A Week of Lions (oh, and Summer is back) in Pictures

It feels like a lifetime away that I wrote about a fresh, crisp and wintery feeling in the Timbavati, in fact it was precisely seven days.  Since then, Summer has decided to remind us that it is not done, and with temperatures rising to the mid-30s for most of the week, we were once again longing for the coolness that winter promises to bring.  The downside of the heat was that it rapidly dried up most of the wallows that had filled with water in the last rain and brought Machaton Dam perilously close to completely drying up.  This might sound like a bad thing, but if one looks at the activity around the waterhole in front of Tanda Tula, I am not so sure we will miss Machaton Dam for the remainder of the season.  With buffalo, rhino, wildebeest, impalas, warthogs, hyenas, and loads of elephants, it was a hub of activity.  The heat sent the bigger animals searching for wallows to cool off in which made the pans and waterpoints a good place to visit during the early afternoon and provided for some great viewing this week.  

Whilst the elephants were the most abundant of the big animals (although the zebras might disagree with this, as they too were very active in the greener sections around Tanda Tula Safari Camp), it was the lions that made sure we had a week to remember.  With some regular return guests of ours visiting the new camp for the first time since their previous visits to Plains Camp, we had some work to do, especially as last year they saw 57 different lions during their week with us.  Well, the lions didn’t disappoint this time, and after only three days of safari, we had ticked off 53 different lions from four different prides, and one coalition of males!  These included an afternoon spent with 21 members of the Giraffe Pride (with Hercules) as they rested off some full bellies at a waterhole in the west.  A brief visit of 12 members of the Sark Breakaway Pride that were found close to our airstrip one evening.  The three lionesses of the River Pride did not have a great week of hunting, and after having left the three cubs on their own for around five days, they were eventually found with the cubs, but all members of the pride looked like they could do with a big meal!  The three Vuyela males that were with them were anything but thin!  I am not sure what is going on with the lionesses; I was convinced that the older female was pregnant, but now she doesn’t look like it at all, and the pale female seems to be producing milk; yet she was drawing the most attention from the males.  The pride was around for a couple of days, but the good news is that despite heading north out of our concession, the word was that the pride had enjoyed some hunting success and were found with a young giraffe kill – better news was that the males were not with them, so they can enjoy the meal in peace!  The last pride to pitch up this week were the Mayambulas.  Ginger found three adult lionesses and a Birmingham Breakaway male in the south-east near the Kruger Boundary one afternoon and had a great sighting as the pride stalked and caught a warthog whilst they were watching them.  The sound of hyenas and lions near Machaton Dam drew the attention of the guides towards the end of the week, and upon following up found another 11 members of the pride finishing off the remains of a wildebeest kill.  Strangely though, despite their numbers, the lions didn’t seem keen to have any attention drawn to themselves and soon relinquished the remains of the kill to the hyenas.  We caught up with them as they headed towards a pan and had a drink before settling for the day.  Despite being less than 2km away, the three Vuyela males did not hear the commotion and the pride managed to move off without incident.  With the Birmingham Breakaway males in control of some of the pride, it does appear as though a couple of lionesses and the young adults and subadults have become a splinter group for now. 

As is the story of our sightings of late, with the lions around, the leoaprds have been a little scarcer.  We still saw a few, but unfortunately most of the ones we caught up with were a little on the nervous side; the Nkhari male returned after an absence of a few months; he was fair when we viewed him from a distance one afternoon, but we had a lovely sighting of him last night when we picked him up to the north of Tanda Tula; we left him as he walked only a few metres past the vehicle and off into the darkness.  Dzindza was found to our north-east, and we bumped into who we thought was Ruhati after bush breakfast one morning, but by the time we got across the riverbed she was gone.  We also had a sighting of the Tawane female leopard, the grey-eyed girl from the east, but despite looking quite relaxed as we approached, we obviously crossed an invisible line that she didn’t like, and gave us a bit of a rev, so we left her in peace.  We did also see another unidentified but shy male one evening. 


Sadly, despite reports of her being close by, the collared female cheetah did not make a return this week, and we keep our fingers crossed that we catch up with her and the cubs again soon.  This week was also quiet for wild dogs, and we only heard of reports of a couple of packs running around in the far west and spent this morning tracking a pack that headed back south towards a portion of the Kruger. 


In the absence of those rare animals, we enjoyed a load of time spent with plenty of elephants around Tanda Tula.  Daily visits to the waterhole were one thing, but we had several drives that were just filled with elephants!  What a treat it is to spend time with these gentle giants. 


In other sightings, we could tell the winter months were approaching as we are beginning to see more Ostriches in the east, as well as good Ground Hornbill and Kori Bustard sightings.  There are two new hyena cubs at the den in the west, but I await my first sighting of them.  The impalas are also due to start their rutting soon, but it hasn’t kicked off yet.  The kudus do however seem to be very intent on following the females around, even if it is earlier than I recall seeing this in the past! 

I apologise for the lack of photo this week, but I somehow managed to lose all the photos on one of my memory cards; if I do manage to recover them, I shall do another post with some more pics!  Until then though, I hope you do enjoy these few images I did manage to capture! 



Until next time!