Traditionally, November has always been a “dull” and “boring” month.
The Dark Month.
In Finland they call November “Marraskuu” which translates as “month of the dead.”
The Saxons referred to November as the “blood month.”
Even poets across the world have their knives out for this month:
“No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member –
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds –
November!” – Thomas Hood.
The Bright Month.
One thing is very clear: neither the Fins, nor the Saxons or Thomas Hood have ever visited the South Luangwa Valley in November.
November was indeed a month full of cheer and shine. It was filled to the brim with bees and birds and the butterflies were all here to welcome the new leaves after the first rains in nearly seven months. And what is more, the Impalas delivered dozens of young and the cuckoos came back to entertain us with their lively tunes. Even the elephants visited more regularly than usual.
November was a good month, both for the Animal & Plant Kingdoms and for us here at Wildlife Camp.
November in South Luangwa should be called Newvember because of all the new life that springs up around every corner this time of year. The bush is decorated with green shoots and on every loop-road you will find a kindergarten of the new impalas playing but also being very careful not to wander off too far away from the adults. Some of the outstanding young we saw this month were a pair of Egyptian Geese with their gaggle at Mushroom lagoon. And even though they deliver young throughout the year, I was privileged to spot a baby elephant, barely a couple of hours old, in Nsefu sector. Wildlife Camp also played host to a Warthog family with 7 piglets, a mommy-monkey with a baby hanging from her in every second tree and an owlet which we found next to a chalet. Because we could not restore this fledgling to its natural parents we all really wanted to raise it ourselves. However, after reading up on the matter and discovering that we would have to farm mice and rats to keep the bird fed we decided to ‘donate’ it to Steve and Anna Tolan at Chipembele Wildlife Education Trust. Since then they have done a sterling job and ‘Woll’ the Wood Owl is now almost ready to be released back into nature. Thank you Steve and Anna!
The Big Pride of lions that we are used to seeing was taken over by a beautiful young male that came from the Chichele hills. Shaka, as the new male is called, made his move across the Katete river in September and has since then managed to push Sleet, the x-owner of the Big Pride out. Shaka did not wait for the grass to grow underneath his paws and already at least one female from Big Pride is showing signs of cubs to come in the New Year. Unfortunately, with the takeover, the cubs from Sleet did not survive.
Even though Shaka was not able to keep the Big Pride all to himself, it looks as though his reign as dictator might last for a while.
Sleet now finds himself in the Chichele hills area, where Shaka came from originally, and is even seen sometimes with Shaka’s old pride.
Remember that you can follow this animal-reality show on Facebook by clicking on the following link: Sleet fan-page on Facebook.
Photo courtesy of Bianca Preusker.
Sighting of the month.
The sighting of the month for November fell from the heavens: The first rains arrived! The wait for the rattle of raindrops on rooftops was over. In the middle of the afternoon on Sunday the 7th it came, and even though it was merely a mild downpour, the effect it had on man and nature alike was something special. It was wonderful seeing the impalas bunched up tight against each other and feeling the cold winds gushing across the chalet verandas. Not to mention the smell of drenched earth!
In the days leading up to the first rains it was palpable how desperately thirsty the bush was. Even the buffalos stopped grazing and started browsing. But as soon as the sound of thunder roared through the valley and the first drops fell it was as if the fat lady had finally sung and the deadly summer was over. Within days, if not hours, green shoots were visible in every Mopane and the dry-gullies from which leopards terrorize their prey every night were transformed into small streams.
Come Rain, Shine or hippos.
But indeed, coming to the end of this letter, I remember that there is one complaint I have against November. November brings rain. Not that I complain about rain. Rain brings green grass. Not that I complain about green grass. Green grass brings hippos in the middle of the night. Now, in that lies my complaint. Hippos in the middle of the night, on my precious lawn, mean that I am getting up at least once every night to clap my hands until the big beast finally decides to leave my lawn alone which is by then not in tact anymore.
As always, Wildlife Camp will remain open through the year, come rain or shine or hippos. The cooks will be here to prepare delicious meals, the bar-men will be present to serve ice-cold drinks and the guides will have their vehicles ready to take you into the heart of Mother-Nature.
From Herman, Patsy, Dora, Retha and the rest of the staff at Wildlife Camp, we wish you a Blessed Festive Season!
Warm Regards from beautiful Zambia.