The good rains continued through February, and after Cyclone Eloise in January had filled the water table, this deluge (228 mm in total) took all the dam levels to the maximum! For the first time in probably eight years, Georgie’s Dam in front of the lodge has overflowed! Incredibly, the hippo responded immediately, and we have counted over 20 hippo on some days. We now have a constant cacophony of hippo calls resonating up the valley to the lodge in the early mornings and evenings. We also look forward to it attracting many interesting birds again.
The bush has continued to thicken up, reducing visibility significantly. While we usually see quite a lot of kudu at this time of the year, being strictly browsers, they just disappear and it is difficult to get a good view of them.
The rains have attracted a lot of interesting birds, especially those that love tall grasslands and the wetland type of environments. We have seen a large number of African crakes which have been scarce over the last few years, and also managed to see (pictured right) the elusive Corn Crake!
Many of the birds are also continuing to breed, from the large Saddle-billed storks (pictured left) to the diminutive Little Bee-eaters (pictured below). We have also started seeing quite a few baby warthog, especially out on the short grass of the large open clearings.
The young Ottawa sub-adults have continued to stay in fantastic condition, contrary to our expectations. Being so young and inexperienced, we suspected that they might struggle to find food or hunt, but they have proved us wrong and are looking incredibly good. All four of them are still together, and the older male in particular is starting to show signs of being a very big lion!
The Ottawa females, in turn, do not seem to be too upset about the youngsters moving off, and may be enjoying the fact that they do not have to fight for food with the three males. They are also quite often apart, with one female being with a Thumbela male, while the other two stay away and enjoy some alone time.
Misava has remained in his natal territory for quite some time. At four and a half years old, it would have been expected that he would move further afield but, like Ravenscourt, he has remained close to where he was born, and continues to give great sightings. Recently, he had an impala carcass hoisted in a marula tree, which gave us some great opportunities to photograph him.
Thamba and Ravenscourt are still having their territorial disputes, although it is in a more passive way for now. Thamba has been pushing further north and west, and it seems that Ravenscourt has responded to this pressure by coming down south quite frequently this month. He still has Euphorbia putting pressure on him in the north, so he never stays down south too long, before marching back to the river to protect the core of his territory.
Nyelethi is also still seen fairly regularly, but his boundary with Ravenscourt is much more settled, and they seem to have come to an agreement as to where it is some time ago.
The young females, Khokovela and Tisela, have for some time now been our best viewing leopards. Khokovela recently had a fresh impala kill, but before she could hoist it out of reach, hyenas arrived and stole it from her. She had no choice but to slink away, yet posed beautifully on a fallen tree to observe her kill being devoured.
Tisela also had a kill, but fortunately she managed to hoist the kill, giving us quite a few days of excellent viewing and, as it is in her genes, posed perfectly for the eager photographers.
Our resident male cheetah has been seen quite a number of times and actually used the cooler, rainy conditions on one occasion to successfully chase down and kill a young impala at Nkombe Dam clearing.
The pack of Painted Wolves has not yet fully resumed their regular visits to the West, but a few of our guests were fortunate to see them on a few occasions. As always, they are looking good and hopefully soon they will return more regularly. We hope the same for our guests!
Elephant numbers have been on the steady increase in the Greater Kruger, although we have seasonal movements and sporadic high and low numbers in the Sabi Sand as they move in search of good food and water. Sometimes it can be hard to find the breeding herds, but now in February we have had numerous great sightings of these incredible animals.
We also have had quite a large number of giraffe in the southern parts of the Western Sector of late, which is unusual, as we do not have the ideal habitat here for them. They are usually found further north, near the Sand River, where we have a higher concentration of Acacia trees, which is their preferred diet. Nonetheless, we have been loving having these large ‘Journeys of giraffe’ out on our clearings.
We leave you with a strange sighting, in that we do not often get to see or photograph these little creatures. We found two Mauritian Tomb Bats roosting on the main stem of a large Scotia tree, and interestingly, they do not roost in large groups. Usually only up to five will roost together. They also have unusually good eyesight compared to other bats, allowing them to detect danger more easily. They also use echolocation, which means they emit sounds that bounce off their prey, to locate and hunt. Many people do not particularly like bats, but they are vital in feeding on insects which often carry diseases harmful to humans. They have been recorded as feeding on as many as 4000 insects each per night!
We hope that all our friends and guests have been keeping safe and healthy, and that your vaccine rollouts are going well, which in turn may help you all return to us soon to witness in person nature at its best.
To catch up on all the updates during our lockdown, please have a look at our YouTube Channel here.
With warm wishes
Neil, Natasha and The Savanna Team