August has contained all seasons in a month – an early fall of rain has given rise to a delicate hint of green on the plains, blossoms have bloomed and red tannin-filled leaves have burst from their buds. This could be El Niño’s ruse though, as we are expecting a long dry summer and a harsh scarcity of surface water.
We’ve had many wonderful guests visiting, with some who’ve preferred to go to one location, ideally near a water source, and spend a couple of hours there simply watching and waiting for what may come to feed and drink. This is a very peaceful and relaxing way of enjoying wildlife, and is often more rewarding than driving about in a safari vehicle searching for game.
Wild dogs: We have photos of the pups, and they are particularly colourful and beautiful animals, even if we say so ourselves! The dozen new pups are running with the pack and learning their hunting techniques and the ways of the wild. For now the adults make the kills and then allow the pups to eat first, but soon this will change. The pack has had numerous encounters with hyenas; on one occasion the dogs pinned down three hyenas, teaching them a lesson, but it never really worked because as soon as the dogs let them go the hyenas were back hassling them before they were able to break away from the hyenas.
Lions: With a dedicated team tracking lions, not a day goes by without the prides being seen or their whereabouts known. Of great interest and photographic opportunities are three males that have formed a coalition and are covering vast distances on the reserve to try and define and take control of territory.
Leopards: Leopard are needles in haystacks here, but that said some guests found four different ‘needles’ in one drive, others, during the course of the month, saw a cub, a fight between a leopard, hyena and wild dogs and then there were those guests who arrived at the lodge to see a relaxed leopard draped over a rock to welcome them in the parking area!
Cheetahs: Cheetah sightings are very good, thanks to the mother and her sub-adult cub that are doing well, and two young males that have been very visible this month. The highlight of the month was when a fight broke out between the wild dog pack and a hyena over an impala that a cheetah had killed.
Elephants: The breeding herds are scattered due to the sparse dry vegetation, yet we are regularly seeing some impressive bull tuskers at their favourite waterholes.
Rhinos: Spring seems to be in the air as far as rhinos are concerned… guests have seen the rather cumbersome courtship displays of both black and white rhinos this month.
Buffalo: Vast breeding herds of buffalo have been seen drinking in the early hours of the morning, followed on more than one occasion by lions trying to hunt the stragglers or weaker members.
Hyenas: The main clan we see is very full of themselves lately. Power shifts between rival predator species and right now the hyenas seem to have the upper hand over lions and wild dogs. Certainly leopards and cheetahs are not worthy rivals and both species are readily robbed of their kills by the hyenas.
Plains game: Now’s the time to see them best as they are water dependent and must come and drink, sooner or later.
Birds: The highlight, without a doubt, is the pair of crowned eagles (Stephanoaetus coronatus) that are nesting near the river. Their nest is right next to a gravel track and their behaviour and hunting is easily witnessed.
Photo hide: Our photo hide is being well used with guests thrilled by the close encounters they have and the photo opportunities as buffalo, zebras, lions, rhinos and so much more come to drink. Extremely lucky guests even saw a leopard come and drink while they were watching from the hide.
Walks: Walks to the rock art sites and to see the landscape and wildlife on foot were popular on the calm cool days.
Water safari: Relaxing boat cruises were enjoyed with waterbuck, impala and kudu bathed in golden light on the banks of the lake. Many birds and hippos were seen, as well as crocodiles and monitor lizards. Fish eagles are prolific in this area and can often be seen fishing or with a fish in their talons. A water safari highlight was of two hippos having a fierce battle. For guests wanting to try their hand at fishing, tigerfish, tilapia and catfish were landed.