One of my favourite lines is, “If it’s not about elephants it’s irrelephant,” and indeed I could fill this month’s journal with elephant stories alone, like the bull in the photo above who almost perfectly replicated the ‘S’ of Singita’s logo while joyfully squirting water from his trunk. However, the diversity of our wildlife and wilderness, and the viewing of it, is at it’s best at the moment. The land is dry, the grass low, and many of the treetops are still wearing an autumn crown, but the animals are drawn to the permanent water sources so all you need do is make sure your visit these on drive and you will be rewarded with wonderful sightings.
Here’s an overview for July:
African wild dogs: The pack has not shown us their pups yet! We don’t approach a den-site at all in order to make sure no vehicle track is made that might make it easier for hyenas or lions to follow, find and then kill the pups. We’ve seen the alpha female out hunting with the pack, so the pups must be quite big by now, and it must be any day soon that we’ll see the pack taking the pups out on their first hunting lesson.
The highlight of the month was when the pack was out hunting and chased an impala to Sosigi Dam. There the impala sped into the water for safety, but alas a crocodile lay in wait beneath the muddy water and stole the unlucky impala for itself. The wild dogs stood on the shore, not daring to venture into the water, and looked on in bewilderment as the crocodile clamped its toothy jaws on their prey and ate it.
Lions: Interesting times – there’s mating going on in at least two of the prides, young cubs are out and about, and the coalition of three young strong males are restlessly biding their time on the outskirts of the established pride territories. Thanks to our dedicated and extremely accurate lion tracking team almost all guests that spend a few days with us will get to see lions. How our team of trackers is able to follow a lion’s invisible footsteps through dense bush and grassland is often beyond me.
Leopards: Glimpses of these elusive cats have been tantalising yet infrequent, making them even more special when they do happen.
Cheetahs: This month we’ve enjoyed excellent sightings of the two pairs of male coalitions, and the ‘sort-tail female’ that we see regularly.
Hyenas: Predator numbers peak and fall in the natural cycle, and now it seems the hyenas have the advantage. There are a number of successful clans with cubs covering the property. They are putting huge pressure on the wild dogs, and on one occasion this month I saw the dogs out hunting at night being trailed by five hyenas. As soon as the dogs make a kill the hyenas try to steal it – and are often successful, being much larger stronger animals. Fights break out, injuries occur and hunters go hungry.
Rhinos: White rhino mothers take their young calves into the grasslands in the early evening hours. Due to the efforts of generous individuals and teams our population of black and white rhinos are able to thrive in this sanctuary.
Elephants: You simply couldn’t miss seeing elephants on each and every drive this month. Bulls are monopolising the waterholes and the cow herds are feeding in the denser areas while trying to maintain law and order amongst their calves and the young delinquent males.
Plains game: Excellent sightings of the more common plains game such as impala, zebra, wildebeest and giraffe have been had, but there have also been several sights of the rarer species such as sable, eland and Lichtenstein hartebeest.
Buffaloes: Most safari vehicles or cruise boats have encountered a few buffalo bulls on each outing this month, and it is fascinating to notice their individual cantankerous characters. These two were grazing on the banks of the shore as we went for a sundowner cruise. However, when guests notice dust on the horizon you can be sure it is a breeding herd of buffalo on their way to the water. We’ve seen herds of 600 strong this month.
Special sightings: We’ve had quite a few sightings of a young honey badger, as well as porcupines, civets, genets and even a striped polecat!
Birds: It’s encouraging to notice all the nest building going on at the moment – especially by the raptors such as crowned eagles, African hawk-eagles and white-backed vultures. Mesmerising are the murmurations of millions of red-billed queleas flying in whirling, ever-changing ribbon-like movements that carry on for several minutes.
Read the full wildlife report here: Singita Pamushana Wildlife Report July 2016
It’s so satisfying to feed off the excitement of guests seeing some of Africa’s wildlife for the first time, and this was no exception as we trundled down a track and they spotted a rhino. It turned out to be a black rhino which are known to be far more volatile in nature than white rhinos. This one, however, didn’t charge us or race off into the bushes a second later, instead it slowly circled around assessing us.
We left the lodge at the crack of dawn and thought we were the early birds, but other birds were already out there scouting about. As is the norm I announced my call sign over the radio, and got a response from Jenny telling me about the presence of a breeding herd of elephants on the Pamushana Access Road. On hearing this
The cheetah brothers came from of a litter of five cubs – three males and two females. Their mother was an amazing hunter and she managed to raise all five. When the time came the mother cheetah left her young ones to fend for themselves, and she went on to produce another litter. The cubs did very well for some months and the two females left the area as is normal to go and start their new life in new lands. The three males were fine for almost two and half years, but one morning we discovered that one of the boys was missing in action. There was no need to ask ourselves what happened because you could see the soulful bereft looks on the faces of the remaining two – they kept calling and calling for their brother until they realised there would never be an answer; their brother had died and they would never be a coalition of three again.
I decided to leave the lodge before sunrise at 5.15am. My plan was to drive directly south to Hwata Pan, to not pass Begin and not collect $200. Hwata Pan is an active waterhole due to it having permanent water in an otherwise dry area, and I wanted to see if I could find a nocturnal drinker. I was determined not to be distracted by anything else, and made good progress on the chilly drive as I glugged steamy sips of Zimbabwean coffee from my flask.