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  • Writer's pictureJulian Brookstein

Hwange on Fire!

Hwange has been on fire through October …Figuratively in the amazing sightings I have had and literally very sadly, as there have been big fires raging through the park during this dry period. However big fires through Hwange happen every year. Areas of tall dry grass are cleared, that in turn become areas of new green grass. For October, we have seen just about everything, large mammal-wise, Hwange has to offer. I have had brilliant sightings of Sable herds - twenty seven animals strong! And of Roan, the same numbers. Kudu also seem to be everywhere this dry season, with the burnt areas giving them away. We have been very fortunate to see Cheetah on a number of occasions, including a mother with cubs. Sightings of Red Hartebeest also, which is not an animal you see often.

Hwange has fantastic numbers of Buffalo and every dry season you will see big herds. We saw a lot this October. As it gets drier, it is common to see herds of 200-300 animals daily at different waterholes through Sinamatella and Robins area. This buffalo viewing for me, culminated on my last safari, when my guest and I saw, what I can honestly say, was a herd of well over a thousand animals. They were spread all along the Little Toms Vlei line in the Robins area. My guest, who has over 50 safaris under his belt all over Africa, told me he had never seen a herd of this size. I definitely hadn’t. See video below.

Elephants, as always in Hwange in the dry season, are in amazing numbers. It truly is a sight to behold, with Elephants around every corner and surrounding waterholes at this time of year. We found Lions on a few separate occasions eating elephants. Hwange in the dry season, the lions take advantage of the masses of Elephants coming to water, and prey on the weak. However, there is also life in the dry season. My guest and I were so fortunate to find a brand new baby elephant and mum. They stood just meters from where we could see the afterbirth and fluid at the site of the birth. The rest of the herd milled around close by, waiting for the baby to find its feet.

To see some of the congregations of Elephants around the waterholes at this time of year in Hwange will show you why it is known so rightly as one of the last major strongholds for the iconic species.

With such huge numbers of Elephants and Buffalo, this means that another animal also thrives in Hwange - Lions. These super predators target buffalo and Elephant in a big way during the dry period. If you have followed my stories over the years you will know and have heard about the “Super Models”. These are two lionesses that live in the Shumba area. When I first started working in the Shumba area they were then young cats. Always moving as two. When people on Safari talk about lions, very often the Big Male lion gets a lot of the press, and you hear how it is his territory. Really though, it is the territory of females. If there was ever a case for this being true, it is with the supermodels. They have had numerous litters of cubs over the years with many different “Kings” of the area. Even when having female cubs, their offspring never stayed with their mother when they became adult so the “Super Models” remained as two. There is now a new coalition of five male lions aged around three moving from the Shumba area, all the way to Mandavu. They are starting a nomadic phase of their life. Their father is the male holding the Masuma territory and interestingly enough, he seems to be tolerating them being around. When you see the size of these five young males moving as a unit, maybe it's a good idea for him to keep them around as hired guns. The mothers of these five are the Super Models. We were so fortunate to see them a number of times through October. Having a particularly special sighting of them eating an Elephant in the early morning. My Final safari for the dry season saw my guest and me seeing fifty one different lions in seven days. We saw the same cats numerous times but never counted cats we had seen already. The lion population in Hwange is really very healthy.

As our first season at Camp Chitubu winds down, I look back with great satisfaction at what we have achieved in a very short space of time. We have big plans going forward so watch this space and get in touch if you would like us to show you Hwange.

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