Singita Kruger National Park: October 2023
What a change we have experienced over this past month! From the dry and dull yellow of September, the bush is now bright green and lush. The majority of the trees that had lost their leaves during the dry season, now are full of foliage and the grasses are starting to grow in length for their imminent flowering. Certain wildflowers have already erupted, their tiny splashes of colour catching your eye here and there from amongst the green undergrowth. We have already had two rains, once at the end of September and again in mid-October, and the landscape in certain areas is holding onto that water in the form of the once dried-up little pans and wallows that are now full. Every elephant you see, of which there have been many, has a fresh coat of mud from cooling off during the hot days.
Here’s a Sightings Snapshot for October:
Lion dynamics have been somewhat confusing in the past few months, since the demise of the Shish male by the two Trichardt males, there seems to be a rift that needs filling. The Trichardt males, although most often seen in the southern regions of the reserve have been seen expanding their reach much further north. Often now being seen as far north and west as Gudzane Dam, and actively mating with a few of the Mananga lionesses while in the area.
The Mananga Pride has been seen a handful of times, once being on a giraffe kill on Park Road, in the presence of the remaining Shish male, all feeding together. However, some females have been seen mating with the Trichardt males, and yet the pride as a whole has not been seen in the presence of these males, except for one sighting most recently at the giraffe carcass.
The giraffe carcass attracted a few other male lions, possibly from the N’wanetsi coalition.
The Shishangaan Pride have been setting all their focus on their cubs, of which there are now 15 in total that we know of. Of the seven powerful females, six of them have successfully brought their cubs from the den-sites and they are now mobile and covering more ground with their mothers. However, two of the females, who have had their cubs most recently have been separated often from the rest of the pride as their cubs are much younger and unable to keep up with the movements of the others. But these two females seem to be coping just fine together, having most recently been seen close to the N’wanetsi River with very full bellies and cubs with equally full bellies after suckling.
The Maputo male coalition has been seen in the northern areas several times, once even in the presence of the old Sweni male while feeding on a kill. However, all of these males disappeared from the area when the two Trichardt males appeared and feasted in this area much further north than we have ever seen them.
The same kill attracted a young male lion which had been seen a few times during October, once on a young buffalo kill. There is a possibility that this may be one of the Mananga pride’s young males who is going through a tough time of independence, but it has been difficult to confirm his identification.
The Dumbana female was seen eight times during October, within a similar area, and although she was only seen with a kill once, an impala ewe, she was looking healthy and some believe she may be pregnant again, which would make sense after she had been seen mating a few months ago.
Mhlangulene female has been more scarce this month, with only three reported sightings, one of which the female was seen to be stalking the young Dumbana 3:3 male as he re-entered his old stomping ground after a hiatus of a few weeks. Although no contact was made before she slunk off in the opposite direction, leaving him completely oblivious to her presence, the concerned female was investigating the young male’s scent very intently.
Dumbana 3:3 young male has been seen several times since he was first seen back in the area on 5 October, with a few cuts and scratches possibly obtained during his ventures into other, unknown territories.
A young female Leopard has been seen a number of times around the area of Gudzane Dam in the western portion of the reserve, and although she has not yet been identified, she does seem to be quite relaxed with the vehicles and we have been lucky enough to have some beautiful sightings of her.
Another young female has been seen a few times further south in the reserve, much closer to the lodge itself, although she seems to be slightly more reluctant to show herself, but with time she does gradually seem to be becoming more accustomed to our safari vehicles.
In a similar area, a new young male which is also slightly less comfortable with the vehicle has been glimpsed a few times, moving through the territorial area of the Lebombo and Mondzo males but being sure to avoid contact with either, it seems.
Mondzo male leopard was sighted multiple times during October, in his usual stomping ground and performing his regular territorial patrols, but he has also been seen on a few impala kills, often feeding on the ground in some thick vegetation, keeping cool.
Pelajambu male and Mbiri Mbiri male have both been seen this month after not having seen either for a while, it is great to know they are still in the area.
This month has been very productive when it comes to cheetah sightings, and the guests and guides alike have been ecstatic to have seen not only a single female, but also a female with three young cubs as well as a female with a single sub-adult cub moving through the concession area.
October has had a number of great wild dog sightings, sometimes a pack of only four individuals, but there has been a large pack with a number of adults and including seven young pups also seen.
The pack with pups have been doing very well, moving through the area and keeping their pups healthy and safe in a challenging and competitive environment.
There have been many hyena sightings reported for October, most often just one or two together, but with lions feeding on carcasses, there have been hyenas seen together in a group, patiently waiting for their opportunity to feed.
A large herd of buffalos has been seen quite regularly around the north-western portion of the reserve area, originally thought to be two separate herds which were already of a large size, they appeared to merge into one massive herd and enjoyed the spoils of the fresh green grass emerging after the mid-October rains.
Although most sightings this month have been of the big herd, there have also been a few isolated bulls moving around the drainage lines and prominent wallowing areas where they would be attempting to stay cool in the thicker vegetation and muddy patches where they can cover themselves with a thick layer for ‘sunscreen’.
The reserve has been teeming with elephants over the last few weeks, breeding herds of females with some tiny little babies at their heels as well as a number of large bulls dotted in between the rest.
A number of sightings of elephant bulls have been in the presence of female breeding herds, often making the cows with calves noticeably uncomfortable, trying to keep their calves protected from the big, lumbering males that often are following the herd in search of females, and so have little patience for youngsters.
With the rains at the end of September and mid-October, there is plenty of water around, not only for drinking but also for wallowing and cooling off during the heat of the day, which these elephants can often be seen doing on our way back to the lodges at the end of our morning safaris.
The rains have brought with them lush green grasses in all the areas of the reserve, the plains game such as zebras and wildebeest have been numerous and making use of this fresh growth.
There have been many giraffe around the reserve as of late, and many females have youngsters with them. The trees are sending out fresh leaves and with an abundance of food, and they appear to be thriving.
The impala ewes are all looking plump and ready for lambing. The season is almost upon us, with wagers going between the team as to when the first impala lamb will be seen. The synchronised breeding of this species is one of the features which makes them so successful as a species, that and the fact that they are mixed feeders, meaning they can alternate their diet between grazing and browsing, depending on which holds the best quality at the time.
Rare animals and other sightings
There have been a number of black-backed jackals seen within the reserve, generally within the central depression and most sightings have been in relation to some or other form of carcass or kill in the area.
African wild cats have been sighted a few times during October, generally in the same area so possibly the same individual which is less nervous around the safari vehicles and allows for a good view.
Not a common sight, and to everyone’s disbelief, an eland was seen on the reserve this month. The animal was seen moving swiftly through the open grasslands of the western reaches of the reserve, clearly unnerved and understandably so as there were some lions in the area.
As we move from a very short spring into summer, some of the summer migrants are already here and some of the birdsong has already changed.
Rattling cisticolas, which are here throughout the year, have changed their vocalisations from their winter ‘phishing’ to their summer call and the yellow-bellied greenbuls in the undergrowth surrounding the Lebombo Lodge have been using their chattering associated with October.
There have been sightings of broad-billed rollers, European bee-eaters and barn swallows, all of which have been spending our winter months further north where food is plentiful.
There have been a number of vultures seen, with all the kills that have been recorded recently, many of which the vultures have helped us to find. Lapped-faced, white-headed and hooded vultures have all been reported amongst the ranks of the often more common white-backed vultures.
An unexpected sighting of a grey-headed gull flying along the N’wanetsi was also had this month, although only once so far.