Wildlife in our garden

Animals and birds to spot around Ubuntu Luxury Villa

One of the first things we fell in love with in South Africa was the wildlife! We don’t think anyone can fail to find it a beautiful and moving experience to spend time in wild nature. We are so lucky on the Hoedspruit Wildlife Estate to have free-roaming wildlife on our doorstep – literally! It’s a joy and a privilege to be able to watch warthogs, nyalas, kudus, duiker, impalas and more from our deck, boma, viewing deck and sometimes, even while lying in bed. Living so close to wildlife allows for some extraordinary encounters, observations and time spent in quiet appreciation of the wildlife of Ubuntu Luxury Villa.

Here are five of our favorite wild visitors you will see often around Ubuntu Luxury Villa

Warthogs

These little ‘Pumbas’ are irresistible and they’re everywhere, so it’s easy to see why they are Hoedspruit’s town mascot. You can even see them trotting down the main road, or at the local supermarket. 

Around Ubuntu Luxury Villa, you’ll frequently find warthogs rooting around on their knees digging for tubers, running through the bush with their tails in the air, snoozing in the shade, or enjoying a wallow in the birdbath. They love to cool off in mud and water and this also protects their skin from the sun and from parasites.

Their name comes from their ‘warts’ or protrusions on the sides of their face. These protrusions are a combination of bone and cartilage and help protect their faces when they fight. Warthogs sleep underground at night in burrows that they steal from other animals such as aardvark. This is a very good reason to never stand in front of or looking into a hole when you’re walking on the estate, because you don’t want to be knocked down by a warthog  making a quick exit.

Some of the warthogs on the Hoedspruit Wildlife Estate have been habituated by people feeding them and make use of car ports and gaps under decks too. You should never feed them though, and if they get too close, don’t try and touch or scare them, just back away.   In summer (normally around January), they have the sweetest little babies. Surprisingly, they can live for up to 17 years of age!

Nyalas

Nyala antelopes seem to thrive in close proximity to humans and they are frequent wild visitors to Ubuntu Luxury Villa. The females in particular love to hang around and feel very comfortable around homes and people.  Our sightings of the females of this species never fail to delight us.

The females and younger animals are a reddish brown colour with distinctive white stripes. They move delicately, as though on tiptoes. They have large, liquid eyes and trusting, docile natures. The males are darker grey, with a dashing white mane which they can use to puff themselves up when in territorial disputes with other males, to show off their size. They also have long, razor sharp horns, so never be tempted to feed them, no matter how tame they seem.  Even with the females, give them the space and respect that all wild animals are due, and just enjoy being in their company. 

A varied diet has helped nyala become widespread across southern Africa but in many places, they are still considered quite rare. Most of their food comes from browsing broad-leaved plants, but they also strip bark off different trees and will happily graze on grass as well, especially newly sprouted grass. 

When a nyala spots danger, it gives off a striking alarm call, but most of the time they are a calm and beautiful presence on the Hoedspruit Wildlife Estate. Even when the males are in a dispute, they seem to dance around each other in slow motion. 

Duiker

The small, brownish-grey antelope you’re likely to see from Ubuntu Luxury Villa is the common duiker, also known as the grey or bush duiker. They are found just about everywhere in Africa south of the Sahara. 

They’re very good at staying invisible though, and are known as shy and secretive. Even in populated areas, they  are very good at hiding. The duikers around Ubuntu Luxury Villa are quite relaxed though and gift us with regular sightings, as though they know we aren’t a threat. 

The males have little horns, while the females don’t, but both are territorial. They often share the same space, but only really spend time together when mating. Lambs are born at any time throughout the year and a baby duiker – the size of a large rabbit – is one of the cutest things you can ever see. It doesn’t happen often though as the female hides in very dense vegetation before giving birth and then hides the baby well. 

They are mainly active in late afternoon and into the night with other peak periods in the early morning hours. They can live for about 10 years.  The duiker gets its name from the Afrikaans word ‘duiker’ which means to dive, which describes the animal’s habit of ducking away into the bushes when danger threatens. When disturbed, they’ll seem to freeze, then run away at the last moment,bounding through the grass.

Yellow-billed hornbill

At Ubuntu Luxury Villa, we have our very own ‘Zazoe’. While they’re not the same species as in the Lion King movie, our yellow-billed hornbills as just as endearing and, occasionally irritating. They love to perch around our garden and look at us with bright, curious eyes.

Hornbills are a family of birds found only in sub-Saharan Africa, tropical Asia and Melanesia and are named for the shape of their long, thick, curved beak. Some people also call them banana birds. Their beaks are so big that they’re the only species of birds where the first and second neck vertebrae are fused together, to help them to carry their large bills. 

The males are always larger than females and also display more colour in their feathers, bill and casque. They mostly feed on berries, fruits, insects and small animals like mice, snakes and lizards. Hornbills are usually monogamous which means that a male and female will pair up for life.

During breeding season, the males can get extra defensive. At Ubuntu Luxury Villa, they’ll sometimes attack their own reflection in the glass, mistaking it for a rival in a behavior known as shadow-boxing. It doesn’t seem to hurt them, but we do worry about our glass!

These birds usually make their nests in existing holes and crevices in trees high off the ground in the early summer months.  They can also use the abandoned nests built by other bird species such as woodpeckers and barbets. This is one of the strategies they use to keep dangerous predators like mongooses, jackals and snakes away from their eggs and young. 

The female will enter this nest and close up the entrance with mud, droppings and fruit pulp. The males will sometimes help with this process too. The entrance to the nest will then be almost completely closed, except for the tiny space for the male to transfer food to the female and later on, the chicks. The female will then start to loose all her feathers and then regrow them again. This is a very dangerous time for this mother bird as she is not able to fly.  While their breeding behaviour is special to see, they are fascinating to watch throughout the year. 

Natal Spurfowl

Heralds of the dawn and dusk  and our familiar friends; we love the Natal spurfowl that wander around Ubuntu Luxury Villa. 

These birds are a quintessential South African species. They call at dusk and dawn with a harsh, strident crowing ‘chackkity chackkity’, which becomes a louder ‘kacheeky kacheeky’ which slows down and then fades away.  Once you hear it, you won’t easily forget it and we’ve grown to love the familiar sound of the bush’s own alarm clock. 

They tend to congregate in pairs and small groups  of up to 10 birds. Their gorgeous markings and curious, relaxed temperaments make them a joy to photograph. Like hornbills, they are easily habituated to humans and seem to be happy living in close proximity to the villa. They can even be quite cheeky! 

When surprised,  they tend to scatter, but do not fly far. On landing, they run into dense cover. They’re often seen on the roads, pecking around for seeds and insects, so be careful to look out for them while driving – some people call the suicide birds. 

Breeding season is mainly in the midsummer, when they lay five to eight creamy-yellowish eggs in a nest which is a scrape on the ground, lined with roots and grass stalks. Seeing them with their babies waddling behind them after a successful season, is always a treat.

Of course, there are also zebras, impalas, kudus, all the night animals like genets, civets and porcupines, as well as mongooses and rodents, not to mention the snakes, other reptiles and birds on the Hoedspruit Wildlife Estate! You can see all of these around the villa if you’re lucky and observant.  We love them all and appreciate the effort that goes into managing the estate and ensuring our wildlife are happy and healthy. How great that we can share this with you when you book to stay at Ubuntu Luxury Villa.

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