RETURNAfrica Lead Guide - Sarah Nurse

Winter has arrived in Makuleke and it is getting a bit nippy after dark. Each morning the sunrise is the morning chorus and a low fog over the river. The call of the Pel’s fishing owl resonating off the boardwalks is the beautiful start to my day.

Written by Sarah Nurse

Pafuri Camp Sunset

With regular sightings of elephant and buffalo, the walking and cycling trails season has kicked off to a great start. We had an amazing sighting of 8 elephant bulls crossing the Limpopo into Zimbabwe at sunset the other night! (There no fences between Makuleke, Zimbabwe and Mozambique – the animals follow their ancient migratory paths in what is known as the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park).

Walking in Lanner Gorge has become trickier than usual as the water in the Luvuvhu River is still high after the rains. There are many crocodiles – including some monsters! – waiting on the banks and in the hidden depths of the river. We will start walking through the gorge again when the water has dropped to a safer level.

This wet season we had more than 700mm of rain, compared to our usual average annual rainfall of about 350mm. Heading into this year’s dry season, Pafuri’s numerous pans are brimming with water from the heavy rainfall we had earlier this year. Banyini, Reedbuck Vlei and Makwadzi are teeming with life. Birding is still spectacular with sightings of many specials. The number of storks and herons nesting at Reedbuck Vlei is unbelievable, more than I have ever seen! Due to all the water and food that is around there are still quite a few migrant birds in Pafuri, including Woodland kingfishers and a few cuckoos. The birding in Pafuri is, as usual, spectacular! While sitting at the top of Hutwini, our guides, Mike and Alweet, saw crowned eagles, black eagles and martial eagles, all in one sighting.

Reedbuck Vlei

Nwambi pan currently has 17 hippos, the largest number ever recorded. It will be a great winter to walk in Pafuri after the heavy rains and, as the Limpopo starts to dry up, the game will become more concentrated around the pans and along the perennial course of the Luvuvhu. At the moment, the Limpopo is my favourite spot to visit. It is still in full flow, the water is clear and, after a long day of walking, it is the perfect place to have a shallow dip, mindful of the crocodiles of course!

The new Pafuri lioness seems to have her home in the area between Pafuri Camp and Baobab Hill Bush House. Her cubs have yet to be seen, but we have spotted their little tracks. She is more relaxed with the RETURNAfrica vehicles: Biff and I saw her four days in a row. One evening, she walked right into the middle of the road and up to a herd of buffalo near Hutwini trails camp. It was remarkable sight to see. The next night we were about to close down at Baobab Hill Bush House and we heard on the radio that she was walking towards the gate of the house so we drove back out and watched her walk past, towards Hutwini gorge. We are hopeful that the cubs will show themselves soon and that they will settle in as part of the new Pafuri pride.

Leopard sightings have been good, especially around the trails camps. One day, there were two leopards right at the trails camp bar! The guests were out on a drive at the time, busy viewing a lion. During the same trail, they had amazing leopard vocals in camp throughout the night.

Pafuri Camp Leopard

All is well at Pafuri: the rivers are flowing, the pans are brimming, the game is great, and the birds are abundant. In short, our beloved concession is thriving after a fantastic wet season.

Lead guide: Sarah Nurse

FEATURE IMAGE: Sinamatella

1st image: Sarah Nurse

2nd image: Sarah Nurse

3rd image: Simon Stobbs

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