We’ve experienced a cold snap (by our high standards) and some rain which is unusual for this time of year. The weather has given rise to some stunning blood red sunsets, which are further enhanced when you have two rival rhino bulls jousting and kicking up red dust. The lodge has been full of guests which we are so thankful for, but so vast is the reserve that you hardly see another game viewer out on drive. The game viewing has been excellent, but without doubt this month has gone to the dogs!
Here’s a Sightings Snapshot for June:
- Nduna Pride: This pride received an enormous free meal in the way of a bull elephant that died of natural causes, near Nduna Dam. They feasted on the carcass for days, struggling to tear into it at first, and helped towards the end by a throng of vultures.
- River Pride: They have expanded their family significantly with the addition of seven cubs in recent months! Three lionesses, seven cubs and one male were seen sunning themselves on the soft sand of the Chiredzi riverbed.
- Southern Pride: These lions have been spending the month in the far north of their pridelands. We’ve seen them near Hwata Pan resting, drinking, stalking Lichtenstein's hartebeest, and have also seen some of them come onto the central Banyini open areas.
- Territorial males: Two male lions killed and fed on a young buffalo, right near Malilangwe’s HQ area. Two male lions were seen fighting with a maneless male lion (possibly from the River Pride). Later on three male lions were seen feeding on a buffalo, close to Chinzwini. One male lion killed a giraffe fairly close to the lodge on West Valley Road.
- Theses secretive masters of camouflage have been in hiding for the most part, but we had a good sighting of a male from the boat; then while watching a breeding herd of elephant on the Sosiji turn-off we spotted a leopard a few metres from the elephants; and we saw a leopard carrying her meal of a scrub hare as we drove through Croc Creek.
- One clan denning in the Nyari area has two cubs. Members of this clan were seen trying to hunt a baby giraffe.
- One hyena was seen feeding on a young buffalo calf at Sosiji Dam.
- Mostly the hyenas have been seen trailing the wild dogs, and fighting with them as they try to steal kills.
- There have been beautiful sightings of breeding herds this month, mostly concentrated along the banks of the Chiredzi River, and drinking at Ray's Drift.
- There have been daily sightings of bull elephants, either drinking, mud-bathing, feeding or scratching themselves on trees.
- At one rock art site an elephant bull was sniffing and moving around - upon closer inspection we found old elephant bones there, so the bull could have been “paying respect” to the dead elephant.
- This month conjured up a red elephant, which is better than a white one! It was covered in a red coating after mud-bathing and dusting in iron-rich red sand.
Some of our guests arrive on safari having never seen a rhino, and most having never seen wild rhinos with their splendid horns intact.
- White: Huge crashes of white rhino were seen gathered at their favourite pan this month, and on a couple of occasions there were one or two black rhinos among them too. One notable sighting was of six white rhinos - one cow and five bulls. There was lots of unrest indicating that the female may have been coming into season. The cutest little newborn calf was also seen with its mother at the pan, before they trotted off with the calf leading the way and the mother steering from behind.
- Black: There have been several sightings of black rhinos, a few of them included the rhinos putting on a display by charging at the vehicles. Black rhinos have been tracked on foot too which is an exhilarating experience.
- One of our new guides described seeing the biggest herd of buffalos he’s ever seen, arriving to drink at the central pan. What they noticed from a long way out was a cloud of red dust drifting towards the water.
- Guests on boat cruise saw a buffalo on the banks one evening, and on the next afternoon’s boat cruise they saw him again, only to find that he had been in a battle with a lion. He had bite marks and scratches all over his lower back, as well as canine puncture marks on his left shoulder. He should recover from the wounds.
- Sometimes different species take turns to drink but, such was the thirst of all one hot June day, it resulted in a breeding herd of buffaloes, three white rhinos and seven elephant bulls sharing the water at the central pan.
- We know the area of the den, and we know they have pups as we have heard little puppy yelps and chattering, but we haven’t seen them. Yet..!
- Guests witnessed a kill which was mercifully swift. As they got to Banyini open space they saw two hyenas running towards the water. At the pan were ten wild dogs that had chased a male impala into the shallow water. Some dogs went in after it, quickly tore it to pieces, got the carcass onto land and fed quickly whilst two hyenas were watching.
