The cold and clear winter nights are offering us a great opportunity to do some star gazing. This time of the year is an excellent time to gaze upwards into the night skies. There are up to four planets visible with the naked eye at the moment. Venus can be easily seen in the west shortly after the sun sets, and Mars can be seen in the east as a bright orange star. Also, we’ve had the rare opportunity of witnessing a very special lunar eclipse which was seen on 27 July. Lasting an amazing 103 minutes, it was the longest eclipse of the 21st century – it was an awesome experience for us to share with our guests.
Autumn has come to an end and with it many exciting changes on the reserve. The different varieties of grasses turning a hazel hue and the leaves falling off the trees, causing more movement between the different species of grazers, which in turn, has led to more activity with the predators. The dry season brings along with it great sightings and many satisfied guests have left us with memories that will last a lifetime.
The warm hospitality of the staff and inviting log fires welcome the guests back after their exhilarating safari. On leaving for their early morning drive, hot water bottles await the guests on the safari vehicles. While the lazy winter sun starts brightening the sky, Amarula coffee or hot chocolate is enjoyed by discerning guest while out in the bush.
The change of seasons has arrived and it has bought along with it beautiful, chilly, misty and exciting morning drives. The early morning game drives are now departing at 6am, allowing guests to sleep in a bit more before heading out to the bush to create memories that will last a lifetime. The cooler weather has definitely helped our guides locate the lazy kitty cats more easily, as they are active for longer during these cooler mornings. Don’t let the cooler weather discourage you, as our rangers provide you with a special morning coffee with a splash of amarula on the drink stop during the safari. Coffee always tastes better in the bush!
Well February and March have come and gone, and here at Umzolozolo, we have had the privilege of hosting guests from many different countries, such as The Netherlands, Germany, Australia, the United States of America and many more. It is always a pleasure meeting people from around the world, hearing their stories and finding out how they discovered Umzolozolo.
We would like to take this opportunity to wish all our past and future guests a prosperous 2018.
After a very successful festive season, it’s time to reflect over the last couple of months, as so much has happened within our wonderful wild world here at Nambiti Private Game Reserve. Throughout November and December, Nambiti has received moderate to fair rainfall, which has been welcomed by both our furry friends and the vegetation. The reserve is looking lush, with brilliant green leaves, tasty new
shoots and beautiful wild flowers abundantly brightening the landscape.
Our furry friends are healthy, with their coats shining brilliantly. We have welcomed new members to many of our families, with our Impala, Wildebeest, Steenbok and Kudu, just to name a few, giving birth to healthy youngsters. It is always a pleasure for us to take our guests out to view the babies – they are just too cute.
With the early morning brisk winter breeze blowing and the temperatures dropping, game viewing is usually fairly difficult at this time of the year. The long grass has become tawny as mid-winter approaches, and our feline friends are blending so well with our environment that it makes for very exciting game viewing. We set off at 6:30am, with hot water bottles, cosy blankets and the promise of steaming coffee or hot chocolate making it enjoyable for guests to view the stunning sunrise. The predators were on the move and the odd nightjar was still basking on the warm sandy road as the first sunbeams of the day rose lazily over the hilltops, introducing a new day in the bush.
Our dominant lions have been very busy lately, marking their territories and searching for females. One can hear them calling in the dead of night, with the all-familiar typical lion language claiming their right as the kings of Africa. Their vocalisation repeats the same refrain over and over again: “whooo’s land is this………. It’s mine, It’s mine, It’s mine”.
For the first time, these beautiful big boys are showing signs of trying to form a coalition with their younger sons. They have attempted twice in the last month to take down buffalo from our breeding herd, but have been unsuccessful. The younger boys now have learnt what buffalos are really capable of.
A beautiful male cheetah has been regularly spotted in the south of the reserve, patrolling his own territory. Although these big cats are not one of the Big 5, they are just as majestic as their cousins and a true delight to see. This particular male is so people-friendly that he would find no harm in rubbing right up against the game viewer for an up-close-and-personal Kodak moment. This gives us as Field Guides a fantastic opportunity to share our knowledge of this beautiful creature with our guests. It gives us an opportunity to remind them how it very nearly became extinct, which would have been a tragedy for Africa and its wildlife. With this boy coming so close to the vehicles, we are able to see clearly the small head, large powerful chest and shoulders and his long rudder-like tail. We are able to not only explain to our guests why the cheetah has such a big chest and powerful front legs, but actually get close enough for them to see for themselves. This brings them a unique understanding of the fact that without these attributes, they would not survive in the harsh regions of Africa.
