Mashatu’s green season changed its pallet in February 2016, as the brightly coloured tribulus (or duiweltjies) adorned the savanna in thick carpets of yellow. The nutrient rich flowers brought life from all corners of the reserve out into the open plains to feed. Everything from elephants, to baboons, to gunieafowl took advantage of the blooming flowers.

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Photograph by: Ruth Nussbaum

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Photograph by: Kyle De Nobrega

The start of the year saw the return of the two ‘Zim Boys’ to the central game viewing area of Mashatu. They made their presence know as they attempted to reestablish new territory. If you where lucky as a guest, you would hear the deep harrowing roar of the two large males in the early hours of the morning from your comfortable lodge bed. Not only did they make themselves heard vocally, they immediately begun spreading their gene pool with our two resident lionesses.

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Photograph by: Kyle De Nobrega

On the more spotted cat front, the leading lady for 2016 was no doubt our beautiful ‘Matoga’. This incredibly relaxed leopardess dominated sightings through out the year, her calm and unperturbed nature allowed viewers to spend hours in her presence watching her stalk, hunt, feed, sleep and explore.

 

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Photograph by: Kyle De Nobrega

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Photograph by: Ruth Nussbaum

Our cheetah coalition, also know as ‘Mowire’, have been dominating the Tuli Block for many years. Once again they did good work in 2016 spreading their gene pool with our resident cheetah female, giving us yet another year of fantastic cheetah cub sightings. The female cheetah proved to be an exceptional mother, making kills almost daily for her 3 little cubs, and from a very young age teaching them how to fend for themselves.

 

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Photograph by: Kyle De Nobrega

As winter approached we where all expecting the icy weather to set in, but 2016 proved to be a very mild, yet exciting winter indeed. The excitement arrived in tiny little sand coloured bundles. Our two sister lionesses, not long after one another, gave birth to 3 lion cubs each. Our Zim boys where split from each other, we suspect sometime in February/March, making our surviving male a full time father to 6 very high energy and demanding cubs.

The sisters, having been born and raised in the central area of Mashatu have become extremely relaxed lions over the years and just a few months after giving birth to their cubs felt confident enough to reveal them to our game viewers, providing our guests and guides with some phenomenal viewing.

 

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Photograph by: Ruth Nussbaum

We had one of the best years yet in the underground hides, the low summer rainfalls at the start of the year meant that the reserve dried up quickly making the underground hides waterholes one of the very few water sources on the reserve throughout the winter season. Almost every single day for 5 months, we had elephants and general game visiting us at the Matabole hide. The Valley hide, had an exciting year too as our resident hyena clan denned just a few hundred meters away. On most mornings we would get as many as 10 hyena coming down for a morning drink, after a long night patrolling the reserve.

The hides where enjoyed by many photographs and avid game viewers wanting to experience a different form of ‘observing’ wildlife. The experience is a must for winter travelers to Mashatu.

 

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Photograph by: Ruth Nussbaum

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Photograph by: Ruth Nussbaum

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Photograph by: Ruth Nussbaum

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Photograph by: Kyle De Nobrega

We have come a full circle, and arrived back at the very welcomed rains. December has brought upon the first big rains of the summer season, the Mopane have begun pushing out their fresh leaves and the green tribulus carpet has slowly started to creep across the dusty savanna once again. The impala’s have begun dropping their young again and the call of the migratory Woodlands Kingfisher and Great Spotted Cuckoo is once again abundant through out the bush.

2017 will bring news stories and new life to the bush at Mashatu, and we look forward to sharing this all with you!

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Photograph by: Ruth Nussbaum

Photographs and text by: Ruth Nussbaum & Kyle De Nobrega

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