Singita Pamushana: September 2023
We were relieved to receive our first splash of rain in the last week of the month, which has brought relief all round. Up until then the wildlife was concentrated along the river banks, around the dam, in the swamps and at the permanent water pans. This has made for a month of terrific sightings.
In reviewing each guide’s monthly sighting report in order to compile the monthly wildlife overview I occasionally come across new terms I’ve never heard before – and some I hear often… Two new ones this month were:
“… guests enjoyed a sofa safari at the lodge.” I’ve always called it an “armchair safari” but a sofa safari sounds far more comfy! And indeed – you can lie on a sofa at the lodge and watch the birds and other wildlife like endearing dassies.
“…retired buffalo bulls…” was another. I usually call them “grumpy old dagga boys” but retired buffalo bulls is far more respectful and dignified!
But one I hear often enough was this:
“We went out fishing and hooked a few tigers, and we lost a very big one that could have been a record of note.”
On that note let’s get to the monthly wildlife overview:
It’s been an interesting month viewing lions because it seems there were lions from both the Nduna and River Prides at a kill, which is most unusual. While this was happening there were three territorial male lions mating with lionesses far away within the heart of Nduna territory. Later on in the month the Nduna Pride were seen along the eastern bank of the Chiredzi River, which was always the stronghold of the River Pride, feeding on another buffalo carcass. The River Pride of nine lions were seen walking up and down the west bank of the river looking upset and rattled, as if they had been in a fight, with a male following behind them.
Nine lions were at the base of Pamushana Hill below Malilangwe House, feeding on a buffalo bull kill. A day later a large number of spotted hyenas had taken over the carcass and they had pushed the lions off. The hyenas fed with raucous intent and lots of fighting going on over the feed.
Two mating pairs of lions have been seen at Nduna Dam, with a third male there too but keeping his distance from the couples.
Five lions were seen around Hwata Pan causing much consternation among the herbivores that had walked a long way to reach the lifeline of water.
An adult male lion was seen feeding on a buffalo calf in the Chidumo area.
A large breeding herd of elephants have been feeding in the swamps this month, and another has been feeding in the north and drinking at the Malilangwe Dam.
Some impressive bulls, six at one time, gathered at Hwata Pan to monopolise the water.
White rhino sightings are excellent, now more so than ever. Once the rains come, temporary pans fill and grass becomes abundant they’ll be less conspicuous.
A black rhino bull has been spending a lot of time on the plains just below Pamushana Hill, and spotting him makes for an excellent start to any safari.
Usually black rhino sightings are quick and of a lone animal or cow and calf, but this month some guests have been lucky enough to see several in one area, and they’ve been relaxed and provided extended viewing
Large herds kick up clouds of dust as the arrive in their hundreds at water sources, often just as we are enjoying sundowners – an incredible spectacle to see.
The retired buffalo bulls have been in evidence too.
We have some wonderful leopard news: Guide and guests left for a sunset drive at around 17.30 and spotted a leopard walking along near Crocodile Creek. They followed her all the way to Ultimate Drive where she disappeared up into the hills, and after a few minutes they heard cubs calling and making excited noises.
Another leopard has been seen a few times on the shoreline of the dam while guests have been on the cruise boat.
An adult male leopard just seen chilling in the shade of the Chiredzi riverbed.
Again, good news. The wild dog pack of six adults and seven pups seem to be doing well. They have been spotted on a few occasions in the central areas, hunting impala and, on one occasion, the adults killed a young female kudu.
Apart from seeing all those hyenas on the lions’ buffalo kill, the highlight hyena sighting was of a hyena carrying a full size impala on the road near Nyamasikana River, close to Kwali.
September is the month to see the shyer plains game like sable antelope and Lichtenstein hartebeest. They are lured out of their far flung feeding grounds to the few permanent water sources. On one occasion 17 sable were viewed at close range along the Mahande Loop, and a herd of 13 hartebeest were at old Chimize pan.
Interestingly it’s been a good month to see Sharpes’ grysbok too – on one drive six were seen in total!
It’s beautiful to see a variety of plains game feeding on the crimson sausage tree flowers and green leaves at this time.
The quelea in their hundreds and thousands are mesmerising in their mass displays, but vying for bird sighting of the month was a bat hawk chasing a bat.
A procession of animals has visited the pan at this hide on hot dry days, but as soon as the rains fall heavy this oasis will lose its allure. As such we’ve been making hay while the sun shines and seen rhinos, elephants, zebras, buffalo, sable, warthogs and jackals to name but a few, and heard a leopard calling whilst we were in the hide.
Water safaris are a firm favourite for everyone, as the water has such a calming effect. Many of the birds that nest in the trees around the dam have chicks at the moment, such as the African fish eagles and African darters. Hippo sightings are guaranteed, as are crocs sunning themselves on the shoreline.
Because the water is such a drawcard at the moment there have been some amazing wildlife sightings too: a breeding herd of elephants drinking and swimming, lions and hyenas relaxing in the shade, a black rhino drinking and a leopard sitting at the edge of the water.
With the hot weather the fishing has improved, and quite a few tigerfish have been landed, which is no easy feat.
September is a great month to enjoy a walking or tracking on foot experience. One very fit group clocked up an 11 kilometre walk!
Even if you’re not up for a bush walk it is essential to drive to one of the rock art sites and alight from the game-viewer vehicle to have a close look at the cave paintings.
While on foot, looking down on an elephant in the river, he seemed to get the groups scent and become agitated, but what had actually happened was he had nearly stepped on two big crocodiles that were feeding on a rotting buffalo carcass! The crocs swam away with the carcass in the one’s jaws.
Immediately after the first rainfall we saw a lot of leopard tortoises on the move, drinking water and filling up their bursa sacs - a reserve water storage system.
This is not an ‘unusual sighting’ but more of a unique activity. Because of the incredible baobab trees on the property we will often make them a focus of a safari activity, such as walking to the largest one we have, or having drinks at the “Lovers In Arms” baobabs.
Kambako Living Museum of Bushcraft
The hunter-gatherer lifestyle was demonstrated to very appreciative and amazed guests.
Gonarezhou Day Trips
Guests have loved the day trips to Gonarezhou this month, the highlights being Chilojo Cliffs and breeding herds of elephants. There have been some lucky sightings too, such as a pride of lions feasting on a zebra carcass. (There’s a story about these day trips in this journal.)