Christmas and New Year at Mombo: There can’t be a more spectacular venue for the festivities that heralded the end of 2012! Amongst swathes of luscious green where the lechwe roam and the lions roar, we saluted our thanks to a truly magical year in the place of plenty. As we waved goodbye to a couple of Mombo legends, I stepped into some very large green shoes and approached my first newsletter for this beautiful camp with just a bit of apprehension.
After a predictably stunning Christmas in camp, we saw in the new year with a very special and rare ‘bush dinner’ not far from camp. We explained to the guests that this was a particularly infrequent occasion and they jumped on board with enthusiasm. The resident hyaenas, lions and elephants graciously kept their distance and allowed us to enjoy a beautiful dinner aroun d a roaring camp fire, followed by much singing and dancing from a full -voiced Mombo choir. It was memorable for guests and staff alike, as we all felt the distinct privilege of celebrating at Mombo under such unusual circumstances.
Back in camp, it has been business as usual. The epic thunderstorms that are drenching the bush provoke equally epic sightings as both predator and prey emerge from their soaked shelters to mark territories again and revel in their new watery Eden.
The Maporota Pride has made its presence known in and around the camp quite a few times this month. The most notable was during dinner one moonlit night recently. Guests were about to begin dessert when a call came through on the radio to warn the managers that their houses were being surrounded by lions. This caused some amusement and we all answered, requesting regular updates on their next movements. For a while, only seven out of the 12 were visible, lounging in front of main camp while the guests finished their dinner. A ew began to inch towards some grazing lechwe, and Little Mombo was notified that they might have some visitors coming their way. The guests on that side were joined at their dinner by the old and toothless male, ‘Mr Gummy,’ who entered stage right near the guest loo and positioned himself in front of the Little Mombo pool. By now the guests were riveted, and we escorted them along the boardwalk towards main camp to see the main body of the pride. As a call came through announcing the arrival of a few rather disgruntled hippo, we quickened our pace and arrived to find an intriguing clash of titans ensuing directly in front of camp. Dessert abandoned, guests were lined up along the balustrade watching as the hippos charged the lions, mouths wide open, roaring in disgust that their quiet evening had been interrupted by the notorious band of felines.
The leopards have not been upstaged, however. Pula, the gorgeous torn -eared female, has been seen in the throes of courtship with the male nicknamed Blue -Eyes. Whilst this has provided mind -boggling sightings for several guests, this coupling is bitter-sweet. The fact that Pula is mating again signifies poignantly the likely death of her cubs, which have not been seen since they poked their squashed little faces out of a hole in a tree two months ago. We hope that we will see the results of her liaisons with Blue-Eyes sometime in the future.
This is not the sole tug -of-the-heartstrings that we have had this month. The extraordinary scenes between the mother giraffe and her stillborn baby will not easily be forgotten: it was a staunch reminder of the harsh cycles by which nature operates in the bush. Guests watched as the clan of hyaena advanced and retreated for hours, unwilling to let the opportunity for a me al pass them so easily. The mother giraffe was equally reluctant to abandon her dead offspring and so the anguished guests could only look on as this exchange continued for hours. Finally, the mother had to acquiesce to the hyaenas’ advances and she stood nearby as they claimed their prize.
One more goose -bumps story and then I’ll stop: there have been quite a few sightings this month of a particularly fascinating type of elephant behaviour. I had heard many times that elephants will muse over the bones of their fallen comrades, or pause to examine and smell an area where another has died, but I had never witnessed it first hand.
A few guests were lucky enough to see such a demonstration and it was not long afterwards that I too experienced it. We came a cross a young bull elephant and stopped as we noticed a few old and sun – bleached pachyderm bones lying in the grass. Sure enough, the young bull hovered over a particularly large bone and ran his trunk along its length, apparently smelling it. He then made as if to leave, but stopped dead in his tracks and swung around to examine another bone a little way off. There was no obvious explanation for this behaviour, but one cannot help but feel moved to witness it. Whether you put it down to curiosity, playfulness, coincidence, or something akin to mourning, it is an incredible example of the way we are always learning from nature, on a daily basis.
As always, the smaller details must not be overlooked. The bush is teeming with birds, snakes, butterflies and frogs: just driving through the soggy plains sends all manner of flying creatures twirling through the air, turning an existing paradise into a true wonderland.
Notables of the feathered variety for this month include the ever -beautiful southern -carmine bee-eaters and rosy-throated longclaw. A small group of Hottentot teals was seen in a newly -replenished pan recently, as well as African crake. Guests were fortunate enough to see a kori bustard chick as well, adding to the list of bizarre but adorable babies popping up all over the place.
As I wrap up this whistle -stop tour through December, it is pouring with rain and the lions can be heard calling from camp. The highlights of January alone are already blazing the trail for another fabulous year: Mombo 2013 – here we come.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Graham, Liz, Jemima, Dittmar, Graeme, Ruby, Glen and Keene. Guides: Doc, Callum, Tshepo, Sefo and Moss.