Hello once again, and welcome back to another week of photos from a bustling Tanda Tula Safari Camp. Reading the introduction to the last blog, it almost feels like a world away that I could be talking about a brown landscape and flowering trees, as it is incredible how quickly the landscapes of the Timbavati have changed! I headed off for a week’s break and recall Monique commenting on how gorgeous the flowering trees (particularly the Mopane Pomegranates) were. Arriving back on drive a week later, there was barely a flowering tree noticeable! The reason was that another 20mm of rain had fallen and the bush had transformed into a green paradise; the flowers that had stood out so much against an earthy landscape were now lost in the sea of green that was blanketing this part of the Greater Kruger Park. A few Tree Wistarias held onto their mauve flowers, and a pop of red could be seen emerging from the odd dwarf Boerbean, but the usually noticeable violet flowers of the apple-leaf trees were barely discernible in the late spring transformation of the bush – much earlier than we usually see this annual change take place. A few more migratory birds announced themselves; a couple of Wood Sandpipers were seen at the water points, and the calls of the Jacobin’s and Red-Chested Cuckoos could be heard ringing out over the bush. Many Dung Beetles accompanied any pile of dung from our megaherbivores, and the central Timbavati turned into a paradise. From the sightings we enjoyed this week, it appears as though we were not the only ones enjoying it!
Again, it was a week of lions, and the Sark Breakaway Pride took centre stage once again as they continued to occupy the eastern sections of the territory around Nkhari. The pride was found with the cubs on most days this week, and it is wonderful watching them grow as a pride. Towards the end of the week, they were joined by one Vuyela male but remained within the Timbavati. The Vuyela males themselves provided daily sightings, and for a welcome change, all five males were seen together! Two of the River Pride females came into oestrus at the same time, and this drew a lot of attention from the dominant males that spent four days in the same area hoping for a chance to mate; interestingly, it was the smallest male that spent the entire honeymoon with the one lioness. This meant that we could hear their roars most nights, and even after the honeymooners left, the males remained in the general area. Their lack of territorial patrols possibly accounted for the two-day return of the Mayambula Pride towards the end of the week. The pride’s tracks suggested they had been in the area over night, but we only caught up with them the next day when one of the older lionesses was walking around desperately searching for the pride. That afternoon, the remaining members were found in the same spot she had been in the morning; unfortunately for her, Scotch found her along the Machaton Riverbed a couple of miles to the north-east, but the pride marched straight there, and we found them reunited in what was once the heart of their territory the next morning. The Giraffe Pride were only around at the beginning of the week after they rested off their fat bellies following a hippo kill that they made in the far western sections. It was a great week of lion viewing!
In spite of the active lions, we were lucky to enjoy a few good leopard sightings. Nyeleti was seen three times over the course of the week, including twice near the camp waterhole. Her more relaxed daughter was also found in the area one afternoon, as was the Nkhari male. To the east of camp, Mafufunyane female was found with a large impala kill, and she spent three days at the sight of the kill. She went from being her usual protective self around the carcass to being surprisingly calm with the vehicles; hopefully a few days of viewing will help continue the habituation process that these new leopards to our area undergo; we had one lovely sighting of her one afternoon as she was feeding on the impala carcass in the tree.
Typing this now, I had to remind myself that at the start of the week (following the rains), I conducted three drives without seeing an elephant, but by the end, we were getting great sightings of herds on every drive. To be fair, the elephants were around, just never in the areas I was driving! The waterhole in front of Tanda Tula continued to draw in the herds, and two afternoons ago, a group of close to 40 elephants came to enjoy a drink on a scorching hot morning.
What was particularly enjoyable this past week was the abundance of buffalos; we had three or four large breeding herds moving around the central and eastern parts of our concession. It was good to have some herds back in the east, as they have been absent there for some time. Interestingly, we usually experience the opposite trend following the arrival of the green season; the buffalos typically make good use of the areas around Tanda Tula in the dry season and disperse when the rains arrive, but the end of the dry season saw very few buffalos in the area, but they have returned in good numbers now. In addition to the big herds, we also had daily sightings of several groups of buffalo bulls hanging around.
Big 5 sightings aside, we continued to enjoy nice sightings of giraffe herds, wildebeests and zebras, impalas and kudus, as well as our ostriches. Sadly though, it appears as though the chicks that we posted pictures of before I went on leave are no more. Although they were seen close to Tanda Tula when I was away, upon returning, I have only seen the male and female without any chicks. It is possible that it is a different pair, but a more likely scenario is that some predator got hold of them…a far too common reality for the ostriches of this part of the Kruger.
And that, folks, is that! Be sure to check back next week for some more updates on what our guests have been enjoying while out on game drives.
Until next time!