Our renovated, refurbished and restyled lodge welcomed its first new guests this month, and the consensus from all who’ve seen it so far is that it’s a resounding success. Its contemporary, authentic, inviting and so luxurious. Every single detail is meticulous. The colour scheme echoes the rocks and lichens and adds such a light uplifting atmosphere. Take a look at Singita’s website, Facebook page and Instagram feed in the next few weeks for more images, then book your place, and meet us on the deck photographed above for predawn coffee before game-drive!
Just as the bush was drying out we received some wonderful late rains, 40,5 mm, and this has resulted in a flush of greenery and dense vegetation. We should normally be seeing the golden hues of autumn now, but instead it is lush – and while the grazers are feasting, the predators are lurking…
Some guests have been lucky enough to see incredible sightings from their transfers to and from the lodge and airport. One guest, upon entering the reserve, saw a herd of about 25 elephants crossing the road, with their little ones in tow, and making their way to drink and bathe at Sosigi Dam. Then further along the access road to the lodge they spotted a leopard lying on a termite mound! Departing for the airport some days later they were delayed by a pride of lions lying in the middle of the main road to the gate, the lazing cats having just hunted and feasted on a warthog!
Here’s our wildlife overview for May:
Lions: The lions have been seen hunting and killing an array of prey – kudu, waterbuck, buffalo and wildebeest. The main culprits are the Chiredzi River Pride, who number up to 14 individuals when all together. Guide Mark Friend’s guests were spellbound when they watched lions hunting a wildebeest which the predators were successful in bringing down right near the vehicle. Mark reports, “The guests then enjoyed an incredible ‘Nat Geo’ quality sighting of ten lions, including cubs, fighting over the prime parts of this catch, while being only metres from the entire action.”
Guide Japhet Diza found a solitary lioness near the dam with blood all over her face, but it seemed she didn’t even have time to clean herself before heading for the hills. She was lactating and Japhet was sure she had cubs stashed away in a secret rocky outcrop. But it was Guide Tengwe Siabwanda and his guest who saw the little cubs for the first time – he spotted a pride of five lionesses walking along a road one late afternoon, with three little bundles of about 12-week-old cubs tripping along among them.
Leopards: Our leopard sightings can be fleeting, but here are extracts from our guides’ daily sightings reports that show we often have quality viewing:
Alex Kadziyanike: Just after viewing the elephant, a few hundred metres on, there was a male leopard up a tree. He stayed a while until he decided to climb down and disappeared into the thicket.
Dharmesh Daya: Later on we had a great view of a leopard across the Chiredzi River disappearing into the reeds, as well as a hyena in the same area.
Japhet Diza: First day back – on our way back we spotted a leopard up a tree, where it intently watched some impala.
Time Mutema: North of Nyari Pan was an adult male leopard lying relaxed in a leadwood tree.
Mark Friend: We located eight lions on the north-west side of Banyini where we spent the next five hours watching them go about their life. During this time we were rewarded with seeing two different leopards – one large male climbed a tree to try and get a better view of the lions, giving us a sighting of him lying on a branch. One of the lionesses saw him and went over to see him off. A bit later we heard a black-backed jackal calling towards the north-east side of Banyini, so we went to investigate and found a female leopard hunting an impala along the road. Just as the cat charged the ram and was about to pounce, a screeching spurfowl was flushed by the leopard. This gave the impala sufficient warning and allowing him to make his escape.
Cheetahs: It has been really difficult to see cheetahs with the grass being so unseasonably tall at the moment, but we did have an excellent sighting of two brothers drinking at a pan, and then relaxing on the short grass nearby for a couple of hours.
Rhinos: By our high standards the rhino viewing has been harder than normal, but as the ground began drying out towards the end of the month they were drawn into more open areas and permanent water sources. That said, all guests are guaranteed of rhino sightings during their stay, often multiple sightings a day. The largest crash seen this month was of 12 white rhinos at a pan. What has been especially delightful is the baby boom currently taking place – we are seeing some newborns that look like cross between Shrek and piglets!
A shy yet volatile black rhino peers at us from behind dense vegetation, compared to this more confident white rhino that steps forward to inspect us.
Elephants: Elephant sightings have been excellent – especially of breeding herds with their young ones. A highlight of one of the boat cruises was watching about 15 elephants swimming in the mouth of the Nyamasikana River. Several bulls, either alone or with a couple of ‘askaris’, have been seen on a daily basis.
Buffalo: There are some huge congregations of buffalo about, numbering well into the hundreds. Guests have been enjoying watching them as they feed, deal with herd politics, and nurse their young.
The associated bird activity with a herd is also fascinating– the oxpeckers combing through hairy hides and tick birds catching flushed insects as the beasts stir up the undergrowth.
Wild dogs: The wild dogs have been giving us the run around – but the great news is that they are on the reserve and are busy denning. Guide Japhet Diza spent six days hunting every corner of the property for them until he eventually caught up with them chasing a leopard through thick bush. It seems that two females are pregnant, which is very rare, so we look forward to seeing the pups and what dynamic plays out.
Hyenas: Hyenas are most often encountered along the road, at dawn or dusk, as they set about their nocturnal activities.
This one was seen eating scraps at the base of a tree. One can surmise that a leopard may have hoisted a small kill in the night, and small bits had fallen to the base of the tree trunk. An opportunistic hyena, with their incredible sense of smell would have made quick work of any leftovers.
Plains game: Common plains game sightings have been plentiful, while the more timid members such as sable, hartebeest and eland are enjoying their specialist diet deep within the thickets.
Unusual sightings: There have been quite a few unusual sightings since the reopening of the lodge this month. There was a great viewing of a Cape clawless otter fishing in the dam, a beautiful sighting of a serval cat – they look like small versions of cheetahs, and this distant sighting of an African wild cat – the long-legged common ancestor of all domestic cats around the world.