This past week blew us away. Literally. I know that I have a short memory, but I cannot recall having ever done game drives in such windy conditions before, ever! I was so excited after Saturday and Sunday’s high temperatures to see that the temperatures would drop from Monday, that I didn’t pay much attention to the wind forecasts. Then the wind started, and it simply did not let up for the remainder of the week. In fairness, the gusts were far from gale-force, but they were unusually high speeds by our standards. These winds not only caused the temperatures to drop, but it had an equally undesirable effect of making for less-than-desirable conditions for game viewing.
Despite the tough conditions, it was a week that delivered a load of quality predator sightings, but our poor, general game species were not enjoying the week quite as much.
For the first time in many months, we had a complete absence of the Mayambula Pride from our concession, without a single track of them being found. This is concerning, and we sincerely hope that their return to the lioness’s old haunts is only a temporary one. A year ago, this was where the pride spent the majority of their time, but once the cubs were born, they made their home within the bounds of our traversing area. As we have seen from the pride over the last eight months, they tend to set up base around a waterhole for a couple of weeks before moving onto the next one. If this pattern holds true, we should see their return at some point next week; my concern is that although they are only a couple of kilometres south of our boundary, the next water source is some distance away, and that could be the factor that works against us.
From the reports, the Mbiri males seem to have spent most of the week with them and haven’t once ventured back north to patrol their territory. Perhaps the fight that they were involved in two weeks ago has had far more ramifications than we initially thought. Fortunately, even without this large pride of lions, our viewings of the big cats were quite good this week.
The week started with a few sightings of the two Zebenine lionesses, and ended with the four River Pride girls moving into the area and spending three days to the north of Tanda Tula Safari Camp, one of which was spent feeding on a zebra kill before the hyenas chased them off. In the west, the eleven members of the Giraffe Pride, along with the Black Dam male, also spent three days within the area. I eventually made the trip west late one evening and was rewarded with a sighting of them killing a young wildebeest – sadly the large male lion dominated the kill and chased the others off. The week ended with a sighting of four of the five young River Pride males reuniting and moving around in the west.
On the upside, the absence of the Mayambula Pride seemed to have a very positive effect on the leopard viewing, and this week we enjoyed the best leopard sightings we have had in a while. Nthombi and Hlangana enjoyed at least two impala kills this past week with the windy conditions working wonderfully in their favour. Thumbela was also found in the east on a couple of occasions but became scarce after a sighting of her last Sunday. She was in need of a good meal, and with her experience, I am sure that she used the conditions to get some food.
The Tamboti male spent three days on his warthog kill, but true to his nature, made us exercise a good deal of patience to get a decent sighting of him. N’weti female was also seen out in the east this past week, but the most pleasing sightings came from Marula’s young son – he was twice seen feeding on small kills – once a banded mongoose, and a second time with a scrub hare. He spent a couple of days with his sister, and towards the end of the week, she too was found enjoying a scrub hare meal, proving that these two youngsters are quickly learning the art of being a leopard. Sunset female was seen with a duiker kill in the west late in the week and a brief sighting was also had of a heavily lactating female coming in from the Klaserie.Initial reports sparked a glimmer of hope that it may have been Marula, but sadly the pessimist in me knew that there was only ever going to be one positive I.D on that leopard, and that it was always going to be Cleo.
The wild dog pack continued to provide some great viewing this week, with the best news being that just this morning the pack was found making a new termite mound their home, and this time it was right in the heart of our concession! All fifteen pups are growing quickly, yet despite this, their playfulness seems far from dying down. The adults were seen hunting within our concession on most days, and as always, their level of success never fails to impress. Time will tell how long they hang around this area, but with the absence of the Mayambula Pride, it could be for a week or two. That being said, the pups are very close to being fully mobile and ready for a life on the move.
As always, the buffalos remained the most difficult of the Big 5 for us to tick off, but our job was made all the easier with a group of a dozen-or-so bulls having taken up residence on the access road to the camp. Camp dam at Tanda Tula Safari Campwas less effective in pulling in the elephants this week due to the cooler weather, but as I sit here and type this, I can see a herd of these pachyderms making their way up along the Nhlaralumi riverbed towards the dam.
And in case you were wondering, no, there are still no flowering knobthorn trees. Pleasingly, the giraffes seem to be quite indifferent to this fact and they have been present in very good densities across much of our concession, allowing for some good viewing despite the trying weather conditions. Fortunately, the weatherman promises calmer weather over the coming days so that should make the animals’ lives a little easier, and a load less stressful!
Check back again next week to see if the Mayambula Pride makes a welcome return.
Until next time!