May 2024

Singita Pamushana Lodge


Singita Pamushana Lodge: May 2024

Autumn in May is arguably the most picturesque month on the reserve with the concentrated precious metal colours against the greens. There’s also an early nip in the air which gives way to welcome warm sunny days by mid-morning. Another joyous welcome this month was seeing two guests return to us after more than a decade, catching up on their news and reminiscing about previous visits.

The Malilangwe Trust completed the first round of the annual Rhino Ops this month, which involves ear notching calves older than a year, as well as DNA sampling, body measurements and microchipping. It’s a slick operation that’s the result of extensive pre-planning logistics, air and ground support. Some of our guests, being in the right place at the right time, even got to witness the Rhino Ops - a lucky duo watched as the team darted a fifteen-month-old black rhino and performed the ear notching and data gathering.

A sightings snapshot for May follows:

• Coalitions: The three territorial males provided a meaty sighting having killed a buffalo on the Pamushana Access Road, where they finished off the huge meal in a couple of days.
On the river banks two adult male lions were enjoying relaxing in splendid late afternoon light before a bull elephant came and chased them off in the direction of the riverbed.
• River Pride: members from this pride were seen around Ray’s Drift and Chikwete. They successfully hunted a buffalo in the Chikwete drainage. There is currently a mating pair in this pride.
• Nduna Pride: Five members of this pride were seen at Nduna Dam, and thereafter relaxing close to the Mhangula Triangle. The splinter group of this pride (three males and three females) have been hunting in the central regions of West Valley Road, Binya Road near Pamushana Access, on the road to Nhanga, and then heading into Nyamasikana riverbed towards Kwali.

• This month’s journal focuses on a mother leopard and her cubs. Since then it is most likely that it is her that has been seen in the drainage line north of the airstrip, drinking at Simbiri Dam, and calling for her cubs at the old hyena den on West Valley.
• A quick sighting was had of a small female leopard when a single bull elephant unknowingly flushed the cat out from under a bush.

Wild dogs
There are two very promising updates on African wild dogs:
• The pack of 11 that has been hunting in the central area and sparring with thieving hyenas, was seen heading back to the den that they used in 2022. This hopefully means that they’ll successfully raise pups there and hunt in this well-frequented game drive area for the next few months.
• Across the Chiredzi River, on the far western side of Hippo Valley, a pack of seven wild dogs were seen relaxing close to the boundary. We hope and suspect that this growing pack is denning in that area too.

• Hyenas have been seen feeding on an impala stolen from wild dogs, and the carcass of a giraffe.
• A clan of eight were spotted patrolling along Pamushana Access at the old boom gate.

• White: It’ll be the exception not to see at least one white rhino on every drive. Often the tally goes into the teens!
• Black: Sightings of black rhinos have been very good this month, and often these more solitary herbivores have been seen in small groups. Notable sightings have been of a male that had his face covered in dried blood. The blood had come from a few facial wounds which he must have received from another black rhino over a female or territorial dispute. Another was when the guide got out of the vehicle and tracked a black rhino after it had mock charged the vehicle, only to return to the vehicle and find that it had doubled back and returned to the vehicle before he had! Calmer sightings have been had of a characterful bull drinking at the lodge pan.

Elephant sightings are more prolific, especially as the vegetation dries out and visibility through the bush improves.
• Bulls: Several bachelor groups are found scattered about, but are more reliably seen at the pans.
• Breeding herds: The best place to see breeding herds this month has been around Chikwete Cliffs and the swamps on Hippo Valley. An indelible sundowner was had with a red setting sun and 70 elephants in the swamp area - young ones playing, pushing one another as well as checking their heights by lifting heads against each other.

Two sightings in particular stand out:
• Two buffalo bulls, one with a newly broken horn still bleeding. They must have had a barbaric fight.
• A herd of more than 900 buffalo feeding north of Hwata Pan.

Plains game
• Plains game abound as always, but it is really good to see the shyer species like sable and hartebeest more in evidence. A herd of eland mingled with a herd of wildebeest, and the wildebeest seemed to calm them because for once we were able to view them relaxed and at ease with the game viewer.

• We always see hippos in the dam when boat cruising, but there is a pod that stay in a pool in the Chiredzi River. We sat on the riverbank enjoying refreshments while watching 44 of them in the river and moving out of the reeds. It was spectacular.

• The birding highlights for May was spotting a rare bat hawk hunting insect-eating bats in the fading light, and, on another occasion, seeing a peregrine falcon swoop down and hawk a bat, land in a nearby tree and begin to eat the bat.

Boat cruise
• A description from one of the guides is as follows: “It was a relaxing boat excursion. The water was like glass so the dead trees standing in the water were clearly reflected. Hippos positioned themselves at every shallow area, grunting, leaping and blowing out their breaths. We spent much time around them as they popped up and down. Crocodiles lined the edge of the river, trying to absorb enough heat to facilitate digestion. Bushbuck, warthog and impala were spread out on the flood plain, and the landscape was second to none.”
• One of the highlights was seeing a baby hippo standing on its mother’s back.

• The fishing trips were great fun with a number of tilapias taking the bait.

Photographic hide
• The sunken photographic hide that lies beneath a mound of earth next to Hwata Pan provided excellent close-up undetected views of animals, as always. But on one occasion the hide could not be accessed as two lions were using the mound as their throne!

Walks & rock art
• Walking is an activity that our guides enjoy as much as any other – and there is no better time for it than in these winter months. It is entirely enjoyable to focus on the small details, and incredible to explore the rock art sites if they are on enroute. Occasionally we will approach larger animals if the conditions are favourable, the goal always being that we remain undetected.

Daytrips to Gonarezhou National Park
• Daytrips included brunch at Chilojo Cliffs with a parade of elephants in the riverbed below, as well as visiting Masasanya Dam and Sililijo Loop where impala, kudu, wildebeest, zebra, and breeding herds of elephants were seen.