Greetings folks, and welcome back to your weekly fix of the Timbavati. If you have been following our other social media, you will be well aware that our dear weatherman was somewhat accurate in his predictions for the heavy rains that fell during the week that was.
Last week I was moaning about how dry the central and northern regions of the Timbavati were, and I recall feeling distinctly depressed and worried about just what 2023 held for our favorite waterhole close to Tanda Tula Safari Camp, Machaton Dam. This worry stemmed from the fact that it was almost dry at the beginning of February, and some forecasts suggested a slightly drier than usual closing half of summer; without some big rains, this dam would dry out completely and this would have had a marked impact on our viewing in that area. Fortunately, the forecasts of 150-200mm of rain last week not only came to fruition but were superseded. Tanda Tula Plains Camp received 220mm over four days, whilst areas in the central part of our concession received even more. These blessed rains not only transformed the bushveld from a dry, worrisome landscape to a verdant green one but also got all of the minor and major riverbeds in the Timbavati flowing at levels not seen for several years.
All of the dams, pans, and waterholes are now full to the brim, the seep lines are soaked, and our concerns about a dry summer now feel like a distant memory. In the space of 12 days, our rainfall for the season doubled from 286mm to 558mm, and there is still more rain to come!!!
As wonderful as it has been for us to receive this life-giving bounty from the heavens, it did make for a very interesting week for us both out on a drive, as well as operationally; fortunately, this is not the first time that the Tanda Tula team has had to deal with wet conditions, and we all pulled together to keep operations running smoothly. We have been fortunate that here at Plains Camp, our access to and from camp was not hindered by the flowing rivers, and we could come and go as we pleased.
Safari Camp was however cut off temporarily, but we made a plan to get the essential supplies the staff and construction team needed across the flowing river – you can see the video of our team carrying food across a waist-high Nhlarlaumi river on our Instagram channel.
On the game viewing front, despite the challenging conditions, we made the most of it and were rewarded with some good sightings.
On the first afternoon that the rivers came down, Tristan and I headed out to have a look at the water, and in simply bumbling about we encountered buffalo, elephant, rhino, and wild dogs. The wild dogs stole the show this week as we saw three different packs within our traversing area; the small pack of four, our pack of 20 in the west near Plains Camp, and the eventual return of the pack of 24 from the north. Scotch located the latter one morning on the access road to Safari Camp, and fortunately, they hung around until the afternoon when we got to watch them on the prowl, harassing wildebeest and eventually chasing some impalas. On the way home that evening, we bumped into a pack of four too.
With the ground being as saturated as it presently is, there is no chance of off-road driving for the foreseeable future. To be honest, in the wettest parts of the week, even driving on the roads made for some exciting times as we needed to extricate ourselves from some sticky situations. Fortunately, such moments added to the adventure of the safari, and my guests were great sports and saw the fun side of it. Without being able to go into the bush, we used this as an opportunity to have some walking encounters, and we had a few lovely rhino sightings on foot this week – something that we would have been less likely to experience had we been able to simply drive off-road.
The elephants were a constant presence, especially the elephant bulls flocking to the area to enjoy the abundance of marula berries. One particularly relaxed old bull came and gathered fruits no more than 1m away from where we were parked – pure bliss.
Conditions were not ideal for finding big cats, as the rain washed away all signs of the cats every time it fell. We did have a young male leopard with an impala kill during the rains, but his kill has stashed some distance from the road, but we were still able to get a decent view of him. The lions only appeared in the form of the young members of the River Pride when they were found on our access road one morning; the Giraffe Pride could be heard roaring within the concession one evening but the heavens opened that morning and put an end to our hopes of locating on them.
Luckily, the bush is about so much more than just the big stuff, and the rains brought out an abundance of other life. Yes, giraffes, zebras, impalas, and wildebeest could be found in abundance around the plains and elsewhere, but there were loads of smaller life in the form of dung beetles busily rolling dung balls, termites adding to their mounds, snails not-so-speedily sliding across the bush, and migratory birds for days. Even a large breeding herd of buffalos made an appearance in the north this week.
So, despite the wet conditions, we made the most of it and look forward to the positive impacts these rains will have on the Timbavati for not only the coming weeks but also the coming year. With the water reservoirs filled up and the groundwater topped up, the wildlife of the Timbavati is in for another pleasant winter!
Be sure to check back next week for some more updates.
Until next time, cheers!