safari bush sightings
sabi sabi 5th november - 18th december 2009
The bush now seems to have settled nicely into the rhythm of summer. The rains keep coming (110mm in the fortnight) and our two seasonal rivers, the Msuthlu and Mlechwane, continue to roar after heavy downpours… but the open patches of grassland have a certain peace about them in the late afternoons. As the sunlight pours gently through the silver cluster leaves and the cicadas hum their love songs you get a sense that everything is as it should be. After sunset however, the scene is a completely different one - a scene filled with tension and bloodshed as predators of all sizes feast on the multitude of prey items which are now available to them.
With regards to plains game some of the most interesting sightings are definitely of the herds with their new babies. Most of the herbivores, including antelope, giraffe and zebra, time their mating seasons so that the births of their young coincide with this time of the year. It is heartwarming to watch how caring the mothers can be in such an unforgiving environment and how the young grow stronger by the day.
A very special bird sighting enthralled us last week as hundreds upon hundreds of open-billed storks were found on the open plains of southern and western sections of Sabi Sabi. This gathering had certainly never been recorded in this area before and caused a lot of surprised remarks over the Land Rover radios! The rangers also noted another new arrival from Central Africa last week, when carmine bee-eaters were seen for the first time this season.
Snakes have been seen more often lately (always at a safe distance though!) and sightings have included twig snakes, spotted bush snakes, rhombic egg-eaters, pythons and red-lipped heralds. The amphibians are, as ever, proving the health of our eco-system through their abundance. This was especially evident when approximately 50 baby African bullfrogs stopped vehicles from passing for 15 minutes as they crossed one of the dirt tracks.
Of the smaller nocturnal species, side-striped jackals seem to be increasing in numbers as they are seen on an almost daily basis - and the same pattern can be seen amongst the servals and civets as all three species have been sighted with young. Undoubtedly the highlight of the year for the rangers was the first sighting of a pangolin in ages! The animal was very relaxed and a few safari vehicles got a very close look before he scampered off.
The Southern Pride of lions have been spending much of their time in the southern Lisbon section of Sabi Sabi. Many remains of their kills have been found but we have only actually witnessed a single kill - that of a male impala which was torn apart in a matter of minutes. An unknown male has also been making a few cameo appearances in the last week. Time will tell if he can escape the attentions of the resident males. 21 sightings this fortnight.
The leopard activity on the reserve has been astounding! Multiple sightings on each day have reaffirmed why the area has become famous as the "leopard capital of the world". Not only has the quantity of sightings been phenomenal but the quality as well. Some very unusual kills witnessed have included side-striped jackal and porcupine. Warthog and impala make up the rest of the tally. 36 sightings this fortnight.
The large bulls with their battered hides and broken tusks have been dominating the sightings lately. Breeding herds with tiny calves have also made their appearance.
32 sightings this fortnight.
Male white rhinos have been a lot more active recently as they need to mark their territories more regularly after rains. Sightings have been so numerous that often there is no need for the rangers to even call them in over the radio! 32 sightings this fortnight.
The enormous breeding herds are seen frequently but most sightings are of groups of old bulls which can hide in the thickets for days. This brings about a welcome new challenge for the rangers and trackers to hunt them down during safaris. 22 sightings this fortnight.