Wildlife Report: Spring 2022 (August – October)

Spring is a time of change at Matetsi Private Game Reserve, as winter begins to loosen its grip on the landscape and the new season brings with it life-giving rains, steadily rising temperatures and the sight of baby animals around every corner.


In August, with the warmer weather still a few weeks away, the bush is sparse and bone-dry; branches exposed to the sun and wildlife kicking up plumes of dust wherever they go. While sometimes taking on the look of an alien planet, the arid landscape is an important part of the circle of life for the flora and fauna of the African bush, allowing time for regeneration and renewal. 


Photo credit: Hayley Walls

The lack of vegetation also has huge benefits for the safari-lover: with a scarcity of water and no leaves to obscure the view, wildlife are much easier to spot, especially as they tend to be concentrated around pans and boreholes at this time of year.


Photo credit: Hayley Walls

As we moved into September, and the bright green leaves of the msasa trees heralded the start of spring, days became warmer and longer. Mornings remained fairly cool but soon the mercury was hitting 30ºC/86ºF and higher during the day, as we crept towards October – the hottest month of the year in Victoria Falls. It is times like these that we are especially grateful for the cool breeze drifting off the Zambezi and the luxury of air conditioning (and private plunge pools!) in all of our suites. 


Photo credit: Hayley Walls

The first rains arrived a little earlier than expected on the 19th of October, bringing welcome relief from the scorching heat and quenching the thirst of plants and animals alike. Soon, the bush had exploded into a riot of verdant new growth and began its remarkable transformation into the lush abundance of summer. 


The Zambezi remains at low water (as is expected during this season – the main catchment basin for the Zambezi is in the Barotse floodplains further upstream, which will feed the river and cause a more significant rise in the water levels in a few months time) with good flow over sections of the main falls. Guests can currently see incredible rock formations on the Zambian side of the falls which are usually hidden by a curtain of water but become exposed at this time of year. 


Wildlife Movements & Sightings

Game drives and scout patrols at Matetsi Private Game Reserve have been nothing short of action-packed over the last few months. Excellent conditions for wildlife spotting combined with a thriving habitat and steady increase in animal numbers, thanks to our anti-poaching efforts, have made for some remarkable sightings.


Huge herds of elephant and buffalo continue to dominate the sightings reports, with giraffe, kudu, zebra and impala joining them in their numbers throughout the reserve. Never far behind are the lions, which have been sighted with an astonishing frequency of late. Our team, as well as our guests, have delighted in watching the three cubs belonging to the resident pride as they learn the ways of the wild from their family members. 


Four more cubs from another pride have also been seen enjoying Sable Pan in the company of their mother, while on the 28th of September, a record-breaking 18 individual lions were sighted by our safari guides. 


26/09 Today’s Morning Game Drive [3 lionesses, 1 male lion + 3 cubs on a buffalo kill @ Namaqua pan = 7 lions in total]. 1 lone lioness @ BH17 + 5 females & 1 young male @ Westwood Vlei. TOTAL No. of lions seen today is 14 (Fourteen).


Photo credit: Nicole Lifson

These big cats have been joined in the sightings reports by a pair of cheetah on several ocassions (see our Conservation update below), an ever-increasing number of leopards and many of their smaller cousins; African wild cats, genets, servals and civets. Always close to the action were also the scavengers – vultures, jackals and hyena – as well as one of the continent’s most efficient predators: African wild dogs. There were multiple sightings of this endangered species throughout the spring, including a pack of 16 with pups in tow.


Photo credit: Andrew Voss

The birdlife at Matetsi Private Game Reserve also continues to astound – the last few months have seen some of the migratory species returning (including yellow-billed kites) as well as great sightings of red-crested korhaan, crimson-breasted shrike, Dickinson’s kestrel, racket-tailed roller, saddle-billed stork, marabou stork, Verreaux’s Eagle owl, ostriches and even a flock of pelicans!


Photo credit: Stuart Walls

Notable Sightings

  • Wild dogs with pups (endangered)
  • Bushbabies
  • Waterbuck (until recently locally extinct – see Conservation Update below)
  • Two male cheetah on several occasions
  • (African clawless?) otter enjoying a dip in front of the lodge
  • A jackal with five little pups on the Westwood vlei
  • 12 pelicans roosted at Nungu/Mpisi junctions 


Cheetah tracks

Conservation Update

September marked the one-year anniversary of the passing-out parade for our inaugural class of Amaganyane recruits; a group of sixteen anti-poaching scouts which now numbers close to 50! The impact of their round-the-clock patrols and surveillance has been swift and meaningful, as is evidenced by some unusual wildlife activity on parts of the reserve. 


A pair of male cheetah, whom we suspect have been living under the cover of thick forest in the neighouring Zambezi National Park, were first spotted at Sable Pan in mid-September. Naturally skittish and extremely cautious, this species has previously avoided the eastern side of our reserve due to a lack of positive human presence, however the increase in wildlife security here has now made it safe for them to seek food and water beyond their usual territory. They were seen a number of times in the following weeks and it is our hope that they become increasingly comfortable in the area and habituated to the scouts, guides and vehicles.


Photo credit: Hayley Walls

The positive human presence provided by our anti-poaching scouts has also drawn huge herds of buffalo to another quieter section of the protected area – the Siaziaba flood plain. Not typically seen in this more remote part of the reserve, which historically has suffered from a fair amount of snare poaching, their appearance in these grasslands is considered a huge success for our conservation team. 


Another remarkable milestone is the completion of a project to reintroduce waterbuck to Matetsi Private Game Reserve; a species which had become extirpated here due to poaching. The population did not naturally regenerate so a decision was taken to translocate a cohort of 14 waterbuck who, after a few weeks acclimatising to their new surroundings, were recently released into the reserve. They have subsequently become a regular feature in our sightings reports and a regular reminder of how far this once-barren wilderness has come since the establishment of Matetsi Private Game Reserve six years ago. 

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Guest Testimonial

“Matetsi [Victoria Falls] is simply fabulous. They could not have done more to make our stay there unforgettable. Absolutely everything was top class. The staff is incredibly good, the room was impeccable and the food was exquisite. The game drives and boat cruises were so good and the game viewing was fantastic. The cherry on the cake was the bush dinner. You simply cannot do better. Thank you to the whole Matetsi family.” – Alain from Harare, Zimbabwe, August 2022


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