A Week of Coming of Age in Pictures

I cannot believe it has been almost a month since my last update! But I am back in the saddle after an enjoyable break – some time spent relaxing here at Tanda Tula and some time spent watching dolphins on South Africa’s east coast. But after a long time out of the saddle, I was rearing to get back! In my absence, there was not only a splash of rain (around 25mm fell across the reserve to give a little bit of life to the drying grasses), but also the usual presence of good game viewing! The large pack of wild dogs was around camp again, and the lions were found on a daily basis – from the Giraffe pride in the west to the Mayambula females with the Birminghham Breakaways in the east – to the mandatory cheetahs that always show up when I am on leave! 

Fortunately, Ginger and Given worked their magic again once I was back on drive, and with some regular guests in the back of their vehicle that had never seen cheetahs here, the dynamic duo pushed out to the south-east on a rainy afternoon; tracks for cheetahs on top of the rain that had just fallen told them they were close, and Given soon radioed to tell Ginger where he could go to find the collared female and her two growing boys! The trio had made a return to our concession for the second time in a week, and fortunately hung around long enough that I got to see them the next day.  Seeing cheetah here is always such a treat, but to see three of them walking around the open woodlands of the east is a sight not easily forgotten! 

Despite only being on drive for three days this week, we did get spoilt with sightings. After a quiet first drive back, I was even more convinced of my ‘curse’, but the next day made up for that! The River Pride with the cubs and two Vuyela males were found on Nkhari, and as they were looking hungry in the morning, I had planned my drive around going to see them as it became dark, hoping that the cloud cover would cover the growing light of the moon, and that the lions would spring into action. They did…just they did it in the middle of the afternoon, and the first update I got of them was that they had just caught a wildebeest, so we headed off in that direction a little quicker.  An alarm calling impala en route, combined with some chattering birds and tracks for a Mafufunyane female leopard a short distance away, led to us making a slight detour, and it didn’t take long for us to find the leopard…it is easy when you almost ride over them when they’re hidden in the long grass!  After our initial surprise at having her sit up out of the grass not 3m from the vehicle, we followed her for a bit until she went and settled in the long grass not far from the impalas, and decided to leave her in peace. 

The River Pride hung around for a couple of days feeding on their wildebeest, and at the same time, both the Sark Breakaways with two Vuyela males and the Giraffe Pride with Hercules male were further west in the concession to make it a week with good lion viewing. 


The leopard viewing was also surprisingly good – the thinning bush perhaps making our lives easier? Ginger and Given kicked things off by tracking down Dzindza (Nyeleti’s now officially named relaxed daughter); Glen and I arrived to the sighting later in the morning and found a sizeable leopard walking around scent-marking profusely. She was dark, she was big, and although she had a face like Dzindza, I was convinced it was a new female due to her size. It wouldn’t be the first female to pitch up this month, as another old, fairly relaxed female has been seen several times around Tanda Tula Safari Camp – one morning she caught two banded mongooses outside camp as Tristan was following her.  The next morning, “Dzindza” was called in having a standoff with Nyeleti right in the heart of Nyeleti’s territory, and I arrived to find some super aggressive behaviour unfolding between these two cats – Nyeleti and the same dark female from the day before.  Snarling in one another’s faces and saliva dripping from their growling mouths, these leopards meant business, the fresh cuts on both of them suggesting that they had come to physical blows already. The incomer would sit and scent-mark in Nyeleti’s face before the territory holder got up and walked off. But who was this other leopard – I was 90 percent sure it was not Dzindza….until I got to check the photos and realised that I was 100 percent wrong! I couldn’t believe how she had grown, and perhaps this has given her the confidence to push her mother away from the part of the territory that she seems adamant on claiming! Time will tell how this unfolds, but the next day Nyeleti was found some distance to the south-east; with a territory as large as she has, Nyeleti could easily cede some of it to her daughter, but will she want to cede the prime piece of real estate that Dzindza is laying claim to? 

Elsewhere across the reserve, we enjoyed some large breeding herds of elephant scattered across the concession, as well as a very big herd of some 300-plus buffalos moving around the central and western parts. While watching this herd in the rain one afternoon, Glen casually pointed out that one female was in the middle of giving birth. Now, not having seen a single birth in my 17 years of guiding, I was understandably a tad more excited about this than Glen! Despite the hooves sticking out, the buffalo was very mobile, as the herd had just risen from their slumber to move off for an evening feed. We tried to follow her across a large drainage line, but by the time we got around, she had disappeared into the middle of the herd, and my chance of seeing a birth was once again put on hold! 

There was some fairly good general game, although it seemed sporadic. For instance, one drive in the east produced very little plains game, but two days later there was a gathering of over 100 zebras, 25 wildebeest, and almost as many giraffes…the next day, they were gone! The sporadic rainfall seems to have dispersed these water-loving creatures to those areas where better rain fell, leaving them to move quicker through the drier areas. 

The wild dogs that had been around before I went on leave and whilst I was on leave were not around this week, but a small pack of three members was seen running around in various parts of the concession on a number of occasions – the problem is, three wild dogs are an incredibly difficult group to keep track of, so sightings of them seldom last long. We do hope, though, that the larger pack makes a return next week. 

For now, that is all I have time for! But I shall be on drive all of next week, so fingers crossed that we get some good sightings and have more interesting developments to share with you all next Monday! 


Until next time!