Singita Sabi Sand: December 2023
This December, as expected, the rain made its presence felt throughout our surroundings. Small pans filled to the brim creating micro habitats and bringing a buzz of activity on the reserve. Misty summer morning were serenaded with cicadas choirs and, as we gazed into the distance and the grey curtains parted, the Drakensburg escarpment was unveiled in such clear detail and beauty. As the evenings drew near bird parties erupted with the emergence of termite alates. These rains are more than just life giving, they’re the prequel for a new chapter as our calendars start over. For our wild counterparts this time is only different by means of sights and sounds as life goes on and brings change on a daily basis. We wish all our guests a joyous festive season and a prosperous year ahead.
Here’s a snapshot of December’s sightings:
- At the beginning of the month a wonderful update was received over the radio. The Tisela female was seen carrying a cub into the Makubela Koppies. We estimate the cub to be only weeks old and we are not sure if there are siblings. For now, we give the Tisela mother and her offspring privacy during this crucial period of development.
- The Nkuwa female and her two cubs, which are both males, have been making frequent appearances between Mveve and Hlwareni Dam. They have been blowing guests away with their playful antics as she teaches them more about how to survive in this environment.
- The Senegal Bush male leopard has been pushing further west which may be a reason for the Nkuwa female and her cubs staying so far west in her territory. We suspect the cubs are his offspring and his presence here offers protection against the likes of Thamba and more so the Xipuko male leopard.
- During this time of year when the rain pelts the terrain and tracking is challenging, a stable sighting of a leopard, which would be classified as a sighting which is unlikely to change in its location on the reserve such as a leopard with a substantial kill in a tree, is a huge bonus for our guests. Such an event happened when the Xipuko male leopard was discovered with an adult warthog that had been hoisted in a marula tree not far from Castleton camp. He fed on it for four days ensuring all guests got their festive season leopard fix!
- Another exciting leopard worth mentioning this month is the nomadic young Ntomi male who has been seen in the eastern parts of Singita. It’s always entertaining watching these young toms as they figure out life as an independent leopard, so crucial to learning and surviving, which certainly isn’t easy yet.
- Cheetah sightings are on the increase as the male that roams the south has now established a territory. This territory is vast and he is sighted as far north as our airstrip and all the way to the southern reaches of the reserve. As the vegetation gets denser by the day, he finds safety in the open and scans for opportunities to find prey. This has offered our guests chances to witness this feline hunting regularly. One particular sighting of this cheetah was when he was found feeding on a zebra foal which is no easy hunt considering how protective a mother is of her foal.
- The Mhangene Pride has been staying mostly in our central and western parts as they do their best to keep their cubs safe from the Ntsevu young male lions who do much of their hunting in the south and east. There have been a few sightings where not all ten cubs have been present but, as we have learnt from previous months, this is no cause for alarm as the missing cubs tend to be hidden away safely.
- Regarding the formidable Ntsevu lions it appears that there are just three males now and one female. A lot of the movements are centred around the buffalo herds that have dispersed in Dudley and our southern parts.
- It’s been the second month running where the Tsalala lioness has made our highlights. This lone lioness has found refuge, like many others in her situation, along the banks of the Sand River to the east of the lodges. This female is in immaculate condition and just a few months away from growing her pride if the mating was successful.
- There are two packs in our section of the Sabi Sand currently. One pack of ten and another splinter pack of three. In the wet weather, cooler temperatures allow these predators to keep on searching and chasing before having to find a spot to cool off, as needed on hot days. Fortunately, with lots of seasonal pools a chance to cool off is not far away.
- To our welcome surprise we still have large herds of elephant present through all corners of the reserve. Being able to sit and spend time with a herd in one spot for hours as they rip swaths of grass and seasonal herbs has been a highlight for guests during this time of plenty. Their complexion varies from browns, reds and grey as mudbaths become a daily necessity and can be extremely entertaining to watch.
- Buffalo herds have fractioned into smaller herds now that water and food is in abundance.
- Giraffe and kudu have also been seen on numerous occasions feeding on the sweet white berry bushes that grow all over the southern slopes by the old Selati railway line.
- Over the past two months we have been observing a pair of black-backed jackals raising two pups. They have been exploring their surrounding more lately and were seen feasting on termite alates during a recent emergence. Termites are packed with protein and serve as a valuable food for so many living creatures in the savanna.
The bird list for December includes five new species, bringing our yearly total to 289. We are looking forward to seeing what we can add to our list with all the seasonal pans full to the brim!