We have taken advantage of the dry landscape and little vegetation cover by offering our guests lots of walking safaris this month, which have been thoroughly enjoyed by all – especially when they include encounters with high profile animals like lions.
Here’s our wildlife overview for October:
Lions: The River Pride with the young cubs are doing well. On one occasion, after a careful prior assessment, we walked to the edge of the Chiredzi River where we were in a position to stand on the bank and get a good view of the entire pride below who all had bloated stomachs from having eaten recently. Three of the lion cubs (they are about five months old now) came over to the water below us to drink. The pride of two adult males, one sub-adult male, five lionesses and four cubs were all in great condition.
As for the election results – they are in! The coalition of three males that we’ve been watching grow up for years, have taken power of a new territory and pride by beating up the Southern Pride male. The morning after this brawl we got to watch some incredible behaviour: The three male lions commandeered one of the Southern Pride’s lionesses, and she then set about encouraging each of the males to mate with her, as if in a bid to pacify them and find favour. It was a truly remarkable experience that unfolded right before our eyes.
Cheetah: It’s the cheetah brothers that have provided the most sightings this month. On one occasion we found an impala carcass under a dried snow berry bush. We searched the area on foot and found the cheetah brothers lying in a gulley with their stomachs stretched to full capacity, and could approach safely to 20 metres as they were very relaxed with our presence.
Leopard: There have been a couple of sightings of leopards, mainly along the Chiredzi River. On one occasion a young male was trying to hunt an impala, and on another there was a relaxed leopard seen at our river crossing point. This shy little female was seen in a tree where she’d hoisted a dead baboon. Even in the black night with a green filter on our spotlight she was not relaxed with our presence. The giveaway in spotting her was that there were two hyenas lying near the road, with that typical “hangdog” expression of frustrated boredom. Even though hyenas are more closely related to cats than dogs, they cannot climb trees which must be their greatest frustration in life!
Rhinos: Rhino sightings have been truly excellent – both of black and white. This is the best time of year to see them – especially the volatile black rhinos. At times, especially at the water holes, you can see numerous individuals come and drink and wallow.
Buffalo: The vast cloud of dust catching the morning light over the central depression was a sure sign that a large herd of buffalo were making their way to the waterhole there. We were amazed at how vast the herd was though – probably about seven hundred animals. We’ve had regular sightings of other herds and bachelor bulls throughout the month.
Wild dogs: The pack of 27 wild dogs have been seen on the reserve for October, but who knows how long they’ll stay here before heading south again to Gonarezhou.
Here one of our guests, Jeff Thompson, photographed the pups having a marvellous game of chase and pounce at the water’s edge.
Another sighting was of us following four adult wild dogs in pursuit of an impala. They chased the impala towards the
boundary fence and when we got there they were in process of dragging the impala away from the fence. Within 15 minutes they had demolished it. We followed them thereafter, only to discover the joy of the rest of the pack as they regurgitated food to the puppies and others.
Elephants: It’s been a great month for elephants – there are some breeding herds with tiny youngsters about, and of course the resident bulls who dominate the waterholes. On the left you can see two dozing in the water – the one elephant even resting his heavy trunk over his tusk. On the right a bull takes a long drink of water, as three doves fly through the droplets.
Rare sightings: The highlight of one evening drive was seeing a very friendly white-tailed mongoose. Another thrill was seeing two unfriendly honey badgers trundling down our West Valley road, as though they owned it, and all other living beings, including us lowly humans, were unwelcome trespassers!
Plains game: There have been excellent sightings of sable this month – thanks to the low vegetation and isolated water. All other plains game viewing has been good – with many of the more elusive species like Lichtenstein hartebeest seen regularly (see photo below). Your best chances of seeing most game at the moment is along the river or at the permanent water sources.