Africa with Wilderness Safaris
Camps with Wilderness Safaris
Explorations with Wilderness Safaris
Climate and Landscape
July was another cracking month on the Busanga Plains at Shumba. I’m not even sure where to start!
It seems winter is far from over and the mornings are still chilly with lows of 5° Celsius. However, the afternoons are toasty and we are getting up to the high 30s thankfully! The main weather feature this month was the incessant wind, doing its best to blow our thatching off the main area and trying to keep our hot air balloon grounded. Careful planning for game drive routes is now routine to ensure our guests don’t spend the afternoons getting dust-blasted. If ever there was a man who was going to get the hot air balloon off the ground in difficult conditions it’s our master pilot Eric, but even he was defeated on a few occasions!
But as we move into August, I am informed by those in the know that the winds will gradually die down and the laundry will take a lot longer to dry!
We spend a lot of our time here at Shumba talking about the lions, which of course I will do in this newsletter too, but before we move onto the big cats I wanted to pay homage to one of the smaller felids – the serval. July 18th has now been dubbed ‘Serval Saturday’ with three individual examples of these lovely cats seen on one single drive! Serval have markings reminiscent of leopard but are much more streamlined and almost spindly looking with their great long legs and compact small heads. They pick their way through the long grass using it as camouflage to hunt small rodents, which form the mainstay of their diet. A perfect spot for this is currently between Tents 2 and 3 right here at Shumba where we often see the flick of a tail or two staring eyes from our resident female.
Okay, okay – on to the lions! Anyone with a safari or African interest and who doesn’t live under a rock will have heard the sad tale of Cecil the lion who was killed in Hwange at the beginning of the month. This news story took the media by storm and is sadly reminiscent of a similar occurrence in the Busanga Plains back in August 2007 where our alpha male, who we knew as Big John, was baited out of our concession and crossed unknowingly into a hunting concession where he met his match. He may not have had the same fame as Cecil but he is very close to our hearts, and in fact related to a lot of our current lion residents, so we wanted to pay our respects to him this month and feature a stunning picture of him. For everyone out there raising awareness of lion protection – please keep it up!
But now, onto our current famous lion – Mr Busanga – who, as mentioned in our last update, was strangely absent for some time. However, fear not, he made his return a few days ago, strolling majestically across the plains in front of the Shumba deck, much to the delight of our guests having breakfast – which was quickly abandoned in favour of confirming his identity up close. No other lion in our area quite matches his size. He spent the day lazing in front of camp scaring the puku and lechwe and doing his MGM pout for our guests, which was kind of him. That night was a noisy one as the Papyrus Pride, who must have picked up his scent came ploughing and roaring through camp, re-staking their claim on what they now consider their territory. All the action also scared off Oliver – the big old buffalo we have nicknamed – who had made his home just in front of the main deck for the last six days. We assume he has now joined up with the other dagga boys and is safe.
The Papyrus Pride cub has now become very relaxed – and wouldn’t you be if you had three feisty lionesses and two brothers to protect you?! When our vehicles are nearby, he or she (we’re still not sure) is now more interested in approaching them to investigate than hiding behind mum’s back.
As mentioned earlier, our balloon is now operational in the Busanga Plains. Pilot Eric and his wife Nancy arrived towards the end of the month and set up camp on Kapinga Island. The balloon rides and the experience of a different perspective of the plains are a highlight for many of our guests. We tend to ascend reasonably high for the panorama views and then dip low near the ground looking for game. The elephants seem to be the most bemused by us as we drift over and they often just stare up in confusion or give us a bit of a trumpet!
Birds and Birding
Balloon aside, other noteworthy dwellers of the skies seen this month include lappet-faced vultures, martial eagles, rosy-throated longclaws – who will soon break into their colourful breeding plumage – and a great snipe who decided to land right in front of our game drive vehicle.
We are interested in all things great and small here at Shumba – and sometimes these are best seen out of the vehicle on a walk. Our first walk of the season started straight off the main deck and guests spent two hours strolling through the bush towards a beautiful spot we call White Fig, where they ‘chanced’ upon a little sundowner set up we had prepared. A little exercise helped justify the tasty snacks cooked over the campfire. On walks we talk about things like the importance of termites, the difference between lion, Matabele and vervet ants and how the smaller creatures support the larger ecosystems. Our guests also saw a lovely Picasso bug, fire flowers and even a crocodile sunbathing on the bank of hippo pools.
This same group of guests kept us all very entertained in camp on the dress-sense front. The matriarch of the group, Ruth, gave them all a matching pair of ‘safari pyjamas’! This was a big family get-together and they chose to wear them to high tea and then out on a game drive – we couldn’t resist getting a snap of them for our newsletter!
That’s all from us this month – more news soon – but for now, over and out from the Busanga Plains!
We leave you with a couple of comments from our guests for the month…
“Thank you for showing us the time of our lives. You far outdid our expectations”
“The rooms, food and hospitality have been 5 star!”
“Thank you for adding to the wonderful memories of our lives!”