As our season progresses life in the bush continues and as with all things in life, there are some sad endings but also some happy endings; it is all part of the circle of life.
For all who have stayed in Kaingo, you are sure to have encountered our little resident herd of Bushbuck: one beautiful male with three dainty females, and we were delighted to welcome a new member to the group, who arrived towards the end of June. As with most antelope, Bushbuck are secretive with their young, keeping them in hiding for long stretches at a time and only a few of us were lucky enough to catch glimpses of this fragile creature. Then one night in July, the camp was awoken in the middle of the night by the persistent, highly aggravated alarm calls of Vervet monkeys, that continued into the morning so ensuring that all knew danger was afoot.
In the morning as dawn arrived, we found indications that a Leopard had visited the camp. As always these tracks and signs tell a tale and the story that evolved was a sad one: in the sand behind the rooms, one was able to discern the signs of a struggle that ended with something being dragged through the camp and into thick brush.
And there we found the remains of the young Bushbuck. The tracks were those of a young female leopard, whose territory is close to camp. Our guide Andrew had spotted this female about a week previously and at the time noted that she was heavily pregnant. About a day after the young Bushbuck was taken, she was spotted again without her tell-tale bulge but with signs of lactation. Although we have not yet managed to spot the new born cubs, we believe that the young Bushbuck had fed a new family!
Another Leopard family in the area that is doing very well and has been spotted regularly on game drives, are Malaika and Chiphadzuwa. Early in July, Malaika and her daughter Chiphadzuwa, gave photographers, Lou Coetzer and Wenzel Kotze from Coetzer Nature Photography quite a show when they came to drink at a water hole. Chiphadzuwa was named by Patrick, our senior guide, and her names translates from Chinyanja to mean ‘Overpowering the Sun’ and as you can see from the photographs, this little lady is turning into a really beautiful leopard.
These two beauties have also been providing guests at Mwamba Bush Camp with equally great sightings. Early in the month we found them sitting at the edge of Lion Plain with a male Puku stashed up a tree and our guests were able to observe them feeding on the carcass in the gathering darkness.
Guests from both camps enjoyed a wonderful few days of Leopard activity when a magnificent male, who moved across from the Luambe National Park, killed a large male Bushbuck at Fish Eagle Lagoon. We spent the rest of that evening watching Luambe eat from the carcass and then attempt to move his prize up into the safety of a tree, but his full belly and apparent exhaustion from subduing such a spirited meal caused him to fail.
When we returned the following morning, he had managed to drag his kill up into a tree away from the attentions of any wandering Hyaenas. He appeared to be quite agitated during his morning feed and we soon noticed that Malaika had come to see if there was any space at the table for her.
Luambe made it very clear that there most certainly was not and Malaika moved off to settle down under a bush, patiently waiting to see if he would leave any scraps for her.
Elephants crossing the Luangwa River at Kaingo are becoming a regular occurrence to the delight of everyone in Kaingo, both guests and staff alike.
One Saturday afternoon we observed a family of 12 elephants gather at the river to drink. As the time passed it became apparent that the Matriarch had plans to cross the river, so we, along with the guests made our way to the elephant hide. The family consisted of 6 adult females along with some younger elephants and two very young babies. ‘With so many sizable crocodiles lurking in the shallows; crossing with such young babies can be a very dangerous exercise. Eventually the convoy began to move across the river, stopping at regular intervals on the lookout for ever present danger. It is an entertaining sight to watch the youngsters as they cross, dipping under the water regularly and resurfacing to bob along in the midst of a wall of elephant legs. Once they reached the other side and emerged from the water, they made their way to the steep bank to enter the Ebony forest. As the seconds went past, it became obvious there was a problem as the group stopped moving, trumpeting and rumblings followed and one distressed female began to circle the bank below us. It was becoming apparent that the youngest calf could not climb the steep bank to the other side. The family group eventually departed, apparently leaving mother and baby to their own fates. And we were not the only things observing this unfortunate turn of events: a large crocodile who had been sunning himself on the far bank slipped into the water and began to swim across the river. We all watched holding our breath, with one eye on the elephants and the other on the crocodile, as Mum and baby began the return journey across the river. Eventually, after what seemed an age, the elephants arrived safely on the far back, but it was a sorry sight to watch as the female, constantly turning to see if her family would come back, made her way with her young charge into the Ebony forest across the river.
