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
Recently, I was enjoying a game drive with my guests through an area called Banyini (loosely translating to ‘open grassland’). Most water sources are drying up as we are in the dry season, with the bigger water systems holding water longer, such as the Banyini Pan. As a result most animals will frequent these points to hydrate and, with that, so will the predators lurk while looking for opportunities to come to them. Naturally this is a great place for us to explore, looking for the animals and the action…
Waterbuck in these parts tend to live in small herds of six to twelve, sometimes more, with one dominant male who defends the territory. We have a small herd of seven waterbuck which live around Sosigi Dam. Two females are pictured here in the early morning light, on the bank of the dam. Only the males have horns.
Buffalo are not very high up on many safari guests list of animals to watch, however they can be an interesting species to observe. This particular afternoon we were off the beaten track looking for rhinos. The roads led us to Lojaan Dam, a quiet little corner in the central east of our property. Just before we got to the dam we bumped into the start of a breeding herd of buffalo, that were heading to the water to drink.