Hello and welcome back to a sunny, dry, and incredibly green Timbavati. Cyclone Freddy continued to meander over southern Africa before moving back to the Mozambique channel, making it the longest-lived cyclone ever recorded, with current forecasts suggesting it will be around in the channel for at least another five days! This past week was the kind of week that makes me love this time of year so much, and once more, we were spoilt with some wonderful sightings…especially when I was off the drive for a few days (but there are no surprises there).
On my first afternoon off, Scotch had pulled out of camp to sit and give his new guests a pre-drive briefing, but before he could get to a nice shady tree to sit under, he had spotted Savannah leopardess resting up in a Marula tree – talk about a great start to your safari. Just prior to finishing off on the drive, Glen and I also had some luck in finding a big male leopard in the west, but he walked off into a very wet area and we were unable to get a view of him again. The Mvuvu female leopard was also seen down by the Klaserie River this week, and there were a couple of sightings of Nyeleti and her two youngsters around Tanda Tula Safari Camp. Tristan had a good morning in the east when he was able to locate sightings of both one of the daughters and then a little later, he also found Nyeleti resting up a Marula tree next to the road. This continued a good run for him, as the evening before he and Jack had worked hard tracking down Sunset female leopard who gave them a good viewing before heading into the bush stalking some impalas.
Scotch though definitely had the best sighting of the week – with the same guests that began their safari with the leopard. After having found a large portion of the Giraffe Pride finishing off the remains of a wildebeest that they had caught on the plains close to the staff village at the bottom end of the plains in the morning, he went to follow up on the lions in that area in the afternoon and found a single lioness walking back west to collect the cubs – not even some rhinos put her off of her mission. She disappeared and Scotch remained in the area where he found another two lionesses stalking some wildebeest as the sun was heading towards the horizon. Both lions and guests sat and waited patiently when a group of impala rams suddenly walked into the clearing, close to where the one lioness was waiting behind a bush. Quite predictably, the impalas started fighting and the lioness didn’t need a second invite to run in and grab one right in front of the guests. Upon hearing about this, I was suddenly a little less happy about the fact I was sitting watching 20-plus wild dogs and not seeing this lion action.
The Giraffe Pride were on and off the property for the week, arriving back on the plains again last night before moving back east and settling just inside the Klaserie – an infrequently visited area for them. During the few days’ absence, we heard lions roaring on the plains and managed to track down the limping Monwana male and the growing Giraffe young male. Both were looking in good shape, but disappeared from the area when the Hercules male began roaring in the vicinity the next night. The kings of roaring though remain the Vuyela males, and these males continued to make their presence felt in the central Timbavati. They were coming together and splitting, but a great deal of attention was given to the now-four River Pride lionesses that they have been courting and mating with. It also appeared that the Skorro males and at least one lioness was seen in the east not far from the Vuyelas. It was getting quite confusing with the lion movements in that area, and without being there to correctly identify who was who, some of what was relayed might be incorrect information. But, on the last drive of the reporting period, there were two Vuyela males with three lionesses on Giraffe Plains (close to Safari Camp), but they apparently got up and moved quickly to the north when two other male lions came roaring in from the south. The latter two lions appear to have been the Skorro males, and the reaction of the two Vuyela males would back up this hypothesis. If the two unidentified males were two other Vuyela males, then it would be unlikely that they would have moved off. The afternoon before there were another two males in the same area that were tentatively identified as the Birmingham Breakaways, but this awaits confirmation. Regardless, it does appear that things are beginning to heat up in the central Timbavati, and it remains to be seen how much pressure the Vuyela males will place on the Skorro males and the Mayambula Pride. As always, only time will tell what the outcome will be, but for now, the Vuyela males and the River females seem to be settling more and more into the old River Pride territory. With this amount of mating, we can expect some more cubs by the middle of the year.
This week also saw us getting spoilt with wild dogs; we had not one, not two, but three packs visiting us in the week. The pack of 24 from the north spent three days in the central regions before making their way almost all the way west towards Plains Camp property. The alpha female was clearly coming into estrus based on how the dominant male was following her around and whimpering in desperate fashion. A second large pack of around 16 members pitched up near Plains Camp on the last drive of the week, and their alpha pairing were also starting to get a little frisky! This pack appears to be part of the big pack from the south that haven’t popped into the area for almost two years (if my memory serves correctly). Add to this a couple of sightings of the small pack of four, and it was a fantastic week of wild dog viewing.
A large breeding herd of buffalo also graced us with their presence for a couple of days as they moved through the area feasting on the abundance of green grass. The buffalo bulls continued to enjoy their time on the plains, as well as the other numerous wallows in the east. The elephants were a little more scarce this week, with only the odd bull and very few breeding herds moving through the western parts of the concession. The eastern areas around Safari Camp seemed to have a few more breeding herds utilising that part of the Timbavati, but with so much food and water around, it is no surprise that these mega-herbivores have dispersed.
The number of giraffes in the area seems to have increase quite notably this week, and after a few days absence on the plains, the zebra herds and wildebeest seemed to move back after the lions moved on. Still, even on the quieter days, there is still an abundance of plains game, and with the verdant surrounds, they always make for great photographic subjects.
On the bird front, I got somewhat excited to see a few water-related species in the area that we don’t often get to enjoy; whiskered terns, reed cormorant, lesser moorhens and African jacanas all graced us with their presence, along with a host of other stunning summer birdlife.
So, that is the week that was – we trust you enjoy these images and look forward to sharing some more with you again next week! Be sure to check out our Instagram page for a video of the lion kill that Scotch’s guests were able to capture.
Until next time, cheers!