Singita Kruger National Park: January 2024
A new month, a new year, new beginnings, same old beautiful location in the Kruger National Park. The N’wanetsi concession is abundant with tall green grass and lush woodland, the thick scent of the Terminalia trees cyclical flowering fills the air after heavy rains. Twice we have had the main rivers flooding and subsiding thanks to local and regional rainstorms. The marula trees are dropping their sweet fruit on a yellow and green carpet to the delight of all in need of something sweet.
A Sightings Snapshot for January follows:
The new year has brought with it new cubs to the Mananga Pride. We have yet to see all of them together for an accurate head count, but a few of our guides have been spoilt with brief glimpses of a mother carrying a cub from one den-site to the next. There has been more of a presence from the Mananga Pride this month with three females spending the majority of their time around the sticky thorns and in the drainage line below Green Apple Hill, as well different individuals seen around the Central Depression. All were seen with full bellies after feeding on a waterbuck bull near the end of the month.
The Shish Pride, now a total of seven females and 14 cubs, were seen at the beginning of the month near the Granophyres. A few days later they moved west and were seen on the H6 near the S41. It appears that they have temporarily moved into the grasslands just west of our concession, perhaps taking advantage of the plethora of general game in that vicinity.
The Trichardt males have mainly been seen on our concession boundary, along the H6 and S41. At the beginning of the month, one of the brothers was mating with a Mananga lioness, and then seen feeding on a wildebeest near Ostrich Link. Only towards the end of the month did we see the brothers reunited before heading west out of our concession. Hopefully, them spending so much time out of our concession means that they are keeping strange males away from the vulnerable new cubs in both the Mananga and Shish Prides.
The absence of the Trichardt males in the northern half of the concession has meant that the Maputo male and Xai-Xai have felt confident enough to push south, and have been seen multiple times this month. Maputo was mating with an unknown lioness near Xinkelegane Fly Camp in the beginning of January, and Xai-Xai was seen following another female who did not seem to appreciate the company, growling at him when he got too close.
Mbiri-Mbiri was seen twice this month, first feeding on a warthog in a leadwood tree and later in the month eyeing out some impala from another leadwood tree near Figtree-link. He is starting to bulk out and the first signs of a dewlap are showing under his neck.
Dumbana 3:3 has once again dominated the leopard sightings this month, moving all around our concession, probably trying to establish a territory for himself whilst avoiding the other dominant males in the area.
Dumbana 1:1, preferring the mountainous areas east of the N’wanetsi River, has been seen a few times this month. Towards the end of the month, we spent a few hours watching him stalk impala, but with no success, unfortunately.
Monzo male has been patrolling his usual route along N’wanetsi, north of the lodges, west into the Kruger Park, and back into the concession near Xingwenyana Crossing where he was seen sniffing around.
The Lebombo male, sharing an overlap in the territory with Monzo in the area along the N’wanetsi River north of the lodges up to Ostrich Fly camp was seen multiple times this month. One afternoon he was seen chasing Monzo male westward away from an impala kill in a knob-thorn. Having already fed on the impala he soon gave up and allowed Monzo to feed, but growled at him from the base of the tree. More on this sighting in the bush stories below.
The Gudzane female made an appearance this month in her usual area around the Gudzane Dam, resting in a large leadwood.
Nhlanguleni female and her previous young female cub were seen on separate occasions.
JJ female was seen moving along Nyala, now fully independent of her mother, yet still young enough to remain in her territory for the time being.
The Dumbana female has finally reappeared, and now we know why she was hiding; she was looking after two adorable brand-new cubs. It seems as if they are old enough now to start eating meat and were found by one of our guides who had spotted Dumbana on a young impala kill and followed her up the ridge until she started calling, and the two cubs emerged from behind some rocks with inquisitive eyes.
African wild dogs
We were treated to seven different sightings of wild dogs this month. The Floppy-ear Pack of seven adults and seven pups were seen hunting impala just east of the S41 in our concession and towards the end of the month again around S41 and H6. Four adults from another pack were seen on the Ostrich link and headed straight north. Perhaps this is the pack we see moving between Karingani Game Reserve in Mozambique and our concession?
A few cheetahs have been seen on the H6 on the way to the airstrip. A subadult was seen mid-way through the month along the S41, calling for its mother before heading east into our concession. At the end of the month, three cubs were seen, estimated to be roughly seven or eight months old. The last time we saw them was in October, so we’re happy to see they are all alive and well.
Spotted hyenas were spotted a record 27 times this month! The majority of sightings have been of lone individuals strolling down the roads with an apparent sense of direction and destination. A few times an individual was drifting behind the wild dogs that were subsequently chased away when it got too close. A clan of five were seen in the Central Depression vocalising and greeting. The same clan, then with six individuals, were seen a few days later north of Warthog Pan. The southern clan were found resting together on the Sisal Line, and a desperate hyena lay waiting nearby the leopards’ impala carcass.
Despite marula season being in full swing and our expectation of seeing fewer elephants as they move west in search of the juicy fruit, we have experienced the opposite and the beginning of this month saw an incredulous gathering of herds in the central western plains around an area we call Kori Clearings (due to the amount of kori bustard sightings we have there). One guide and tracker team counted over 400 individuals that afternoon. A large portion of these were seen a few days later further north and then again further south in the Central Depression.
One afternoon we encountered multiple breeding herds along the N’wanetsi River. We estimated over 100 elephants were spread out in the river and along its banks, including a small bachelor herd and a large bull in musth causing havoc amongst the females with young calves.
A particularly large elephant bull with impressive tusks has been wandering between the plains east of Ntoma and back down to the Central Depression around Warthog Pan demanding respect from anyone brave enough to stand in his way.
A breeding herd of between 200 to 300 individuals has been roaming the grasslands around Nyeleti, Mangwa and the Xinkelegane Fly Camp. There are multiple calves of various ages, and most of the buffalo are looking strong and healthy after the rains have brought back the thick leafy and nutritious grasses.
The warthogs are back, a few stout lone boars munching on the long grass and sounders of mothers with tiny piglets running after their tails comically sticking straight up above the grass.
Zebra herds numbering up to 100 can be seen in the open plains accompanied by dozens of wildebeest, impala and the odd black-backed jackal trotting up and down looking for any small rodent or spurfowl to torment. Most species have given birth, with only one or two “laat lammetjies” (late lambs) scattered amongst the herds. With the height of the grasses over one-and-a-half metres in some areas, most of the plains game are crowded into the last remaining short grassed areas and sodic sites, making for spectacular game viewing in these areas.
Rare animals and other sightings:
After the heavy rains north of our concession caused the N’wanetsi River to flood, the weir became a hub of activity as fish unable to fight the current were washed over the bridge and into the jaws of hungry crocodiles waiting on the side downstream of the weir. At least eight crocodiles were counted on one occasion.
Two sables were spotted in the north-eastern section one morning, and the female eland is still being spotted amongst the zebra herds.
Two serval kittens were seen one afternoon near the sticky thorns briefly before returning into the thickets, and a caracal was seen feeding on the remains of an impala lamb on N’wanetsi big bend.
The red-billed quelea have begun to set up their breeding colonies with thousands of birds nesting along Sisal and fence lines. One colony is near Pan-link, and another large colony is forming from the fence line and Nyokena junction to Nsimbitsana. Many lesser-spotted eagles are in attendance along the fence line.
Along the eastern sections of Mbatsane, our northernmost boundary, all the way up to Big-view Hill, is another draw-dropping colony. More about these wonderous birds in the bush stories below.