Hello, and welcome back to another blog from the heart of the bushveld! Following last week’s incredible rain, we had a somewhat drier week, although that term is relative. Following four days of big rain the week before, we had another four days of rain, but “fortunately” it only amounted to 65mm of rain (much less than the 220mm that fell on the first four days), bringing the month’s total rain to an impressive 334mm, and the summer’s total to an excellent 620mm so far. And it is this “so far” that is a little worrying for us. Present forecasts suggest that this area is in for another weekend of heavy and plentiful rains – potentially doubling the months total! Africa is a place of extremes, flood follows drought and so we are grateful for all the rain we have received.
We have faced a few challenging days with the current weather and needless to say a few radio calls have had to be made, asking for assistance to get pulled out of the mud. Despite every guide that got stuck trying to extricate themselves without needing to make that somewhat embarrassing radio call, not one of them managed to get out on his own. This was not so much a reflection on their driving skills as it was on just how wet it was out there. However, despite this sogginess, the reduction in the number of traversable roads, and the fact that there weren’t that many any navigable river crossings, our guests were treated to some very good game viewing over the course of the week.
During the wetter conditions, we were not the only ones heading for the driest and firmest roads around (our tarred access road), and we found a load of game using this surface to move and rest on. Even the giraffes chose to walk along the tar road. On my last drive before a few days without guests, we found three lions (from Giraffe Pride), elephants, buffalos, giraffes and wild dogs on our drive along the tar road that morning. Later in the week I popped out to see the Giraffe Pride who had been on the area below Plains Camp in the morning, and as darkness fell, the whole pride of lions moved onto the tar. It was some sight to see 25 lions strewn out along about 100m of road making for the most pleasant of evening traffic jams! The pride was reasonably cooperative this week and spent three days in and around the plains. Further east, the Vuyela males were on a giraffe kill just off the tar road for a few days, and at the same time the River Pride lionesses were also found walking along the same road one evening. Closer to Tanda Tula Safari Camp the five Birmingham Breakaway males were located with a buffalo kill deep into one of the blocks, and Scotch took his guests in on foot for an unforgettable experience of seeing wild lions on foot. The week ended off with a Skorro male and a portion of the Mayambula Pride being found to the east of Safari Camp, as well as three members of the young River Pride.
It was not just the lions that were playing along, but Scotch got to see six different leopards in two days around the camp; Mvuvu female and her cub were down on the banks of the Klaserie River with a kill for a couple of drives; Ryan and I bumped into Savannah female just outside camp when we headed out for an early morning run one morning (and no, we found her whilst driving out to our running spot, otherwise it would really have helped our speed training). Scotch also found Savannah young male resting up a tree close to camp. The next drive Sunset female was found with a kill up a tree right next to the road, and she provided for some great viewing for a couple of days. That sighting ended with Ntsongwaan male leopard also showing up at the same spot before being chased up another tree by some hyenas. We ended the week with more sightings of both Sunset and Ntsongwaan yesterday evening. We also began the week with a sighting of Nyeleti resting up a tree with her kill (about 100m off the road) in the north-east. N’weti was also found resting up a marula tree near Safari Camp as the week drew to a close. With the grass and ground still being incredibly wet, it is clearly a trend that these cats are preferring to rest up in the trees rather than on the ground which does make finding them a great deal easier.
We closed off the predator sightings with two separate sightings of two small packs of African wild dogs; one was a pack of three in the west at the start of the week, whist the pack of four was found in the central regions at the end of the week.
On the herbivore front, we had regular buffalo bull sightings – with the Klaserie River still flowing strongly, the buffalo bulls that resided there seem to have moved to drier areas around the plains as opposed to staying in the riverine thickets. We also had a smaller breeding herd of buffalo on one trip to the east of Safari Camp. The elephants continued to be a daily sight, with the bulls still seeking out the abundant fruits of the marula trees in the area; the breeding herds also appeared to spend a bit more time in the area the past few days. As for the plains game, whilst not as abundant as usual, the plains still housed many impalas, wildebeest and zebras. Giraffes could be found in good numbers across the concession (especially walking on the roads) and we began seeing more and more baby kudus emerging from hiding. There are many hippos around in most of the big dams too, making for some great coffee and sundowner spots.
We also had some great birds this week – as is often the case in summer. The white storks began arriving in good numbers, there are plenty of waterfowl at the waterpoints, and Tristan and I also escorted the ground hornbill researchers to the nest for their last check up on the chick before it fledges! Tristan wrote a blog about the little chick when it hatched 75 days ago, and now it is ready to leave the nest! This will be the first successful fledgling from this particular nesting site, so we are keeping fingers crossed that the not-so-little guy makes it.
So, that was the past week. Be sure to check out our blog next week for the latest updates. I am scheduled to be on drive for the next week, so will hopefully have a few more images to share.
Until next time, cheers.