July is one of our busiest months for safaris – the bush is dry and fairly sparse, the animals are drawn to waterholes, and the weather is chilly in the mornings but wonderfully warm during the daytime. When the moon has been full and bright some of our guests have enjoyed late night wildlife viewing from the comfort of our sunken photographic hide at a well-frequented waterhole.
It’s an excellent time to enjoy bush walks with all of our experienced guides, and since the baobabs are hanging heavy with fruit many a walk has been interrupted by trying to dislodge fruit with thrown sticks, and enjoying the white fizzy seeds from the fallen fruit.
Here’s a Sightings Snapshot for July:
Most of the lion sightings have been of the Southern and River Prides.
The Southern Pride’s three cubs are looking chubby and healthy.
Some interesting kills have been on the lions’ menu this month, including eland and giraffe.
There have been some wonderful sightings of relaxed leopards including one at Croc Creek, a male strolling along the water’s edge while guests were enjoying a boat cruise, and a mother and her cub on the banks of the Chiredzi River.
Some drives have achieved ‘Big Five One Drive’ status when the usually elusive leopard has put in an appearance.
We’ve been privileged to see the coalition of two cheetahs again. They were trying to hunt impala but were unsuccessful when a giraffe interfered and gave them away!
We haven’t seen pups yet, but hope that the pack we’ve been seeing has a den overflowing with little snappy faces at this time, and that soon they will be out on hunting forays with the adults.
The pack has made many impala kills this month, as well as a nyala. They also set their sights on an adult female kudu, but the alert antelope gave them the slip.
Now that the grass is low there have been several excellent sightings of large breeding herds, some numbering about 70 elephants, with lots of tiny babies.
Big bull elephants can be seen at almost any hour of the day enjoying the water and mud of the various pans.
Some enormous congregations of buffalo herds have been seen this month. No sooner did we think a herd of 300 was big when a few days later it was eclipsed by a herd of about 700!
This sounds implausible, but it’s true – a crash of 16 white rhinos were seen together, with 25 being seen in total at that afternoon sighting.
One safari outing decided to leave the lodge with a packed dinner and sit out of the vehicle at about 100 metres from the most popular rhino and elephant waterhole, on a full moon evening. The highlights were two very close encounters with different elephant bulls, mere metres from the group, and multiple small groups of white rhinos approaching, sometimes coming within 10 metres of the awe-struck guests. By the time the group left late at night, they had seen 32 white rhinos, 2 black rhinos, over 10 elephants and 2 buffalos.
There are also some adorable newborn white rhino calves to be seen at the moment.
Black rhino sightings have also been great, a highlight being three specimens that strolled up to inspect the Land Cruiser and its occupants!
Some guests had the once-in-a-lifetime experience of being invited by our conservation team to watch and participate in the darting, ear marking and DNA sampling of three rhinos. They got stuck in with jobs like holding up shade for the animals, cooling them with sprays and monitoring the oxygen supplies. It was a truly special experience for all.
A clan of hyenas has been seen with some young bear-like cubs near one of our main game-drive roads.
A rather macabre sight was seeing vultures feeding on a dead hyena – its cause of death unknown.
An unusual sight was of five hyenas on the runway chasing each other for a piece of baboon meat!
The common species of impala, zebra and wildebeest abound, as well as giraffe – one of which is a gangly newborn!
There have also been good sightings of the rarer plains game such as a herd of six Lichtenstein’s hartebeest and about 12 sable antelope.
A rare sighting of a bushy-tailed mongoose.
A warthog dashing out of a previously used hyena den-hole.
A relaxed sunbathing adult otter who could not be bothered about the safari boat or its camera-clicking occupants.
Two porcupines taking an evening stroll.
Boat cruises & fishing
These have been enjoyed by all, especially when they include moments like a hippo doing a full spinning water dance, an 11-foot crocodile contemplating life, a breeding herd of elephants on the banks and watching three wild dogs chase impala into the dam!
Despite the cold water there has still been some fishing success.
Walks & rock art
It’s the best time to walk, and these have been immensely enjoyed by adventurous guests. Calmer walks have included sneaking up to the largest baobab tree on the property, while more adrenalin-filled ones have had close encounters with white rhinos and a pod of hippos making their way back to the water with a tiny baby in tow.
Walking to some of the many precious rock art sites on the reserve is a wonderful way to see the wilderness and learn more about our human ancestors.
It is always a pleasure to visit the Kambako Bushcraft Museum with Julius, as passionate as ever, edutaining guests with his bushcraft knowledge.