In light of the interesting and challenging times that the world has faced over the past week, it is refreshing to realise that as up-in-the-air our world might seem at the moment, the wildlife of the Greater Krugerstill continue to go on as if nothing has changed. Fortunately, despite not having any guests at the moment, we have still been able to get out on regular game drives. Even without many other vehicles being around at the moment, we are able to enjoy some pretty good game viewing, to say the least!
This past week was none other than a week of babies, and what adorable littluns they are! We have to jump straight into the best news of the week, and that was the discovery of a new leopard den site. At first, the tracker that located them wasn’t sure which leopard it was. He had followed up on leopard tracks from the same area that Nyeleti had spent the end of last week in, feeding on her impala kill. However, what he found at the end of the tracks was not one, but THREE leopard cubs! Time would reveal that these cubs belong to none other than Nthombi, the fourteen-year-old granny of the reserve. This baffled us as we had not so lo ago been debating as to whether she had even been pregnant, because she really wasn’t showing as obviously as leopards do…and now, she doesn’t just pop out one, but three cubs!
We spent the week checking on the den sporadically, but sadly there was no sign of mom on any of our visits. Although, we did catch glimpses of the cubs hidden in the rocks on the banks of the Zebenine Riverbed, but that was all we got. Still, from what we saw (and we only ever saw two cubs), they are as relaxed as any tiny baby leopard I have ever seen, and the one barely even lifted its head to see what we were – incredible! As always, we are being very respectful of the six-week old cubs and mom at this point in time, but the first indications are that we could be in for a real treat from these youngsters if mom keeps up her excellent track record.
We managed to find a very healthy looking Nyeleti one morning after following up on some impala alarm calls, and then proceeded to watch as she almost managed to catch a young impala right in front of us, but luck was on the impala’s side, this time around. That was really about it for our leopard viewing this week, but we did see many more signs of them that didn’t lead to any sightings.
On the baby front, the River Pride lioness had her three ten-week old bundles of joy not too far from where Nthombi has set up her den site. We caught up with the playful cubs on several occasions during the week – their exuberant energy was clear to see! The River Pride, and in particular the Nharhu males, were far more evident this week, and most nights were accompanied by the not-so-distant roars of the males. They are all looking in great shape and we even found the limping male with an adult zebra kill on the banks of Machaton Dam one morning, whilst his two partners were resting on Giraffe Plains less than a kilometre away.
The other lion sighting of the week was what appeared to be of the Vuyela Pride – four lions and one lioness – feasting on a massive male giraffe kill. The last update we got was that it was the Mapoza male that was at the kill with two younger males close by, but it appears as though this may have been some misinformation? Either that, or by the time we went to see it, the Vuyela Pride had regrouped and chased him off – either way, they treated us to a wonderful sighting as they ran off and chased away fifteen-odd hyenas that had moved in to clean up the carcass as the lions went for a drink. Tracks for the Mayambula Pride once more came quite far north, and although there were no sightings of them, it is great to see that their visits are now more regular for a change.
Elephant herds started making more and more use of the central regions, and we spent one morning with a herd that had a tiny little calf with them to add even more cuteness to the week. Buffalo bulls and one breeding herd were reported over the past week, but as we did our drives only around the central regions (where all the cubs are), I cannot give any updates on what the buffalo and elephant activity was like elsewhere in the reserve. There were a good number of zebra herds back in the east, and Machaton Dam is starting to pull in some good general game, as is expected once the natural pans and smaller waterpoints start drying down.
And that is that from me for the week that was. For those of you that need more than a weekly update to help you through these times of isolation, be sure to sign up to the Tanda Tula Sofa Safari Series (click hereto go see what you have missed out on) for regular virtual game drive videos brought to you by those of us that are going to be spending the next few weeks here in the Timbavati.
Until next time, stay safe, stay positive and keep on doing your bit to help us all get through these crazy times!