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Written by Isaiah Banda

Another incredible month in the Mabula Private Game Reserve has come and gone, leaving guests, and guides with wonderful memories and experiences. As the greens and lush colouration of summer begin to fade, I cannot help but be excited for the change in season. From beautiful orange sunsets to browner, natural, and drier open landscapes once again, the change in season is always something to behold.

Double-Banded Sandgrouse appears again on the Reserve.

Every day that starts with watching the sunrise is a good day. It was during one of these moments that I happened to take my eyes off the rising sun and noticed two inconspicuous little birds sitting on the edge of the road, a pair of double-banded sandgrouse. These beuatiful birds often get overlooked because of their mottled brownish back feathers that help them to blend into their environment. The male double-banded sandgrouse has a black and white forehead band and bolder yellow around the eye while the female double-banded sandgrouse lacks the white and black forehead as well as the double-band on its chest. We are very lucky spot theme when they are visible here on the reserve, considering that they are very rare on there reserve and I have only seen them in two places before this, around Lake Kyle and Mvubu dam area.

Vultures visit Mabula again.

What is the first word you think of when seeing a vulture; creepy, dirty, sinister, ugly? Whilst classed as part of the ‘ugly five’ its apparent that these impressively large birds won’t be winning any beauty contest any time soon, but despite their quirky appearance, the white-backed vulture plays a vital role in our ecosystem. Vultures form part of the most ecologically important animals in our natural world. They are biological waste controllers, put simply, they clean up! Vultures feed on the “left overs” of dead animals and by doing so, they not only remove waste but also prevent the spread of disease which would have devastating effects without their divine intervention

Black-chested Snake Eagle perching on a Marula Tree.

These nomadic eagles hunt mainly on the wing and can be seen hovering above the grassland or often above the smoke of grass fires waiting to catch prey disturbed from the flames. On seeing a snake they parachute down with claws extended in various stages from a height of between 30 and 90 metres.

They can catch 1.8m long cobras, puffadders, boomslangs and even leguaans. Larger snakes are killed and eaten immediately on the ground, but smaller snakes are carried into the air and swallowed after being crushed in their strong talons. One of the common birds of prey on Mabula, usually seen singly or in pairs but occasionally congregating in groups numbering several dozen outside of the breeding season, black-chested snake eagles form monogamous breeding pairs.

Their breeding season spans winter and spring probably as sparser vegetation then makes it easier to catch slithering prey. Females usually lay a single egg in a platform nest built of sticks in the tops of trees or on utility pylons. The egg hatches about 2 months later. The chick is fed by both parents and starts flying at about 3 months old. Fully grown they boast a wingspan of 1.8m and weigh around 1.5kg.

Mabula’s Most Elusive Predator – The Serval

After a beautiful morning out in the flourishing bush of Mabula. “Stop! Look over there! What is that?”, one of the guest shouted. And it was indeed a serval. Servals are typically found in grassland areas where there are lower densities of larger predators such as leopard, hyena and lion. They will walk through the grass, periodically stopping to listen out for the movement of rodents with their massive ears. Their long legs allow them to pounce long distances when hunting, giving them a peculiar look along with their mid-length tail and over-sized ears.

Seeing this serval was truly amazing. It’s sightings like these that prove the statement of every single day out in the wild is so different. The three factors of a successful sighting all played their own part. For myself, for my fellow guides and our guests it ended as an unforgettable day.

Watching the sun dip below the horizon, you find yourself with a gin and tonic in hand, surrounded by the African bush and its nocturnal inhabitants of the Mabula Private Game Reserve, while your ranger and tracker exchange thrilling stories of wildlife encounters. Sunsets and Silhouettes! A breathtaking scene to finish off yet another incredible safari in the open grasslands of the reserve.

Sunsets make me smile. Always look around you, you may just be surprised to see that there is beauty in everything!

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