A Week Wet Weather in Pictures

Hi all, and apologies for the slightly delayed weekly update on the happenings at Tanda Tula Safari Camp. With the beginning of the year being a traditionally quieter time in the South African safari industry, I was not on too many drives until the past few days, so there were not too many photos to share, and as those usually go down better than me explaining what the other guides had seen, I thought it best to wait a couple of days to deliver a proper update, so here it is!

As you can see from the title, it was a week of some blessed rains – over 100mm (four inches) fell in two heavy showers – that left the central Timbavati a soaking, green paradise!  The first rainfall even brought 80mm in a couple of hours, and upon realising how much rain had fallen when I woke up, the first thing I did was run to the deck of the nearest safari suite to see if the Nhlaralumi riverbed was flowing; but alas, the southern Timbavati that makes up the catchment area of this drainage system only received 8mm of rain, so there was not enough runoff to get it flowing for the first time this season.  Fortunately, the smaller Machaton River in the eastern sections of the concession did begin flowing and briefly transformed the feeling of ambling along its banks.  With the first rains of 2024 falling, an abundance of life emerged from bush – termite alate eruptions, burrowing beetles, and a myriad of other insect life spurred the migratory birds into action, which led to some very happy barn swallows, carmine bee-eaters, lesser spotted eagles, European rollers, and Wahlburg’s eagles, to name but a few.  All the wallows in the area were filled to the brim, which appeased the resident buffalo bulls and elephant herds, and the grass that had been turning a slight shade of brown following two weeks without rain transformed into its summer green shades within hours of the rain falling.  To end off the reporting period, we woke up this morning with a further 25mm of rain having fallen to further add to the lush summer feeling of the Greater Kruger.  These events pleased me, as I had a regular return guest that had only ever visited Tanda Tula in the winter months.  During Susan’s last visit, I suggested that she should definitely consider coming to see what the Timbavati looks like in the middle of summer, and she got to see exactly that – an incredible contrast from what she was used to seeing! 

The lions spent most of their time resting in the open sodic areas, and the leopards ascended the trees, giving us some good game viewing opportunities.  The lions over the past week were not as consistent as we have grown accustomed to of late, but as you will see, that is possibly just me being fussy as we didn’t have all of the lions on our doorstep every day!  The Mayambula Pride popped up once again this week and spent the day resting next to a pan in the eastern sections.  A couple of days later, a single lioness was mating with one of the dark-maned Vuyela male lions in the east, and while I am still waiting for confirmation, my suspicion is that it was one of the Mayambula lionesses.  My doubt comes from the fact that after mating, the lioness moved off to the west, suggesting that it could have been a Sark Breakaway lioness?  If it was, she was a long way out of her territory, and with another Sark Breakaway lioness mating with another Vuyela male in our western sections, it wouldn’t have made much sense for her to venture all that way east.  The Sark Breakaways were with their cubs in the west but made an unusual movement further to the south-west and out of our concession towards Giraffe, a property in the Timbavati after which our Giraffe Pride is named due to their dominance over it.  Fortunately for the Sark Breakaways, the Giraffe Pride were spending a fair bit of their time around Plains Camp, and I ventured out west one afternoon to spend time with eighteen members of the pride as they rested up at a waterhole.  They had been quite active in the area over most of the week, and looking at how many zebras and wildebeest were on the plains, it was no surprise to see them hanging around.  The Vuyela males had to re-establish their presence in the area following the rain, so there was much roaring going on in the days that followed the rains; we were treated to several roaring displays this past week.  Now that I actually think back to all the lion sightings around this past week, maybe I am only thinking of the lack of the River Pride in the area, as aside from them, the other lions definitely did their bit!   

We enjoyed a couple of nice leopard sightings this past week too.  Glen had his leopard-spotting eyes on with our last group and spotted the impressive Xiwumbane male leopard resting up a marula tree not too far from Safari Camp.  He was no doubt the leopard that set the alarm-calling monkeys off in the morning and was obliging enough to pose beautifully for photos in the afternoon.  Despite being a slightly shy male, he does seem to be getting more comfortable with vehicles.  Tristan found him again on Nkhari a couple of days later, and when he was relocated again that afternoon, he once again proved to be very comfortable with one vehicle watching him.  Glen came through again the next morning when he managed to detect a drag mark on a tough area and followed the tracks to an impala stashed under a bush in the eastern territory of Mafufunyane female.  We assumed that she had maybe gone off to nurse the cubs, and when we still didn’t find her at the kill later in the morning, I began to wonder if it was not another skittish leopard.  Heading out of the area, Glen spotted what he thought was a male leopard, but lifting my binoculars up to get an ID, we soon realised it was Mafufunyane herself, and she was taking the cubs back to the kill!  Once again, the cubs looked fairly unphased by us, but I didn’t want to put pressure on them as they were in a relatively open area and left them be as they headed into a thicket.  That afternoon, Steven saw her at the kill with the cubs popping in and out of view, and pleasingly, mom seemed fairly calm and didn’t charge the vehicle as I suspected she might!  Perhaps her grumpy nature we saw a few months ago could have been down to her pregnancy, in a similar way to how Nyeleti’s behaviour changed when she was pregnant this time around.  Speaking of, Nyeleti was AWOL this past week. 

The elephant herds seemed to remain in the area for most of the reporting period, but as often happens after rains, there were a couple of days when they were scarcer.  The buffalo bulls loved the wallows, especially those close to Tanda Tula Safari Camp, and were seen most days.  The general game of wildebeest, zebras, and giraffes remained very good in the open areas, and our baby impalas continue to grow bigger each week. 

All in all, it was a great week of summer and all the elements I love about it.  We now look forward to enjoying the aftereffects of the good rains. 

I am off drive for another short period, but I will be back with more updates soon!

Until next time!