As I am about to go on leave for a couple of days, I was thinking back on what an amazing work cycle it has been. We have had great guests coming to camp who all came to seek the relative peace and quiet of Beho Beho and The Selous, and they were not disappointed. Our little corner of what is still a vast wilderness is far removed from the other camps and seeing anybody else on a drive is still an exception, making sure that the majority of our sightings are experienced in quiet and solitude. And what sightings they have been.
The Beho Beho Pride, they have now been in our area for the whole season so we can give them a name now, is still very active in our area. The three males, Mr. Black, Mr. Blonde and Mr. Orange (I just watched Reservoir Dogs) seem to have a strong grasp on the area and can be heard most nights from camp claiming their territory. As for the females, they seem to be a tight nit group that is mostly seen together. The fact that Chongo (the one with the bad eye) is looking healthy and strong testified that her cooperation with the pride as a whole is going well. If she were left alone the lack of stereoscopic vision might hinder her hunting abilities severely and her condition could deteriorate.
As the bush has been drying up quickly we have started to venture more often towards Lake Manze, as the water there attracts good numbers of general game. We were glad to find the Manze Pride still together, the two females and what are now two sub adults. It is great to see they are doing well and how much the two youngsters have grown, the young male is far bigger than his sis now and will be his moms size soon. The young female is quite a feisty character, as I witnessed her stealing an Impala kill off two Spotted Hyena single-handedly and then defending it with vigor when the Hyena wanted it back.
At Lake Tagalala the water levels are still very high due to the amount of rain we had during the long rains, this means there are still plenty of Hippo and Nile Crocs to keep us busy. Also the Heronries are still quite active, providing us with beautiful sightings and entertainment. If we are lucky we find the Black Panther Pride on the lake shore, still complete they make quite a sight with three adult females, a sub-adult female and eight cubs. Keeping all those stomachs full must be quite the headache for the adults.
The Wild Dogs have been more elusive the last two weeks or so. We believed they had a den-site somewhere along the base of Kipalala Hill, which is the mountain that we look out on from camp. But they might have decided to move away due to the lion activity in the area. On their forays to go hunting the Wild Dogs would have smelled and seen both the Beho Beho Pride and the Black Panther Pride often, as the lions pose a risk to the adults and certainly the pups they would have moved to a safer area. But the pups should be approaching three months of age soon and then the pack will abandon the den for the year and start roaming around again.
Leopards are as elusive as ever in The Selous, but a young female has been quite a few times now in the area around the airstrip. She is still quite shy when encountered during daylight hours, but when the sun has set she gains confidence and behaves like she owns the place. The saying goes “a Leopard never loses its spots” and that is true. Over the years I have often encountered a Leopard that would disappear in thin air, and it happened again recently. On my way to Lake Manze we found a Leopard and it had just missed some Impala during a hunt. We saw the cat briefly as it walked into a small drainage line. I gave it a few seconds, as I did not want to scare it, and then moved my vehicle slowly forward so that we could see into the drainage-line. Gone, nothing to see, not even signs in the sand of a running animal. We checked around and peered into the thickets until our eyes fell out but we never saw or heard anything of that cat that day.
As I mentioned before the bush is drying up rapidly now and thus the spring in the Msine River and the waterhole at camp are becoming a big draw for animals in need of water. One of the big upsides of the heavy and late rains we had is that we still have good numbers of Zebra and Gnu in the area and they are now being joined by large herds of Cape Buffalo. During most days the animals can be seen from camp gathering on the plains in front before they gather the courage to go down into the valley to drink. The white Buffalo cow is still around and trying to spot her amongst the hundreds of dark shapes can be challenging, but it is nice to see she is still doing well. It is also worth noting that the elephants still know about the fresh water to be had in and around camp, breeding herds can be seen on drives and from the camp almost every day. The bulls however are bolder and come into camp to feed and drink, allowing some of the guests with close-up encounters from their bandas.
So as we now move into September the winds are picking up a bit and eventually they should bring with them the rains. We all hope that the Short Rains will not elude us again as they did last season when the rains failed and the wildlife suffered because of it. By the time I will go on leave next we should, hopefully, have had some rains and the bush will vibrant with lush greens and abundant water. But we will have to wait and see, Africa is unpredictable.