Climate and Landscape
Winter is still here and provides us with beautiful misty mornings and gorgeous sunrises to gaze upon from the deck of the main are as we slowly wake up, warming ourselves with a cup of coffee or tea. The territorial red lechwe males slowly appearing out of the mist offer wonderful photo opportunities with their ghostly silhouettes.
The temperature range this month went from a low of 4° Celsius up to 34° C on one particular day. Still, we have beautiful days once the layers have been peeled off and the temperature rises. Average temperatures were around 27-29° C most days.
July delivered some amazing wildlife sightings with a lot of roan, sable, wildebeest, lechwe, puku, hippo and a very large herd of buffalo (we counted around 700 plus) which we saw from the boats as well as our game drive vehicles.
Shumba’s highlight of the month was the large amount of hunting and killing of lechwe by the Papyrus Pride. This was seen from the main deck and is quite a sight to witness first thing in the morning. A male leopard also made a kill right next to the manager’s room and dragged the kill up the fig tree that shades the room. This leopard then spent the next two days in the tree, slowly feeding on its prey.
At the beginning of the month we also met up with two new male lions which appear to be taking advantage of the disappearance of the Busanga male lions (aka the Musanza Males). The coalition of these two males is new to us and this area. But as nice as it is to have new lions and potentially a new gene pool in the area, it does create a change in dynamic to the existing pride since the new males will try to dominate the pride, get rid of the new cubs and chase away the younger males.
Throughout this month, they were spotted in at least six different locations and seem to be heading for or following the Papyrus Pride.
Our guides were keen to find the lions and this is when we discovered that the males that we thought were the Musanza Males turned out to be two new beasts. We have noticed that the younger male in the Papyrus Pride has been very quiet since then and we have not heard him roaring or calling at all, possibly due to these new males and his worry of being chased away. With two of the females having had cubs (Queen – the collared lioness – and Machine) during the green season, this has put pressure on them and their cubs, forcing them to go into hiding, to prevent the new males killing their cubs.
During July we saw a hippo and lion confrontation. The lions were chased by the hippos and during this time, the one cub became separated from the other lions. We then noticed a fully grown hippo with her calf nearby. The little lion cub, which was unattended at this point, went wobbling up to these hippos and the baby hippo curiously went over and started sniffing the lion cub. We think this might have been Maggie’s cub, which has not been seen since, so we think this cub has unfortunately died. Queen still has her two cubs and we think Machine’s cubs, which were a little older, are also still around. However she has gone into hiding so we have not been able to establish whether she still has her cubs or not.
Boat trips were particularly interesting this month, with sightings of the large buffalo herd, bird life and excitement with hippos yawning and fighting. Shadowy hippos slowly wavering into view on our misty mornings have given photographers plenty of photo opportunities with these beautiful scenes.
Oliver and his friend Henry, our two old buffalo dagga boys, gave us challenges during the early evenings when they decided, at the exact moment that staff returned from our staff village to the main area, to make their presence known! These two seem to like lying under the decks at Tents 5 and 6, keeping guests entertained with their snores and noises throughout the night!
We have also noticed that the lone male vervet monkey, who was here towards the end of last season, has returned to camp and has been alerting us to the presence of predators moving through our camp with his loud warning calls.
A pack of wild dogs was spotted by our mokoro polers and again the next day by Isaac, our head guide. Unfortunately we had no guests in camp – as it is a rare treat for us to see here in the plains. The team of five polers makes camp at an area called Twin Palms, aptly named for the two palms that stand out as very visible landmarks. The mokoro team remains here for the first couple of months after camp opening to help ferry guests and luggage into camp, since the channel to cross into Shumba Camp is full of water during this time and vehicles cannot pass through it.
Birds and Birding
Bird sightings were exciting this month with lots of water birds around. It’s beautiful seeing the black herons displaying their unique umbrella-fishing technique. As the water has receded it has attracted a lot of marabou storks, hamerkops, saddle-billed storks and fish-eagles. Interestingly, we saw moments of fish-eagles raiding the storks’ fish catches – one of the more unique sightings here in the Plains. Fish-eagles’ legs are short and they cannot wade into the water as the storks can, and to add to their fishing woes, here in the Plains the trees are not close to the water. So they have adapted to using the skills of the storks, which can fish whilst walking in the water, and attacking them on land to steal their prey. This is a clever tactic and ensures that the fish-eagles have plenty to eat.
Another interesting sighting was that of a saddle-billed stork with a fish in its mouth, being chased in flight by a marabou stork. A fish-eagle with its keen eyesight noticed them and immediately gave chase – ending up the victor with the spoils! This was witnessed by our guide, Isaac, and his guests, but unfortunately they couldn’t get close enough to get photos in time.
We still have very large flocks of openbill storks. From a distance, one would think these are vultures – and in fact, while on the ground and from a distance, they actually look like a small herd of buffalo!
Several juvenile wattled cranes and crowned cranes have been sighted, still too young to fly but cleverly camouflaged to blend in with the colour of the drying grass.
Yellow-billed storks, collared pratincoles, glossy ibis, hadeda ibis and sacred ibis have also been spotted. White-faced whistling ducks and comb ducks are other water birds that were seen this month. Several birds of prey were seen on drives during July. These were the Dickinson’s kestrel, marsh harrier, juvenile martial eagle, western banded snake-eagle and the brown snake-eagle.
“An absolute treat to stay here. What a privilege to finally see an amazing part of Zambia. All the staff have been fantastic. Hope to be back soon!”
“Superb! Great discovery of a very special place and very special people – a wonderful experience!”
“Beautiful place. 10 lions last night – plus Tripod the hyaena! Thanks to a great staff, especially Isaac.”
“Terrific stay and a great start to our Africa trip. Many thanks. All was wonderful.”
“Wow awesome place! Awesome people! Will miss the G&T! Thanks!”
Staff in Camp
Camp Manager: Ondyne Dobeyn
Assistant Manager: Mwamba Lombe
Trainee Managers: Mutale Yumbe and Tsekai Mwanza
Head Guide: Isaac Kalio
Guide: Newton Mulenga