Singita Kruger National Park: July 2022
Even though we are midway through winter, and the landscape is starting to get drier, there has still been an abundance of food and water available for the animals. We have large herds of zebra congregating on the plains just west of our concession, delighting our guests upon arrival and departure. Giraffe sightings have been numerous, and some females are showing signs of pregnancy. Lions and leopards have frequently been patrolling their territories within our concession, and we have been fortunate to hear the male lions roaring on occasion, close to camp.
A Sightings Snapshot for July follows:
- The Mananga Pride have continually been the most viewed pride on the concession. They are being seen in two separate portions, one smaller portion consisting of two lionesses and six cubs and a larger portion consisting of 17 individuals. The smaller portion are regularly being located around Gudzane Dam where one very memorable sighting was had along the Gudzane Stream at the bottom of Gudzane Lookout. The larger portion are starting to move further south and east into areas that were once firmly dominated by the Mountain Pride. As the cubs and sub adults grow so do the demands on the adult females to provide regular meals. We were surprised one morning when the pride was located on the Mozambican border with a kudu kill, the furthest east they have ever been!
- The two Shish males continue to dominate the north and western parts of the concession and are regularly seen accompanying the larger portion of the Mananga Pride.
- The Mountain Pride were not viewed this month, going from our most viewed pride to the least after seemingly having shifted almost the entirety of their territory into Mozambique. The reason for their move has puzzled us all but it is most likely due to the larger Mananga Pride moving further east in search of hunting opportunities.
- The Shish Pride are continuing to keep a low profile, probably in attempts to avoid the two Trichardt males. They too have shifted further south and east and are spending time in the mountains between Mozambique and our eastern portions. Interesting times lie ahead for this pride and the hope is that they will completely accept the advances of the Trichardt males and settle back in their original territory. One morning a single Trichardt male and a Shish lioness were found mating just outside of the lodges.
- The biggest surprise of the month was the sudden reappearance of the Maputo and Kumana male lions. They were found in the western parts and followed right through their old stomping grounds as they moved back east. The Maputo male is in incredible condition but the Kumana male is really starting to show his age, the nomadic lifestyle seems to be taking its toll on him.
- Sightings of the Mbiri Mbiri male have been few and far between but sightings of this large young male have been excellent when he has been located. One spectacular sighting was when guides were following him through the northern grasslands and a warthog burst out of its burrow in front of the leopard. With lightning quick reflexes, the male caught and held onto to the warthog and killed it in front of the vehicles. He then hoisted his prize which provided for great viewing over a couple of days.
- The Dumbana female leopard and her two sub-adult males have made up the bulk of our leopard sightings for the month. At 16 months, the young males are being found on their own regularly now, exploring more and more of the central and southern parts of their mom’s territory. One of the young males showed off his hunting skills one morning and caught two banded mongooses. This is excellent practice for when he will one day have to fend for himself completely. The Dumbana female is still providing meals for the young males and we viewed either two or all three of them on multiple carcasses throughout July. A standout sighting of the three started when the female was located one evening with a hoisted impala carcass which she left to collect the young males. When the carcass was revisited in the morning, one of the males was finishing off the impala with mom at the base of the tree and the other young male with a freshly killed baboon in another tree.
- The Nhlangulene female was found far west of her usual territory with an impala ram kill which she oddly started biting chunks out of and walked more than 300 metres to hoist in different trees. It was very interesting behaviour to observe. It was hoped that we would see the cubs at this kill the next day but the kill was stolen by an unknown skittish male. Guests were however treated to a lovely sighting of the female and both her cubs with another hoisted impala kill. It was good to be able to confirm that both cubs are still alive and well.
- The Gudzane female was seen on a few occasions around Gudzane Dam but she continues to be rather skittish around vehicles and so sightings are always fairly brief.
