Weather and Landscape
The weather has turned and Mvuu has become hot, dusty and dry - even at night. There is minimal cloud cover, and the days are windy. Whirlwinds erupt spontaneously and chase off animals (even herds of elephant).
The landscape in turn has been transformed into a desert - there are few leaves on the trees and many of the animals are having difficulty finding shade during the heat of the day.
Despite the intensity of the heat, the game viewing has been fantastic because animals have been congregating near the river. The early morning and late afternoons allow guests incredible views of drinking elephant and various antelope on the floodplains. Elephant have visited the camp almost every night and sometimes not just to feed on the various acacias. One elephant took down the swimming pool fence and another uprooted the water taps.
It is the breeding season for bushbuck, and they can be seen during most of the drives. However, one dead baby bushbuck was spotted being scavenged by some warthogs. There have been multiple evening sightings of genet, civet, and various species of mongoose, porcupine and even Pel's fishing-owl.
Over 100 buffalo were seen on a night drive at the end of August while a herd of elephant was sighted swimming (and playing) in the Shire on a boat safari with Henry in early September.
A few weeks ago a female crocodile was seen on land during a game drive with Hillary. At first she appeared to be sleeping, but then her hind legs would sporadically send dirt flying backwards - she was digging her nest to lay her eggs. After a few moments the digging ceased, but she remained breathing in and out heavily. The crocodile then slipped back into the Shire and disappeared.
Other great sightings included a mid-morning fight which resulted in two male hippos chasing each other around the southern end of the camp. The loser sulked around Chalet 8 for a while and the winner returned triumphantly to the Shire.
After dusk one evening, several guides sat in the hide at Water Hole 2 in the Rhino Sanctuary waiting for nocturnal animals. They were visited by none other than the lone male lion, Titus. He remained at the water hole for several minutes and drank calmly. After several moments, he walked slowly around the length of the water's edge (staring at the guides crouched in the hide all the while) before disappearing into the bush. All that could be heard after that were alarm calls from various antelope species.
Special animal insight from Frank
One of the truly exciting activities for those with a keen interest in animal behaviour and/or photography is watching wildlife from the lofty retreat of one of our hides which are strategically placed at waterholes inside the rhino sanctuary.
Now that the surrounding bushveld and woodland is becoming increasingly parched by the intense African sun, the animals are magically drawn to these places to cool off, enjoy a mud bath, or quench their thirst.
Well hidden from view, wildlife enthusiasts will be in for an amazing and rewarding experience as you may witness the comings and goings of many of the endangered species that are kept in the enclosure: zebra gingerly approaching the waterhole in single file, buffalo engulfed in a thick cloud of dust as they keep rolling in, a herd of elephant bulls splashing around in the mud or, with a bit of luck, the elusive eland coming down to drink, bizarrely adorned by dozens of oxpeckers - never a dull moment and definitely one of the unique ways to spend a morning or afternoon at Mvuu. Bush television at its best!
With the 22 September being World Rhino Day, Mvuu offered rhino drives and walks throughout the weekend. Although none of the drives managed to spot a black rhino, Frank had a particularly successful and exciting (very early) morning walk. The scouts picked up fresh tracks at Waterhole 1. They then followed the tracks of a mother cow and calf for a good four kilometres - occasionally losing the spoor in the dense brush, though the scouts continued to find signs of the rhino. Along the way, they found two places where the rhino had settled down for a rest, and even came across a fresh dung midden and urine patch. The guests were absolutely thrilled for being exposed to the various signs and indications of rhino and dutifully recorded the entire experience.
After an hour and half, one of the scouts motioned the group to slow down; oxpeckers could be heard calling overhead and the bush became particularly thick and entangled. Edging closer to a dense stand of zebrawood, they finally caught sight of the cow standing inside the bushes with the calf lying by her side. After about five minutes of a peaceful sighting, the female emerged from the bushes to approach the group - she was obviously disturbed by the rustling of leaves underfoot. The group backed off (very quickly) to crouch behind a tree; the cow continued to sniff the air until she gave out a sharp huff, turned on her heels and crashed through the undergrowth leaving behind a cloud of dust and churned soil. The group then headed back towards the vehicle to enjoy a scenic bush breakfast. This once-in-a lifetime experience is perfect for anyone interested in rhino conservation and is a fantastic way to learn more about their ecology first-hand.
Birds and Birding
A number of rare and unusual bird sightings were recorded during September. Henry spotted a Verreaux's eagle-owl during a game drive (another one was seen on drives by both Stanford and Henry a week later). Matthews found a Pel's fishing-owl in the southern flood plains (another was seen on a game drive with Angel a few weeks later).
A pair of brown-breasted barbets were seen just outside camp on a walk with Hillary while a palm nut-vulture wandered around the floodplains just 10 metres away from Angel's Land Rover during sundowners (three palm-nut vultures were seen flying overhead on a firewood collection run the previous day). On a drive with Danger, flocks of Lilian's lovebirds followed the Land Rover for almost the entire duration of the morning game drive.
"An absolutely wonderful experience, thank you for the amazing hospitality and friendliness you showed us; thank you Mcloud for the wonderful safari."
"Thank you very much for the wonderful stay we will never forget!"
"The whole trip to Mvuu Lodge was extraordinary."
Newsletter by Frank and Henry