These months were characterized by bitterly cold mornings, and gorgeous blue-sky days. Guest departed the lodge wrapped up like the Michelin-man, with a hot water bottle helping to keep them cozy, and returned mid-morning delayered and feeling sprightly – whether as a result of the fresh morning air or the Ranger’s coffee (with Amarula), we can’t say.
The wildebeests remain settled on Westwood Vlei in the southern section of Matetsi Private Game Reserve, enjoying the company of jackals and ground hornbills as well as a sort of protection thanks to the zebra and buffalo that frequent the vlei. Perhaps due to the 15-year absence of wildebeest from the area, it seems that the lions might have forgotten how to hunt them – preferring buffalo, and zebras, which has been evident in the activity reported.
June started with a pride of lion killing a Zebra in a forested “Gusu” area on an early morning hunt. A large male remained guarding the kill. The pride of 9 that were seen with some regularity throughout this period were thought to be the same ones that took down the zebra, and in early July, a second large pride moved into the area. One pride roamed the eastern boundary and the other the western boundary. The “unbelievable” buffalo herds (that probably brought both large prides of lion into the area) were certainly influenced by these movements of lion.
With much lion activity, the leopard kept a low profile, with just a few good sightings. In contrast, there was still good wild dog activity.
Giraffe sightings have been frequent as always, and our guides always take time to share particular insights with our guests, for example pointing out those giraffe with serrated edges to their spots, thought to be a subspecies. There is also one particular “tower” with 7 young ones, that all seem to be doing very well.
Sable, which are more commonly sighted in the southern section of the property, were seen a number of times in the northern section, appearing very relaxed and enjoying the northern territory.
In addition to elephants in abundance throughout Matetsi Private Game Reserve, with Tracker Thabo counting 100+ elephants at Namakana pan on one occasion, guests out on boat cruises also enjoyed the spectacle of elephants on the banks of the Zambezi River, and a couple of elephants were seen swimming right in front of the lodge for days on end.
Our sightings of nocturnal creatures were interesting as always, with some nice civet and honeybadger sightings, and one guest had the good fortune of a daylight sighting of a serval right outside the glass doors of their suite – quite different to the more common sightings of curious monkeys, and warthog and bushbuck that take shelter close to the lodge.
In early July, the team and guests had the first sighting of a white-tailed mongoose at the bush dinner sight, since then it has made regular appearances.
Senior guide, Ophious contributed some interesting birding notes over June and July, in particular a sighting of Bradfield’s hornbills in big flock, which is rare to see.
Also, a sighting of a Bateleur eagle perching in a tree with a red-billed hornbill in its talons! The Bateluer is more typically known for its scavenger activity, being the first to a fresh carcass, eating the eyes and tongue before the vultures move in for the rest. This particular Bataluer removed all the feathers from its red-billed hornbill prey then flew to the next tree, where it had a nest with a chick inside. The circle of life.
Note: the accompanying photos are from our collection of images from June – July 2019. Thanks go to Crawford, Sangweni, Simba, Jefrey, Kiki, Leanne, Stephen and many others from the extended MVF family for sharing their stories and sightings.