Hlangana catching flies in the Timbavati
This past week has once more been a week of changing conditions, from windy and cool, to sunny and hot, and even a slight teaser of the imminent summer rains falling from the cloudy skies. This lets us know that the change of seasons is almost upon us and summer is on our doorstep! This is confirmed by the arrival of the first European bee-eaters this week. We are also entering a traditionally quieter period from a guest perspective before the festive season is upon us. This has meant fewer drives, but considering that these pictures were all taken on the three days that I was driving guests, I am sure you can see that it was another productive week of sightings at Tanda Tula Safari Camp.
It is always nice to return to camp and hear that there are some lions around. This was the news that I received when coming back into the mix this week, and in fact, seemed to be a trend for the rest of the week. Although the tracks for the two Zebenine lionesses were found frequently, they have largely remained out of view. Fortunately, the five members of the River Pride (four lionesses and one young male) seem to (temporarily) be quite content with making the northern parts of our concession their home. With the absence of both the Mbiri males and the Mayambula Pride, there are no strong forces around to push them out. Without that pressure, and finding enough food to keep the pride strong and healthy, these five lions spent most of the week within our concession.
As the week drew to a close, the pride spent two days around Machaton Dam. This allowed me a chance to see them, even without being on a drive with guests. Three of the other males from the River Pride were also found on the northern boundary of our concession one morning before returning north – however, they too seem to be quite settled in that area. In time, I am sure that they will make a push further south. There was only one report of the Giraffe Pride this week, but they were literally on the very western border of the concession, so none of our guides made the long trip to see them.
During my three days of guiding, my guests and I were fortunate enough to see five different leopards all relatively close to camp. The closest to camp was a young male leopard that we found whilst walking back to the tents after a drive one evening! He slipped around the side of the tent, so we went onto the deck and managed to find him as he moved across the riverbed before slowly heading along the opposite bank.
We saw Marula’s daughter stalking some scrub hares in camp upon our return one evening – she was looking a little hungry, but I am sure that she will get a good meal soon. Marula’s boy was around with his jackal kill at the start of the week, but was only found again later in the week resting upon a rock overlooking a small natural pan. Nthombi continues her push deeper into Marula’s territory and spent a couple of days wandering around in places which she hasn’t been seen in for years. She even brought Hlangana down with her on this trip and they spent a couple of days in the area. Scotch’s guests were able to see them one afternoon just as Hlangana caught a scrub hare, only to have a hyena run in and chase both leopards up two separate trees and away from their kill.
The best news of the week was towards the very end of the reporting period when the guides saw the long-lost Madzinyo male! This big male has been absent for a few months now, and with the Tamboti male pushing deeper into areas traditionally used by Madzinyo, I had begun to wonder if we would ever see him again. Evidently, he is still around and not yet ready to give up on this part of his territory. Perhaps he has more female interest in the east, but whatever is keeping him away, it clearly isn’t a strong enough pull to hold him permanently out the area.
The week was once again filled with large herbivores. Besides daily sightings of large herds of elephants scattered across the reserve (and particularly close to Tanda Tula Safari Camp), we were also spoilt with sightings of two large breeding herds of buffalos making use of the northern third of our concession. The one herd must have numbered around 300 or so members, and to see them all feeding on a lightly wooded crest of a hill in the late afternoon light was a special sight to behold. They spent the first half of the week in this area before moving on to wherever these herds move when they are not around here. On the subject of big herds, one of the nicer sightings I enjoyed this week was a gathering of around 50 zebras together in the grassy areas of the east. The wildebeest herds have been quite evident in the east too; clearly it is only us guides and our guests that are missing the Mayambula Pride’s presence in that area!
Fingers crossed that this pride makes an appearance during my last week of guiding before heading on leave … and of course, those irritatingly absent cheetahs too!
Until next time