A Week of Back to Work in Photos

Hello hello, and welcome back to me. After a couple of weeks’ break, I was back in action and on the drive at Tanda Tula Plains Camp. I didn’t venture very far for my leave and spent it on the northern side of the Timabvati which allowed me to enjoy the heat that accompanied the closing weeks of January. If I thought it was dry in central Timbavati, then the northern parts of the reserve were like a desert. Very few blades of green grass could be found, and the impalas in the area were looking worse now than they were at the beginning of summer, with pelvic bones and ribs starting to show. It was an amazing contrast to then return to Plains Camp and see lush green grass, an abundance of general cam, and fit, healthy-looking impalas.

Fortunately, the heatwave was broken when we received 50mm of rain over three days at the start of the month (although, this was again much higher in the west, and the central and northern sections only got between 10 and 20mm). The positive news is that this coming week is showing a strong probability of big rains with a cut-off low-pressure system making its way into the southeastern part of the country, and this promises to bring widespread rains. At the time of writing, regional forecasts are for around 150-200mm of rain to fall over the next few days, but we shall have to wait and see just how much of that materializes. After seeing how empty the dams and pans are in the eastern part of our concession, I am keeping my fingers crossed for some good rains this coming week (that could also be down to the fact that I am not driving guests during the wettest part of the week). I was however driving for the past three days with some guests, and this is what we got to see.

As usual, in my absence the guides enjoyed some lovely viewing of the Giraffe Pride who spent several days on the property, including a couple of days on the plains with all 23 females and cubs accounted for; earlier this week the Hercules and Sumatra males were also seen mating with an unidentified lioness in the western parts of our concession. Naturally though, as I returned to drive all the lions decided to leave the area. Well, not all of them, and the Birmingham Breakaway males didn’t receive word that I had returned. These six growing boys spent three days on a buffalo kill close to Nkhari, and when following up on them the next day found them resting on the open plains of Nkhari. Sadly their fat bellies meant that they didn’t get up to too much, but it was nice to see them back in the area. The next morning Glen did manage to track down five members of the Giraffe Pride; how they got separated is a bit of a mystery, but there were reports that the other 20 members were a few kilometers south of our concession resting off a zebra kill. In their absence, three lionesses from the Sark Breakaway pride spent a day in the area, but when we tried to track them down the next day, their tracks moved to the north and into the Klaserie. There were also reports of the Mayambula Pride walking into the Kruger National Park in the far east… so it was a week of loads of movement from our lions. We can only hope that next week they decide to settle down a little and spend more time within our concession.

In a similar fashion to the lions, the impressive Ntsongwaan male leopard also showed himself shortly before I got back on the drive, and then along with the other leopards, conspired to make my life difficult by not being overly obliging. N’weti female is apparently pregnant and has been wandering all over the show, and I commented to another guide that updates on her presence didn’t help me much as she has shifted her entire territory outside of our concession…needless to say, the next day there was a report of her resting up a tree close to Tanda Tula Safari Camp. The ID still needs to be confirmed, but by a process of elimination, it was unlikely to be any other leopard. Nyeleti and her two daughters are still hanging around in the north, and although the nervous daughters were seen, Nyeleti remained elusive during my days of driving. We did manage to find a young male leopard resting up a false marula close to Plains Camp one afternoon, but as soon as we tried to get closer, he got up to move off. We stopped immediately and the leopard relaxed to the point of spending a few more minutes up the tree before descending and disappearing into the long grass, and we opted not to follow him.

We were able to spend a little bit of time with the small pack of four wild dogs late one morning as they rested off their fat bellies close to a small wallow. Later in the week, their tracks were all over the central regions, but true to their nature, finding only four wild dogs is a challenge few guides are up to. I do believe that the larger pack of 24 wild dogs also made a rare appearance in the northern part of our concession last week; this is the first time this pack has ventured into the area in many months.
Continuing with the theme of animals being just off of our borders, there were also reports of both a single female cheetah, as well as two male cheetahs in the areas just adjacent to our concession; fingers remain crossed that they decide to move into our area for a visit over the coming weeks.

One element that didn’t disappear upon my return to drive were the herds of plains game around Plains Camp; big herds of zebras, wildebeest, and impalas could be seen whenever traversing the plains. The most impressive scene of the week though was a single herd of 35-plus giraffes. Although giraffes were common across the western part of the concession, to see so many concentrated in one spot was a sight to see.

We rounded off our week with another wonderful visit to the hyena den in the west, and it is only when I look back at photos taken at the end of last year that I realize how quickly they are growing. We had another interesting hyena sighting when we found a single female with a massive kudu carcass; despite there being close to 200 vultures in the area, she didn’t appear willing to share and gored herself into a food coma.

There were a good number of elephant bulls and a few breeding herds moving around in the western sections loving the abundance of green grass available in this part of the reserve, and this also did a good job in drawing in a bachelor herd of buffalo bulls to the plains. Together with regular sightings of warthogs, hippos, and kudus, they helped round off an enjoyable three days of driving.

As mentioned, I will be off the drive for most of next week, but I will still be able to get out and get some images for next week’s blog, especially if the rivers come flooding down if the weatherman’s forecasts are correct…but, I do fear I am getting ahead of myself (clearly I have forgotten all the occasions when he has been wrong); best you come back and check up next week to see how right or wrong he was.

Until next time, cheers.

Chad