Africa with Wilderness Safaris
Camps with Wilderness Safaris
Explorations with Wilderness Safaris
Climate and Landscape
And we’re off! Shumba is up and running and looking better than ever. We’re looking forward to a fantastic season.
It was really rather chilly up here in the Busanga Plains this June. With temperatures as low as 3° Celsius in the very early mornings the hot water bottles we are sending out with guests on game drive are much appreciated! However the afternoons reached the comfortable high 20s and we only have to roll out the blankets again at dinnertime.
As we mentioned in our last update, this season it is incredibly dry – we must be in a dry cycle as it’s even drier this year than it was last year. Our nearby hippo pools are getting a little crowded and soon it will be time to take the Go Devil boats out of the water and from 1 August take to the skies in our hot air balloon.
What this lack of water does mean is that grazers are being drawn out onto the plains earlier than normal. The zebra and wildebeest are here already as well as plenty of roan, while even the sable have made their appearance. The misty mornings we are experiencing at the moment are producing some great photos out across the channel in front of camp with the plains game and hippos shrouded in an ethereal morning blanket.
We’re still trying to get our heads around what exactly is going on with our lion prides this season. The Papyrus Pride is so-called as it is normally to be found some distance from us, in between the Papyrus area and Shumba; however, more and more we have been seeing the members closer to camp. Just yesterday morning we found tracks right in the turning circle at camp made by two females and a cub and we are sure that these three belong to the Papyrus Pride. The cub is about two-and-a-half months old and one of what we think was originally a litter of three. The other cubs have not been seen recently and our guides are of the opinion that our three-legged local hyaena Tripod may well have gotten the better of them.
It seems that the Papyrus Pride may have, for the time being anyway, chased off our regular Busanga Pride residents as neither hide nor hair was seen of them for about three weeks this month. We suspect they have retreated north across the channel but we are confident we will see them again sometime soon. For the time being though the feline territories seem to have shifted a little.
One of the Papyrus Pride females was seen looking heavily pregnant a few weeks back and is now lactating so we know her cubs have been born, but must only be a few weeks old. She must have them in hiding for the time being to protect them from any other marauding lions – though we hope to see them soon. The more lions the better as far as we are concerned! A few days ago we did see a rather intent Mr Busanga heading towards Acacia Island where we think her young might be hidden, so we are keeping our fingers crossed they are safe.
The Tree Line Pride sadly is no longer. Last season we were seeing one female and her two youngsters but this female’s tracking collar has been found and her cubs were probably still too young to look after themselves so we expect another pride to encroach on what was their territory soon.
Two separate pairs of cheetah have been seen in our area and we hear rumblings from our friends at The Carnivore Programme (a local research programme) that a fair few wild dog are also in the area; however, so far only the Shumba managers have laid eyes on the dogs far from camp on their way out on leave to the west. These predators have such huge territories and conflict with the lions, so unless they are denning, and we happen to find out where, it is often very hard to catch up with them.
Our resident serval is still living just behind camp and has been seen and heard snuffling about in the leaves looking for snacks on plenty of occasions. We don’t generally see a lot of civet in our area and they are notoriously shy, but yesterday evening our guests were lucky enough to spend a prolonged period with a very relaxed specimen who seemed to have not a care in the world as he wandered right in front of their vehicle.
Birds and Birding
On the birding front, sightings of note were of western-banded snake-eagles – one having just killed a snake – the African harrier-hawk and a black-chested snake-eagle.
A short note on our resident Shumba guides this season. The legendary Idos is of course still here with us at Shumba and if he ever planned on leaving us and going anywhere else we would all die of shock! However this season we are also joined by the fantastic Isaac Kalio. Isaac previously worked at Busanga Bush Camp (BBC) in the plains but then left us for a short period to move to another camp in southern Kafue. We are delighted to have him back with us this season and with him his seven years of local Kafue knowledge as well as a particularly good eye for photography – many of the images included this month are his. One of the primary reasons Isaac has been drawn back to the plains is because of his acute interest in our lion pride power struggles. He is looking forward to sharing all things great and small that the stunning Busanga Plains have to offer with our guests. The Shumba guiding dream team? Yes most definitely, and boy are we lucky to have them!
It was a busy start to the season, not only on the wildlife front but also as mentioned in our last update, on the building front – so we felt it only fair to organise something fun and a bit more relaxing for the whole of the Shumba and BBC teams to thank them for all their hard work getting the camps ready for guests. With this in mind The Busanga Olympics and The Busanga Plains Football Cup were launched. We all spent a very entertaining day out at ‘games field’ (basically an area where the grass is shorter and there are less hippo divets!) taking part in 100-metre sprints, relays, high jump, shot-put, three-legged races, tugs-of-war and of course the obligatory Busanga Bush Camp versus Shumba football match.
Competition was fierce, jovial insults were traded, team chants got underway, bumps and bruises were acquired, screams of “penalty!” were shouted but in the end the Cheetahs won the Olympic Cup by a landslide and BBC beat us 2-0 at the football! Never mind guys, better luck at the rematch! A post-event party was held at BBC with enough food to feed a small army – which we basically are – and then we all headed home to Shumba… some limping more than others!
“Wonderful three days. Everything was perfect and everyone delightful”
“We are privileged to be regular visitors to Wilderness Safaris. This has certainly been our top experience as we were flooded by friendliness from everyone at Shumba.”
“This beautiful camp with its magnificent vistas has exceeded our expectations. Mainly because of the outstanding hospitality, friendliness and efficient staff and great game viewing.”
That’s all from us up here in the Busanga Plains for this month! Hope you enjoy our pictures from what has been a pretty incredible start to the season. Over and out until next month!