October in Mana

Hello readers I hope you are all well and have had a chance to go on a safari at some point this year, or at least have plans to.

These past two months have been extremely busy and we have met lots of very excited guests here at Kavinga, and we have had the most amazing wildlife encounters and magical moments. 

The heat in October has set in and the sightings lately have been unreal; absolutely fantastic actually!  This last week has been all about leopard. The first sighting was on our morning walk, the type of walk that you would describe as being the perfect morning.

We had started our walk from camp, talking about trees and tracks when suddenly we heard a troop of Vervet Monkeys chattering in a panic.  All bush fanatics know what that means—a predator!  I knew it wasn’t the lions, we had seen them on the other side of the concession. Our slow walk turned into a speed march to catch up to the commotion.  My guests kept up with me; cameras in hand and eyes wide open ready to spot what ever it was causing the panic.

The monkeys lost focus, hit the ground and scattered, one of my guests excitedly whispered, “There! There!”  We went across in the direction which he had seen movement, but it was just one of the monkeys running away.

We did find a large set of fresh leopard tracks that I tried to follow but lost them unfortunately.  I decided to take everyone up to one of my favorite look out points up on a cliff nearby overlooking the Rukomechi river bed with a big over hanging Strangler Fig.  We were admiring the beautiful views when I looked across at the fig tree and the leopard we were tracking was sunning himself on a huge branch.  We all got to see him as he woke up, noticed us and leapt off the branch and landed on the ground in a puff of dust then bolted off.  We were all bubbling with excitement over this treat we weren’t expecting when we noticed him trotting slowly across the river bed below us and then disappear into the thicket.  Seeing a leopard in a vehicle is great, but seeing it on foot makes you realize you are in the middle of the wild and you are experiencing true magic.

The leopard sightings didn’t stop there,  we have been so lucky and have seen several leopard in camp, at the pan, and on other walks too.

The elephant, buffalo and lion have also been regular sightings and we’ve seen a few lion kills in the last few days!  This is truly an amazing time of the year to visit the bush. 

Now we look forward to the rains which will bring a fresh green flourish ,many exciting migratory birds, including the illusive African Pitta!

Return to the Wild

 

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Hello everyone, I hope you have all been well and are looking forward to some more bush stories and exciting moments from Mana Pools at Kavinga Safari Camp.

Caitlin and I had an awesome holiday packed with travel and fishing trips!  We spent Christmas relaxing with family and then went to Cape Town for New Years.  We both loved Cape Town and are very keen to go back there one day!  We came back home to relax and to catch up on a years worth of fishing in the two months break we had!

I managed to squeeze a fishing trip in almost every weekend that we were home and I loved every second of it.   

After a nice long break, we returned back to Mana to get the camp ready for the new season.  

It was a busy start, with a lot of work to be done in camp. We did some small renovations  on camp and bush clearing and road maintenance.

The Zambezi Valley did not have a very good amount of rain, and it looks like its going to be tough for the wildlife in the drier months, although it will provide excellent game viewing with a lot of action from the predators at the watering hole.

The first month of the season has already started off with a bang.  We have been lucky enough to track and follow herds of up to 300 buffalo on foot, we even managed to track and find a male lion on a buffalo kill which we could hear from camp while sitting around the camp fire the night before.

Unfortunately, no sign of the Kavinga pride of lions yet, except for one male and one of the lioness that had separated themselves from the pride to mate.  We have heard the pride all calling together so we know that the pride is still around, we just need to figure out where they are hanging out!  The wild dog have been seen on a few occasions and just the other day we missed a kill by some minutes!  All that was left was the tracks and impala remains.

The last two days we have had amazing sightings of leopard.  The first leopard was happened upon by accident (as most of them are!) While my apprentice, Luke, was trying to find the pride of lion he saw a male leopard just seconds after it had caught a Kudu calf.   Yesterday  while out on a drive, an female leopard had caught an impala ram, we got there just as she was suffocating it.  It was amazing to see the shear strength that the leopardess had as she dragged her kill, which was almost twice the size of her, into the thick bush. 

The night drives have been exciting too.  With sightings of Honey-Badgers, White tailed Mongoose and two sightings of a wild cat with its bird for dinner and another with a mouse!

Its all happening at Kavinga! 

Cheers for now,

Siraaj 

A Once in a Lifetime Experience

Hello readers, sorry it’s been so long since I last wrote to you, its been pretty hectic down here. Camp has been very busy lately with a lot of bookings from excited wildlife enthusiasts and photographers.

