October has undoubtedly been the hottest month for Mombo, but it has been a dry heat, which is not unbearable, with amazing starry skies and the hint of rain around the corner as we often got storms building up, before disappearing over the horizon.
The animals have however not noticed the heat and have revelled in the conditions during October.
Rhino sightings have been prominent. It takes the guides’ tracking skills, the guests’ patience and lots of water to drink along the way as the drives meander down through amazing floodplains, forested areas as well as dry, arid acacia scrub. In other words, this is also an excellent way to view the multitude of different terrains around Mombo! It has mostly been the big dominant males that have been seen, Serondela and Sergeant, but on a few occasions some females with their calves were found. These prehistoric, highly endangered creatures never cease to amaze the guests.
On the leopard front, Maru’s cub has also been spotted along Stompie’s Road. The alarm-calling of squirrels and francolins often gives away her hiding place in the surrounding trees as she moves to get a better look at her surroundings. We have decided that she must have been watching game drives go past for a few months, as from the first time we saw her, she was not worried about the vehicles at all. The population of squirrels has definitely decreased in her little patch of forest as it seems these are her favourite snack and play toy for when mom is out hunting!
A buffalo kill was made at the Tully Tully Bridge mid-month by five of the Moporota Boys. The guides said it was effortless and it shows the dominance these lions are holding to the north-west of camp. A fragile dominance as there has been another large male, known as the Mombo Boy, who has been exercising mating rights with a female in the same area that the Moporota Boys… we wait to see what will happen there. Anyway, back to the kill! The five males ate that night and defended their dinner against the ever-present hyaena; they were joined in the early hours by some of their lionesses who were allowed to feast as the males at this stage were belly up! The 10 hyaenas’ patience were rewarded and there were a few scraps left when the pride went to drink, but probably not the amount they wanted.
There are three active black-backed jackal dens within a three-kilometre radius of camp, housing three, three and two pups respectively. Solo the lone wild dog regularly visits two of the dens as well as the den near Sibiriana, just north of the airstrip. She can often be seen lying nearby, a protective figure and a watchful eye. The real parents themselves are no slouches at defending their pups though. Recently a hyaena innocently came ambling towards the den not knowing there were pups. Both parents stood up, alarmed and then proceeded to nip at its feet until it was a safe distance from ‘home’.
One of the highlights of the month was the sighting of a pack of five wild dogs consisting only of males that entered the northern part of Chiefs Island. They were seen as often as their nomadic lifestyle permitted. Wild dogs will run vast distances to feed and cover territory. These youngsters have the energy to cover the whole tip of Chiefs Island in a single hunting escapade. Guests loved watching them wake and then charge off after impala and red lechwe. They have even been seen ‘playing’ with buffalo, giraffe and elephant as they test their reflexes and stretch their muscles. Specialist Guide Dave Luck took one look at them and realised that these youngsters have real character. We hope they will remain in the area and perhaps even meet up with Solo, but at the moment, it seems they are keeping to their separate antics and areas.
The general game has been amazing in the area but especially in front of camp where congregations of elephant, impala, red lechwe, kudu and giraffe saunter past; not to mention the banded mongoose, warthog, vervet monkeys and baboons that can be viewed, all from the comfort of your room or main area deck!
An interesting natural phenomenon has also happened at Mombo, one that has not occurred for nearly five years - bush fires! Whilst most guests see the amber glow in the distance or may be worried about it, bush fires occur naturally, usually from lightning storms at that exact time where there has been no relief from rain and the grasses are dry. This is merely nature doing her thing! The fires are watched closely by Management on the ground as well as our pilots in the air and reports are done on a daily basis at both morning and noon. Any fires that get within a specified distance from camp are dealt with, quickly and efficiently. A large fire passed towards the north of camp and managed to clear out all the old decaying logs and non-nutritional grasses. This sort of bush fire does not destroy all in its path as the greener trees and shrubs survive. It has now laid the path for the rains to come and this will result in green, fresh and succulent shoots to grow in places they haven’t been able to for many years. One can almost feel the excitement from the grazers as they pass through the burnt areas, an amazing contrast of black soot against the auburn impala. Exciting times lie ahead as the grazers will undoubtedly attract the predators into open vistas – every wildlife photographer’s dream!
Guides in camp: Tsilie, Cisco, Doc, Lazzy and Moss.
Managers: Graham, Dani, Dittmar and Sean at Little Mombo.
Pictures by: Graham, Dittmar and Grant Atkinson.