- It was fascinating to see the dogs trying to chase zebra and giraffe, but the zebra stood their ground and intimidated the dogs into backing off.
- The pack had a notable fight with six hyenas at Nhanga Pan, and on this occasion the dogs won, sending two of the hyenas packing with bloodied hind quarters.
- The sighting of the month is detailed in the story that follows, of four hours of adrenalin and drama!
- There seem to be quite a few newborn giraffes around which are simply enchanting. One of them still has its umbilical cord visible.
- There have been good numbers of all the usual plains game, as well as small herds of Lichtenstein hartebeest and eland.
- We were able to get fairly close to 20 hippos and watch them undisturbed, lying on a sand bank and soaking up the winter sunshine.
- Returning to the lodge one evening we saw a little family group of small-spotted genets. One genet came right up to inspect the vehicle.
- One big crocodile had a go at a whole group of little crocs. Maybe he was being territorial or maybe he wanted to eat one? He then started to go after another big croc that was slightly smaller than himself. The chase was on but we didn’t see what finally happened because they submerged.
- An African wild cat made an appearance during a night drive.
- The best way to go birding on this property is via boat! On one safari cruise we saw: giant kingfisher, brown-hooded kingfisher, pied kingfisher, wattled lapwing, Kurrichane thrush, Meves’s starling, reed cormorant, African darter, African fish eagle, African jacana, water thick-knee, African spoonbill, sacred ibis, Kittlitz’s plover, three-banded plover, green-backed heron, grey heron, great white egret, painted snipe, fork-tailed drongo, red-eyed dove, pied wagtail, black winged stilts, and African black crake - to name but a few!
- The fishing has been fairly quiet this month, and will improve when the water warms up.
- These are always a highlight. One guests brought along his guitar and played it for us after sunset on the way back to the jetty!
It’s the best time to do bush walks! As our Head Guide, Brad Fouché says, “I think it’s really good for guests to walk as it evens the playing field and gives them a real connection with the wilderness.
- One expedition to track black rhino on foot didn’t get far because on finding tracks the guide and tracker walked a couple of paces only to look up and see a black rhino cow with a tiny calf, less than 50m away!
- A lovely walk up a valley to Chekwalani spring included some rock art viewing. At the spring were tracks of both species of rhino, buffalo, leopard, elephant and even a giraffe. On the way back a little family of dwarf mongooses were watched as they went about their business.
- A walk to the rock art sites at Chidumo also included a walk to the biggest baobab tree on the property. With a tape measure brought along for the occasion the group measured the girth of the baobab to be over 28m. Before walking back to the vehicle they enjoyed a treat of the baobab’s sherbetty fruit.
It’s also the best time to discover the reserve’s rock art.
- Guest have really loved this aspect of our wilderness, so much so that a couple visiting this month have said they would like to return specifically to search for more priceless art in these natural sandstone galleries.
It’s also a great time to slot in a visit to the sunken photographic hide, because it’s our dry season and animals are drawn to the permanent water sources. Here’s an account of an epic June hide experience:
- “Hwata was booming with plains game. As we got into the hide five elephant bulls came to the pan, followed by six white rhinos, one black rhino, then more elephants appeared, then more rhinos. We counted about 25 white rhinos! As if that wasn’t enough, the Southern Pride started roaring from the south of the pan and then appeared in the open. It was like binge watching a wildlife series!”
Kambako Living Museum of Bushcraft
Even the drive to Kambako is an experience – guests saw nyalas, kudus, zebras, and yellow-billed hornbills along the way. Julius, as the head of bushcraft museum, takes over once guests arrive, and here’s a guide’s report on the activity:
- “Julius took everyone through the introduction of village life now, and in the past, referring to the Hunter Gatherer way of life. He demonstrated making fire by friction and let our guests have a go. Then he took us to where the women were doing beadwork and basketry and pottery. Water divining was also demonstrated which was beyond astonishing! Then smelting and forging were demonstrated, followed by bow and arrow shooting. The guests enjoyed it so much, their only complaint was that the afternoon was too short!”