and white rhinos arrive, and sometimes a black rhino too if you’re lucky.
Gonarezhou day trips
There’s an odd phenomenon that if you plan to do a day trip to Gonarezhou National Park it will be that particular day that an abundance of good sightings show themselves on the Malilangwe Reserve. This happened to one of the groups this month. As they left the lodge they met a pack of wild dogs hunting impalas. They drove along behind them watching them make several attempts on antelope, including a kudu. Just as the group were about to exit the Reserve and go into the park they got a message from the scouts that lions had killed an eland on the fenceline. There they saw 3 lions feeding on the eland carcass. Once they finally got into the Park they had a wonderful time admiring the landscape, trees and big breeding herds of elephants. They stopped for breakfast before proceeding to Chilojo Cliffs to enjoy a delicious packed lunch while admiring the striated sandstone natural monuments.