Nzumba - Another special trip

Author: Ryan Johnston

Late last year, one of my repeat guests got hold of me and wanted to do a safari early this year. The family had been on numerous safaris with me over the years, and the son, Jack, had fallen in love with South Africa. He was absolutely chomping at the bit to get back out here and on safari again (all the pictures in the blog are his and from this trip). Nzumba was the perfect lodge for the family to have some family time too, and after working around travel and university times, we found March to be the perfect time for our adventure.

The Lodge

After meeting everyone at the airport and our transfer into the lodge, we were greeted by Matt and Meg, who were to be our hosts over the next five nights. Pete was also on hand, a tracker I have had the privilege of working with a few times. He is a quiet, gentle man and an incredible tracker. A herd of elephants arrived just as we were checking in, taking a long drink at the waterhole in front of the camp. With the drier summer we have had, the waterhole was very productive, providing much entertainment during downtime between safaris.

Everyone was shown to their rooms, and everyone seemed very happy with their accommodation for the next few days. We then went through and had a quick high tea before the safari. David came through and introduced himself to us as the new chef. The food has always been great at Nzumba, but over our stay, David showed us that he is definitely taking it to another level. From his amazing breakfast specials to his amazing ribs at lunch, he cooks meat exceptionally well and delivers tasty deserts.

What a start!

Wild dogs on safari with Wandering Thru.

One animal that had managed to evade us over all our other previous safaris had been the wild dog. Matt had informed me that they had been around that morning, and so we headed out with a bit of extra hope. Not two minutes out of the lodges, Pete managed to find tracks for the whole pack heading towards one of the waterholes. As it was still warm, we took a chance and headed straight there.

To our delight,the entire pack, consisting of ten dogs, was resting in the shade around the waterhole. We found ourselves a comfortable spot in the shade and spent the next two hours watching the pack. Unlike cats, dogs don’t mind water, and so we watched as they would take turns coming down to lay in the water or quench their thirst. As it cooled down, the pups from last season started to get a bit more active, and we watched as they played and frolicked in the shallows. After some time, the pack headed off into some dense undergrowth, and we left them at that, heading off to enjoy a sundowner.

An unlucky giraffe

While the guests enjoyed a sundowner drink and views of the Klaserie River, Pete informed me that the day before, a large giraffe bull had slipped and died in the river. This was not great news for the unlucky giraffe, but it could potentially be a great story for us to follow for the next few days. We never went to view the carcass during the day as we concentrated on other animals and areas, but always aimed to end up there at night. It certainly did not disappoint.

Hyena on safari with Wandering Thru.

The first evening we headed in to view the carcass, we were greeted by the sight of about 10 hyenas feeding on the carcass. As the hyenas filled themselves, they spread out, resting among the reeds in the cool of the riverbed. All the hyenas had moved off, and we were about to leave when,  out of nowhere, a big male leopard appeared on the scene. He came out from behind our vehicle and charged down to the carcass, trying to intimidate the hyenas. This worked briefly, but as soon as he settled to feed, the hyenas chased him off of the carcass and up a large tree. This was good for us, as we managed to get a good look at this beautiful dominant cat before heading home.

On the second evening, we arrived to find seven members of the River Pride resting around the carcass. As it had been a very hot day, it was quite a smelly spot, and after a while, even the lions moved away from the carcass. They couldn’t have been very impressed with the taste or the smell as they moved off during the night and never returned.

The third and final night, proved to be the most surprising. As we approached the carcass, we could see that the hyenas had regained their positions. They were, however, weary, and only once we got closer did we notice the large crocodile also in attendance. The hyenas stayed well clear of him, but he did eventually move away, heading back to deeper waters where he felt safer after a good feed. The giraffe may have lost its life, but it provided an amazing story for us to follow.


Along with the wild dogs and the amazing predator sightings we had around the giraffe carcass, there were more!

Lions were plentiful, and one of the other prides, the Timbila Pride, showed off very well. The first morning we found them was definitely the highlight. Just as we found the pride, we noticed that one of the lionesses had three small cubs with her. We were the first people to see the cubs. It is always a very special feeling when you know that you are the first person and vehicle these little ones have ever seen.

Lioness with cubs on safari at Wandering Thru.

After some great detective work, using sound and smell, we managed to find a female leopard that killed a kudu calf. She had stashed her kill in a very difficult area, but with some patience and teamwork, we managed to get into a great position and watched as she had a good feed.

As always, the hyena sightings along with the numerous black-backed jackal pairs kept us busy and entertained. One waterhole in particular was favoured by hyenas, and on a few occasions, we found them in the water. A particular individual took it all the way to the point where she was resting in the waterhole with just her head above the water. It was funny watching as she would doze off but wake up as soon as her nose touched the water. She eventually exited the water, and we noted that she was heavily pregnant and must have been grateful for the cool waterhole.

Leopard with a kill on safari with Wandering Thru.


The general game—zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, kudu, and the ever-present impala—were plentiful. Some very smaller youngsters were found and enjoyed. The waterhole right in front of the camp was best for this, as herds of animals were in constant flow during the heat of the day.

We certainly didn’t have a shortage of elephants either, and we got to spend some great time with them. Certain herds in the area are very relaxed, and once or twice we found ourselves engulfed by the herd. There were a lot of youngsters around, and they kept us well entertained as they played and chased one another around.

Buffalo were a bit few and far between as the large herd was off of the property, but we did manage to see numerous old males along the river. One morning we headed up to the Olifants River, where we had a coffee break at a secret spot I found a few years ago. Here we were joined by a group of about twenty-five hippos, and so we got our fix of them while we enjoyed our hot beverages.

Coffee on safari with Wandering Thru.

Smaller guys

As we are only at the start of our autumn now, a lot of the smaller creatures from the summer were still out and about. Insects like prey mantis and stick insects were enjoyed. While some of the spiders, like the golden-orb webs, were not enjoyed as much,.

The reptiles were busy as well. We had a few sightings of chameleons that Pete found with his spotlight, but we also found quite a few crossing the road during the day. Snakes were also out and about, and we saw a few different species. The best sighting was a black mamba we spotted at some distance. We watched as the snake moved towards a termite mound before disappearing down one of the many holes.

The birding was great as well. The migratory species have not left yet, so our species count was high. The birds of prey were exceptional, though. We watched a Tawny eagle attempting its luck with a young Wahlberg’s eagle. The parents did not take kindly to this, and we watched their amazing aerial combat all around and even directly above us. They eventually managed to deter the tawny and chase it off completely, saving their youngster.

Eagle on safari with Wandering Thru
A young Martial Eagle (Polemaetus bellicosus) with a squirrel


As always, when on safari with awesome people, the time flies by. This trip was just like that, and before we could blink our eyes, the time had come for us to head out. Everyone was incredibly happy, and we ran through the many sightings we had on the way to the airport. We couldn’t believe how much we had seen in such a short space of time. We also discussed our future plans and safaris to come!

There is another trip still available to Nzumba this year, and there are already numerous others planned for next year too, so keep an eye out for those over the coming months.

Translate »

Discover more from Wandering Thru

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading