It is that time of the week again when you get to catch up on just what has been happening here at Tanda Tula Safari Camp, and it was yet another week full of glorious summer! Last weekend saw us receiving a further 30mm of rain, but based on present forecast, that is going to pale into insignificance if Cyclone Eloise continues on her predicted course across the Mozambiquan channel. Should this happen, the Timbavati and this region of the Greater Kruger Park are in for rains that could top anywhere 200-400mm, and this will no doubt see our rivers flowing at levels that they haven’t reached on close to a decade. That being said, with the arrival of the weather system still a few days away, there are still too many unknowns to make accurate predictions, and the last time we expected a cyclone to head in our direction we barely got any rain in the Timbavati at all…so check back next week to see just how much rain we did actually receive!
As for the game viewing, well, it was a week of two halves. It started off wonderfully well, and even the days following the rain, when it was too wet to drive off road, we managed to get some good viewing under our belts. Following that (and the departure of our guests), my solo safaris were anything but fruitful! Perhaps it was the constant breezy weather, or more likely, the fact that I didn’t have the assistance of a skilled tracker to help me find the game, but things got particularly quiet, especially on the big cat front.
The week began with us enjoying a couple of sightings of the same relaxed female cheetah that was around the previous week. Civilized and Jack found her one morning feeding on an impala she had killed just off Eagle Owl Plains, and the next day Steven and I followed up on some vulture activity around Giraffe Plains and found her once again. This time she had relinquished her kill (as it was too wet to drive off road, we aren’t sure whether it was just the vultures that pushed her off, or if another predator had chased her away), and moved off, keeping a close eye on proceedings behind her. A couple of drives later and descending vultures drew me to another open area where they were finishing off a young impala that I have no doubt was also killed by the cheetah, but despite my searching, I couldn’t find her again. Fingers crossed though that she stays around for a little longer!
The latter kill and concurrent vulture activity brought about the sad realisation that the River Pride had indeed moved their den site, as this kill happened right there, and had the lions been anywhere in the area, they would most certainly have come to investigate just what it was that the vultures were after. Combine this to the fact that we haven’t seen any tracks or heard any audio of the pride for the past three days now, and we are a bit stumped as to just where they have moved to! In fairness, there are only two vehicles driving around most of the time, so it is a difficult task to check all the areas that the lions might be, but we will keep on trying and hope that they show up again soon. I suspect that the lioness may have moved the cubs away from the Machaton Riverbed following the last rains, and with the high potential of some serious flooding next week, this is not a bad move.
As mentioned last week, the gap left by the River Pride now that they are settled in the east has led to some new lions coming into the area, and we caught up with a young male and young female right on our border with the Klaserie last weekend. The sighting was peaceful at first as the two young lions (we estimate them to be around two and a half) rested after dark, but the local hyena clan must have sensed some inexperience in the lions and soon about a dozen or more hyenas were stamping their dominance all over the lions! The two lions held their ground (and nerve) and managed to keep the hyenas at bay, until the clan members lost interest and moved off. It was a wonderful sighting to witness if for nothing other than the incredible sounds that these two eternal enemies were emitting!
The leopards this week were around, but I personally wasn’t having the best luck of seeing them! I did get to see two sightings of Marula Jnr in the west, she is becoming far more habituated to the vehicles. Although one sighting did see her move into a thicket, she remained completely at ease even as we were in close proximity to her. We also got to catch up with the impressive Ntsongwaan male to the south-west; I can’t even recall when I last saw this boy, but he is looking fantastic, and we had a short but sweet sighting before he moved into an area that not even our Land Cruiser could follow. We found Thumbela just after the rain, but as she was looking for the cub, she soon moved into the Machaton and out of view, and later in the week she was found at Machaton Dam seemingly taking the cub back to a kill. I saw some nearby vultures and on following up found where they and the hyenas had finished what was presumably the leopard’s meal. She was sadly lost before I could get to see her. The same happened on two occasions when I was on my way to see Nyeleti and Xigodo, but that’s just how the cookie crumbles sometimes!
Fortunately, the bush is about so many things besides the big cats, and we got to enjoy loads of those moments this week! The highlight was my first ever sighting of a clutch of baby ostriches in the Timabvati! We found a pair with eight chicks on Tortillis Plains early in the week, but I was a bit concerned when later in the week I found a female with two male ostriches and no chicks in the same area. I am not sure if something happened to them during the week, or if this was simply another couple moving through the area.
We also got to enjoy some lovely general game in the form of elephants, buffalo, rhino, loads of zebras, wildebeest, giraffe and impalas, and most of them had some adorable babies in attendance. There were fantastic birds too, and after a great rainy season so far, so many little creatures that wherever one looks, one is bound to see some form of life!
It is a great state to be leaving the bush as I head off on a couple of weeks break. So be sure to check back next week to see what Luke has been seeing out there, and I will catch up with you all upon my return.
Until next time, take care!