An elephant made a spectacular appearance outside the lodge last week, and our guests were overwhelmed by his friendly greeting. This was followed by many questions about his majestic appearance.
He is approximately 53 years old, and most of the time you can find him meandering around the reserve, occasionally meeting up with the breeding herd for a short visit or taking the odd swim alone. This particular bull is recognised by his broken right tusk. The breakage occurred during a confrontation with another elephant. His natural persona makes every encounter a memorable occasion and it is a real treat for guests to see this gentle giant.
Our ranger Kyle came across the beautiful sight of a hippo with a newborn calf at one of the dams on the reserve. A female hippo can give birth every 2-3 years to a single calf weighing up to 30 kilograms at birth. The gestation period for a hippo is 225-227 days and females will give birth in dense reed beds. The calf will be introduced to the pod after two weeks. Females with young are very aggressive, but will allow other female hippos to babysit. The lifespan of a hippo is about 35 years in the wild.
There have been many special sightings this month, but one definitely stood out from the rest. Our ranger, Raymond, was heading back to the lodge in total darkness with a Cruiser full of joyful and hungry guests, when a beautiful female leopard graced them with her presence. She was walking gracefully near the vehicle, allowing guests to view her clearly under the red filtered light. This alone was special, as leopards are naturally shy animals and having her so close was a treat.
This was the first time these particular guests had seen a leopard on safari, and the encounter made for fantastic fireside conversation in the Boma that night. These memories will last our guests a lifetime.
Did you know?
Leopards have a gestation period of approximately 3 months, and give birth to 2-3 cubs, typically in a den. At birth, they are blind and almost hairless.
What a month of contrasts we have experienced! Three weeks ago, all hands available battled a serious runaway veld fire, which, coupled with high warm berg winds and extremely dry and brittle veld and vegetation conditions made for a serious risk to 3 of the lodges situated in the centre section of the reserve.
The fire was started well outside the reserve’s western boundaries but being egged along by the wind it picked up and consumed everything in its path, and as a result, managed to jump the western boundary and swept from west to east through Nambiti. The fire was mercifully bought under control the following day, with approximately 800ha of land being burnt.A week after this was brought under control, we had blessed, much needed and desirable rain (28mm recorded at the lodge) over a 3 day period. Having gone so long without rain, we didn’t quite recognize the wet foreign liquid falling from the sky. This came from the large cold front that graced most of KZN with its presence and resulted in a rather generous snowfall over a majority of the mountains.
With a bit of sun, coupled with the rains, the burnt area should start recovering at a rapid rate, already in august we are seeing the first signs of green shoots sprouting, hopefully this will bring forth an early spring flush our beautiful endemic and special wild flowers. We certainly look forward to this. An interesting sighting or observation that has come from all the drama is that of 4 white storks (Ciconia ciconia) that made an untimely appearance the day after the fire. The birds were seen working some of the burnt areas near the old Dutch homestead. The white stork is generally a Palearctic migrant species- which in simpler terms means they should technically be a million miles away over the great pond in Europe at this time of year. The mere presence of these 4 individuals means that they either missed the bus completely or there is a local resident population on some of the adjacent farmlands for them to arrive so quickly to exploit the bounty of food that has appeared. Another great sighting of the feathered variety was that of a Spotted Eagle Owl in early morning daylight, a rather unusual occurrence (must have had too much coffee the night before), and man oh man did he sit nicely for the cameras!
Something of great excitement amongst Ranger’s is that due to the lack of ground cover and vegetation being burned off, there have been not one but TWO sightings of a young leopardess within 5 days of each other- so they ARE here! Matt finally had his first sighting of one of these elusive cats on Nambiti in over a year albeit a long distance one, you can imagine his elation. So here’s hoping for more sightings of these ever secretive creatures in future.
Well, Summer has arrived without allowing Spring to swish her pretty skirts !! We have had soaring temperatures, with strong dry winds – further desiccating an already tinder-dry environment – Oh Boy !! Bring on the rain !!
