Run an ultramarathon they said. It would be fun they said. When, six hours after the shotgun sounded to signal the start of the 2023 Timbavati Traverse, and I was still running, I had lost my sense of humour about this idea…, especially in 30-degree heat (that’s around 90 for our non-metric readers)…but, seeing as I had never run more than 29km before, and was now closing in on the 45km finish line, I dug deep and managed to hobble the last few kilometres to cross the finish line and head to the closest beer stand. Why would I have spent my weekend doing this? Aside from having great memories of the day (the memories get better as the pain fades), it was for a worthy cause as the Timbavati Traverse has become an instrumental fund-raising event for the Timbavati’s anti-poaching efforts to help do our bit to save our vulnerable and precious rhinos.
It was a day that brought together seasoned runners from far and wide (and no, I am not including myself in the seasoned part), as well as other runners and walkers that completed the 21km iterations of the Timbavati Traverse. With Scotch (21km run), Dale and Hayley (21km walk) all partaking in the day’s events, and Monique being part of the organising committee, Tanda Tula – in addition to providing the grand prize of a two-night stay at our stunning new camp to the runner that raised the most donations – did their bit to make the day the success it was, so well done to all of the participants, sponsors, donors, organisers, and supporters that came to share in the day – I will be sure to do a blog about the experience in the coming weeks, but it was a day I will be talking about for a long time to come.
With the Timbavati Traverse having been at the forefront of my thoughts over the past week, I spent much of my last week trying to find ways of getting out of the run.
I did return from my leave towards the end of the week and went out for a few drives with a friend who had come out from the UK to join the run. We had a good few days on drive, and in a couple of days had seen the Big and wild dogs without much trouble. The lions had not been as active this week as last, but the dynamics remain interesting. A few members of the Birmingham Breakaway coalition paid us a visit for the first time in a couple of months. The Mayambula pride remained more elusive this week, although yesterday we did have tracks for the whole pride coming into Tanda Tula, sadly Steven and Eric tracked them back out to the eastern boundary. Glen had an equally frustrating tracking session trailing tracks for what we thought was the Sark Breakaway Pride; he found where they had killed a buffalo, but all that was left were scraps that the hyenas were finishing off. After that, it appeared as though the lions were hunting again as their tracks were going up and down in all directions, and it was difficult to make heads or tails of them. Returning to the tracks after lunch, Glen and Given managed to get a direction on where the lions moved, but as they tracked, more and more sets of tracks joined their “trail”, and it was soon realised that it was, in fact, the Giraffe Pride that had made their way to the far eastern reaches of their territory (only the second time we have seen signs of them this far east before) and that it was their activity on the kill that had attracted the Vuyela males to the area – the up and down of the tracks after the kill was not their hunting, but rather them running away from the opposing males. The tracks eventually crossed out of the concession some 8km from where we began tracking in the morning; a big frustration, but sometimes that is how the bush works. Two days before the Giraffe Pride had been left resting together in the morning in the west, but when we passed through the area in the afternoon, we only came across a single lioness, and another group of only three individuals, and Steven found the sickly Sumatra male on his own too; exactly what caused that split is a bit of a mystery, but the next day they were all together again before they once again got split up by the Vuyela males. These males could be heard roaring most nights this week around Tanda Tula Safari Camp, but they were quite active to the north of our concession where it appears as though one of the River Pride lionesses has given birth not too far north of our concession. We did see the other two River Pride lionesses a few times during the week.
The leopards that spoilt us during my last week before leave appear to have taken some time off themselves. Last week the guides did get to see the unusual sight of a large male leopard with the remains of an aardvark kill hoisted up a marula tree. Nyeleti’s one daughter was seen this past weekend with a duiker kill closer to Safari Camp, and the week ended off with a sighting of a male and female leopard walking together in the west.
The wild dogs crisscrossed the concession this week, but the only active pack in the area remains the small pack of six. The larger pack from the north is still active around their den far in the north, and we are still a couple of months away from those pups being able to move around with the pack enough to bring them back into our area.
It was a treat to see some nice big herds of elephants moving around the central and eastern parts of the reserve again, with some herds numbering close to 100 individuals when multiple families came together. They weren’t the only big families walking around together, and no fewer than four big herds of buffalos were reported within the concession this past week. These herds ranged in size from 100 to 300 buffalos, but we hope their presence remains in the area for the rest of winter.
We also had good zebra and giraffe numbers in the central and eastern sections again, and this almost made it feel like we were on the plains in the west again.
Although I am putting my feet up from running for the next couple of weeks, I won’t be taking a rest on the guiding front and will be back out and driving for the next while – so be sure to check back in next week for a full update on the happenings of our wildlife here in the central Timbavati.
Until next time.