This week all started with a bit of sad news after I had found an elephant carcass. I was lead to it by following a circling flock of vultures. The elephant had died from natural causes, it was not a pretty sight after the hyena had been there, so we left the scene to try find something more exciting. “Lion” the guests asked!

By sunrise the next day we were out on foot, ready for the lions! The wind started to pick up which made tracking near impossible. So we made our way to the spring in the Rukomeche where we saw a very exciting bird. It was a lifer for me- A Wattled Starling! The first Wattled Starling that has been seen at Kavinga actually. After taking enough photos and awwing over the bird, we made our way back to camp for some bacon and eggs. We couldn’t sit back and relax after breakfast though, we had lions to find!

Later that day we went to the Chewuya Gorge where we had last seen the lion tracks heading. I suspected they would be drinking in the rock pools we used to swim in. When the water was still quite high in the beginning of the season, we used to take guests there and have a quick dip in the cool water of the pools. Our guests always asked if there were crocodiles in the water and would not be happy with my assurances of their safety until they saw that Luke, our eager Learner Guide, was in the water and not getting eaten! But this time it was not crocodiles that made our guests nervous: it was the lions! Unfortunately the lions got our wind and scrambled up the side of the Gorge. We waited for them to settle and then followed them up. What a view! From the mountains of the escarpment you can see the whole of Mana, the lions were just in the foreground, and a stunning baobab on a ridge was the center of stage. It was magical!
Around the dinner table that evening, we all shared our stories of our sightings and highlights of the day. When all of a sudden, Clyde got up very excited and with his flash light waving from left to right, he  chirped “Leopard! Leopard! Leopard!” We all left the dinner table and peered over the edge, and there he was. A magnificent big male leopard drinking at our pan, “wow” I thought, “what a way to put a cherry on the top and end such a wonderful day.”

After all the stories and excitement at dinner, I had more guests wanting to see the lions on foot, so off we went at sunrise back to the Gorge! There were tracks everywhere leading in all directions but we kept our original route that lead up further into the Gorge. We noticed there were some fresh tracks leading up the mountain, but there were no cub tracks following them. When movement amongst the rocks got our attention. There were the four tiny cubs! Trotting straight towards us! I told everyone to keep still and quiet while I looked for the adults with my binoculars.
Amazingly, one little curious cub stopped about 5 meters from us up on a rock. He lay gazing into each of our eyes and was probably thinking “what are these odd creatures?”
I felt my skin tingle and hairs stood up on the back of my neck .
The little cub began to call, I looked back to check for mum but instead I saw my guests smiling in aww.
I then realized why the hairs on my neck stood, it was not fear it was a feeling. I cannot explain exactly, but I knew that this was one of those moments that was a once in a lifetime experience that myself and my guests would always remember forever.

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I am going to stop there for now and fill you in with my next blog! What happened the next day and yesterday, is a whole new story!
Keep an eye out on my Instagram page to see my pictures @hookedonsafari.

Thanks to Clyde Elgar for this fantastic photograph of the curious cub!

October is Here!

The August winds have blown us right through September and all of a sudden we’re half way through October. Now the famous Valley heat is starting to set in! The change in the season has resulted in an increase in thirsty animals. Eland drink at the spring everyday and there are countless numbers of impala, kudu and warthog at the pan during lunch time. Elephant cover the pan during the evening and keep our guests up with the splashes and trumpets.

The bird life at Kavinga has been fantastic. We have had regular sightings of the Yellow Billed Stork and Broad-billed Rollers. Carmine Bee-eaters decorate the bare trees like bright colored Christmas decorations. The Greater Painted Snipe is an exciting bird to tick off the Kavinga Bird List, and we have three of them at the pan as well as a flock of Southern Pochards in the pan! It won’t be long before we can start ticking off the African Pitta too. Eastern Nicators and Red-throated Twinspots sing in camp, while the White-Headed Vultures build their nest by the spring.

The lions have had us tracking them in circles and are now in the Chewuye Gorge with the cubs where they had killed a young elephant. The Wild Dog have not been seen for some time- since we noticed four of the pups were no longer with them.
The Baobabs have started flowering already along with a couple  of other trees that only normally flower much later in the season.

Some pretty strange and early changes this season, including some Leopard Tortoises walking about and Egyptian Geese passing through. We’re excited to see what the rest of the month has to offer!

Take Care of Yourselves,
Siraaj

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