Singita Kruger National Park

Kruger National Park | August 2020

South Africa has lightened the lockdown restrictions to allow for interprovincial travel which is a great step for the tourism industry, however the ban on international travel for leisure has not yet been lifted, and as a result of this Singita Kruger National Park has not yet opened their doors to guests. We might not have guests, but below we share in some of the experiences and sightings viewed by staff who are currently on-site, assisting with the maintenance of both the lodges, the concession and engaging in anti-poaching patrols.

The temperature change is becoming more and more evident as we slowly step away from winter into spring. The ambient temperature is increasing noticeably, and we are moving away from wearing thick winter jackets to wearing lighter clothing items in the early mornings and late evenings. Usually by midday any remnants of winter clothing have been packed away and long forgotten.

Another sign that spring has its foot in the door, and one of the many signs of this change in season is the floral scents lingering in the air. Many of the trees and shrubs have already begun to flower, and the white flowers of the common spike thorns, the bright yellow flowers decorating the long-tailed cassias and the coral red flowers of the flame creeper add splashes of colour to the fairly barren landscape and rhyolite cliffs. The bees are celebrating this abundance of pollen and nectar and in some areas they have descended in their numbers, which is great for the production of honey. Many of the smaller creatures will greatly benefit from this sweet treat.

August is known as the “windy month” and we’ve had several days where high speed winds churned up clouds of dust, and loosened the remaining dry leaves clinging on to the trees. We have also been receiving a few sporadic rain showers resulting from cold fronts that have moved into our area. These soft rains have ever so lightly moistened the barren earth, and if it continues the brown grasses may start to herald in the first blades of new green growth, so vital for sustaining the great numbers of plains species we find in this area.

Along with the change to vegetation, some of the first migratory birds such as the Wahlberg’s eagles, yellow-billed kites and Klaas’s cuckoos have already begun to grace us with their presence and songs.

There are still sustainable amounts of water left in the pools of both the N’wanetsi and Sweni Rivers, and this is attracting large aggregations of zebra into the area. On one morning it was estimated that almost a thousand animals took turns to quench their thirst at Gudzani Dam.

Here’s a Sightings Snapshot for August:

Lions

Outside of the game drives and bush walks that we are able to do, it is evident that the presence of lions in the area remains strong, be it viewing prides on the way to work, or spotting their tracks around the lodges and staff camps and hearing them roaring in the late nights and early mornings. The following groups / prides of lions were seen this last month.

  • The Mountain pride and cubs were seen in good condition with full bellies on a few occasions. Although the cubs aren’t fully accustomed to vehicles, it is evident that they are taking their cue from the older lionesses and slowly warming up to our presence.
  • This Shishangaan pride was seen regularly around the N’wanetsi River. The pride now consists of five lionesses with six cubs. Unfortunately, some of the cubs contracted mange, and one of the cubs had succumbed to the effects of this disease. It is always sad to see sick and weak animals, but this is Nature’s way of ensuring the fittest and strongest will survive to pass on the best genes to the next generation. It does however appear that the remaining cubs are slowly recovering from this naturally occurring disease.
  • The remaining Kumana male with the droopy lip was seen mating with one of the females from the Shishangaan pride, so the prospects of additional cubs joining this pride in less than four months is high. We are keeping our fingers crossed.
  • The Mananga pride was seen on a few occasions on the property trailing the large herds of buffalo that are now frequenting the basalt plains. Although no kill was witnessed it was evident that they were in good condition and the cubs are growing strong. They were also seen with Xihamham, the dominant member of the Shishangaan male coalition.
  • The other two members of Shishangaan male coalition were seen apart from Xihamham, but we’ve heard reports that one of the brothers might have been severely injured during a skirmish between other lions or during a failed hunt.
  • Being situated in the Kruger National Park, which is the roughly the same size as Wales, New Jersey and Swaziland, we have a large number of nomadic or neighbouring prides wandering through our concession. This is always exciting as we are reminded just how unpredictable the bush is. This month alone we have had a coalition of five young males that are spending more time close to the western boundary of our property. Their roars can be heard around the staff camp. It will be interesting to see if these cats will start to take up residence as they might start to challenge both the remaining Kumana male and the Shishangaan males.

Leopards

The elusive leopards have managed to appear on the property regardless of us not going off on foot tracking them, as often. The following leopards were seen:

  • A relaxed female wandering on the H6.
  • A male who was a little skittish around the vehicle as he drank from the Shishangaan watering hole.
  • A young male at Gudzane Dam.
  • A young male who successfully killed and hoisted an adult male impala in a tree and was feeding.
  • A mating pair of leopards around Green Apple Hill.
  • Two males in a territorial dispute around the Managana Trail.
  • A female wandering about at Sticky Thorn.

Cheetahs

  • Two males were sighted hunting impalas around the S100.
  • A female and two cubs were seen around N’wanetsi Crossing.
  • A single cheetah was seen around the junction of Sonop Dam and the H6.

Spotted hyenas

  • Spotted hyena clans have a stronghold around this area and this is evident by their tracks painting the roads after their night activities, as well as their bright white scat left around the bush. Sightings of them have also been good around the property, especially when the cats have made a kill.

Elephants

  • Elephant sightings have been great around the concession with the number of breeding herds, family units and bulls varying from 30+ individuals to one solitary bull. There is still a good amount of grass that has retained some of its nutrients, even in the drier state that it is in, although to get adequate amounts of nutrition the elephants need nutrients from all sources during this time to maintain health and weight.

Buffalos

  • We have had a number of large buffalo herds ranging from 100+ to 700+ animals, on the concession, and on occasion we have had lion prides trailing behind them waiting for their opportunity to hunt.
  • We have also had a few sightings of old buffalo bulls wandering alone or in small groups of less than five around Stream Shortcut and Mlangulene.

Plains game

  • The plains game has been fairly plentiful this last month. Large concentrations of zebra have been sighted around Gudzani Dam. On one morning an aggregation which was estimated to be around 1 000 strong, came down to drink near Gudzani Lookout.
  • Giraffe have been plentiful, although not in large aggregations, they have been spread wide across the concession.
  • Klipspringers as their name suggests have been dutifully seen around the many dramatic boulders, granophyre and mountain ranges of the Lebombo.

 Rare animals and other sightings

  • A mating pair of steenbok was found, and a considerable amount of time was spent observing the courtship ritual of these usually secretive animals.
  • A lone caracal was seen on the concession.
  • A very relaxed civet was found on a late afternoon drive, as it set off to scent mark and forage. It was seen flushing and almost catching a small buttonquail bird.
  • Two female African wild dogs made a brief appearance at the beginning of the month.

Birds

  • A number of our migrant birds are slowly returning back to South Africa as the days become warmer and winter is pushed behind us. These include and are not limited to Wahlberg’s eagles, yellow-billed kites and Klaas’s cuckoos.

Read the full wildlife report here: Singita Kruger National Park Journal August 2020