The moment the first raindrop of the season splashes down it changes the earth, and I love being out catching these moments – when a paper-dry seed pod becomes sodden and its seeds swell and burst their skin; or when a tuft of bright green grass forces its way through the baked mud.
Wildlife overview for December:
Lions: Lions were seen almost daily in December, be they lone males or one of the prides that has four adult lionesses, two adult males, sub-adult cubs and small cubs. Our guests have watched them hunting, eating mating, grooming, playing – and, of course, doing what lions do best, sleeping.
Leopards: It’s been a fantastic month for seeing leopards! One morning we decided to follow two hyenas that, with the help of a black-backed jackal, led us to a male leopard, in an umbrella thorn tree, where he had hoisted his kill of a zebra foal. He dined on it over the course of a few days, while several hyenas circled below, silently urging the leopard to drop the carcass. Another great sighting was of a leopard descending a tree where it had stashed an impala carcass, and walking right past the game-viewing vehicle as guests clicked away with their cameras. If one leopard at a time is not enough that problem has been solved twice this month – two leopards where seen in close proximity to each other, one stalking a porcupine of all prickly subjects, and the other stalking impalas. Then there were the guests that got to see a female leopard within one minute of leaving the lodge carpark. They spent time with her, watching her trying to hunt, and then, when they left the scene, they saw a male leopard on the first road they turned onto!
Elephants: It’s great to see the fragmented herds group together again now that the grazing and browsing is green. There were about 150 in a herd that were drinking and feeding at Lojaan dam. An unusual sighting, and certainly one you don’t want to get in the way of, was coming across a breeding herd in the dark, on our way back to the lodge, that included a pair of elephants mating right in front of the vehicle.
Hyenas: The one species that dominates the sightings reports for the month is hyena. There is an extremely powerful and prosperous clan, and the core of their territory is in central lowlands area where there are many roads. Here we’ve seen hyenas kill and feed on a wildebeest, zebra and a waterbuck in December.
Rhinos: If it is your dream to see wild, free-roaming, healthy and well-protected rhinos, then it’s time you booked a safari to Singita Pamushana! Our sightings of both black and white rhinos for December have been excellent, as usual.
Buffalos: We’ve enjoyed seeing the buffalo herds feast on the flush of grass. A highlight was seeing a newly born buffalo calf learning to walk while the mother watched over it in a very defensive mood.
Wild dogs: We didn’t see the pack for a long period, but then, with relief, we found 24 of them, all in very good condition.
The pack with all the pups totalled 27, so it is possible that some have broken away and gone on their own in search of a new pack.
Cheetah: Cheetah sightings have been extremely scarce this month – it is certainly much harder to spot them in the long grass.
Plains game: There are so many impala babies everywhere! One morning our Banyini area looked more like the Serengeti! There were more than 100 zebras, 40 giraffes, 10 hyenas, several wildebeest and lots of impalas. There’ve been good sightings of eland, sable and Lichtenstein’s hartebeest too. The very next day after the zebra mare lost her foal to a leopard, her life was taken by hyenas. In some sort of possible retribution, we later saw three hyenas being chased off an old kill by a herd of zebras.
Read the full wildlife report here: Singita Pamushana Wildlife Report December 2016
A call crackled over the radio that the tracking team had found the River Pride on a buffalo kill near Hwata Pan. “Bonanza!” I thought. Not only because this would provide good photo opportunities of lions feeding in relatively open area, and the clean-up crew of hyenas and vultures that would make no bones of the carcass over the next few days, but mainly because Hwata Pan is where we have our sunken photo hide, and the lions would have to go and drink there at some stage during the feeding frenzy. I’ve waited for 10 years to get a shot of a predator drinking at eye level to me from this hide – could this be the chance at last?
The Malilangwe Dam is an amazing fishing destination. The most sought out species are tigerfish and tilapia.The best times of the year for fishing is when the water is warm – a good reminder is good fishing months all have an “r” in them from September to April. That said, we have still been enjoying some great fishing now in May – all the photos in this story are from early May.
It is most satisfying watching elephants enjoying a mud bath! It starts off with the approaching walk, an elephant has when making his/her way to the water source. To describe it, I would have to say it’s an excited, exaggerated, fast walk while bobbing their heads up and down and to the sides at the same time. We call it ‘the water walk’. Even for the novice person you can pick up the excitement of the elephant looking forward to a thirst-quenching cool drink, usually followed by refreshing mud bath.
I was camped out again, on my favourite dam wall that offers a good vantage point and a relatively safe refuge from the vehicle. I was trying to tell myself that really it was an afternoon of birding – just sitting quietly with binos and a bird book and trying to ID whatever came along, and enjoying the isolation and peace. But really what I wanted and hoped and wished for was a solitary black rhino.