Singita Pamushana Lodge: January 2024
It’s so beautiful to visit Singita Pamushana in the green season and see a typically dry landscape transformed into a saturated vibrant ‘jungle’. The air and land heave with life – during the daytime a rainbow of birds sing, insects buzz and bulk feeders munch, while at night frogs trill, hyenas call and lions roar.
Cumulonimbus clouds grow heavy in the afternoons but often break their promise of rain, but when they keep it it’s obvious to observe breeding herds of elephants, and other animals, rejoicing in the cooler weather, soft wet vegetation, muddy pans and deeper swimming pools. White string-of-stars flowers grace the meadows where impala lambs play, and yellow tribulus carpet sandier areas, hiding the fact that each bloom will turn into a spiky thorn.
2024 got off to a spectacular start on New Year’s Day for guide, John Zvinashe, and his guests. They saw all of the “Big Five” and some extra-special sightings: in addition to lions, elephants, buffalos and white rhinos they also saw four black rhinos and two leopards, as well as two porcupines, and a brown hyena!
Here’s a sightings snapshot for January:
Two territorial male lions have had us transfixed with their beguiling power. They travel vast distances in the night, patrolling their pride lands. The third that is sometimes seen with them has not shown himself.
The Nduna Pride seems to have split in two. Five of them (the two lionesses, the full grown male with the kinked tail, and the two cubs) were seen in the central areas as far west as Hunyugwe Hill near the lodge, Ultimate Drive and Banyini.
Four members of the Southern Pride were seen in the northern reaches of their territory, east of Hwata Pan.
Members of the River Pride were seen slinking about in the reedbeds of the river.
There have been some brief sightings of a female leopard in the valley below the lodge, as well as a male leopard on the shoreline of the dam. It is thrilling to hear leopards roaring their rasping calls at night, and know that they are out there, somewhere. Singita Pamushana Lodge and Malilangwe House are situated on the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve – “Malilangwe” meaning “Call of the Leopard.”
The pack of 12 African wild dogs have been in awesome evidence! They spent many days around the Banyini and airstrip in the latter part of the month. Their usually well-camouflaged coats are now set off strikingly against the lush green vegetation.
A formidable clan has been spotted returning from hunting forays, in the early mornings.
Some delightful daytime sightings were of hyenas wallowing in mud and happily cooling off in shallow water.
Many of our guests have been to other reserves on their safari journeys, where there are no rhinos. Here we can guarantee sightings of free-roaming rhinos, complete with their horns. Daily sightings of white rhinos always take place, and this month we have had prolific sightings of the usually shyer black rhinos.
White rhinos are still converging on their favourite waterholes despite the temporary pans that have filled with rainwater.
A lovely sighting was of three white rhinos sleeping in the shade of a tree.
A far more intimidating sighting was of two white rhino bulls fighting at Hwata Pan.
Three black rhinos have been spending most of the month in the area between Banyini, the airstrip and Hlamba Mlonga. They are a mother and her calf, and a bull. It’s been so exciting to see them out in the open crossing the airstrip where the grass is kept low.
The breeding herds are having a whale of a time with all the lush foliage and grass on offer. They can be found hugging the river and in grassy meadows and swamps.
There are quite a few stroppy bull elephants in musth at the moment, and they are best given a wide berth. There seems to be a peak in their breeding state, when testosterone runs high, when the feeding conditions are so favourable and all are in peak condition.
Some bulls have found great contentment at muddy pans, sploshing trunkloads of mud over their vast bodies in an effort to cool down and soothe their skin.
Make hay while the sun shines – or eat grass while the rain pours, could be the buffalos’ motto of the month.
Sometimes you find them lying down in the shade, simply chewing the cud.
Other times they are blissfully wallowing in mud.
And at other times they can be found generously sharing a waterpoint with elephants or rhinos.
Herds of up to 500 animals have been seen this month.
Plains game abound. In fact there seem to be zebras around every corner! Giraffe are in abundance, as are wildebeest with their outrageously cute calves, and impala and their lambs. In the past I would have categorised eland among the shyer species that we don’t see often, but of late generous herds of them are regularly seen around the central areas.
The sable and hartebeest are well hidden in the dense bush at this time, and sightings of them are rare.
Two of the month’s unusual sightings involved birds – one was of a martial eagle catching a monitor lizard, and the other was of the courtship and mating of hamerkops.
There once stood an ancient baobab in the central open areas, that was revered by all. Some years ago it eventually died and rotted away. Once all the decay had gone a large dish-shaped hole was left in the landscape. It was delightful to see this crater, filled with soft red sand, being used by zebras to roll in and dust bathe.
Our boat cruises are a firm favourite with guests, and are repeatedly requested.
One of the guaranteed delights are hippos, but an added bonus this month was seeing a newborn hippo calf, only a few days old.
Fishing for tilapia and tigerfish has been good, with some excellent catches of both.
It’s especially beautiful to visit a rock art site after it has been raining, as the colours of the rocks and the paintings themselves are at their most vibrant.
Kambako Living Museum of Bushcraft
There is always something new to see and learn at Kambako.
This month our guests were taught about how to gather edible tubers, make fire, craft tools and extract salt from mineral salt soil.
Some visitors arrive fearful of the wilds and the wildlife, and for them even driving in an open vehicle is brave and adventurous. Others arrive keen to try a bush walk and that ends up becoming their favourite activity. We choose our routes to avoid the dense vegetation at this time, and a lovely walk to do for exercise is from the lodge to Sosigi Dam, where refreshments are waiting.