December 2019 Wildlife Sightings

Despite December being the beginning of the “Green Season*”, one of our guides noted “Buffalo and Elephants everywhere”. These iconic species were seen in their numbers, and there were numerous lions spotted throughout Matetsi Private Game Reserve.

*Green Season is the period in Africa that falls during the annual rains. Wildlife spread out from waterholes and rivers, making the most of the abundant surface water and, most importantly, taking advantage of the fresh grazing that turns the dry savannah into lush rolling grasslands. (Thanks to our friends at Go2Africa for their explanation of this very special time of the year.)

At this time of the year, “tiny babies” continue to compete for the crown of “cutest”, and we as a team still “ooo” and “aaaahh” along with our guests when we see the warthog families, impala herds and mongoose gaggles with their little ones. In December, the piglets took the crown again, with the impala babies (though still camera shy) came runner up.

Unfortunately, impala babies seem to hold the title of “tastiest” and can fall prey to many carnivores, with jackals and vultures enjoying the leftovers.

The Lion sightings (the bit you’ve been waiting for) were consistent throughout the month. The 2 young cubs are growing up (not too fast) and their mother lioness keeps them safe from danger, though she’s comfortable with our vehicles near her. The mating pair have been sighted several times, and we await the outcome of these rendezvous with anticipation. Small prides of lion (3 / 4) were seen hunting warthog and zebras on occasion (but with no success).

Large breeding herds of Elephant frequented the waterholes. This was as a result of days without rain and soaring temperatures that caused the ground water to dry up. One of our trackers commented that in December, he “really learnt to have courage in the face of elephants”.

It is with regret that we note that a small askari herd of male elephant destroyed 5 of our 16 solar powered waterholes. Our Conservation team has worked tirelessly, with financial support from our family owners, in order to bring these back online – we thank them for their efforts and selfless contributions.

While lone dugga-boy buffalos enjoy mud wallowing, sizable breeding herds roam through the south-western section of the property, enjoying the relief from the heat that the forests provide. Successful tracking for buffalo took guests into this southern section, and sightings of Eland were a bonus. This is also a good area for Sable, and guests keen to spot these special antelope ventured down there as well – 3 separate sightings of Sable were recorded on one particular game drive.

Pregnant zebras show promise for the future. The giraffe population at Matetsi Private Game Reserve is doing very well, and giraffe continue to be a delightful and frequent sighting on game drives.

Above all of these wonders on the ground, cloud formations reminiscent of giant brush strokes sweep across the sky and catch the sun’s rays at sunset. With your own personal sundowner spot (and G&T in hand), you feel like nature is creating a work of art just for you.

Interesting Sightings

Nocturnal sightings continue to be interesting with African wild cat, genet, serval (etc) reported. And quite a few daylight sightings of hyena near a den (more about that in January…).The green season continues to be an interesting time for bird sightings. Hammerkops (named for their hammer shaped head) are seen hunting frogs at waterholes. And Saddle Billed Storks strut their stuff in areas with natural pans.We had guests stay with us for 7 nights, who were very keen birders – they counted over 180 birds during their stay in Zimbabwe (2 weeks). One of their favourite sightings on Matetsi Private Game Reserve (apart from the Pel’s Fishing Owl and African Skimmers) was a family of Kori Bustards. Other notable bird sightings included a pygmy goose, and a number of sightings of Greater Painted Snipes.Along the river, we saw the usual culprits (hippo and croc). On the banks water monitors were frequently seen digging for bugs in the soft ground. Further inland, water monitors we sighted sourcing their favourite treats by digging through elephant dung.Last but not least, there are a number of resident leopards on Matetsi Private Game Reserve, though they are quite shy, and so we were surprised to hear that guests had seen 3 (!) leopard on a morning drive (though other guests had a wonderful leopard sighting the day before). They then showed us photos of Leopard tracks, a Leopard Tortoise and a Leopard Orchid.Many thanks to our team and guests for the photo contributions this month. Particularly, Crawford, Simba, Bryan, Sangweni and Ophious. Special thanks to Courtney for helping us select the best ones to share with you all.

P.S. The flame lilies are starting to come out. The vibrant flame lily is the national flower of our beautiful home country, Zimbabwe.

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