Sighting: Nyika's nocturnal predators
Location: Chelinda Camp, Nyika National Park, Malawi
Date: March 2010
Observer: Dana Allen
Photographer: Dana Allen
The unbelievable Nyika Plateau in Nyika National Park, northern Malawi, is a spectacular and unique destination for game viewing. There is simply nothing like it in the rest of Africa. It is well known for its niche biodiversity and for important herds of antelope species like roan, eland and reedbuck. Below the plateau in vast miombo woodlands are a number of larger species like elephant and buffalo which rarely venture to the grasslands above. Lion are even occasional vagrants here.
On the plateau itself though are a variety of smaller predators. Leopards are a key feature, as are the more visible and common spotted hyaenas. Both seem to melt into the mist and are mysterious and thrilling species to see. Side-striped jackal, large-spotted genet and serval are the others that make up the suite of nocturnal carnivores most commonly seen by guests at Chelinda Camp and on a recent visit I was fortunate to see all five of these species on a handful of night drives out of Chelinda Camp. While some are active during the day, the lack of cover in the grassland presumably makes them more comfortable in moving around after dark in search of prey.
We had excellent sightings of all these species in the grassland and heather of the plateau with the serval especially relaxed with the vehicle while others - including the magnificent male leopard - showed a mild curiosity mixed with tolerance.