The wildlife sightings have been phenomenal! The land is parched, the grass is crackling and trees draw on their last reserves to bud and sprout as flame creepers lick their limbs. The herbivores have no option but to make their way to the limited perennial water sources and the predators lazily lie in wait for the extended menu to arrive.
Lions: The Southern Pride have had a record month of hunting buffalo. Hungry hyenas have been hassling
them, but the pride males have kept them at bay.
A mating pair was spotted and a real show ensued with snarling, bared teeth, growling and action.
One of the Nduna Pride males has been in a fight with other lions and injured his front left leg.
Leopards: Leopard spotting in this sparse landscape has been good – particularly of a female and her cub in the rocky outcrops near the lodge. The mother is catching dassies for the youngster and teaching it to hunt this plentiful food source for itself. The father was seen briefly with them near our helipad.
Following up on drag marks that led across a road towards a big nyala berry tree resulted in finding an impala carcass hoisted in the branches, with a leopard sleeping in the upper reaches. Approaching silently the guide and guests got to within 25 metres and watched the undisturbed cat for over 20 minutes.
Cheetah: The two male cheetahs that we see regularly did reveal themselves for a few days this month, on the open hunting areas.
Hyenas: Hyenas have been highly visible, especially in the vicinity of lions on a kill or around the pack of wild dogs.
We suspect there is an active den-site in the Hunter’s Road region as a female that looks to be nursing has been seen there regularly.
Wild dogs: The pack now numbers eight adults and seven puppies. The pups are about six months old. This is the alpha pair’s first litter of puppies, and while life-threatening mistakes are being made they are learning fast and are now leaving one of the adults with the puppies when the others disperse during a chase-down hunt. One adult is injured but seems to be coping.
Elephants: Every safari guest saw bull elephants this month. They are monopolising the water sources.
A bull we used to recognise by his magnificent ivory has broken one tusk clean in half.
Breeding herds have been much harder to see as they are staying in the dense riverine vegetation.
Rhinos: Exceptionally good sightings of rhinos. Large clans of white rhinos are seen, especially at dusk and dawn, near waterholes. Even gatherings of black rhinos are being seen together. Four were spotted in a drainage line – a mother and calf and two young bulls. The black rhinos prefer to drink before sunrise and after sunset.
A highlight, while on a sunset cruise, was seeing a black rhino eating the fallen fruit of a sausage tree and then suddenly charging into the water and causing an enormous spray of water to drench the boat and passengers!
Buffalos: Buffalos need to drink every day, and so if you are patient enough at this time you can be sure to see a herd of about 600 traipsing toward our main permanent pan near the grasslands.
Plains game: There are abundant giraffes, zebras, impala and wildebeest about as well as sightings of sable, Lichtenstein’s hartebeest and eland.
A dead baby giraffe baby was found, being fed on by a lioness, but the interpretation of the tracks on the ground told the story that a leopard had made the kill, and the lioness had chased off the leopard.
•A male African wild cat marking territory on the airstrip, and a giant eagle owl landing nearby and killing a crowned lapwing.
•A serval trying to hunt birds as they flew by or took off from the ground.
•Six bush pigs during daylight.
•A bushy-tailed mongoose (Bdeogale crassicauda).
• A rare and elusive oribi (Ourebia ourebi).
Birds: Highlights have been the migrants arriving, a scops owl in a nest, a female scarlet-chested sunbird feeding a chick, an African rail, Senegal lapwing and a Pel’s fishing owl in flight.
Fishing: Tight lines all round as the water has warmed up – plenty of bream are being landed and tigerfish are putting up an aggressive fight. A large Mozambican bream weighed in at 2.8 kg (6.17 lbs).
Boat cruises: Sunset and sunrise cruises have revealed a treasure chest of birds and hippos, as well as elephants, black rhinos and leopards on the shoreline.
Rock art: These stone canvasses have stood the test of time for at least 700 hundred years, and continue to awe guests as they relive the lives of the hunter-gatherer artists who were the custodians of this land.
Walks in the wild: It’s a great time to do safari walks because the vegetation is dry and sparse. Guests have enjoyed
scenic walks as well as tracking and approaching game on foot.
Day trips and community visits: Full day trips into the Gonarezhou National Park took place, with views of the famous Chilojo Cliffs and the famed elephants of the area.
Guests have also enjoyed visits to Kambako – the Living Museum of Bushcraft.