Singita Sabi Sand: May 2023
The month of May can be considered the beginning of winter here in southern Africa. Most mornings start off misty due to the stillness and cool temperatures then gradually open into blue skies. This year we welcomed some light rain at the start of month which has added some green and topped up seasonal pans with small pools of water. Along with ideal weather conditions our wild counterparts have also had us in amazement.
Rutting impala have been busily doing their best to cover as many ewes as possible, while storks and herons capitalise on clear pools of water filled with fish. The Sand River still flows steadily keeping hippos submerged in the last remaining eddies in secluded sections of the perennial water course.
Dry riverbeds hide gems of their own with a number of lions and leopards stashing their cubs in safe places throughout the reserve. The day is ours with endless possibilities just waiting to be discovered.
- We have had regular sightings of a male cheetah who seems to be in the process of establishing a territory in the south along the old Selati Railway. For some time this has been the ideal environment to search for these four-legged speedsters. For a number of years there was a male that had held a territory in this area but he was last sighted in February, easily identifiable due to missing the tip of his tail, and we fear he may have been killed by another predator. The new male seems to be a younger individual and hopefully he provides incredible viewing in the years to coming.
- The pack of seven that frequent a large chunk of the central Sabi Sand Nature Reserve have us all excited as the two females in the pack look to both be pregnant. In previous years they have chosen the woodlands to the north of our lodges as a denning site. We will be watching their movements closely as they are due to den any day now.
- We have had great wild dog sightings this month - one worth mentioning was when Marc and Golden were out walking with their guests and spotted the dogs hunting with a few hyenas trailing them.
- Elephant viewing has been almost as consistent as the impala herds on the reserve now. Their presence is noticed throughout the area as roots and bulbs are being dug up by the pachyderms in search of nutrients below the surface. Healthy herds, some numbering over 30 members, are a welcome sight at Singita Sabi Sand. When in such large numbers we have the opportunity to recognise some individuals - such as some with half a trunk or leucistic elephants. Besides their differences they inspire us all by overcoming their challenges.
- With persistent tracking and sensitive guiding, we have been able to locate the Nkuwa female and her two cubs on a few occasions. We were lucky enough to find them on a kill which allowed us to expose the cubs to vehicles, slowly gaining their trust in us. We estimate the cubs to be around five months of age.
- On a similar note, the Schotia female and her cub are doing well. She has been sighted on several occasions mainly to the west of our lodges. The cub has become habituated to vehicles in a short period of time. One sighting that stands out is the Schotia female returning to her den with a chunk of a kill. This behaviour has rarely been documented as leopards normally lead their cubs to a kill. In this case she had lost her kill to a hyena before she was able to stash it in a tree, but she was able to feed herself and take some meat back to the cub.
- The Hlambela male has been a regular feature on the northern side of the Sand River. His presence has been made by frequent vocalisations and often his tracks are seen in the middle of the road, a clear sign of who reigns on this side of the river. Although younger than Thamba he almost matches him for size. We look forward to watching his development.
- The Mhangene Pride continue to blow our guests away with amazing lion viewing. The cubs are extremely comfortable around the vehicles which provide us with plenty of entertainment as they chase and play with one another without a care in the world. We are not absolutely sure on how many there are as there are three different litters that are not always brought out at the same time. We have seen nine around a wildebeest kill and another lioness was seen carrying a single cub on the same day at a different location. The cubs are looking healthy and with full bellies, so this bodes well for their future development.
- One still May afternoon we watched the two Ximungwe lionesses with the Plains Camp lions on Makalashi clearing. One of the males was attempting to mate with the youngest female. At the moment the Sand River has been the ideal refuge for these two females as well as the Nkuhuma lioness and her two older offspring, however with the Talamati Pride are also nearby so conflict will be inevitable.
- As the grass starts to dry and the temperatures stay mild throughout the day walking has been the perfect way to be able to connect with nature and take some time for self-reflection. Just being on your own two feet with the distant sounds of elephants trumpeting or the melodic call of the white-browed robin chat is enough to make one feel enriched by such a simple activity. Spending time with our highly skilled trackers can be so rewarding as the story of what has transpired the night before is revealed through subtle tracks left by creatures great and small. As the light stays low for longer seeing tracks is easier and is a great way to get our guests involved in the process.