We’ve turned the corner out of the cold weather, although we’ve had a few splashes of rain this month bring our season to a close on 556.5 mm. There seems to be an abundance of babies everywhere, which is always delightful. The guides have been incorporating wellness practices into their drives – moments of calm to truly connect with Nature. However, there was nothing calm about not only seeing the Big 5 on one drive, but seeing them in one area, and boosting them to the Big 6 with the addition of wild dogs that were chasing an impala into the water at Banyini. The pack killed the impala before two lions came running in to the scene upon hearing the sound of the dying impala. Then, not one but two, leopards came to drink at the same time followed by five buffalo bulls and four white rhinos. In the distance, along the Pipeline Road, four elephant bulls were feeding.
Here’s a sightings snapshot for August:
- Nduna Pride: This pride was seen well west of their usual territory around Lojaan and Nduna Dams. They killed a male kudu near the wall of the Malilangwe Dam, and were also seen at the little waterhole below Pamushana Lodge. Later in the month 11 pride members were seen back in the Nduna area, some were close to the road and four were up on a rock.
- River Pride: One of the guides had stopped for sundowners at Chikwete Cliffs and spotted this pride on the opposite side of the river. Guides and guests who’d already crossed the river were able to get to the location and follow the lionesses that were walking and calling to the pride males. The pride consists of six cubs, a single sub-adult male, three lionesses and two adult male lions. The pride met up with one male and gave guests the exhilarating experience of repeatedly roaring right next to them. A few days later the two pride males managed to kill a buffalo bull at the central Banyini waterhole, so they too have been covering some distance.
- Southern Pride: News within this pride is that there are two mating pairs. The pride fed well from a buffalo bull they killed south of Mahande River. There are two mane-less males within this pride.
- Leopard sightings have been remarkably good this month, thanks to a mating pair that were seen at the harbour several times, in a tree together, and on the banks of the Malilangwe Dam. One sighting of them lasted for 45 mins and it included the odd behaviour of them walking into the water where they had a narrow escape from a crocodile and a hippo!
- Sunset cruises have spotted a leopard in a baobab, and a leopard lounging on a rock.
- Another amazing sighting was seeing the pack of wild dogs chasing a leopard up a hill. No game drive is over until you are back in camp, and guests driving up the lodge driveway were delighted to glimpse a male leopard drinking at the little waterhole below Pamushana Lodge.
- The hyenas have been profiteering off the wild dogs’ kills, often stealing them entirely, but they only got the bones of a buffalo carcass after the lions had finished with it. Hearing the crunching of bones, laughing, cackling and growling as they feed is quite eerie.
- An interesting sighting full of unanswered questions was that of an adult female hyena feeding on a young giraffe carcass, with a pair of black-backed jackals and well over 50 vultures looking on hungrily.
- There have been super sightings of bulls and breeding herds: During a heavy morning mist a single bull elephant emerged from the cloak of grey, like an enormous ghost – an amazing sight to behold.
- Two elephant bulls shook an umbrella thorn in front of guests, making it rain green pods upon them.
- It was interesting to watch a bull breaking a thorn tree and then herds moving over to it and beginning to feed on the pods. Then a big cow chased another big cow and her herd away from the tree, with much trumpeting going on.
- The breeding herds have been seen mostly along the river, but a spectacle was watching a herd swim across the river that flows into the dam, from the east towards the banks of Meso on the west.
- Sightings of rhino are always excellent on this reserve, but black rhinos are much harder to find. Some of the month’s highlights include:
- White: A female white rhino and her calf stumbled upon a pair of mating lions, disturbing their moment! A mother and an infant calf that could only have been a week old kept guests entertained with its inquisitive looks at the vehicle and humans, having never seen either. Its mother tried hard to restrain it as it kept trying to come for a close look.
- Black: After five days of searching for a black rhino guests had their wish granted when they spotted one near the river. It was very relaxed and approached to five metres from the vehicle, and they stayed with it for about 25 minutes. Another great sighting in the same vicinity was of three black rhinos together - a mother, calf and bull. The guide made a sensitive slow approach from about 300 metres away until his guests were close enough to get some amazing photos, and be in awe of these elusive pre-historic looking creatures.
- Possibly the best en masse sighting was over 700 hundred buffalos enjoying the green grass of the swamps in the Hippo Valley region.
- It has been an absolute delight watching the pack with their puppies. The larger pack has 14 members. It has gained one new member, an adult female, which we suspect was the fourth missing dog from the other pack of four dogs that are running by themselves. The larger pack has six adult females, four adult males, and out of the pups which now number four, three are females and one male. One female pup has floppy ears making her look like a little gremlin! The pups were numbering seven at the start of the month, but sadly seem to have lost three littermates.
- A dramatic sight was seeing 11 wild dogs chasing a bull sable at full speed across the Banyini open areas. The sable galloped into the pan’s depths and stood his ground until the dogs gave up.
- The plains game are drawn to the permanent water sources at this dryish time, and in particular there have been good sightings of herds of sable.
- Another baby giraffe lost its life to a leopard, and was then stolen from the leopard by hyenas. Neither the leopard nor hyena were visible when the carcass was discovered, but the tracks told the tale.
- Not exactly plains game, but a delightful antelope to watch are the klipspringers. At the moment there is a little family of mother, father and daughter hopping about on the rocks near the lodge.
- A very unusual sighting was that of a brown hyena at Nduna Dam, but sadly the next day the same brown hyena was discovered dead, with a puncture wound in the head and abdomen, possibly from lions or hyenas.
- A hyena was seen having a confrontation with a jackal which was unusual.
- A white-tailed mongoose was glimpsed during an evening return trip to the lodge.
- It’s nesting season and we’ve had two separate sightings of crowned eagles on different nests. One at a nesting site at Meso and the other just before Lojaan Dam and before the turning to Mhangula Triangle.
- Other observations included a barred owlet, and watching a hammerkop that was using a hippo as a perch.
- It’s slowly starting to get warmer, so the fishing is getting better.
- Water safaris are so popular! No sooner have guests been on one than they request another, and the new second cruise boat makes this all the more doable.
- It’s the best time to walk, be it for a calm appreciative walk to hug the largest baobab on the property, or to view the rock art, or for a more action-filled encounter such as the one when there were two adult, female, white rhinos, two sub-adult calves and an adult bull showing interest in one of the females. It resulted in a lot of rhino vocalisation from the female charging towards the bull a number of times.
- This hide has been extremely popular with guests and wildlife alike! With the Southern Pride spending much of their time in the area one group of safari goers got to see a pair of lions drink right in front of them, after sunset. Shortly after that they had an older cub and a sub-adult male lion come and drink as well. A predator on a much smaller scale, but no less awesome, was a slender mongoose that came to quench its thirst.
Kambako Living Museum of Bushcraft
- Children really enjoy this experience, and dive right in to participating in our ancestors’ customs that are demonstrated.
Day trips to Gonarezhou National Park
- The long daytrips to Gonarezhou National Park are always worthwhile – breeding herds of elephants, large tuskers and the Chilojo Cliffs are always on display.