It was a promising start at the beginning of October, as we woke up with overcast and cool conditions that soon resulted in light rainfall. The rain lasted only for a day; it settled the dust and dampened the dry earth. The smell was invigorating; it was Africa at its best. The cooler conditions prevailed throughout the month and the earth soon dried up and thus has resulted in the Sand River completely drying up with a few small pools of water remaining along its course. Dry season allows guests to experience wildlife in larger herd numbers with greater predator versus prey interactions. With the mass movement of the larger herds, the dust increases allowing for spectacular sunsets of deep pinks, oranges, reds and purples as dusk descends. The first migrant birds have already appeared from the north, weavers begin breeding, it is a bountiful time of the year.
A highlights package of the month’s sightings follows.
Lions: With recent rain, it was the first sight of water falling from the sky for many of the litters that have been born within the latter part of this year. It was a touching moment to watch. The cubs are doing well in both of the most frequently viewed prides, namely the Mhangene and Othawa prides.
Leopards: It is starting to get very interesting with all of the leopard action at the moment. It actually has been difficult to keep up. A recent visit from the Kashane male leopard resulted in watching him hunt water monitor lizards along the drainage line, with success of course. As this large brute of a male leopard has moved out of the area and only recently returned for temporary visits, it always is a special encounter, as we all know him so well. The Hlab’Nknzi female and her young male offspring are frequently sighted along the Sand River, in addition to her daughter the Schotia female and her young male cub. The leopards are definitely capitalising on the abundance of wildlife stretching along the course of the Sand River. With the lack of water running through the sandy soil, grasses have rooted and the greenery has attracted various herbivorous species.
Elephants: Within the last week four large groups of elephants converged just west of the lodges which had the number of individuals exceeding well over one hundred. It was a noisy commotion along the muddy riverbed, as the elephants quenched their thirst and cooled themselves down, splashing mud behind their ears. Some of the younger elephants decided to roll in the mud as this seemed more appropriate… and a lot more fun!
Hyenas: An active den-site has been found this month and we are in awe as to how many hyenas often gather around these very social mounds. With cubs of different ages, it often results in activity of interactive behaviour between the ranking orders.
Birds: The total bird count for the month of October was 191. Specials for the month included the return of the lesser spotted eagle, Jacobins cuckoo and a congregation of marabou, yellow-bill, saddle-bill, black and woolly-necked storks feeding at Pios crossing.