Singita Sabi Sand: May 2022
As hot water bottles and warm seats become the norm, summer hues still linger with plenty of green grass and lush vegetation throughout the reserve. Once again, the reserve was saturated in unusually late rain during the last ten days of the month, and this has filled seasonal pans and topped up watering holes. We welcome the abundance of zebra that have made their annual pilgrimage to the western parts of this area bringing a dash of colour among the other plains game species. It sure looks like we are in for another lively winter season!
Here’s a Sightings Snapshot for May:
- Lion activity has once again centred around the Plains Camp male lions with them being seen mating with a Mangheni lioness well as a Nkuhuma lioness. Exciting times lie ahead with hopefully some more lion cubs to come in the not-so-distant future.
- The Nkuhuma lioness and her two cubs are still using a rocky drainage as their temporary den. Sightings of them have been few but they are showing some positive signs around the vehicles, making for some memorable moments.
- We also had an encounter with two lionesses which turned out to be the Ximungwe lioness and an Othawa lioness - will this turnout to be the start of a new pride? Time will tell.
- The last week of the month saw the return of the Talamati Pride and one Avoca male lion. They were seen hunting zebra one evening on Othawa only to be caught out by a watchful impala who gave away their position.
- The following afternoon, after a few hours of tracking, we found them lying up full-bellied. On closer inspection we noticed a hoof of a zebra foal lying nearby. One foal would definitely not feed seven lions, so they must have continued hunting into the evening.
- The elephants are here in their numbers! Big to small, we have them all. Sightings of a large herd numbering well over 50 have been a major highlight for our guests. We have noticed lots of feeding activity along the seep lines as they make the most of some seasonal shrubs and grasses shooting up after the late rain. On most drives guides have had multiple sightings of elephant herds, however, one sighting in particular caught our attention as there was a calf seen with a snare around its leg. Vets were notified and in no time the calf was darted, snare removed and wound treated. We were relieved to see it moving with its mother and herd that afternoon.
- Picking up where we left off last month, the Nyeleti male and Schotia female we seen mating in the Sand River in front of Boulders Lodge, which indicated the certainty that Schotia’s cub is dead. Sad as it is, Nature will take its course. Will Schotia manage to protect her future cubs from the advancing Tamba male leopard? It will be a tough task.
- Tamba male has been relentless in his pursuit for territory, showing battle wounds on his paws and upper body. We are assuming these were from the Ravenscourt male who holds territory to his west or the aging Nyeleti male who persists in his patrols along the Sand River.
- We have had a few sightings of the Mobeni female leopard but one stood out the most: A female cheetah was seen feeding on the remains of an impala ram close to Castleton Camp. Vultures gathered in the surrounding trees; we knew a four-legged scavenger arriving on the scene was imminent. What we were not prepared for was the Mobeni female rushing out at the cheetah, chasing her and claiming the kill for herself! This left us all speechless at what we had just witnessed.
- Kangela male is a regular feature close to Ebony and Boulders Lodge. For how long will his father, the Nyeleti male tolerate him? As Kangela grows physically, he becomes a future threat to his father’s territory and success.
- On the last day of the month the Nkuwa female made an appearance, and she wasn’t alone. After analysing the tracks, we eventually noticed a leopard’s tail dangling from the canopy of a jackalberry tree. We were all excited to see her as we had not had many sightings of her over the last month. As we positioned the vehicle, something odd stood out of the top of a long-tailed cassia tree close by, it was her cub! Bundled up and soaking up the sun was the little fur ball. Our emotions went from joy to nerve-racking as a male lion was sighted at the base of the tree. Hoping the cub would stay put we watched anxiously. Fortunately, the male lion was too preoccupied with an impala kill we presume Nkuwa made and was then robbed of. Luckily for the leopards the lion moved off with the kill and no cats were harmed in the process.
- Large herds still roam the southern grasslands, and with a number of lions on their trail they need to be cautious. The abundance of green grass means herd members should be in a top condition going into the dry season. Sightings of large buffalo herds offer not only a visual feast but the sounds associated with them are amazing - from the bellowing bulls to the trill of the ox-peckers there is always something to keep us entertained.
- One memorable moment from our time with a large herd was to witness the first steps of a newly born buffalo calf. It took the little one about 20 minutes before it got to its feet, with mom’s assistance, of course. This was a super special sighting for our guests who had been doing safaris for over 40 years, but a buffalo birth this was a first for them.
- Cheetah cubs! Yes, you read that right. A female was discovered with four cubs, aged about seven weeks, just south of Castleton Camp. We had our suspicions that she may have cubs as she had been sighted in the same area a number of times over a few weeks, which is unusual for a female cheetah without cubs.
The bird list for May included ten new bird species with a sighting of a jackal buzzard and secretarybird being the highlight. This brings our yearly total to 264.