I had the pleasure, and privilege (together with our Lodge guests at the time) of observing a Lioness, who is solitary (with her 2 young Cubs), use a cunning hunting strategy to hunt an Eland bull. Without the benefit of pride numbers, she has learned to use the terrain as a hunting ally. She stalked, and then chased a small herd of Eland down a steep, rocky hillside, and then singled out one individual (the hapless Bull!) who had taken the trickiest escape route. She chased him into a situation where he lost his footing, and tumbled down a steep slope – probably breaking his back in the fall. We were fortunate enough to be able to follow in the Gameviewer, and managed to re-locate her as she was applying the strangle bite.
She did not kill the Eland immediately, but left the area in order to call her 2 Cubs. After some minutes, they arrived and cautiously approached their “meal” – and as they jumped onto it, the Eland gave a strong reactionary kick, which frightened the life out of the 2 Cubs who disappeared in a blur!!!! It shows that Predators, in general, will exploit any advantage in order to secure a meal. Matt had an interesting sighting last week of a rarely seen interaction between a Barn Owl and a pair of Egyptian Geese. The Owl is sharing a Hamerkop’s nest, and the pair of Egyptian Geese were noisily feeding below the nest, and obviously woke the slumbering Owl, who then dropped out of the nest and bombarded the 2 Geese, who then fled in raucous terror!!
It’s these special sightings that keep Rangers’ juices flowing!! Sightings of the “pride” of Lions have been fruitful – with the 3 sub-adults growing a-pace, these 3 naughty devils are almost the size of their Mom!! BFE – Nambiti’s legendary Bull Elephant decided to pay his old chums at Umzolozolo a visit. We all enjoyed seeing him stop at the “Elephant Pub “ (ie: the swimming pool!!) for a drink, and then he veered sharply towards the guests dining on the verandah, having caught a whiff of the fresh fruit on the Breakfast Buffet. Needless to say, breakfast was hastily adjourned to the dining room inside, especially as the big fella was in full Musth at the time!!
As the drought bites harder (We’ve only recorded 1 mm of rain for October !!), the animals are all moving to the centre and northern areas of the Reserve, where the meagre re-growth from July and August’s fires occurred. As a result of this, we are having sightings of concentrated groups of animals on a relatively small area, which makes for super Plains Game viewing.
Oddly enough, being in our 3rd year of drought, the present environment has become suitable for some species which normally would not occur in this Region – namely the Cape Cobra. This snake has been seen in a few places on the Reserve in the past 2 months, and is a species which deserves caution and respect due to its potent Neurotoxic venom, and sharply reactive nature.
Sightings of some of our Lion population have been good with the main Pride being quite nomadic in the middle of the Reserve. I, with my Guests, was very fortunate 2 weeks ago to watch them make a kill 20 metres in front of our vehicle right next to the track we were travelling on – which then prevented us from being able to move for at least an hour. It was interesting to observe close-hand the behaviour of the Pride whilst feeding, and level of tolerance (NONE !!)displayed by the 2 Males to the Lioness, and 3 sub-adults – who all wanted to feed on the Impala that THEY had caught. Lots of growling, cuffing and bone-crunching !! – real National Geographic stuff !!.
The birds have been busy in and around the Lodge grounds, with 2 Cape Robin-Chat Hens now sitting on eggs, as well as the Common House Sparrows in the outside rafters having just produced again. The Cape Wagtails have built a nest in full view of the pathway to the Honeymoon Suite. Our resident Familiar Chat had the 3 eggs in her nest evicted by a Mocking Cliff-Chat (so, even in the world of Birds, domestic violence can be a problem !!). Our recently returned Paradise Flycatchers are flitting around looking for suitable nesting sites. Only a few of our normally abundant migratory species have returned so far, and in small numbers only. The Steppe Buzzards, 4 of our Cuckoo species and the Paradise Flycatchers. Perhaps the others are still on their way ? – Perhaps next month will bring some rain ?
On the evening of the 31st, the “Shangri-La” of all animal sightings unfolded, as Rheinhard was returning from his afternoon Gamedrive, on the track just below the Lodge, he, together with a Ranger from a neighbouring Lodge, caught a female Leopard in the beam of their Spotlights !! What excitement !! The sighting was distant enough for her to remain relaxed, and she remained in the area long enough for a few other Rangers and their Guests (Matt and his Guests included !) to view her before she moved off. What a way to end the month !!! Tracey – you bring us good karma ! When are you coming back again ??