It seems as though keeping quiet about the weather is the best way of approaching things here, as without making predictions on the week that was, we ended up with a wonderful week of winter weather – warm days, mild nights and crisp mornings! Without too much wind and rain to hamper our viewing, we ended up having a great week out there, especially on the big game front.
After a couple of days with only a few guests, we hit the ground running again, and had some lovely sightings out there. My only complaint was that it was terribly cruel of Mother Nature to have our two male cheetahs pitch up on the day that we had no guests. Despite missing out on seeing those magnificent creatures, it was good to know that they are still around, and it won’t be long until we find them in the open woodlands of the east. It was maybe for this reason that I spent the first part of the week working my favourite eastern sections hoping for these cats to appear. With the Mayambula pride AWOL once again, it does give a chance for the smaller predators to show up in the east. That being said, we did find the remains of a dead hyena in the area where the Mayambula Pride past last week, so perhaps these apex predators had a run in. The absence of the Mayambula Pride could be as a result of the continued presence of the River Pride and the vocal Vuyela males. Although not as busy in the central regions as we would have liked, we did catch up with the River Pride lionesses most days this week. An interesting development was news that the lioness that was known to have a cub was seen mating with the Vuyela males again, leading us to suspect that perhaps she has lost her cub(s). The other two lionesses look pregnant, and we hope that they choose our concession to give birth when the time comes. In the latter part of the week, we also had a brief sighting of five of the Birmingham Breakaway males moving through the eastern sections of the reserve, but they continued at pace to the east. In the west, the Giraffe Pride made another visit to their eastern reaches of their large territory and killed a wildebeest one morning. From the reports we heard, the white male lion has ended up in the Klaserie as these males continue to search for a territory.
Despite the good lion activity, we also had some good leopard viewing. One evening whilst watching the River Pride hunt, they got distracted and ran across the river and chased a male leopard up a tree with his baboon kill, before losing interest and moving off. The male leopard was quite relaxed, and eventually descended the tree and went to rest. A quick look at my ID kits soon revealed that it was the long lost Tamboti male back in his old haunts! We last him over a year ago down near Plains Camp in the west. Two nights later we found him marking his territory on the road that gave him his name, and we ended the week finding him feeding on a porcupine kill in the central regions – it will be interesting to see if he hangs around. The male leopard we saw last week spent a couple of days in the central regions when he too was found with a large warthog kill, and he continued to be quite relaxed in our presence. The highlight for me though was the couple of days that N’weti had an impala kill in the east and brought her two cubs to the carcass. Although I missed them the first day, I was lucky enough to see the one youngster the next day and am pleased to report that at least one of the cubs is quite confident with the vehicles, even if the other appears very shy.
My non-feline highlight, and possible weekly highlight was the return of the gentle giant Apollo. This elephant bull – the biggest I have ever seen – is such a treat to see, and remains unphased by any vehicle presence. To sit in his presence and enjoy his company is a sighting not forgotten in a hurry. His stumps of his once great tusks continue to grow, and one’s mind wanders when thinking of what he would have looked like now had he not broken both pieces of ivory. The other special elephant sightings we had were of a herd of some 60-odd members that spent the entire week in the area. We also had a couple of sightings of a large herd of 300-400 buffalo in the west, as well as a few bulls across the reserve.
The wild dogs continued to pop in and out of the area, but it is still the pack of five members. The large pack in the north are moving their den more regularly, so we hope that it won’t be long until the pups are mobile and pay us a visit in the central Timbavati.
And that folks, is about that for the week, and indeed month. A month of heat, cold, rain, snow (well, not quite here, but close enough), and oddly, flowering Knobthorn trees… you all know how I love a flowering Knobthorn, but I cannot recall seeing them flower so early in the season before…maybe it is just old age, who knows!
Until next time