Those aren’t typos – the maximum temperature recorded was 46,1˚C (114,9˚F) and the average maximum was 35,0˚C (95,0˚F), and it is bone dry! That means one thing re wildlife sightings and where to look, which is at the permanent waterpoints and in the shady spots along the river. It’s not an exaggeration to say the sightings have been epic as a result. Most drives have been leaving the lodge really early and guests are back in air-conditioned comfort by 09:00, bursting with stories and photographs of all they saw. A quick tally from one morning drive resulted in a total of 21 animal species being seen.
A Sightings Snapshot for October follows:
Crashes of white rhinos have been converging on the water sources in great numbers. While enjoying a sundowner glass of wine at a pan, guests had nine white rhinos join them.
Black rhino sightings have been prolific thanks to the lack of dense cover. Highlights have been:
Watching a bull black rhino sleeping under a bush, and not waking him.
Seeing a cow black rhino feeding on a euphorbia tree.
Having a black rhino cow and calf investigate us as we sat in silence for over 15 minutes.
Good sightings have been had of lone bulls and breeding herds. Special moments were had with a breeding herd of well over 100 elephants west of Kayeni; and watching one big tusker pulverising a mopane tree near Chikwete.
The River Pride of nine has been the most active – well, that’s when they are not fast asleep, which is often! There was a mating pair this month, so we’ll keep an eye on the calendar 110 days from now. The pride killed an old bull giraffe towards the end of the month which provided an enormous meal for them, and subsequently hyenas and wild dogs. All is well with the Southern Pride and their cubs.
Interesting lion moments include seeing a lioness walk across our high Malilangwe Dam wall, like a tightrope walker. Also, going in search of a leopard at its kill site, and instead of the leopard we found lions there that also seemed to be sniffing about for the leopard or its kill.
October is definitely the best month for the chances of seeing a leopard. Several sightings have been had of them drinking at pans, or with impala kills hoisted in trees along the river – sometimes in close proximity of one another. Often, lurking on the ground, are opportunistic hyenas. The usually elusive cats have been sighted on the shoreline from the boat cruises too. Leopards have even been spotted on the way to or during bush walks. On one occasion guide and guests encountered a huge male leopard silhouetted against the skyline on top of a hill, and at first mistook it for a lioness due to his size. On another bush walk outing to view the Chinzwini rock art, a female leopard appeared from the rocks, saw the group and then went to sleep on the rocks near a prominent baobab tree. We are delighted that the male leopard reported on last month has been seen at Hwata pan again, and is still behaving in a relaxed manner – he was sitting right on top of the photo hide at the pan while two spotted hyenas and two white rhinos were drinking!
Yes! Our two cheetah brothers have been seen hunting and resting in our open areas.
Very sadly our precious pack of 22 wild dogs now only numbers 19. We are not sure what the causes of deaths have been but we are monitoring them and will always do our best to protect these critically endangered animals. Unfortunately, a high rate of mortality is common with new litters. Highlights with the pack this month have been watching them fight over their impala carcass with spotted hyenas; seeing them scavenge off the dead giraffe that the lions had killed; and watching them kill a Lichtenstein hartebeest calf at Hwata but then losing it to hyenas.
Large herds and lone individuals are seen on a daily basis kicking up dust as they trek towards water.
The hyenas clans are especially strong and dominant at the moment. They also fed on the giraffe that the lions killed, after chasing away the wild dogs. As mentioned they are giving the leopards and wild dogs a hard time by appearing out of nowhere when there is a kill and the opportunity of a free meal around, such is their successful strategy of survival.
There is so much to see, including kudu, giraffe, wildebeest, warthog, impala, duiker, sable, eland and hartebeest.
Boat cruises & fishing
In addition to birds, hippos and crocodiles that you might expect to see on a water safari we have enjoyed sightings of a black rhino lying in the mud along the shoreline, four lions sunning themselves on the bank, and a Cape clawless otter feeding on a catfish. The fishing has been great to – on one expedition we landed a total of five good-sized tiger fish, one 3 kg catfish and a 1 kg bream.
Walks & rock art
It’s the best time to walk – as long as you go early to avoid the heat. Walks can be taken for the enjoyment of the finer details, or to specifically track certain species, or to view our rock art sites. On one tracking walk we tracked lions for about 1,5 km and found them sleeping under a bush. After that we saw lots of plains game and a few buffalo bulls. On a rock art walk we also saw a big male black rhino, and found a new rock art site near the dam.
Some fantastic day trips to Gonarezhou National Park have been undertaken – these are full days where we only get back to the lodge at about 17:00. On one trip, including the drive through our Malilangwe Reserve, we saw in this order: two male lions, a cow and calf white rhino, a herd of 300 buffalo, elephant bulls, waterbuck, kudu, impala, crocodiles, zebra, hippos, 12 buffalo bulls, a leopard on a termite mound who was then joined by her two grown cubs, numerous elephants, giraffe, wildebeest, steenbok, kudu, eland, zebra and baboons. And the list went on! After lunch we did an on-foot approach to an elevated position above 13 elephant bulls mud bathing, where we went unnoticed at five metres. In total for the day over 200 elephants were seen.