This month has closed the year with some good rainfall and lots of new life… to be seen out on the central plains, at this time of writing, are lots of baby impalas, baby zebras, baby wildebeest as well as baby black-backed jackals. But before we dive into 2018 let’s take a look at what the wild closing chapters of 2017 had to offer:
Lions: On Christmas day three kings gave our guests a gift to remember… One lion and two lionesses were on the side of the road, close to the safari vehicles, and roared in chorus. Then, for the encore, the male and one of the females surprised us all by mating, with an array of growls, hissing and spitting that accompany the act.
Elephants: There have been many bull elephants to be seen. Harder to find are the breeding herds, but what a delight when we do! One of the herds seen was of about 60 elephants, and they were feeding with their babies.
Rhinos: Awesome rhino sightings as always. On a couple of occasions white rhinos and their young calves have joined guests on their sundowner stops. One afternoon drive tallied up sightings of 22 white rhinos, two black rhinos, three elephant bulls, a leopard, a breeding herd of elephants all around the vehicle, and many common mammal species.
The highlight sighting of black rhinos was when Japhet Diza and his guests saw a pair mating at Nduna Dam.
Buffalos: Again, Nduna Dam was the scene for high drama, when lions found a sick buffalo there. Guests watched the lions trying to catch the buffalo, but it was a stalemate as the buffalo retreated into the water and stayed there, where the lions were reluctant to pursue it. Later in the night another small breeding herd of buffalo came to drink, and the lions hunted them instead, finally killing a female from the herd.
Wild dogs: Fortunately, there have been a few sightings of a pack. One was when they were relaxing on the riverbed of the Chiredzi and guests were able to enjoy their sundowners while watching them.
Cheetah: We’ve had good sightings of the two males this month. The highlight was when Bulisani Mathe got a call of two male cheetahs lying close to the airstrip; “We quickly made our way there and found them resting. After viewing them for a while we left and saw three wildebeest females, each with babies. We stopped and viewed them as they were posing perfectly for pictures. While watching them they took off in high speed as if they had seen predators. Watching them run we saw the cheetahs also taking off in a chase towards the wildebeest. They all disappeared in the thickets, but we searched and found the cheetahs already feeding on one of the wildebeest babies. We sat at the sighting as we had a good view of the kill until it got dark.”
Leopards: Most of the leopard sightings have been at night, as you’d expect for these nocturnal cats, when they have been hunting or going to drink. But, there was also a sighting of a lovely relaxed female leopard seen resting in the open at the junction of Pipeline and Orphan roads.
Christmas day really delivered because a hyena was seen lying waiting in the road, which led us to spotting the source of its interest being a male leopard with a baby wildebeest kill, up a tree.
Read the full wildlife report here: Singita Pamushana Wildlife Report December 2017
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.