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Another incredible month at Safari Plains has come and gone, leaving guests, and guides alike with special memories that will last a lifetime. Although there is something magical about winter in the bush, the beautiful greens of summer and the rich vibrancy of life across the landscape rejuvenate one’s soul. It is always so gratifying for me to spend time with wild animals.

Changes in the seasons throughout the year bring different benefits to all the organisms in the natural ecosystem. As another incredible month on the Greater Mabula Private Game Reserve comes to a close, we reflect with fondness on the extraordinary highlights shared with our guides and guests. Beyond the tangible achievements and transformations, the greatest highlight lies in sharing the beauty of our reserve with our guests and instilling a love and passion for our natural world.

Wild Dogs update this month.

Have you ever wondered how African wild dogs coordinate their activities, especially before embarking on a hunt? We consider ourself very lucky to have wild dogs on the reserve to witness all these activities from them everytime we get sighting. Wild dogs employ a myriad of vocalizations and non-vocal signals to communicate within their pack, and surprisingly, sneezing plays a crucial role in their social dynamics. Yes, sneezing!

This unique behaviour is often observed during social interactions, particularly preceding a hunt. Sneezing is believed to be a form of communication to coordinate the pack’s activities. Another advantage to having wild dogs on our reserve as we encounter these behaviours more often.

Wild dog packs are led by an alpha male and female who handle breeding and decision-making. Despite the appearance of an authoritarian hierarchy, research suggests that the pack’s decision to go on a hunt is a democratic process, albeit with a fascinating twist. Votes are cast by way of sneezes… This rally transforms the pack into an energetic display of wagging tails, touching heads, muzzling, and animated dashes.

The rally concludes with the pack either excitedly setting off on a hunt or dispersing for a nap. The crucial decision is determined by sneezes, with pack members using sneezing to express their agreement to the proposal to go hunting. The more sneezes, the higher the likelihood of the pack embarking on a hunt, with the frequency peaking just before setting off.

While vocalizations like hoos, squeals, whines, and barks are more commonly associated with communication in wild dogs, the inclusion of sneezing as a communicative behaviour is an interesting aspect of their social dynamics. Next time you are sitting with a pack of wild dogs while they are resting, try and notice if any of them start to sneeze? And how many sneezes will it take to get the pack up?

Buffaloes update on the reserve.

Here on the Greater Mabula Private Game Reserve, we are so fortunate to be able to see buffalo all over our reserve. Since buffalo are not territorial but gregarious mammals (social and often in large herds) and hold large home ranges, this makes it possible to have them in such abundance as they are always on the move. Buffaloes are very water dependent, meaning that they need to visit watering holes on a regular basis.

Thus, we often get to see large herds of buffalo frequenting the waterholes as well as those situated in front of our lodges. As male buffaloes become old, they become solitary and can on most occasions form a small bachelor herd. Since buffalo are not territorial, they don’t have a dominate male amongst the mixed herd but rather the female and male both have a dominance hierarchy within the herd. The herd is very well known for protecting individuals from a predator, this we have seen many times when lions try their luck.

A memorable sighting of mine, was at crocodile dam, where I found a dagga bull relaxing and lying on the edge of the water, cooling down during the heat of the sun. I did not expect to find a buffalo and had rather expected to see hippos. This was one of the recently introduced bulls on the reserve and they are still not so familiar with safari vehicles.

As soon as this bull sensed that there is something watching him, he stood up looked in our direction and ran across crocodile dam to the otherside, I am sure we found him while he was dreaming about something. But to see such an enormous animal running like that through the water was really amazing and something new for me and my guests.

Now that is mother nature for you. Full of surprises everyday. It does not only surprise us but also surprises its members, who would have thought that a buffalo bull as big as he was, and known as one of the most dangerous in the big 5 hierarchy would be caught off gaurd and able to run through the water forgeting about crocodiles to be in the safe space, after crossing the dam he stood for a while watching us, and then he disappeared into the thicket.

Until next time…
From Isaiah Banda & Mabula family.
Safari Greetings.