It has been another amazing month here at Singita Kruger National Park. The sightings have been phenomenal! We have now turned the seasonal corner and have officially welcomed spring back. The bush has yet to change, but we are starting to see more clouds in the sky. Most of the trees are still bare and the grass is yellow in colour. In patches the evergreen bushes, such as the guarris, add a splash of emerald to the brown and gold. A few of the trees have new leaf-buds just starting to emerge. The flame combretums have been in full flower this last month, adding scarlet to the otherwise dull palette, and are now coming into seed with their interesting four-winged pods. The bright pink and white impala lily blooms have also been showing in areas such as Golf Course Clearing and on some of the ridges. They are beautiful!
The blackened, burnt area on the western side of the concession is showing new grass growth which is rapidly getting eaten by the large herds of zebras and wildebeest that have come here specifically to feast on the emerging shoots. These burnt areas have been amazing with the numbers of herbivores and the many kori bustards (supposedly the heaviest flying bird in the world) that have been striding around the area looking for insects to feed on. The water level in the river is very low and there are only a few small pools left which have been attracting large numbers of game late in the mornings when the sun is high and the temperatures are hot. Fortunately, Gudzani Dam, in the western side of the concession, still has a fair bit of water which has attracted a large herd of buffalos (up to 1 000 individuals) into the area. This, in turn, has given us great viewing opportunities of the lions as they have attempted to hunt them. Some of the migrant birds have already arrived back and we have been excited to see amongst others Wahlbergs eagles, Klaas’s cuckoos and European bee-eaters. We are expecting many more of our summer visitors to arrive back next month. We are looking forward to see them again.
Here’s a Sightings Snapshot for September:
The lion viewing has been phenomenal this month. We had a total of 145 different lion sightings for the month of September.
The Mountain Pride are doing well and have been seen predominantly in the central and western parts of the concession. At present there are nine individuals, including four adult females, one juvenile male, two juvenile females and two young cubs. (Unfortunately they do seem to have lost two young cubs). On the few occasions that we have seen them feeding they have killed wildebeests (this seems to be their favourite prey species). On one occasion they were seen feeding on a buffalo that they had just killed. The Mountain Pride are, on occasion, seen in the company of the Shishangaan Males, particularly the male that we know as Xihamham.
We have also seen the Mananga Pride a few times this last month. Mananga Pride is a fairly large pride and consist of up to seven lionesses. They presently have seven young cubs. They are often seen in the company of Xihamham and, on occasion, with the other two Shishangaan Males. The Mananga Pride have mainly been found near Gudzani Dam in the west of the concession, where they have been hiding their youngsters. They were seen on a few occasions hunting buffalos that had come down to drink at the dam.
The Shish Pride presently consists of six lionesses. We have mainly been seeing them in the southern portion of the concession. We believe that at least one of these females may have cubs hidden near our solar panel field. We have seen a few of these females mating with one of the Kumana Males. They were seen feeding on a young giraffe, just over the Mozambique border, towards month-end.
The Southern Pride have been seen a few times this last month. This is a large pride consisting of over twenty individuals (including quite a few sub-adults). Towards the middle of the month the guides heard lions fighting just to the west of the concession. Since the fight occurred outside of the concession we were not able to see who was involved, but the next day many of these lions were seen sporting injuries and two or three individuals were missing. When we saw the Kumana males a day or two later they were also injured and so we assume that the fight involved these males.
The Kumana Males consist of three adult males. They have been seen a few times close to camp and we have heard them roaring frequently from the lodges at night. They have been seen in the company of the Shish females and at least one of the males was seen mating with a few of the Shish lionesses.
The Shish Males (three adult male lions) still hold the territory in the central and northern regions of the concession. The bigger male (Xihamham) has fairly frequently been seen in the company of either the Mananga Pride or the Mountain Pride and we believe that he is the father of the new cubs in both of these prides.
On a few occasions this month we found five sub-adult male lions near Dumbana Pool. We are not sure who these lions are and where they came from.
