Rain, glorious rain… wait a second, was that it? As quickly as the rain arrived, it just as quickly dissipated, settling the dust and replenishing a few shallow dried mud pools that last only a day or two before evaporating during the midday warmth. Well, as brief as it was, it was glorious. The evening sounds echoed through the bush. Thunder rolled in close and far for several hours before we heard the pitter-patter of drops falling on the dry earth. It was the melodic sounds we had all been waiting for. The next day felt like the bush had been cleansed, the dust was settled and the bush was washed with the brief winter rainfall. As most people recount of their trips to Africa, it’s the smell of rain that is invigorating, and oh what a sensory experience to watch the bush come alive – even if it was only for a short while.
Here’s a highlights package of the month’s sightings:
Leopards: The Hlab’Nkunzi female leopard has been very busy interacting with the Nyelethi male leopard, and mating ensued for at least three days. During one of our morning game drives the N’weti male was seen in close proximity of the two mating leopards, much to the disapproval of his mother, the Hlab’Nkunzi female leopard. After a few days she was seen roaring and contact calling for the young male, instinctively looking for her offspring and making up for her aggressive behaviour. Perhaps this was a way of saving her male offspring to avoid having contact with the dominant male being in the area, considering the N’weti male should be independent based on his current age? Fortunately it is a highlight viewing two leopards at one sighting and this young male and his mother have been spending much time within a fairly short distance of the lodges, adding highlights to our encounters with them when they are together.
African wild dogs: The wild dog pack of eight adults have moved their den-site on two occasions this month, and fortunately the pack returned to an old den-site that has been incredibly rewarding for guests and guides alike. We can never get enough of these magnificent creatures. On several occasions they have been viewed within the lodge perimeter, predominantly hunting nyala, bushbuck and impala, all of which are capitalising on the nutritional vegetation within the area around the lodges. The pack and their seven puppies has been extremely successful with their hunts, acquiring the majority of their prey in close proximity to the Sand River.
Lions: The powerful but ageing coalition of Majingalane male lions continue to dominate our sightings of male lions. They have been sighted with the Othawa pride, with two of the male lions courting the two remaining lionesses. An interesting dynamic is that three sub-adult lions are accompanying the two lionesses, considering that hyenas killed their mother several months ago. The two dominant males have been tolerating the presence of these sub-adults.
Buffaloes: A large number of old male buffalo bulls have started to permanently reside within the lodge perimeters. The grazing material around the lodges continues to draw in large mammals and the buffalo bulls are quite comfortable within the surroundings. These robust animals always amaze us with their size at close quarters. It has definitely added to excitement when returning from our walking trails knowing these large beasts are generally encountered from a safe distance upon our return.
Elephants: The larger herds of elephant have been sporadic this month, with more sightings of smaller groups and notably very few bull elephants amongst the groups that we have encountered. Larger herds have been reported along the Sand River in the south-east and the irony is that there is less grazing material in the area resulting in more trees being pushed over or stripped of their bark for a suitable food source.
Hippos: With the limited water resources amongst the hippo population it is inevitable that someone is going to get into a fight when you are not the dominant male of the area. This hippo bull stood outside the water along the banks of the Sand River in the early morning not moving much. The night must have been incredibly stressful as the honks, screeches and whooping sounds of hippos fighting could be heard throughout the night from Singita Ebony Lodge. The river crossing in view of the lodge currently has an average of 50 hippos in the pod actively feeding on the river banks in the evening.
Birds: Our total species recorded for the month is 199, with a few specials being: white headed, lappet-faced and Cape vultures. For the water birds it was the ruffous-bellied heron and African Finfoot. We suspect that a pair of secretary birds is nesting in the south. There have also been two sightings of a pair of juvenile lanner falcons.