January has been the month of queleas colonising, woodland kingfishers calling, dragonflies dancing, and all this while rhinos, buffalos, hyenas and warthogs have been wallowing! We’ve had some concentrated thundershowers followed by beautiful light as sunbeams break through the brooding clouds. January really is abuzz with activity in this currently lush, thriving landscape. The green season offers such a contrast for the avid nature lover, with so many surprises and discoveries, and is incredible for birding.
Here’s a sightings snapshot for January:
Most of the lion sightings have been of the River Pride, thanks to our dedicated lion scouting team.
River Pride: The pride was seen on a Lichtenstein's hartebeest kill, and a zebra kill during the month. A lovely sighting of them was at Chikwete Pan where they were a few metres away from some white rhinos. It was impressive to see so many members of this pride walking along Binya Road near 02 camp: one male, five lionesses, six juveniles and three four-month-old cubs.
Nduna Pride: This pride has been spending most of the month hunting in the steep hills and thickets.
Southern Pride: The mother of the cubs was seen near Hwata Pan, contact calling for her pride or cubs. Other members were seen hunting right down on the southern boundary of the reserve.
Leopard sightings demand luck! That said, there have been many lucky moments, such as:
Seeing a leopard crossing Binya Road and being able to follow it for about 20 minutes; spotting an adult male leopard relaxing in a nyala berry tree; and returning from a drive to find an adult female leopard chilling at the pan at the base of Pamushana Hill!
White: While the white rhinos are not converging en-masse at the pans due to all the surface water available, they still congregate in those general areas, and guests on one drive counted 12 different individuals.
Black: There have been some brilliant black rhino sightings in open landscape because they are feeding on all the forbs and flowers available.
A highlight was driving along the Chiredzi River and seeing a surface shining from a distance that looked like a hippo out of the water. It was a black rhino that had risen from its mudbath and had its head down feeding on shrubs. A sighting of a lifetime right in the open!
Elephant bulls are being more secretive at this time of year, but can be found at remote pans drinking and splashing cooling mud on themselves.
The breeding herds with their proportionately tiny newborn calves are an absolute delight. A spectacular sighting was of a herd of about 70 elephants drinking at Simbiri Dam.
A nest of dagga boys can be found wallowing in the pan at the base of Pamushana Hill, on most sunny afternoons.
Herds of up to 700 buffalo have been seen grazing and drinking from the main pans and dams.
The wild dog pack of 12 has been hunting the perimeter of the property, in an anti-clockwise direction, sending impalas running for their lives in every direction. But not all hunts are successful, and the hyenas are often omnipresent waiting to steal a meal.
There is a lot of hyena activity at night and their tracks pepper most roads on a morning drive.
During the heat of the hottest days they’ve been wallowing and paddling in the shallow pans.
Plains game abounds at this time! Most have youngsters running alongside, and thanks to the grazing presently they are all thriving. Zebras, wildebeest, impalas, kudus and giraffes are seen on every drive, while waterbuck and even eland are seen on most.
Unusual or rare sightings
Three southern ground hornbills were seen - big black birds with red facial areas. Theses vulnerable birds wade through the grasslands looking for prey.
While watching a flock of quelea drinking a crocodile launched itself out of the water trying to catch a jaw full of little birds, but missed.
Our most popular activity! Nothing beats cruising the Malilangwe Dam, sundowner in hand, watching the birdlife and hippos. Some magnificent spiral-horned kudu bulls have been browsing the banks.
The fish are on the bite! Many bream, and some feisty tigers have been caught and released. Fishing offers the most zen moments – just drifting along, listening to the sounds of Nature and looking at the landscape, interrupted by intense adrenalin spikes when a fish hits your bait!
There’s no better time to be birding – every bird is feasting on the insect bounty, courting, building nests, incubating eggs and feeding chicks. To be woken by the dawn chorus that starts at about 04:30 is so wonderful.
Gonarezhou day trip
Elephants are guaranteed in Gonarezhou! As are the most breath-taking panoramic landscapes and a feeling of the most remote, wild wilderness.