Greetings to you all, and welcome to 2021 here at Tanda Tula Safari Camp. We trust that the year has gotten off to a good start and like all of you, we hope that 2021 is a better year for all of us. We have enjoyed a wonderful few weeks since our last weekly update, and have lots to catch up on! After a hot and humid end to 2020, the weather has been much more pleasant this past week and culminated with another 62mm of rain falling last night to once again enliven the bush. Despite the great rains so far this season, there were patches of our concession that were beginning to look a little dry following the prolonged period of heat without any rainy reprieve. This rainfall should quickly eliminate that dry appearance in the south, and further add to the incredible lushness that has adorned the eastern parts of our concession – unsurprisingly the area that I have spent almost all of my time in over the past three weeks.
As always, let us begin with the lions! Our River Pride have once more returned to a state of permanent presence at Tanda Tula with the pride and their ever-growing Nharhu males having set up a base to the east of Safari Camp. While it is always great to have them around, it is the really the reason why they are persistently in the area that is most encouraging. This is because the youngest lioness has given birth to a litter of cubs in the thickets along the banks of the Machaton Riverbed. Whilst we have yet to see them (they’re between 3-4 weeks old), it won’t be long before she brings them out. With another lioness looking quite pregnant, the future arrival of her cubs should ensure that the pride remain rooted to the area for the foreseeable future, and fingers are tightly crossed that these litters have a little better luck than the last.
The subadult female is approaching a year old now and still doing well, but with the lionesses hunting well, it is no surprise. We saw them with a zebra, a giraffe and a wildebeest kill over the past three weeks, whilst on separate occasions we found just the Nharhu males on their own zebra and giraffe kills. The latter kill provided not only for some lovely lion viewing, but also a feast for the scavengers after the last Nharhu male left, and hordes of vultures and some twenty hyenas moved in to finish off the remains. Sadly, the limping male’s foot is not looking in good shape, and at the moment he cannot put any pressure on it. However, despite the limp and the atrophying muscles in his leg, he is still doing very well. In other lion news, the lone Ross female is still active in the south-west and the Giraffe Pride have made a number of appearances in the west together with the Monwana males. It’s very encouraging to see them settling into the area again.
Our leopards played along very nicely despite the bush being so thick, and in typical summer fashion, we could often find them resting up in the prominent Marula trees in this part of the Timbavati. Thumbela and her cub have been seen several times with kills. The youngster is now three months old but is taking time to get comfortable with the vehicles – however, if you sit still and quietly, he soon comes to join his mom. Thumbela has moved a little north in her territory, no doubt a response to the constant presence of the River Pride in the same area she had previously been denning. Also encouraging is the number of sightings we have been having of N’weti leopardess lately as we’ve seen a definite western shift in her territory, now greatly encroaching on parts of her mother’s range. This is not a problem for Nyeleti as she too has been shifting slightly south, but still maintains a truly massive territory for a female, and she regularly patrols its boundaries much to the frustration of guides and trackers alike, as it makes keeping tabs on her movements very difficult in the almost 3 500ha territory that she moves in. By comparison, N’weti presently uses less thatn 2 000ha, and Thumbela maybe 2 500ha. Nyeleti is doing a great job keeping her son well fed and was also seen with a number of kills over the past few weeks. Her son also started off the new year by officially receiving a name! As he has turned a year old (he was born in mid-December 2019) he’s now of an age where his chances of survival are increasing on a monthly basis, and it is at this point that we traditionally name them. As it was our very own Scotch and Patrick that found him as a cub they had the honours of proposing a name, and the other guides gladly accepted their suggestion of Xigodo male. Xigodo (pronounced She-gor-door) is a reference to a tree stump, and the place that the cub was first found hiding in a year ago to the north of Tanda Tula Safari Camp. Sadly, as a young male leopard, he is unlikely to be around with us for too much longer, once he reaches independence later this year he will most likely be forced out, but we can only hope that he stays in the area for a little longer than the other newly independent males did last year!
The cheetahs have remained elusive once more but we were able to catch up with the pack of 13 wild dogs on a few occasions, although they have yet to make an appearance in 2021. One particular memorable sighting was of the pack catching a baby impala in Machaton Dam – definitely not a sighting for the faint at heart, but a vivid example of their ruthless efficiency as one of Africa’s top predators.
The elephants and buffalo bulls have been loving the summer conditions, and on the hot mornings and afternoons could often be found bathing or resting in the numerous pans and mud wallows that are so characteristic of summer in the Greater Kruger. We have also had a number of new-born baby elephants on display for the guides and guests alike, and we look forward to the arrival of a few more in the late summer months. The zebras have also been dropping some of their foals, adding to the magical time that summer is. We also saw the arrival of the last of the summer migrants shortly before the new year with the vividly coloured southern carmine bee-eaters returning, at first as individuals, but latter in the week they congregated in bigger flocks to brighten the bush even more. Not that it needed much brightening us, as with the sun lighting up the late afternoon cloud build-up, the landscapes of the Timbavati were a sight to behold! So, sit back and enjoy some of the imagery that has been illuminating our world over the past few weeks.
Also, be sure to keep abreast of more sightings and highlights on our YouTube channel where we are still producing weekly episodes of our Sofa Safari series.
Until next time, take care!