Singita Sabi Sand: April 2023
As winter knocks at the door, we reflect on what has been a spectacular period of wildlife encounters this April. From cheetah cubs to pangolin sightings, the lowveld has rolled out the red carpet for our guests in a quintessential manner. Dry grasses succumb to the parched earth while clear blue skies welcome us each morning without fail. On these still mornings sounds travel for miles following us along wherever we may go. As we gaze over the savanna termite mounds steam as the warm air meets the crisp morning temperatures above. This time of year is truly like no other, a time which has earned itself a reputation second to none. If this is just the start of the dry season, the months that follow will be phenomenal.
A sightings snapshot for April follows:
A major highlight with regards to leopards is the revelation of the Nkuwa female and two cubs! After many drives with great anticipation, she was found off Mhlwareni Dam. We estimated the cubs to be at least two months of age at the beginning of the month. They have been sighted twice, the second time their mother had led them to an impala ram kill. Large kills such as this offers ample food but can be too heavy for her to hoist in a tree, a real “Catch 22” for her and her little ones.
The Schotia female is busy raising a single cub this time round. Slightly younger than the Nkuwa female’s cub, we have had only brief glimpses of the cub around a temporary den. A major concern for the Schotia female is the frequent viewing of the Mobeni female right in the heart of her territory! The aging Mobeni female has been sighted a number of times in the camp perimeter scent marking. The Mobeni female will not hesitate to kill any leopard with whom she is unfamiliar.
With regards to male leopards, the Thamba male has secured the south of the Sand River but to the north he has his work cut out for him. On one afternoon Jono and his guests watched as the Thamba male set off in pursuit of Xitsalala male leopard, a four-year-old male that grew up north of the Sabi Sand Nature Reserve, that was mating with the Serengeti female. The younger male did not hang around and took off into the woodlands.
It seems the Kangela male is having none of this and now can be found right up in the far northern reaches of Singita, close to the scenic watering hole of Mjombo Dam. For how long this three-year nomadic male will be viewed is anyone’s guess but many feel he may start looking to areas with less competition. He was seen on 26 April far east, opposite Main Camp on Mala Mala.
Finally, the Mhangene Pride have revealed their cubs to us guides and gracious guests. A total of nine cubs between the ages of six and twelve weeks, from three different lionesses. They have provided regular viewing in the Ximobanyana drainage close to Khoza Pan. This is thrilling and we have not had this many cubs from this pride since 2019. We will bring you frequent updates on our social media platforms, so stay tuned.
In the north an interesting development is taking place as six male lions consisting of a few sub-adults from the Nkuhuma Pride and their father, the northern Avoca male lion, are spending time together. For now, it is too early to say what will happen, but we will be keeping an eye on them and their movements as they look to settle out of the way of bigger males. The Plains Camp lions have a firm grip on territory to the south, but the north is largely unoccupied.
The three Ntsevu Breakaway males and their lone sister have been a regular occurrence in the south, often near buffalo which graze daily in the grasslands. These young lions are still learning their abilities and provide great viewing. Earlier in the month Andries and his guests watched as they successfully took down a buffalo calf close to Castleton Camp. A crucial meal for their development and confidence as young hunters.
We have had not only fantastic sightings of buffalo south of the Sand River but frequent viewings of smaller herds to the north as well. These herds move into the combretum-dominated woodlands as the grasses in the open areas are over utilised and unpalatable. The seep lines that can be found in the north hold a bounty of green grass species which are highly attractive to buffalo, rhino and zebra.
In the south east dazzles of zebra can be seen far and wide dotted throughout the straw-coloured grasslands. The sickle bush and small thorn thickets that are found here attract giraffe, making for classic safari scenes of scattered trees with giraffe and zebra feeding in peace with one another.
At the beginning of the month, we were treated to multiple sightings of a mother cheetah and her two sub-adult offspring. Estimated age of ten months, these two siblings are now being taught by their mother where to find food in her vast home range and how to make a successful hunt. This comes with its challenges but she has done extremely well to make it this far with them. Due to the extensive area, she will cover we are unsure of when we will see them again.
What is arguably the best season of the year to search for elephants has surely lived up to its reputation. Now that water is slowly becoming scarce parades of elephant can be observed on their daily routine of finding fresh water sources. With Boulders and Ebony Lodges perfectly placed on the banks of the Sand River, one doesn’t have to look too far to watch family groups of elephants enjoying a drink and splash in the water. We have also noticed two bulls with massive tusks in attendance of some females.
The first day of the month started with a major a highlight as Golden got a glimpse of something crawling into the bushes close to Tavangumi Koppies. On closer inspection he revealed it was a pangolin! A rather comical scene played out as Marc called in this highly sought-after nocturnal animal over the radio on what is typically known as April Fool’s Day. The rest of the guiding team wary of the team’s antics were doubtful if it was true but those that showed up were rewarded with the real deal! Only days later, another one was found! “Frequent” sightings of pangolin over the last few years are testimony to our effective anti-poaching efforts as pangolin are regarded as the most trafficked of any animal.
Also worth mentioning is sightings of honey badgers which are now being seen more frequently during the daylight hours as the temperatures start to drop.
The bird list for April includes three new species, bringing our yearly total to 249.
Special bird species: A pair of Cape vultures that were seen several times at an elephant carcass in the south of the reserve.