When you have an afternoon of seeing four of the big five within an hour of your game drive, including a leopard relaxing on top of a hill, it’s wonderful to hear a request from guests for a quieter drive looking out for the smaller creatures. We indulged in the finer details of plants, termites and their relationship with fungi, watching a male red-crested korhaan doing his mating display dance, jacanas feeding in a stream surrounded by yellow flowers, magpie shrikes squabbling over spoils and went driving about visiting various baobabs. On the way back to the lodge in the dark we were treated to an African wild cat and spotted genet.
A Sightings Snapshot for August follows:
As always there have been daily sightings of white and black rhinos, and it’s especially gratifying to see some of the little calves about at the moment.
One group that went out specifically looking for black rhinos found five, made up of three different sightings.
Some very fortunate guests, in the right place at the right time, were invited by our Wildlife Department to watch, learn and participate in the ear notching of a young white rhino.
Excellent sightings of breeding herds, bulls and tuskers have been recorded. Highlights included:
A breeding herd of about 50 elephants crossing the river.
A breeding herd of elephants enjoying all aspects of their lives such as feeding, nursing babies, resting in the shade, mud bathing and drinking water. Guests spent three hours just watching this spectacle.
10 bull elephants drinking, splashing mud and trunk wrestling at a pan.
The tusker ‘Mapunzawire’ feeding in the phragmites beds along the river, with the sun setting.
We’ve had regular sightings of the River and Southern Prides, as well as the Northern Pride.
The Southern Pride’s three cubs are doing well and were seen feeding on a young buffalo.
There has been mating activity by one of the River Pride’s lionesses and the territorial male.
A River Pride lioness has a huge wound on her tail, possibly from an altercation with a hyena, but nobody knows for sure.
Most of the big kills made in the month have been of buffalo.
A rare (and expensive) meal was a bull sable. Interestingly the male lion did not eat much of the sable – it opened the stomach pulled out the contents and buried them, and then ate the liver, lungs and heart.
Guests have been serenaded by lion roars at night, while stargazing in the open-top Land Cruisers.
Various leopard sightings have been had, such as the relaxed female on a rock in West Valley Road, and a male leopard in the riverbed, but the most surprising was of a leopard on the doorstep of Singita Pamushana’s Villa 8!
The two male cheetahs were seen in different locations resting and hunting, but they had to wait their turn at a pan where guests, watching from the sunken photographic hide, saw eight elephants and fifteen buffalo bulls enjoying the water before the slender speedsters could get a sip.
There are pups! We know this because two wild dogs were tracked heading into the hills, and were eventually found at Mboweni Spring, where they presented a greysbok skull to the youngsters at a den-site. The pack was nervous of human presence so we are leaving them in peace until they are confident enough to let the pups run with them.
Buffalos in their hundreds have been seen having their daily drink during this hot dry weather.
A giraffe was born this month, but was very weak and sickly. Hyenas gathered around the calf that couldn’t stand, but its mother defended it bravely and kept driving the hyenas off. Eventually the calf died and was eaten by about 20 hyenas.
All the usual suspects of impala, zebra, wildebeest and giraffe are very plentiful, but it has been lovely to see the less plentiful plains game such as sable and Lichtenstein’s hartebeest with their newborn babies this month.
An unusual sighting was when guide and tracker came across a large snake track in the soil and followed it, on foot, to the base of a nyala berry tree. They scanned the tree carefully and saw a black mamba head peering at them from a hollow.
Boat cruises & fishing
It’s wonderful to share a sundowner on the water, at the end of a safari day, with about 35 hippos!
The fishing has been getting better and better as the weather and the water warms up. Catfish, bream and tigerfish have been caught – the biggest tiger was just under 2 kg (4 lbs).
Walks & rock art
It’s the best time to walk with the vegetation so dry and sparse. Guide and tracker took one set of guests on a walk to track lions. They managed to find them and walked with them for a long while which paid off as the lions hunted and killed a small mammal (unseen by the walkers) and ate it.