Landscape and Climate
December was an unusual month in terms of the weather and wildlife. From past years’ experience, the rainy season should have been upon us in full force; however it was pretty sporadic this month. We had a few days with dramatic thunderstorms and torrential downpours; the pans saw days when they were bursting their banks and the elephants relieved their collective thirst in their multitudes.
The rain trees in front of camp have created a ‘mesh’ of lush green flora capable of hiding herds of sable and even towers of giraffe. The teak trees in camp provide much-needed shade in the heat of the day and sometimes a useful umbrella in the cool of a rain shower. Hot and humid days led to the bloom of different grasses and flowers, attracting various insect species such as the mopane bee.
With temperatures reaching as high as 40° Celsius and only as low as 19° C, we expected more rain than we currently have had, as the skies were consistently constantly cloudy and threatening rain. 154 mm of rain is all that fell here but we were grateful nonetheless as the fruits and vegetation took on an even deeper colour.
Despite the sporadic rainfall, many water sources materialised for the animals to utilise, reducing the traffic to the pans. However we were blessed with great sightings around camp and seeing Stumpy Tail and her pride of eight successfully kill a buffalo in front of camp. A spectacle of predators and scavengers ensued in the days to follow, with hyaena and hooded vultures trying to steal the heavily-guarded meal. The pride spent the festive season bingeing on other successful hunts around the area towards Madison Pan, showing off full bellies daily.
Leo came back into camp with visibly radiant guests and an amazing story to tell. They had sighted a male leopard up in a red syringa tree at Cobra Pan. The big male then skilfully climbed down and began to stalk an unseen prey: a steenbok, which had come to drink at the pan only to be embraced in the clutches of the hidden leopard. It was an early Christmas present for the leopard as well as the guests.
The big players at the pans, the elephants, were not very visible during the day as they had many other pools to choose from. However, one warm day during tea we were reminded of the multitudes we hold within the concession when a procession of over 300 elephant decided to converge on the pan in front of camp. Different herds from all directions appeared, emitting deep rumbling greetings accompanied by boisterous trumpeting, pushing away the other drinking animals. What a day it was to be in the log-pile hide with so many elephants splashing just a few metres away.
Ngamo was very productive with fresh kills from lions and wild dogs taking advantage of the new-born wildebeest scattered in the open area. But the highlight for the month had to be when Santa let his “African Reindeer” come out to play at Ngamo! A herd of eland, exceeding 86 stately individuals, marched onto to the nutrient-rich plains from the surrounding teak forests. This was a tremendous spectacle and an exceptional treat to close 2017, boding well for 2018 for great adventures and an abundance of more great sightings.
Birds and Birding
Tendai Mdluli had a very lucky and unusual sighting when he found a rarely-seen ground hornbill nest, buried in a termite mound at the base of a tree. Tendai mimicked the call of a returning father coming to feed his chicks and was greeted in return by the calls of the hungry chicks inside.
Dave Carson was our guest as well as our lucky spotter, finding a very rare sighting at Mbiza: a Denham’s bustard, only seen once last year, and making its presence known again now, showing off its beautiful speckles to guests who could barely contain their excitement.
With the abundance of water and food, it is courting season for many birds. In and around camp the red-billed spurfowl are the most vocal and we also saw woolly-necked storks and grey-crowned cranes in numbers at the pans where they are nesting.
The migrants have also been enjoying the bounty of the rains, especially with the termites looking to make new colonies. These flying insects are a rich source of nutrition for the lesser spotted eagles and carmine bee-eaters, uncommon birds in this area. The spectacle of seeing them gorging themselves at sunset made for beautiful pictures for the guests and memorable sundowners as the birds flew only centimetres away to catch their food!
“We loved our stay here – thank you for all the sightings, smiles, chats and special honeymoon surprises!”
“We had a fantastic experience! Great nature, great staff and food. The perfect surroundings for a safari. Highly recommended!”
“Elephants interacting in their natural environment. Hyena chased the elephant! Lions full after their kill!”
“Wonderful hospitality and amazing guides.”
“We saw a leopard kill, it was amazing. The best Christmas in many years.”
Staff in Camp
Camp Managers: Eddie Nehwati
Assistant Managers: Eddy Mudzimu
Trainee Managers: Natalie Chipara, Tinashe Murasiranwa
Guides: Charles, Dickson, Elias and Leo