Singita Sabi Sand: June 2023
Now in the dead of winter, and the middle of the year, things are starting to dry up significantly here at Singita in the Sabi Sand Nature Reserve. Although now a lot less, the Sand River is still trickling and attracting a lot of the larger mammals. The mornings are crisp - hot water bottles and seat warmers are very much appreciated by all!
Further away from the river, grasses have keeled over allowing us to see a lot further into the bush from the roads, and a lot of the larger trees have all started losing their leaves. It is also that time of year when the Environmental team starts burning the firebreaks, which are areas between properties and along fencelines. Sunrises and sunsets are spectacular with it being so dry and having dust in the air.
Here’s a wildlife overview for the month:
The Mhangene Pride, five lionesses and nine youngsters, have been the go-to lions for the past while. Up until very recently have they ventured into the western sector with the cubs in tow. The cubs are still all very healthy and energetic little lions, they continue to spoil us with some incredible sightings. The five lionesses caught a buffalo bull at the beginning of the month and they went and fetched all nine cubs taking them back to the kill. One of the Plains Camp male lions (fathers to the cubs) was a bit slow to the buffalo, but was seen with cubs one morning. He was very tolerant of the little ones’ energy until it became too much and he moved off.
Nkuwa female and her two cubs have been seen in rocky areas. One of the cubs is a male with a “two:two” spot pattern. The other cub is still not quite accustomed to the vehicles but we continue to practice sensitivity around them in the hopes that it becomes more comfortable.
The Mobeni female seems somewhat displaced, she has been found all over the property, very close to the lodges one afternoon, to a lot further south the next morning. She has been causing some disruptions to the Schotia female.
The Scotia female leopard has been seen around the lodges and to the west of them. There was a recent sighting of her and her youngster where the Mobeni female leopard made an appearance along with several hyena at an impala kill. Some worrying sounds were heard by one of the guides - we are unsure as to what exactly went on but we are yet to see the Scotia female leopard and her cub. We are hoping that all is still well there!
The Hlambela male leopard has been operating under cover. The more dominant Thamba male has made his presence known even further north of the river where we had been seeing Hlambela.
The Talamati Pride were seen briefly over a couple of days in the north before moving far east of Sparta, east of our lodges.
The same young male cheetah has been seen, from as close to the lodges at the river to as far south as the railway line. He continues to scent mark as he goes which is very encouraging for us. We are hoping to see a lot more of him in the future.
A remarkable sighting of him this month was seen by George who watched him chase, catch and kill a young impala, not far from Castleton.
We’ve got some very exciting news regarding the pack of seven. We believe that they are back again and denning north of the lodges - an area that they’ve denned in before successfully. We will update you in the July wildlife journal if we have confirmation of puppies!
Guide Andries and his guests had a spectacular sighting of them one morning. Driving around one of the waterholes they saw the dogs chase an impala into the water. Hippos kept chasing the dogs away until they eventually gave up. Then the dogs wrestled the impala from a crocodile who took an opportunity at the free meal before a clan of hyena eventually stole the kill from the dogs!
Elephant sightings continue to amaze us, from the lodges at the river most afternoons, to further afield. The larger herds leave obvious signs of where they have dug to get at roots and bulbs beneath the surface. Those along the river have the best of both worlds as they eat the phragmites (reeds) and then can drink when they please. They provide us with endless entertainment, always busy doing something as they move along feeding. They have been a big help finding some of the predators, flushing them from their hiding places along the river. A recent sighting of a herd chasing two male lions one afternoon allowed us to find out exactly where they had been hiding all day!
Winter sunrises have been perfect to get everyone up, with a cup of “to go” coffee, and find a quiet spot out in the field and appreciate nature’s beauty. It also just allows us to stop and listen to the dawn chorus, rutting impala and maybe even the distant monkey alarm calls which may help us start searching for predators. From the main deck area at both Ebony and Boulders one can still hear the Sand River flowing. It is always good to stop, listen and reflect on just how lucky we are to be out here! There’s also the chance of spotting a Cape clawless otter while doing just that.
The bird list for June includes five new species, bringing our yearly total to 257.
Special sightings were of a secretary bird in early June.