Welcome back to another weekly update, and we are very happy to report that despite the early forecasts, Cyclone Freddy’s path did not materialise, and we escaped the heavy rains that hit Mozambique and the northern Kruger. We were still fortunate enough to get another somewhat unexpected 70mm over the weekend to top up the water and continue the amazing summer rains we have had so far. The sun came out and dried off the Timbavati for a few days earlier in the week to the point where we were even able to start driving off-road for some of the big cat sightings. Some areas remain quite wet, but once again the animals obliged by spending time close to the roads and we had another very good week of game viewing.
The Giraffe Pride remained in the area of the plains for a few more days at the start of the week and went on quite a successful hunting streak. We watched as the pride got active one evening as a big thunderstorm was brewing over the mountains and putting on a fantastic electrical show for us. The lionesses went off hunting and we saw them stalking wildebeest in front of camp as we returned but didn’t want to shine on them and disturb their efforts. We had no sooner got back to camp when the strong winds of the storm came blowing in, bringing a little bit of rain. These conditions suited the lions perfectly, and once the sounds of the rains and wind passed, we had our dinner interrupted by the roars of the male lions in front of camp. Incredibly, this was followed by the sounds of the entire pride feeding on a wildebeest after a successful hunt.
The next morning the pride were found resting on the access road in exactly the same place we found them twice last week. They spent the day resting in the thickets, but that evening popped back out onto the road and gave us quite a show as they headed off on the hunt. They moved onto the bottom of the plains and began stalking some wildebeest and zebras; I left Tristan to it on the condition that he would call me if anything were to happen. As I was about to drive into camp, I called to remind him only for the lions to then go and catch something as I was talking to him. We turned around and headed straight there to find 23 lions trying to find a feeding spot on the wildebeest they had caught. It was amazingly still alive for a few minutes whilst we watched, but the lions soon finished the job and set about fighting over each mouthful – the sounds were quite something. The next morning the pride was found finishing off the remains of a young zebra in the same area! After that feast, the pride moved off, giving the plains game in front of camp a bit of a gap.
These were not the only lions feasting this week; the Vuyela males remained on their giraffe kill for a couple of days before popping into our concession – we caught up with two of them one morning towards the end of the week. Three females from the Sark Breakaway pride were also found in the west with a young giraffe kill as a large clan of hyenas gathered looking for their share. Also, in the east, five of the Birmingham Breakaway males, three young River Pride lions and the Mayambula Pride all showed themselves to round off a good week of lion viewing for the central Timbavati.
Leopards were a little more scarce compared with last week, but Glen was able to successfully track down Ntsognwaan male one morning. He gave us a bit of a run around, but eventually settled for a spot relatively close to a road for us to see him. Interestingly, we found him resting no more than 10m from the spot we saw him sleeping in last week! Nyeleti left tracks all over the central regions but only showed herself late in the week.
We were fortunate to see two different packs of wild dogs this past week. First, we were sitting at a dam one afternoon when a herd of impalas suddenly started dashing towards the thickets with one lamb almost running into us. My guests asked if it was for a leopard, but I said there was only one animal that could make them run like that, and sure enough, a little drive up the road led us to the small pack of four wild dogs. We followed them until an elephant bull chased them into the bush. Later in the week the big pack of 24 (although we only counted 22) dogs arrived in our north-eastern corner. We braved a drizzly morning to go look for them and got treated to a lovely sighting as the pack did their best to chase off eight annoying hyenas. The hyenas played along well this week, both at the den and then at the wild dog and lion sightings.
After the rains there was an abundance of food and water for all the game, and it showed as we had great sightings of many elephant bulls and a few breeding herds too. There was also a constant presence of buffalo bulls making use of the mud wallows and waterholes as the sun broke out. The plains game viewing continued to be great with many giraffes and wildebeest around. The zebras were a little less active after the lion activity, but we still got to enjoy many sightings of these disco donkeys.
On the bird front, other than an abundance of general bird species, we saw a Martial Eagle with a kill, two female Ostriches that moved onto the plains, Carmine Bee-eaters, Lesser Moorhens and even a Malachite Kingfisher – which I did initially get very excited about, thinking it may have been a Half-collared Kingfisher, but it was merely a juvenile Malachite.
All in all, it was a wonderful week full of the reasons why I so love February in the bush – especially when the sun came out. The forecast for next week is for a much drier one, and we can expect the bush to just get greener and greener once the sun returns – I can’t wait.
Until next time, cheers!