The month of December started off very wet, we had 100mm of rain in the first two weeks and then not a single drop in the second half of the month. This allowed for a lot of growth, and in some places the lush green grass is over three feet tall. The large area which we burnt in the winter is flourishing and attracting an astounding amount of general game. The river has large pools of water but is still not flowing. We have noticed that the rain has been particularly localised and therefore the catchment areas to our west have not had enough rain to raise the water levels to allow the river to flow. We are hoping for good rainfall in January and February in order for the rivers to flow, as we haven’t heard the sound of water gushing over the weir since March.
Here’s a Sightings Snapshot for December:
We had just short of 80 lion sightings for December, with a great deal of these being sightings of either the Mountain Pride or Mananga Pride. Unfortunately, the Mananga Pride has lost one cub, and now only have six cubs. The Northern Pride now have two cubs, that were only recently discovered whilst the pride was feeding on a giraffe carcass.
A new coalition of young males could become a very interesting addition to our lion population. Seven young males have been seen twice now since Christmas. They all look to be between four to five years old and we speculate that they are from the Northern Pride. They have the potential to become an unbelievably powerful force, if they should settle in the area. The new coalition will however have to dodge the ever powerful Shishangaan males who, even though reaching the twilight of their lives are still very much the dominant boys on the block, so to speak.
We had 19 sightings of these beautiful creatures this month. With the impala lambing season in full swing there is certainly no shortage of food for these shy and seductive cats, who will always be a favourite for guests.
We had over 30 sightings of cheetahs in December, which is amazing! It is estimated that only three hundred remain in the Kruger Park in its entirety and we had a sighting on average, every day.
The coalition of four males make up the bulk of our sightings. A young female in immaculate condition has also been seen often.
Five young cheetahs have also been seen moving together recently. The group consists of two females and three males. We believe these animals recently came of age, and were “left” by their mother, therefore they are moving together for companionship. This relationship will not last, as the females will eventually move away by themselves (as they are traditionally solitary creatures) and are hanging around with other cheetahs initially to adjust to fending for themselves. Instinct will kick in and they will separate from their siblings in time. The three males however, may very well stay together in a coalition as this allows them the luxury of safety in numbers. It also allows them to hunt more effectively and possibly hunt bigger prey than usual.
With the rains that we enjoyed early in the month and now the hot weather, we have had an awesome amount of growth of trees favoured by elephants but more importantly the grasses are flourishing, and at this time of the year when nice, sweet, fresh, green grass is around the elephants are flooding into the area for it which is very easy to feed on. Why exert too much energy when you can find a nice easy meal?
Breeding herds of up to 40 or 50 animals are seen on a daily basis at the moment as well as many lone bulls or bulls in small aggregations that are called bachelor herds or askaris.
With the heat at the moment we are enjoying great sightings of elephants wallowing in the mud or drinking and bathing or simply just frolicking around for some relief from the very hot conditions.
A large herd of buffalos have been seen frequently in the north of our concession. This herd has made up the bulk of our December buffalo sightings. We estimate this herd to be about five hundred strong, and is a real highlight when we see them. There is good grass cover attracting the buffalo at the moment, and when it starts to dry off a bit we will always get an influx of these beautiful beasts because our concession carries water throughout the dry season.
There have been a lot of spotted hyena seen just on route home on an average afternoon/evening safari. The Nyokeni den-site has also offered some really nice views of at least three youngsters and two large females. This is one of the oldest den-sites on the concession, and it has been a regular spot for hyena females to raise their young since about 2004.
We have had at least two leopard/ hyena interactive sightings as well this month, which is always great value and a special treat when you get to witness interaction between two of the larger predators.
The Singita Kruger National Park concession has always been famous for an abundance of general plains game and is, in fact, one of the reasons why we have always had great lion populations (where you have the food you will get the predator). This December was no different with huge herds of impala (some herds of over 100 individuals), with the new lambs being an awesome attraction. Masses of zebra, wildebeest, giraffe, kudu and waterbuck are all moving into the area for the grasses and new green leaves which abound due to the lovely rains we have had. If you throw in the small antelope species such as steenbok, klipspringer, grey or common duiker and Sharpe’s grysbok, we are kept very busy showing off the diversity of our amazing concession. We haven’t even mentioned the hippos, crocodiles, baboons and monkeys, all of which you are almost guaranteed to see on a safari visit here.
This last month we had at least four sightings of two female wild dogs. We very seldom see these incredible animals in the concession as the major portion of the population of wild dogs in the Kruger National Park occur in the western half of the park, where the granitic soils allow them to burrow and den.
Other unusual nocturnal sightings include a few views of porcupines, African civets, both large-spotted and small-spotted genets, white-tailed mongooses and even a few sightings of servals.
This last month we recorded 224 species of birds in the concession. Most of the migrant birds have now returned and many of the male polygynous birds (where one male mates with more than one female) have already attained their breeding plumages (making them much easier to identify).
Some of the bird specials for December include yellow-billed oxpeckers, martial eagles, kori bustards, southern ostriches, saddle-billed storks, white-backed night herons and even a sighting of a dwarf bittern.
We have started to see flocks of red-billed queleas in the concession now that the grass is coming back into seed. It appears that some of these birds are looking for thickets to nest in again. When these birds build their nests they often do so in large colonies, sometimes numbering a few hundred individuals. It is spectacular when there are large nesting colonies of queleas in the concession (particularly at sunset when large numbers of birds return to nests for the night). When these birds are nesting they often attract large numbers of raptors into the area.
Towards the beginning of the month many of the white-berry bushes were in fruit. These bushes can produce prolific numbers of sweet white berries which, in turn attract numerous frugivorous birds such as African green pigeons. These are very pretty pigeons that are bright green in colour and almost look like a cross between a pigeon and a parrot (because of the stunning colouration of its plumage).