‘Tis the season to be jolly and jolly it is! We are still in celebration of the reopening of our lodge, which was on the 1st of December after a difficult lockdown period. In addition we are also celebrating the new life that has sprung up on all fours around us, representing a new start for all. Many of the herbivores have given birth at the start of this rainy season, and these new arrivals have been seen wandering about in all corners of the concession, leaving behind small muddy tracks that have been imprinted by wobbling legs into the dampened soils. Almost all of the migrant birds have arrived back from their residential countries to spend their summers with us, which has made for a glorious symphony filling the air.
The rainfall has drastically improved from the previous months, saturating the soils with enough water to rejuvenate the grasses and shrubs that had slowly begun to brown due to premature sprouting of the blades and leaves that did not get enough rain in previous months to sustain themselves. There is no denying that the seasonal baton has been passed and the month of December has not held back on delivering all of what comes with summer like the hot days, increased humidity and warm showers. Although the rains came bucketing down sporadically throughout the month, the water networks are yet to flow, and the water level at the weir is still below the dam wall, but we are hopeful that more rain will come and we will once again hear the rivers’ flow resonating on the concession.
Here’s a Sightings Snapshot for December:
Kumana Male with a very full belly after feeding on a giraffe. Photo by: Solomon Ndlovu
Since the lodge has reopened, and we are covering more area on our concession we have had incredible sightings of lions. Almost all of our resident prides have been seen this month on multiple occasions. These are some highlights:
The Mananga Pride were seen on multiple occasions on the concession in the north-western parts, which they are now occupying. There are currently 11 individuals in this pride. They were seen stalking large herds of zebras and buffalo that were making their way to Gudzane Dam to quench their thirst in the extreme summer heat. On another occasion, they were seen feeding on a buffalo kill.
Xihamham, a member of the Shishangaan coalition, was seen in attendance of the Mananga Pride, and on Christmas Eve he delighted guests by roaring loudly and proclaiming his territory. Towards the end of the month he was found mating with a Mananga Pride lioness.
The Northern Pride, together with a Northern Pride Male, were seen around Cassia Open Areas.
Twelve members of the Mountain Pride have moved further north on the concession, where they are staying around Golf Course Clearing. All of the cubs seem to be fit and healthy.
The Kumana Male was sighted by guests as they arrived at the Lebombo turning circle. A great welcoming committee indeed! He was also found feasting on a giraffe carcass which was most likely caught by a coalition of younger nomadic lions.
Two young nomadic males were found south of Ndlovu Lookout. They seem relaxed around vehicles, but looked out of place, as they had breached the territory of the remaining Kumana Male.
Members of the Shishangaan Pride were around Tortillas Clearing with four of their cubs practicing their stalking skills on each other. They were also seen around the lodge, visible from the Lebombo decks, with full bellies, a stone’s throw away from the giraffe carcass the Kumana Male had fed on.
A very relaxed leopard was spotted at Xinkelengane Fly Camp whilst guests were enjoying their morning coffee. The cat proceeded to climb on top of a fallen fig tree, as it surveyed its surrounding area which included the vehicle the guests were watching him in, making for great photographic opportunities.
A leopard using a dead fig tree as a vantage point. Picture by: Margaux le Roux
A large male was found close to Ndlovu Fourways, where he was resting under the shade of a blue thorn.
The Mlangulene female and a young leopard male were found close to Tasselberry Crossing, where they were growling at each other, and the young male decided to climb to the top of an apple leaf, and descended down to the ground using a young branch that lowered him down like an escalator as he got closer to the edge.
A female and a young male leopard were found near Dumbana Rocks.
An unknown male leopard was sighted on Gudzane Loop, with a large crocodile making its way towards the water just a couple metres south of the leopard’s position. Elephants were directly west of the leopard also slowly making their way to the water and a mating pair of lions were on the northern side of the leopard. All four species could be photographed in one landscape shot!
A solitary female was found on the Central Depression close to Rhino Skull, where she stalked and caught an impala lamb.
A female cheetah with two sub-adult cubs were found just south of Two Tekwane. A buffalo bull started to chase the cats around, who fled in all directions. Fortunately, the irate bovid eventually lost interest and the three animals were united again.
A single relaxed female was found on Mbatsane.
Buffalo watching a cheetah that was watching us.Picture by: Margaux le Roux
A number of hyenas have been spotted across the concession and surrounding areas, from single individuals prowling about to as many as fifteen hyenas laying around in wait.
Members of the Burnt Car Clan have taken up residence on the main road, that is used to collect guests from the airstrip, and we have had the privilege to view some of the females on their way to and from the lodge as well as their tiny cubs.
Several hyenas from a clan were found lingering in the area where a young nomadic male lion had made a waterbuck kill. A few days later they were seen feeding on the remains of this waterbuck which they had practiced great restraint and patience to get.
Spotted hyena carrying a leg of a giraffe. Photo by: Solomon Ndlovu
Numerous large aggregations of elephants were seen around the open basalt plains where they were feeding on the fresh grass and green vegetation.
Several musth bulls, including a large tusker, have been found around the Central Depression where they are corralling the females and chasing off other rival males.
A particular herd of elephants have also been seen on multiple occasions on the road heading towards our staff village, acting as red traffic lights, allowing us to stop and switch off the vehicles and take in these beautiful giants.
Herds ranging from 50 to a 1000+ individuals have been frequenting the property, close to some of our sources of water like the Gudzane Dam area.
On the morning of the 12th, several guides watched a buffalo cow as she started to give birth, which was a very rare and special sighting we got to share it with our guests.
Many small groups of dagga boys have been sighted on the property.
The summer growth, is especially lush after the winter fires of several months before, which has attracted large aggregations of zebra and blue wildebeest. Several females have also given birth, and the sight of small foals and calves bring great delight to both guests and guides as we watch these youngsters find their feet.
Rare animals and other sightings
A young elephant bull flushed an African civet that was sleeping in a grassy thicket. The poor nocturnal animal was chased around by the clearly irate elephant.
The pack of six African wild dogs were seen on several occasions around the lodges. Hopefully they will become more resident in the area.
Another pack of ten African wild dogs were sighted by staff members on their daily commute to work, with the animals travelling towards the concession. This was a very unexpected surprise.
A single eland was sighted at a waterhole just west of the property. These large animals are seldom seen in this part of the National Park.
A serval was seen early one morning on the H6 public road bobbing in the long grasses.
Picture by: Margaux le Roux
More migratory birds have made their way back to the area, with the Southern carmine bee-eaters and white storks now moving around the open basalt plains.
A dwarf bittern was seen around Mangwa/Nyaleti junction at one of the seasonal pans.
Pink-throated twinspots were heard calling near Greenapple Hill.