Day 1 of 2019’s sighting report reads as follows, “What an amazing way of starting a new year – it was like someone had opened the gates for the animals! We drove to Hwata Pan and spotted eight hyenas swimming in the water, while nearby a big male leopard lay sleeping in the shade and a few metres from him were another three hyenas. We proceeded along Mahande Loop and found the Southern Pride of lions with three very shy cubs. As we drove on we saw ten white rhinos sleeping under thorn trees. Two elephant bulls were also in the same area.”
Weather-wise we’ve had high temperatures and false promises of rain resulting, worryingly, in wilting grass.
Most of the sightings have been of the River Pride, pushing quite far east of their core territory in the west, and of the Southern Pride. One of the Southern Pride males that has a limp has again injured his hind legs.
The tortoise population is being terrorised by the lions and it’s game over for them if they don’t stay inside their shells.
A highlight one afternoon was when we were with the Southern Pride at a waterhole. A herd of zebra approached and were unaware of the lions. The lions were in position to hunt, but before they could do so a pack of wild dogs, also unaware of the lions, came jogging towards the water for a drink. Before they lapped a sip one of the lionesses bolted towards the dogs, and they shotgunned off through the bushes with an explosion of barks and yelps. Needless to say the lions’ whole hunt was spoiled.
We’ve had a lot of brief leopard sightings this month, and it is probably due to their golden camouflage not being as effective against all the shades of green. A couple of longer sightings were finding an adult female relaxing in a rain tree, along the river’s edge; and a large male with a wildebeest calf kill in the drier southern area.
There is a beautiful little female that has been seen repeatedly in the central areas, and is more relaxed than most of the leopards we find.
A clan has laid claim to a pan on our central areas and insists on exclusive bathing ritual rights. A commotion broke out when zebras challenged them, but the equids quickly reconsidered their options and thought better of it.
There are youngsters about and a lovely sighting was of the cubs suckling.
The two cheetah brothers were seen trying to hunt baby wildebeest, but a herd of zebras blocked them and the wildebeest managed to run away with their little ones.
There are many big bulls out and about, while the breeding herds with their babies tend to stay well hidden in the thickets.
A highlight of one of the boat cruises was seeing an elephant bull swim across the dam.
Excellent white rhino sightings – there was a total of 14 seen in one central area on one drive.
A very rare sightings was of a pair of black rhinos mating.
Large herds abound of up to 700 individuals coming and going from their daily drinking spot.
Two packs have been seen this month – one of 13 that denned on the property, and another of five that made a brief foray into our reserve before venturing back into the Gonarezhou National Park.
Some Lichtenstein hartebeest brazenly ignored the Southern Pride that were passed out under bushes because it was so hot. The hartebeest knew that the lions were not even going to try to hunt them in the intense heat.
A beautiful herd of sable antelope were seen in the north-eastern quadrant, with lots of lively youngsters.
All of the plains game have long-legged babies running at their side.
Some birds were mobbing a sleeping genet which didn’t appreciate the interference.
Starlings were also seen mobbing a 1.5 metre black mamba that was on the ground.
New birds for the area were a black egret and a glossy ibis.
Another highlight was a pair of crowned eagles near a known nesting site.
There has been some great fishing, and some huge bream have been landed. Tigerfish have even been caught on fly.
The fishing was so good for one group of guests that they changed its name to ‘Catching’. They were able to get enough fish from the plentiful dam for the lodge chefs to prepare in various ways for all guests to enjoy at dinner.
Walks and rock art
Because of the dense vegetation on the plains it is a good time to walk in the hills and visit various rock art sites. On one of these walks we encountered giraffe, buffalo bulls and a black rhino bull, and enjoyed climbing up to various points to take in the spectacular views.
Some exciting and informative Bush Stories follow, as well as a January Gallery of images.