Climate and Landscape
The grass around the Hwange waterholes is only just starting to thin out, and it looks like it’s going to be a good year with just the right balance of vegetation around for game to feed on, as well as enough water in the pans. The wild flowers are diminishing though – only a handful of colourful pockets in the drying landscape. The grass is a pale green fading to a yellow gold at the tips; this with the dew in the gradually chillier mornings makes for some lovely photographs.
May has been getting progressively cooler with mornings averaging just 9 ̊ Celsius and once dipping down to 5 ̊ Celsius! Winter is around the corner, but with midday temperatures still reaching a comfortable 28 ̊ Celsius we think we’re having a relatively easy introduction to the cold months. On a few days, just before sunrise, there was a thick blanket of mist over the pan in front of camp, disappearing into the tree line so that only the tops of the palms could be seen. Then the days cleared up and we would have beautiful clear blue skies. With the late rains this year, maybe winter will be late too – but the chairs around the fireplace in the evenings are creeping ever closer and the hot water bottles on game drives are being clung to for even longer!
May continued in the same high fashion that April ended on – the resident pride of lion remained in front of camp for a few days, and from the smallest cubs to the biggest males, they made their presence felt, even attempting to hunt a group of buffalo – with a captive audience of guests and staff on our new viewing deck. The lion sightings were good at the beginning of the month, then quietened down and because their presence was no longer in the area, other exciting game came into the limelight.
We had a couple of days which surpassed anyone’s wildest imaginations – on one occasion, guests were very excited to come upon the two male cheetah that patrol the vlei line in front of the old Linkwasha Camp, all the way down to Scott’s Pan. The two cheetah were snoozing in the deep shade of a leadwood tree. They were unperturbed by the game drive vehicle and the click of cameras and guests had a good sighting – then suddenly the guide noticed some movement in the tree above the cheetah – the flick of a tail gave away the presence of a leopard, camouflaged so perfectly in the mottled light between the leaves! This was an awesome spectacle which had everyone buzzing, but then the following day the lucky streak continued as two separate leopards were seen over the course of the day – one reclining on a termite mound and the other walking along the road before disappearing into the long grass. Then guests also caught up with the two black-maned lions in the concession, the two brothers making a handsome pair for photographs in the evening light. After a day like this, the guests on these drives were in their element as they drove back to camp – only to come across a pack of wild dog which played and ran and darted on and off the road in front of their vehicle on their way back into camp!
May was a really superb month with other sightings such as honey badgers on a few occasions – a glimpse into the lives of these confident little creatures as they march long the roads and stare down a Land Rover is testament to their no-nonsense attitude. Sable sightings have also been very good – the highlight being a herd of 14 which tore out of the tree line in front of Ostrich Pan. Everyone had their eyes peeled for predators until we realised that they were all playing, from the beautiful ebony male, to the smaller terracotta calves, they all galloped and chased each other for about an hour in the afternoon light. The great herds of buffalo also came back towards the middle and end of the month and the sight of these massive creatures ambling along the grasslands always inspires awe.
Wildlife percentages for May: leopard 13%, eland 42%, elephant 100%, buffalo 61%, giraffe 77%, dwarf mongoose 52%, honey badger 3%, cheetah 16%.
Birds and Birding
The African fish-eagle calling in front of Davison’s has made many guests coming from Ruckomechi Camp (in Mana Pools National Park on the Zambezi River) do a double take – he has been seen often in front of camp, his iconic cry seemingly out of place next to our comparatively small pans. Good raptor sightings have been enjoyed all month; one delightful visit was from a juvenile little sparrowhawk at the birdbath – he was enjoying cooling off one warm afternoon until a little flock of southern white-crowned shrikes started dive-bombing him and disrupting his soak.
The shikra (little banded goshawk) is still bullying the Bradfield’s and yellow-billed hornbills in camp, their morning chorus occasionally changing to indignant shrieks as he swoops after them in the rosewoods. Little white-browed sparrowweavers are definitely the gutsiest birds for their size, and in a squabble for food amongst hornbills and starlings, these weavers give everyone a run for their money with their cream-coloured chest-feathers puffed out and dark brown masks making them look like little bandits.
A white-backed vulture has been seen sitting on her nest at the top of an ilala palm this month – no chicks have been seen yet but she has been seen there frequently, so hopefully a few new members of this species will be around soon.
After the completion of our main area in April, May was even more exciting with all the finishing touches being put in place in the lounge and dining areas. The camp really has had a facelift from Sharon and Sjani with lots of cosy seating areas, splashes of colour from bright beads, curl-up-on couches and a new bar – bring on the busy season!
Staff in Camp
Camp Managers – John Russell and Shayne Templer
Assistant Manager – Kimberley White
Trainee Manager – Leonard Mutsvangwa
Pro Guides – Elliot Nobula
Trainee Guides – Mike Nyoni, Brian Pangidzwa, Livingstone Sana and John Russell
Housekeeping – Nqobile, Solomon, Eddy, Malaki
Kitchen – Bernard, Privilege, Vusa, Kaisa, Omar
Waiter – Snevous, Felix, Announcement, Clever
Maintenance – Lashani, Bhebhe, Kabo, Victor, Cosma
Security – Dewa, Charles, Phillip