Mombo has become synonymous with lions - and it is true that these great cats patrol the Place of Plenty. Nightly their roars are heard, sending shivers down the spines of those who bear witness to their auditory power. Prides compete for the land, territories are constantly changing, prior evidence of their presence washed away by colossal African thunderstorms that have rolled through. Battles, break-ups and mergers plague the mighty lions of Chiefs Island.
Their prey, the great Cape buffalo, huddle close to camp with the imminent coming of the night, hoping to find safety under the boardwalks of Mombo Camp. Some nights, they find peace, but on most the lions follow their strong bovine scent and find them grouped close together and asleep - therefore vulnerable.
As it happens, buffalo are no easy target. They are huge and formidable animals that wield heavy and lethal weapons on their heads. And as a group, we often find that they escape the clutch of the lions, sometimes with great injury to the predators themselves. However, one night the lions outsmarted and overpowered the buffalo - 11 against one. Cornered between boardwalks and management houses the buffalo’s groans were heard for what seemed like hours, before the lions completely conquered him.
As daylight came, it brought calm and the exhausted lions rested and fed within view of the tents and walkways, fat, lazy and seemingly unthreatening. But the sunlight hours were only the calm before the storm and as the sun set on the second day, the sounds of a third contender came whooping through the camp – hyaena. The smell of carrion had attracted them and now at least 10 where moving in, taunting the lions, trying to get closer to what was left of the meal. Within minutes the hyaena numbers had tripled! Whooping and giggling they advanced on the lions and by sheer force of volume chased the lions off their kill.
On the solitary predator side, Pula, Legadema, Blue Eyes and Molai (just some of the many leopards in the area) avoid such battles by pulling their precious morsels high into the trees, far away from the brute strength of the lions and the consuming clans of hyaena. They live a quieter life. Alone and stealthy they have at times been hard to find this month amongst all the other action.
February is the month of love, and quite fittingly two Pel’s fishing-owls made their home at Little Mombo, cooing and snuggling up with each other in the branches above the main deck. Pel’s fishing-owls are monogamous and very often the male will fish for his female counterpart and their young. Every day, her distinctive high-pitched Peeeeeeeew song could be heard, as she called to him, waiting for dinner. His efforts to impress her went even so far as to catch a fish in broad daylight!
Amongst all the predators (mammals and birds) we cannot forget the many herbivores that make each picturesque moment at Mombo. Elegant giraffe, dazzling zebra, pronking impala and huge herds of wise elephants decorate the plains.
We can hardly wait for the month ahead!