Festive Week in Pics : 2017 is a Wrap!

2017 is drawing to a close, and the year has plummeted into oblivion as quickly as a pied kingfisher dive bombs its prey. The year has been an interesting one, with new camps climbing aboard the Sun Destinations portfolio and a marked shift in lion pride behaviour across all of the reserves.
 
The four seasons bring with it a deluge of changes. In 2017 we’ve observed eerie thunderstorms, biting cold, searing heat and intermittent heavy rains that provided plenty of scope for species to thrive, struggle and migrate. Recently, the contrast of arid, bland bushveld bursting with greenery during our summer season has made for exceptional landscape views. The biome in both Botswana and Kruger continues to fascinate us and will continue to do so during the course of 2018.

 

For “Week in Pics” this week, we will recap with a few highlights from the year and introduce a new set of images recently uploaded by our rangers. There’s nothing better than new beginnings combined with a bit of hindsight.

2017 saw the acquisition of a few new camps, one of which is Chacma Bush Camp. A camp that is fast becoming the place to see elephants. This quaint camp located in the lesser-known Maseke Game Reserve and has a waterhole in front of the patio. Breeding herds of elephant, buffalo and plains game constantly frequent the lodge grounds which is a huge drawcard for guests.  Our favourite discovery was that of the Maseke male lions, a coalition of 6 burgeoning young male lions. The Chacma team have also spotted two lionesses, each with their own sub-adult cubs. In 2018 the Chacma rangers will attempt to unravel the mystery of the Maseke lions!

Chacma Male LionsBuffalo at the Waterhole - Chacma Elephant Trunk and Tusk at Chacma Owls at Chacma Bush Camp Pied Kingfisher at Chacma Sunset at Chacma Bush Camp

 Umkumbe Safari Lodge, our rustic gem in the prestigious Sabi Sand has endured two huge tragedies during the course of 2017, namely the untimely death of two leopards- the Bicycle Crossing male and White Dam female. The 11 year old graceful beauty, White Dam, passed away unexpectedly. Otherwise known as the Calabash female, this leopardess was one of our commonly spotted cats on the Umkumbe traverse. The death of the Bicycle Crossing male left us heartbroken, torn at the seams and in tatters. We often spoke about “Bike” and “Max” being local contenders for being crowned our favourite male, but we actually loved them both equally! However, there wasn’t much rivalry due to them occupying different territories.

The highlight of the year was the discovery of a pangolin on numerous occasions and the prolific leopard sightings. Umkumbe also enjoyed many African wild dog sightings with guests getting up close and personal with the dogs. Both vehicles were in a sighting with the pack of African wild dogs frolicking in the water after devouring a kill. Ranger Geoffrey said they made the bushbuck kill right in front of the lodge and then wandered off to the closest waterhole to clean their blood-soaked, matted fur and replenish their thirst.

Umkumbe Bicycle Crossing Bicycle Crossing Leopard

Pangolin at Umkumbe Safari Lodge

White Dam Umkumbe Sabi

Africa on Foot Wilderness Trails was another new and exciting launch for 2017. After much success with Africa on Foot and its morning walks, we decided to focus purely on launching a product that was a trails only safari. The trail is a 3 day mobile “glamping” experience in 3 different locations in the Maseke Game Reserve in the Greater Kruger. The feedback has been positive.Experienced trails guide and bush legend, Luan, has led many adventurers through the bushveld on this trail. The highlight? The elephants visiting the camp! This is the Maseke after all.

Africa on Foot Dinner Set-up

Africa on Foot Wilderness Trails Landscape

Wilderness Trails Dome Tents

Africa on Foot and nThambo Tree Camp have had an interesting time with lion pride dynamics, and recorded sightings of  “new” lions on the traverse. The former part of the year saw ample sightings of the Ross Pride Breakaway lionesses, the Mbiri males and even a once-off Trilogy sighting. The later part of the year sightings shifted to more regular observations of the Ross Pride females, the Western Pride and the River Pride.

Next year will be interesting in terms of dynamics.

There have been a few unknown leopard sightings, with regular sightings of Bundu and Cleo. There really have been far too many rewarding wildlife sightings in the Klaserie so it’s difficult to list them all.

In terms of lodge life, the highlight has been the construction of our Bush Bar – a place for special sundowners and craft gin tastings.

Bundu the Leopard in Klaserie Mafikizolo Lioness Wild Dogs in Klaserie Wilderness

Bundu cleans up after a good meal

Western Pride of Lions

EmGatlandBushBar The Boys who Built the Bush Bar

Ezulwini Game Lodges

Ezulwini set up a camera trap in an area popular with wildlife, and the results were astounding. The camera trap delivered results of leopard, elephant and plenty of plains game exploring the area. Currently, the lodge is undergoing a soft refurb at River Lodge which includes a number of changes to the standard rooms. We look forward to plenty of fresh changes at this luxury lodge in the Balule.

Heron at Ezulwini Game Lodges Male Lion at Ezulwini Game Lodges

Camera Trap Leopard Tail Camera Trap Honey Badger

Our Trails of Botswana camps have added a few more camps to their authentic trail route offering the best that Botswana has to offer. Xaxaba Island Camp and Mankwe Bush Lodge are the latest additions to the rustic trails route, while RAW Botswana Motswiri Camp has injected a bit of luxury into the Trails route. Camp Linyanti, Camp Savuti, Xobega Island Camp and Tuskers Bush Camp continue to provide us with epic wildlife sightings. On a recent educational to Tuskers, agents were lucky enough to spot a leopard at the waterhole in front of the lodge. Motswiri seems to have a steady flow of predator sightings, with guide Witness reporting  cheetah sightings and wild dog kills in front of Tent 5.

Let’s take on 2018 and make it a good one. Stay safe over the festive season, learn from the past and start the year on fresh footing! All the best from the Sun Destinations team! 

Carmine Bee-eater Botswana Marabou Stork Elephants at Tuskers Bush Camp

Baobab Motswiri : Image by Em Gatland Motswiri Baobab Sundowners : Image : Em Gatland