Later that afternoon, from our vantage point in the office, we saw her cross the river again, loneliness for her family driving her to try the steep bank once more, but again with no success. The next day we saw the same Elephant with her baby emerge from the far, wooded-bank; but even with renewed energy , the bank was too much of a challenge for the youngster. It was then that we decided a little help was needed and so drove to Elephant Hide to see what we could do to assist. When we arrived, the little family had crossed the Luangwa but were not managing to climb the steep bank. Luckily we had stopped to collect some tools on our way and once mother and calf had re-crossed safely back to the other bank albeit defeated, we set to work making some ‘steps’ to assist with the climb. The noise of our working must have caught the elephants’ attention, because once they reached the far bank, the cow stopped, as if waiting. We finished making the steps more manageable and left, hoping that we had not interfered too much in Mother Nature’s plans. About an hour later, while searching for a leopard that the baboons were shouting at, we came across the mother elephant and calf who had successfully crossed the river and were now looking for their family. We felt a great sense of relief and satisfaction that they had made their way back to the protection of the herd.
Patrick and his guests had an unusual sighting at Wild Dog Lagoon: while watching Hippos, they spotted a Sacred Ibis on the back of one of the Hippos and as they watched, the Sacred Ibis gathered wet mud from the Hippos back and then proceeded to ‘dress’ a rather nasty looking gash on the hippos back. Ministrations over, it flew on to the next beast in need . . ..
Lions have been very much a part of life at Mwamba Bush Camp this month with many sightings of both the Hollywood and Mwamba Kaingo prides. A number of these sightings have been made by guests whilst on walks, not far from the camp itself. During morning tea a buffalo was heard bellowing in distress close to camp, so Meyam decided to take his guests on foot to see what all the fuss was about. After a brief walk following the sounds of the kill, they found the Hollywood pride had brought down a buffalo and had started to feed. Meyam and his guests sat in silence, at a safe distance, watching as the pride gorged themselves on their hard-earned prize.
The Mwamba Kaingo pride have been frequenting Numbu Lagoon, only a short drive from Mwamba Bush Camp. One particular evening they were found relaxing by the lagoon in the late golden afternoon sunlight. Their relaxation was brought to an abrupt end however, when a large breeding herd of Elephants decided it was their turn to enjoy the refreshing waters of the lagoon. With two calves in the herd, both under a year old, the females did not take kindly to the presence of the Lions and quickly chased them away, the pride disappearing in a cloud of dust into the sunset.
The Hollywoods have been mostly unsuccessful to date at bringing down large prey and have been subsisting on Pukus, Impalas and Warthog.
On one night all the game-viewers attended this pride killing a Warthog and then subsequently being driven off of the scraps by nineteen Hyaenas. There is footage on our blogs of an epic tug-of-war over the Warthog’s head between two of the females, only for them to lose it to the Hyaena!
Guests from both camps enjoyed an interesting sighting involving the Hollywood pride, not far from Kaingo Camp. An elephant that had died of natural causes, (ZAWA inspected the carcass thoroughly and could find no evidence of human interference) and thankfully provided the Lions with a much needed feast. They fed on the carcass for three days, rejuvenating hungry bodies, before leaving what remained to the Hyenas and Vultures.
The Hollywoods were also involved in a fascinating encounter when a large male Leopard killed an Impala and was busy `dressing’ it prior to hauling it up a nearby tree, when he was chased off by a clan of Hyaena. The noise of the clash attracted the Hollywood Pride and they succeeded in chasing off the Hyaenas and claiming what was left of the Leopard’s kill.
One enterprising young female, possibly taking a leaf out of her spotted cousin’s book, snatched a shoulder of the meat and scampered up a tree, leaving the rest of the pride gazing wistfully upwards.
A noise from our vehicle momentarily distracted the female and we cowered under her feline stare.
Eventually, after much internal debate, she managed to join the other Lioness up the tree, but the feast was already gone.
The Mwamba Kapanda pride have also been seen close to Mwamba Bush Camp and we are very pleased to say that the pride are looking healthy and have a new addition in the form of a cub of about five months of age. Sylvester and his guests were fortunate enough to come across the pride hunting Zebra not far from camp, but alas the hunt was unsuccessful.
Venus’ conjunction with Jupiter dominated our evening skies, even outshining Saturn’s closure with Scorpius. Saturn will only pass into the constellation Scorpius, from the Earth’s perspective, in early November of this year.
We are very fortunate to have some very talented people come and stay with us and they have very kindly let us share some of their fantastic photographs.