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A week of Gloom and Beauty

Luke Street | A Week In Pictures

Welcome back to another instalment of Week In Pictures at Tanda Tula Safari Camp, and the first update from me in well over a month! After spending a bit of time with family and friends (from a distance) over the festive season, Britt and I are back! And what a beautiful time it is to be back, the bush is super green, the water holes are full to capacity and the animals all seem to have a bit of pep in their in proverbial step.

During our break, there was a fair amount of rainfall that came down over the Timbavati, but as soon as we got back, news broke of the impending tropical storm Eloise! It was still a week away at that point in time but all indications pointed towards devastation for the Timbavati and Tanda Tula.

However, let’s go back in time and have a look at what happened before the hurricane hit. The week started amazingly with a fantastic sighting of a pack of wild dogs and a hyena to boot. Notice how they were lying in the very dry riverbed. None the less, the dogs were super happy and very full after a good morning of hunting. The poor old hyena was keen to feel the same way and so legend has it that he is still following the pack of dogs to this day.

The night before the deluge arrived, we were very lucky to find the gorgeous Nyaleti leopardess just lazing atop a fallen over knob thorn tree. She had in fact been chased up said tree by the pack of dogs I spoke about earlier. The mischievous painted wolves often take joy at the prospect of chasing the agile cats up trees before continuing on with their business. Unluckily for me, the sun had just gone down, but a bit spotlight photography was enough to get an image of a sleepy leopard.

By then, Tropical Storm Eloise had morphed into a tropical cyclone over the coast of Mozambique, however her trajectory had changed a lot over the days leading up to her arrival and she was now due to have the biggest impact further north. We were still, by all indications, due for a major downpour though. At around midnight the drops started to fall but that was it, they remained as drops. Just a soft pitter patter throughout the night and a “massive” 17mm by morning. Not exactly the thunder and lightning we were expecting but as the day went on, we got more and more rain. It would come in sudden and intense bursts before fading away. At one point during the day, we had gorgeous blue skies, which did indeed result in sunburn while we were out trying to film and capture the river as it started to gently flow.

It is always so special standing at the front of a river as it begins to flow. At first it is gentle and slow but as the river sand gets waterlogged and the running water finds less and less friction to inhibit it, the water begins to flow more and more rapidly.

By the end of the day, we had received a total of about 51mm of rain. Nothing to write home about, but definitely enough to cause most of the waterholes in the area to burst their banks and for all the small ponds and pans to reach well past their usual limits. Below is an image of probably my favourite pan, which some of you may recognise as its just down the road from our famous bush breakfast site. I often sit at this pan just soaking it all in for a while before moving on, there is just something incredibly special about it.

We continued to get small down pours throughout the next day, which sadly kept me largely lodge-based and not able to head out where I might risk getting partially rained on. By the end of the day, we were sitting on 71mm and that was essentially the end of Tropical Cyclone Eloise for Tanda Tula. Thankfully no flooding or damage, a good thing for sure.

Once the rain had stopped, I was out again and ready to find all the animals to photograph, except there were none. Well, maybe I am being a bit dramatic, there definitely were animals and of course birds around, but we often experience this type of quietness after we have received a lot of rain. The animals just seem to lay low and not move around as much as they usually do. You can’t blame them really: they don’t have to go very far to find food and they definitely don’t need to go very far to find water and so their range just becomes smaller and smaller. Combine this with the fact that we don’t off road after the rain and you end up with a rather tricky game viewing situation. However, this gave way to some images that I am fairly happy with as I had to incorporate more of the scene at large with many of the images.

One morning I was lucky enough to see Nyaleti and her cub in a tree, thanks to Formen’s amazing spotting skills. They were pretty far from the road and all I had was a 24-70mm lens on me but I managed to get a shot of the scene.

The rest of the week saw me trying to capture some landscapes of the river systems, spending some time with a giraffe while he pulled a funny face, a little group of baby impala, a monitor lizard as he peered out of his hidey hole and a goose as he swooped around above me.

By the end of the week the skies had largely turned back to blue and gorgeous and those stunning African sunsets over the Drakensberg mountains had returned, a fitting end to the week for sure.

Until next time, stay safe and happy snapping,

Luke Street

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