No sooner had we welcomed last month’s first rains than they vanished, leaving us with an incredibly dry reserve and a severe lack of water for plants and herbivores. In a world of climate change and erratic weather patterns they seem more pronounced here with their immediate effect on our wildlife. However, it is still a time of fascination and great sightings for those on safari – some trees have tapped into their last reserves to produce a canopy of bright green leaves above a parched palette of earth, migrant birds fill the air as they search for insects, and the insects abound in either camouflage colours or the opposite, bright warning jewel colours. Tortoises are out and about ensuring that slow and steady wins the race.
Let’s take a look at this interesting month of December:
The River, Southern and Nduna Prides are all stable and the individuals are in prime condition.
The lack of rain and grass is a boon for the carnivores as it leaves the herbivores in a weakened state. We’ve watched the prides in feeding frenzies, particularly on buffalo kills, but also zebras and a bushpig too. On one occasion the lions killed a buffalo near the river, and were soon joined by three enormous crocodiles – war erupted over the feast and it was an incredible sighting. Another interesting skirmish was when eight lions killed a buffalo and eight buffalo tried to drive them away from their fallen herd member.
There has also been mating activity witnessed this month.
A leopard was either killed by hyenas or died from other causes, but the hyenas were seen fighting over its body.
Guests have enjoyed an amazing sighting of a leopard stalking impala, and able to spend significant time watching the hunt unfold.
The most beautiful sightings were of a female leopard sleeping in a syringe tree, and one of a female leopard lying on the boughs of a gigantic baobab.
We’ve seen our pack of 19 resting and hunting together, and are pleased that their numbers are stable for now. They disappeared from our reserve into Gonarezhou for a couple of days, but thankfully they are back on our side again, across the Chiredzi River.
The two cheetah brothers that we see regularly have been spotted on several occasions this month. They are feasting on impala lambs. One hair-raising sighting of them was when one got chased by four hyenas and escaped with its life, thanks to being the fastest mammal on the planet!
A clan of at least 16 hyenas are dominating the central plains and its water source at the moment. They are so formidable that they even killed a buffalo and a calf at the pan.
Two youngsters have been added to the clan, and the young cubs were seen romping along the airstrip to go and join the rest of their family on the plains.
Rhino sightings, of both white and black, are off the charts at the moment. With the low vegetation all you need do is wait near a water source and you will be rewarded. On some occasions we have seen up to 20 white rhino come and go in an afternoon.
One memorable of occasion was of a white and black rhino feeding together north of the Mahande River.
There was a great clash between two black rhinos chasing each other that covered a distance of over two kilometres.
The elephant bull sightings are starting to settle again to their usual appearances at the waterholes, while the breeding herds are feeding along the river or in the north of the property where a higher level of rain fell.
A highlight was seeing eight bull elephants swim right past the front of the boat as we drifted along.
The buffalo are taking tremendous strain due to the lack of rain, and are top of the menu for lions and hyenas.
We have seen breeding herds of well over 400 making their journey over dry land towards water.
The plains game sightings have been prolific because the visibility through the barren bush is high, and even the shyer species such as sable, hartebeest and eland need to make their way to the pans to drink regularly.
Photographic hide and viewing platform:
Normally we wouldn’t be using these much in December because there would be water everywhere, but because it is so dry we have spent many afternoons at the hide and viewing platform and have regularly seen four of the Big Five in a session – in one afternoon on the platform we notched up five white rhinos, two black rhinos, two elephant bulls, two buffalo bulls and a lioness .
Again, because of the low vegetation, we have been taking many walks to track animals or go and view the San rock art.
The boat cruises have been an ideal way to cool off after the searing heat, and enjoy a sundowner. One afternoon we saw a very relaxed black rhino lying in the water, cooling off, and were able to cruise past it in close proximity.
The dam water is quite churned up after receiving runoff from the rains that occurred further north of us, but the fishing has still been good, and many bream and a few tigers have been landed.
Kambako Bushcraft Museum:
Visits to the living museum of bushcraft have been thoroughly enjoyed and guests have been given the opportunity to look back in time and see how we survived – and even how our ancestors learnt of the best places to dig for water using water diving methods!