November is the last month of operations for Shumba Camp before we close down for six months. The rains really set in quite early this year and made for some interesting moments as huge thunderstorms built up over the plains. The rains didn't effect operations, but rather enhanced them with the beautiful green flush continuing and the plains being at their most beautiful. The onset of the rains also cooled things down nicely and jerseys in the morning mist were back on the agenda.
The lions finally ended their occupation of the camp and moved away - for a long time we were not sure if they were still around Tent 1 or not. But then on the 6th, we had what is for Shumba an extremely rare and unusual sighting. As the helicopter took off with guests, Explorations guide, Phil, spotted a leopard racing out of some of the trees. Phil reported that it was a large adult. Shortly afterwards, Abel the housekeeper went to Tent 4 and came face to face with a leopard on a very young lechwe carcass. Now Abel had reported that the leopard was small, so now we were wondering just how many were around.
The leopard was certainly skittish so we set up a camera on a tripod set to go off every minute. Sure enough we captured a beautiful young leopard eating its kill. To have leopards in the plains is unusual, but to have one on a kill at a guest tent is unheard of! Our current theory is that it was a mother with sub-adult offspring, as very early in the season some of the guides had seen them near Shumba. While this sighting amazed us we were slightly concerned about the lion cubs as we assumed they were still in the long grass near Tent 1.
The next day we were fortunate to see the lioness with the cubs crossing far out in front of the camp so we grabbed a vehicle and followed her. Sure enough we were rewarded with seeing her and the cubs meet on the tree island about 1.5km from camp. Over the next couple of days we were lucky enough to keep tabs on them and so our last guests got fantastic sightings of them and the mother. We also had the first sightings of the cubs now fully introduced to the whole pride (including the males) in early November.
We also had very unusual sightings of bats this month! A party from Bat Conservation International stayed with us for some nights, and a bat researcher who conducted a small-scale catch and release programme accompanied the party. This was incredible as it allowed us to get up close and personal with mammals that we just glimpse flitting through the fig trees.
The final guest sighting of the season took place on the 25th and was a fitting end to 2011 (the 'Lion Season'). During the very early hours of the morning we had been rocked by a huge storm, which the four adult lionesses used to ambush four lechwe! It was incredible to see separate lions on each carcass and the cubs getting a taste of solids - as well as playing with the ear of one of the prey.
And so the season ends. It has been truly memorable and the lion activity has been spectacular. The camp is closed up now and the green season staff are here. We look forward to next year!
"The hospitality and the meals made me feel like a prince." John (Holland)
"Gil and Julia were perfect - knowledgeable, fun and helpful and their passion for the wilderness and Zambia was infectious." Joyce (USA)
"Cheetahs and lions and a storm created beautiful settings for meals. All the staff were friendly and helpful, creating a real family atmosphere. The guides knowledge and enthusiasm was fantastic!" Bryan (UK)
Staff in Camp
Managers: Julia Bauer and Zoe Namangonze.
Guides: Lexon Munama, Idos Mulenga and Isaac Kalio.