If I was worried that this week would have another cold snap to prove that winter was net yet over, I clearly concerned myself for no reason, as this week felt rather “summery” with its hot days and mild evenings. That is not to say the blankets and hot water bottles are a thing of the past just yet, but they were certainly needed for much shorter periods on the morning safaris than in recent weeks. The warming weather brought with it a feeling of spring as we saw a couple more reptiles being active; Monitor Lizards and Chameleons, and we added Dwarf Boer-beans to the list of tree species that have begun flowering, as well as our Red-spike thorns. I also heard the first Klaas’s cuckoo calling this morning.
It was once again a pleasant week of game viewing out there, and for a change, it was the leopards that played along much better than our lions. There was one night of windy conditions, and that worked in favour of our camouflaged cats as we found a few kills in the aftermath of the breezy conditions. The biggest surprise was finding tracks for Nyeleti and her two daughters – so much for them being independent and on their own! As expected, after a short tracking effort, Glen radioed me to say that they had indeed found Nyeleti up in a tree on the banks of the Nhlarlaumi riverbed, feeding on a kill. Arriving in a tricky area, we also saw that both of her daughters were present and based on mom’s less-than-bulging belly, it appears as though the daughter’s had enjoyed the ‘leopard’s share’ of the kill this time.
The next day Tristan found the more relaxed daughter still hanging around the area. That evening, we saw the Tamboti male leopard resting underneath a Knobthorn tree (yes, they’re still flowering) that housed a young warthog kill of his. A day earlier we had enjoyed a good sighting of the young male leopard from Nkhari who had a massive impala ram up a Marula tree. He was most relaxed up his tree, even during the daytime and fed on his kill as we watched from a short distance away. His kill was obviously not in a good position for feeding as he kept trying to reposition it; I was making space for Scotch and his guests to come in when the excited laughs of hyenas gave us whiplash as we swung around to see that the leopard had dropped his kill, much to the delight of the waiting hyenas. This caused a nearby herd of elephants to come running in and shatter the peace as they chased off the hyenas. We added a brief sighting of an un-identified female leopard to the sightings list, as well as a brief sighting of the Tamboti male leopard walking into camp one evening. I also heard this morning that an impala carcass was found just north of Tanda Tula, and I suspect it was a kill of N’weti’s, and she had gone off to fetch her two cubs, so hopefully some good leopard viewing to look forward to next week!
If you have followed the blogs over the years, you know that if our leopards are very active, it is usually because the lions are a little less present, and that was no different this week. Although we kicked off the week with a Birmingham Breakaway male and Mayambula lioness in the east, things got a little quiet after that in the eastern parts. The Vuyela males were exploring just south of our concession, but two pairs of these dominant males were seen in the central region in the middle of the week – as they usually do, they put on some good roaring displays for us. The week ended with news that the five males and the River Pride were on a giraffe kill in the Klaserie; one can be sure that after that feed, they will be doing some major territorial patrols to keep intruders at bay – we could already hear the Birmingham Breakaways calling more vociferously in the east due to the absence of a response from the Vuyelas. In the west, we enjoyed a great sighting of eight young members of the Giraffe Pride one afternoon, and they didn’t disappoint with their tree-climbing antics. A couple of days later fifteen members were found in the eastern part of the territory, the Hercule’s male was seen with a kill, and the week ended with what sounded like the majority of the members resting off near a dam in the east.
The wild dogs graced us briefly, but news is coming through from the western sections of our concession that the small pack of five members is now back up to 8 or so dogs; where the members came from, we are not sure, but I suspect it might be a reunion of a splinter portion. The smaller pack of four were around Tanda Tula Safari Camp for a couple of days and even came to have a drink at the waterhole whilst the guests were having breakfast one morning. I will stop commenting on the cheetahs, as they once again refused to show themselves…but with me going away for two weeks, they will no doubt pop up to show themselves in my absence.
My guests also had an incredible experience one morning when they sponsored a rhino notching/chipping operation within the Timbavati. It is an essential step towards safeguarding their future, and all rhinos in the area need to be notched, chipped and have their DNA taken for the RHODIS database. It is a costly operation for the reserve, so kind sponsorships from guests of the Timbavati make this possible, and guests get to go out and assist with the operation. All the guests were elated with the experience, and I am sure it is something that will live on in their memories for years to come.
The warm weather this week meant that the elephants were particularly active around the waterholes in the late mornings and early afternoons, and we had loads of great sightings of them drinking, bathing and just being elephants. The camp waterhole drew multiple herds a day, and these herds did their job in keeping the magnificent Apollo in the area (although, I say this, but he is almost never with any female groups!). It really was a week of elephants out there! Buffalo bulls also frequented the water points, and there was movement of two herds of buffalos in the concession across the week.
I am heading off for leave for a couple of weeks but be sure to check back on the blog upon my return to see just how many exciting things I missed!
Until next time!