August is always a beautiful month here – the knobthorns have a shawl of cream lacework blooms, the cassia trees are festooned with yellow blossoms and the sausage trees show an extravagant display of ruby red pendulous flowers.
There is still quite a lot of water about for this time of year, thanks to the great rains we had last season, but it is in small patches and puddles. The larger animals are now being drawn to the deeper permanent pans and water sources – and this is ideal for game viewing and photography from the sunken hide in the drier section of our reserve.
Here’s our wildlife overview for August:
Lions: Lions have been seen almost every day this month. Sometimes a sighting is not only of lions alone, such as when we were turning off the road to view lions and came across a single old bull elephant. Then, while sitting with the lions for a while, a crash of white rhino moved past behind them.
One evening while spotlighting our way back to the lodge we found four lionesses chasing a sub-adult hippo. The hippo survived, making a bee-line for the water and vanishing in the inky darkness.
Some guests got more of a sensory experience than they bargained for when photographing a pride on the banks of the Chiredzi River. The 11 lions, including cubs and large males, put on quite a show by roaring at point blank range, so much so that everyone could smell the male lions’ breath!
Leopards: Leopards are elusive but if luck is on your side there are wonderful sightings to be had – like the guests who had a fleeting glimpse of a male leopard, but then their guide was alerted on the radio to another leopard sighting. Arriving there they found the leopard was in hunting mode and not distracted by human onlookers. She was focused on a herd of impalas. Then she moved to a rocky area and could not be seen, but was soon relocated back at her original spot where she had just dispatched an impala and had it in her jaws.
There was a good sighting of a male leopard up a tree. As the sun set he descended and slipped into the undergrowth to melt into hunting mode.
It seems that sometimes the leopards here toy with us in a ridiculous cat and mouse game.
After hours of game drive searching, one of our safaris decided to call it quits and returned only to find a mother leopard and cub sprawled on a rock at the base of the hill where the lodge is.
Rhinos: The black rhinos have given us a run for our money, and there have been several explosive sightings of them. Some of these have even been on foot – on one occasion the guide led his guests to a resting rhino. After viewing him from a safe distance the wind turned and the bull picked up the human scent. He stood up, tried to locate the malodourous interference and then left in a huff.
The white rhino sightings have been excellent! They have been seen on almost every game drive. If you stay at a waterhole from mid-afternoon to evening you could see a dozen – maybe more!
The Malilangwe Reserve, thanks to excellent management and farsighted strategies implemented many years ago, is at a high carrying capacity for rhinoceros populations.
Elephants: A breeding herd of elephants has been frequenting the river crossing we use which makes viewing them a real pleasure. Watching them descend the banks in all their glory and be excited about the prospect of drinking is an awesome spectacle. There is also a pan nearby and some of them go there for a mucky mud bath before moving off for a siesta in the shade.
Buffalo: Although there is still a surprising amount of water
around it is in small amounts, and the large breeding herds of buffalo need an abundant source. They have been gathering in their hundreds on our central area that is fed by a large pan.
We also located a dead buffalo being eaten by seven very large crocodiles in the Chiredzi River.
Cheetahs: A couple of cheetahs have let us see them this month. There was the pair of full-bellied males in the road that we watched for a while before they went into the bush and lay under a tree. On another occasion we found a lone cheetah walking down a road. The short-tailed female, now very old, was seen at the entrance to our Nduna camp, with an injury to her shoulder area.
Wild dogs: It has been an excellent month for wild dog sightings – although we had a moment of concern when they slipped into the adjacent Gonarezhou National Park for a day. We are seeing a pack of about 12 most often. We’ve watched them sleeping, greeting, grooming, playing, killing and chasing. One afternoon we watched them ‘playing’ with two white rhinos! The rhinos seemed to enjoy the tag game, and spectating on the outskirts were three hyenas. On another occasion the dogs scanned a vast open area and started to chase wildebeest – but the wildebeest turned and started charging the dogs. Soon a big herd of elephants joined in the chasing of the dogs, and what a show it was with dust all over the place!
Hyenas: Hyenas have been scattered about all over the reserve. At one sundowner spot there were four white rhinos and three hyenas drinking at a pan. One of the hyenas was very intrigued with us and came right up to the vehicle while we were having drinks. Some ice had spilled from our cooler box and the hyena crept up and began crunching away on it, only a few metres from us.