What an end to the year with a month of excellent green-season sightings! Some of the very best sightings have been when inclement weather threatens, proving that fortune favours the brave and rain doesn’t stop play. We’ve had brilliant leopard viewing thanks to the cats climbing the trees more to search for hunting opportunities, and prey stashing, above the thick vegetation. Also, their camouflage that is so effective in the dry season makes them stand out now against the green backdrop. We have joyous news of new lion cubs for two of our large prides, and there is an abundance of plains game youngsters about. It’s also birder’s paradise now that all the summer visitors have flocked to this pristine wilderness.
Here’s a sightings snapshot for December:
The lion sightings have been prolific, and mainly of the River and Nduna prides.
River: This pride managed to successfully hunt a sub-adult giraffe along Pamushana Access Extension, about 200 metres from Binya Road. Initially the male dominated the kill and didn’t allow any pride members to feed. We managed to see three very young cubs, but they were very shy. When the pride were allowed to feed 13 lions were seen in total, with four of the sub-adults and one of the small cubs. Five spotted hyenas arrived some time later, whooping and calling, and intimidated the lions enough for them to move off and abandon the kill in order to keep their youngsters safe.
Nduna: This pride has been moving far and wide this month, even into the north-eastern reaches of the property, looking for hunting opportunities. One of the lionesses has an injury sustained from a hunt, on her front right leg. There is currently a mating pair from this pride. Mid-month the pride was seen at the Orphan/Nduna junctions, and they had two new cubs in tow! The cubs must be around eight weeks old. In total 11 lions were seen, which excluded the mating pair.
Far more leopard sightings than usual this month, thanks to them having to utilise trees at this time, their camouflage not being as effective during this season, and a mother and male cub being more at ease around game-viewing vehicles. The highlights include:
A morning drive starting out with a male cub walking and playing in front of the vehicle, along with his mother as she looked for hunting opportunities. A big warthog came to drink at a little pan nearby but the wise mother knew it was a formidable adversary and avoided it.
Spotting a leopard from the cruise boat, which was drinking water on the shoreline of an inlet bay.
Seeing two different leopards both on impala kills, during one drive.
Finding a female leopard up in a marula tree, in the Nyari area. A herd of impalas got close to the tree, and like lightning she struck and caught one of the impalas. After killing it she dragged the carcass up the tree. Later the cub joined the mother in the marula tree to feed. This was an epic experience by any standards, but especially for a couple of our guests who were experiencing their first ever safari.
While viewing a herd of impalas and their young near Pamushana Access a leopard materialised out of thin air and killed an impala lamb in our full view, before it retreated into thick vegetation. After the commotion and distress calls from the impala it came back for its kill and dragged it off into thick vegetation.
White: The white rhinos, being grazers, are parting the green grass seas like big grey battleships.
On one morning drive a total of 22 white rhinos were seen.
Black: Some of the highlights include:
Spying on three black rhinos asleep under a tree.
Seeing a black rhino cow with a small calf. The mother had a rear horn that was longer than her front horn, and she was large in stature. She mock charged the vehicle a couple of times before running off with her calf, and it was then that we saw that there was also a big bull with them.
It’s hard to misplace an elephant, but they disperse far and wide during the wet green season.
A lucky sighting of one bull elephant was enjoyed at sunset from the cruise boat.
A single bull elephant walked right up to the vehicle to inspect the new guest arrivals, which resulted in an array of thankful prayers!
A relaxed breeding herd was seen feeding near Lojaan Dam, and also a herd west of the Chibi area.
The dagga boys are in their element, chilling out in some of the mud wallows.
Plains game abounds, and the animals are enjoying the lush grass. Many of the wildebeest have newborn calves, and the impala lambs are a delight.
A dramatic sight was of two eland bulls fighting, and kicking up the red earth in a memorable display.
The pack of African wild dogs has been seen a few times. They are keeping the new populations of plains game in check.
On night patrol nine hyenas were seen walking along the Pamushana Access road.
A delightful sighting of a four-toed elephant shrew at Nyamasikana Crossing.
Quite possibly our most popular safari activity, and one unique to the Singita offering.
The tigers are biting – it’s landing these fighting fish that’s so challenging. Red-breasted bream and Mozambique bream are being caught at the moment – in two hours a family fishing expedition had the time of their lives landing 24 big bream.
Keen birders set out with guide Stephen Chinhoi this month, and racked up the following big ticks:
First afternoon = 70 birds
Water birding from the boat resulted in a growing tally with fish eagles and an osprey.
Parking in the cleared area near the harbour they managed to record 50 bird species feeding on the insects soon after the rain.
At Ray’s Drift they tried their luck with Pel’s fishing owl, and hit the jackpot. The owl flew from the Hippo side across the river to Malilangwe side.
On departure the birding list was at 203 birds!
Guide Time Mutema also had keen birders.
64 species recorded in one drive.
They reached a total of 101 species within 2 days.
On an afternoon boat cruise on the Malilangwe Dam that total increased to 123 birds.
Gonarezhou day trip
Gonarezhou means “The Place of Elephants”, so for guaranteed elephant sightings a day trip into our neighbouring national park is a must.