Our rain dances have been effective and there is a green flush emerging throughout the reserve. This is not a moment too soon because all the herbivores were looking parched and skinny. It’s wonderful to watch the sky bruise, cumulonimbus clouds form, lightning flash and a rainstorm drum down. On the 24th of November we welcomed the first newborn impala lambs, and they are a sure sign that the new green season has arrived. Game-viewing gets a lot trickier when there’s lots of water around as there’s no reason for the animals to drink at the very limited permanent sources, but it brings new sightings of its own.
Let’s take a look at the last of the dry season’s sights from November:
The River Pride of nine killed a giraffe on the dam’s shoreline. The two males had been fighting evidenced by the one brother having some serious head wounds and limping, and the other brother keeping his distance. It’s most likely they were either competing for a lioness or trying to monopolise the giraffe carcass for themselves.
The Southern Pride of three females, three cubs and one male put on a superb show by drinking at Hwata Pan where our photo hide is, while guests were inside the hide.
The Nduna Pride were also seen near the Nduna Dam wall.
Two lionesses were seen but they were very skittish, so it’s not impossible that they are new on the reserve.
Buffalo and zebra kills have also been made. A fantastic sighting was of an unidentified kill at the river where five lions were feeding. Then a tug of war ensued between four crocodiles and one male lion – the crocodiles were trying to pull the carcass into the water the lion was pulling the carcass in the opposite direction.
We’ve had quite a few fleeting glimpses of elusive leopards, including a mating pair in the riverbed.
The more relaxed leopard sightings have been of females in the valley below the lodge, and the best again this month was of a territorial male leopard having a leisurely drink at Hwata Pan.
In a cat and dog situation the wild dog pack went hunting and flushed a leopard that made a very hasty getaway up a tree.
Thankfully our Malilangwe pack still number 19, and they dominate the stories that follow. At the start of the month they spent their days resting near the permanent water sources, but now that the rains are here they can be found where there are big puddles to wallow in, which is everywhere!
The two males have been seen in the open areas, and have done some marvellous posing atop termite mounds and fallen trees as they mark their territory and scan for hunting opportunities.
The hyenas were hanging about where the lions had the giraffe carcass but they surprised us the next morning as a herd of buffalo passed through near where the giraffe carcass was and the hyena took advantage of a female buffalo that was dragging her back leg. They killed the buffalo and fed off the carcass 100 metres away from the giraffe carcass. They hyenas were extremely possessive of their kill and spent much time chasing the vultures off.
Following lion tracks one morning led to a gruesome discovery of where the lions had killed a very big female hyena. Lions and hyenas are arch enemies.
As always, brilliant daily sightings of white rhinos. We’ve also seen many black rhinos this month – some have curiously crept up to inspect us and the vehicle, some have immediately galloped off in fright, and one gave us a full-on charge stopping short of the vehicle, but chasing us for a good 500m as we sped away.
Other memorable moments include seeing six white rhinos and six black rhinos drinking together at Nduna Dam. We also came across a black rhino that had split its front horn and the two halves were growing independently, making it a three-horned rhino!
Our best sightings of bulls and breeding herds have been around water, especially the Malilangwe Dam. One breeding herd had about 60 elephants of all ages in it and a number of bulls present, as well as the most dominant bull who was constantly shadowing a receptive cow.
Buffalo highlights include seeing a dust cloud heading towards the photo hide pan and it materialising in hundreds of buffalo arriving to drink, and barging a white rhino out of the water.
A surreal sighting at Sosigi Dam was of about 200 buffalo drinking, and a female leopard drinking opposite them.
The plains game have been abundant because of their quest for water and sparse foliage. Special mention should be made of the Lichtenstein hartebeest, sable and eland as well as the little duikers, Sharpe’s grysbok, klipspringers and steenbok. On one occasion we saw three steenbok together which is most unusual.
Walks and rock art:
We’ve conducted many walks including those along the river bank, to the largest baobab on the reserve and to the various rock art sites. On these time is spent observing the smaller wildlife like baboon spiders in their burrows, ant lion larvae waiting to pounce on unsuspecting ants and the emergence of the ear-piercing cicadas.
Treats were seeing an African wild cat, a young python crossing the road and three grey-headed gulls which is not common at all for us.
We’ve embarked on many relaxing sunrise and sunset boat cruises. Apart from the usual suspects of hippos, crocs and abundant birds we’ve seen large herds of buffaloes drinking, a breeding herd of elephants on the bank while some of them swam across the Nyamasikana River heading towards Meso area, a black rhino bull wallowing in the mud, and two sightings on one cruise of leopards drinking.
Some tigers and several tilapia have been landed, including one weighing in at 2.3kg.