- The Lebombo male leopard was seen four times this month, mostly in front of Lebombo lodge. A comical sighting of this male was had one afternoon when he was located lazing along the western bank of the N’wanetsi River. A large male warthog soon appeared and was making his way straight towards the leopard who was facing the other way. The warthog got to within a few feet of the leopard before realizing what he had just stumbled upon and proceeded to utter very upset grunts which surprised the Lebombo male. The leopard got up and promptly moved off with the warthog almost proudly trotting off in the other direction.
- A pack of four made a brief appearance not too far from the lodges around Ndlovu lookout. They were followed over the ridge until they crossed out of our concession into Mozambique.
- Regular sightings of spotted hyena were had throughout the month. These persistent opportunistic animals were often found alone walking along roads looking for any hunting or scavenging opportunities.
- One very brave young individual was viewed running in on a herd of impala, potentially to see if any were injured but was soon chased off by a nearby zebra stallion who was not going to tolerate his presence.
- A clan of nine were found feeding on a zebra carcass in the north. Assessing the scene around the carcass it appeared that the hyenas had stolen the carcass from a small pride of lions.
- Breeding herds have been scattered right across the concession and are regularly viewed throughout both morning and afternoon game drives. There are multiple herds with very young calves which always bring smiles to guides’ and guests’ faces.
- Single elephant bulls are often encountered along the N’wanetsi River and a number of large elephant bulls in musth have been seen trailing the breeding herds.
- Single buffalo bulls and small bachelor groups were seen feeding and wallowing in mud wallows throughout the whole concession.
- A very large breeding herd of buffalo (approximately 800) was seen in the very far north in the grasslands around Nongo and Mbatsane. It was an incredible sight when one was parked in the middle of the herd as buffalo could be seen in every direction as far as one could see.
- A smaller but still impressive herd of around 400 buffalo were regularly seen in the central depression and were trailed by both portions of the Mananga Pride on separate occasions.
- We are yet to see the large gatherings of plains game on the concession and this is due to there still being large amounts of water across the concession and park. Small herds of zebra and wildebeest are seen in their usual areas around Kori Clearings and Gudzane Dam.
- Giraffe are seen throughout the concession and are often the most viewed species on a game drive. One guide mentioned that his guests counted a total of 117 giraffe in one morning!
- A group of four sub-adult cheetahs were seen in the western parts of the concession around the Sticky Thorn Thickets. They are not very relaxed with vehicles and so sightings of them were rather brief and the animals were viewed at a distance to avoid stressing them out.
- A mother cheetah and two sub-adults were seen in the north and central sections in the basalt plains and were viewed attempting to hunt a herd of impala, unsuccessfully.
Rare animals and other sightings
- A very relaxed serval was seen around Dave’s Crossing.
- Honey badgers have frequently been seen including one sighting where two were viewed harassing a hyena.
- A caracal was viewed on Park Road one evening, when returning to the lodges.
- Other nocturnal sightings: white tailed mongoose, African civet, porcupine, African wild cat.
- During the winter months the bird diversity is at its lowest, with all the inter-African and Palearctic having headed north. It is at this time of the year that we see some of the altitudinal migrants that come down from the escarpment to the west of the Kruger National Park. The escarpment can be quite cold at this time of the year, particularly at the higher altitudes on top of the mountains (the Transvaal Drakensberg). There are probably fewer insects up there, due to the colder temperatures, and a few species of birds come down to the warmer lowveld. These include amongst others African stone-chats, dusky flycatchers and red-capped robin-chats.
- Even though many of the birds that we see in the concession do move out of the area during our winter months we do still have a good diversity of species in the area. This month we recorded 160 species.
- Some of the specials (some of these are red-data / rare species) that were seen include goliath heron, white-backed night-heron, black stork, African openbills, saddle-billed storks, marabou storks and yellow-billed storks. Also Cape vulture, hooded vulture, white-headed vulture, lappet-faced vulture, white-backed vulture (some are even sitting on nests at the moment), tawny eagle, martial eagle, bateleur eagle, southern ground-hornbill, eastern nicator, bearded scrub-robin and kori bustard.