The white lion (originally from the Shish Pride) and some of his brothers were seen once this last month. We have heard that they have been seen by tourists on the S100 public road.
The Xhirombe Male was only seen once this last month at the Poort, where the N’wanetsi River flows into Mozambique.
We have had 21 sightings of leopards this last month. Most of the sightings have been of shy individuals.
Towards the middle of the month two leopards (a male and female) were seen treed by the Mountain Pride.
The Mhlangulene female has been seen a few times in the central area of the concession. She is very relaxed with the vehicles and we have had good views of her. She was seen feeding on an impala that she had killed.
On one occasion we saw a female and young leopard feeding on an impala near the Granophyre Ridge. We believe that this could have been the Xhikova Female.
On the last night of the month we were lucky enough to see a female leopard and her cub feeding on a male impala in the N’wanetsi riverbed.
We were lucky enough to have 25 recorded sightings of cheetahs this last month.
Towards the beginning of the month we found a female cheetah with three young cubs. They were feeding on an impala. They did not stay long and headed west out of the concession.
Two male cheetahs were seen on a few occasions (they were originally seen in the far northern reaches of the concession, but then also headed west out of our area).
A coalition of four sub-adult male cheetahs was seen on at least twelve occasions this month, particularly in the short grass area of the Central Depression, near Gudzani Dam and in the burnt area between the two.
A single female was also seen at least twice this last month. She was seen feeding on an impala in an area known as Kori Clearing.
A coalition of three sub-adults (two young males and one young female) were seen on at least two occasions during the month.
We had 23 recorded sightings of these incredible creatures this last month.
On one occasion eight members of a clan managed to chase some of the Shish lionesses away from a kudu carcass.
On another occasion a single hyena was seen feeding on the scraps of a buffalo carcass that had been killed by the Mountain Pride.
A single hyena and a black-backed jackal were seen disturbing a Shish lioness who was feeding on an impala carcass, just north of camp, early one morning. Since the carcass was almost finished the lioness decided to leave the scraps to the scavengers.
We have had some fantastic elephant viewing this last month, with a total of 181 recorded sightings.
There is very little water in the concession at the moment and we have seen fairly large herds (sometimes exceeding 40 individuals) coming down to the last water points during the heat of the day.
We have had 29 recorded sightings of these majestic bovids this last month.
Most of these sightings have been of three different groups.
There has been an extremely large herd of buffalos moving in the western side of the concession. This herd has split up and re-joined a few times. When together we estimate that there were at least 1 000 individuals in the herd. They have been coming down to Gudzani Dam every few days to come and drink and have then come into contact with the Mananga Pride. We have seen the lions chase them around a few times during September, although the lions were not successful and the buffalos managed to drive off the lions.
A group of seven big males has been hanging out in the Ntsibitsane and Xinenene Valleys, coming down to drink at Dumbana Pool every second or third day.
A small group of bulls was seen a few occasions in the Mhlangulene Valley until the Mountain Pride managed to kill one of them, where-after the others fled west out of the concession.
Rare, unusual and nocturnal sightings
Some of the unusual and interesting animals that we have seen on some of the night-drives include African civets, small- and large-spotted genets, a single sighting of a serval, a single sighting of an African wild cat, a few sightings of honey badgers, a sighting of a white-tailed mongoose and a few sightings of Cape porcupines.
The bird numbers have started to rise again, as opposed to our winter months, and the migrants have started returning. The pale-morph Wahlberg’s eagle and its darker partner are back and have been seen collecting sticks for this seasons nesting. Altogether we have recorded 184 species of birds this last month. Some of the special birds seen include a few sightings of the rare melanistic form of Gabar goshawk, yellow-billed oxpecker, white-backed night-heron, eastern nicator, squacco heron, red-capped robin-chat, lappet-faced vulture, white-headed vulture, Cape vulture, goliath heron, martial eagle and saddle-billed stork.