Greetings once more from the wonderful wilds of the Timbavati.Amidst everything that has been going on in the world over the past weeks, I find it interesting how life amongst the inhabitants of the bush, just keeps on moving along; and move on they did – this past week was another very intriguing one for us.
It was a week that belonged to the lions of the central Timbavati, and even those from further afield. To begin with, last week’s blog had no sooner been published when we were notified that tracks for the Mayambula Pride had once more crossed into our concession and were heading to the north. Ginger got to the area before me, and being Ginger, along with his trusty aide, Given, it didn’t take them long to find all sixteen members of the pride lounging about on the edge of a mopane thicket in the south-central region.
I arrived a little while later and spent the rest of the morning watching as this impressive pride decided to be uncharacteristically active. They all awoke, and one-by-one, walked right past our vehicle. It was fascinating to watch the order of movement; the four mothers moved off first, followed by the three sub-adult females. Slowly, the seven young males followed suit, and eventually, the two Mbiri males thought it was best if they too kept up, just in case there was a meal on offer. These two boys are looking in incredible shape and my mind still boggles as to how the much smaller Nharhu males were able to take control of such a big portion of the Mbiri male’s territory.
Although the pride eventually settled, by late afternoon there was no trace of them. Fortunately, they hung around for the night and all but three of the mothers were found the next morning with the Mbiri males looking like their persistence paid off (they were the only ones with bulging bellies). At some point in the day the lionesses must have returned, because by the afternoon the pride had once again disappeared into a massive block of land and that was that!
It was still such a treat to be able to catch up with this pride once more, it has been almost five months since I last saw them! Just how long it takes before their next visit is now up for debate, especially as we had a very unexpected, and potentially disturbing visit from a coalition of male lions from the southern Timbavati; the Mapoza male and the two Xikukutsu males…right in between the territories of the Mbiri and Nharhu males.
From all accounts, this also wasn’t just a wander up north, as the three newcomers didn’t hold back on their roaring from right within the bounds of the Nahru males’ range. It seems as though no conflict unfolded during the night, and the next morning, the Mapoza male and his partners were found on a giraffe kill just off our access road; all the while, the Nharhu males roared from further north, close to the site of the River Pride lionesses and their cubs. This pride was less evident than the past week, but still seen regularly. However, conditions made tracking them near their den sites a dangerous task, and as a result, we typically only found them if they were close to the road.
To add to the lion sightings of the past week, the Black Dam male was also found on most days, and once in the company of a Ross lioness as he managed to hold onto his territory in the west, despite pressure now coming from all sides.
More relaxed were the lives of the leopards this week, or at least those that showed themselves. The highlight of the week was a couple of days of viewing Nyeleti and her three-month-old cub. Mom had a kill stashed on a thick riverbank, but patience was rewarded for those that sat long enough to see the cub come out from time- to-time. Positively, the cub looks pretty relaxed with the vehicles, and hopefully a sign of things to come!
Xisiwana male was also seen a couple of times as he continues to move along the Nhlaralumi. He was even seen walking around in front of Tanda Tula Safari Campafter breakfast one morning, much to the displeasure of the monkeys (whom he had also kept awake for much of the night). The nervous male leopard that had the kill last week was also seen again in the east, and I managed to identify him as the male that Luke photographed fighting with Thumbela last year. Although he has clearly been around for a bit, I sincerely hope he doesn’t push Xidulu out of the area, as Xidulu is an infinitely more relaxed individual! However, it is not up to me as to which leopards come and go, and we will see who turns out to be the stronger of the two over the coming months. Speaking of Thumbela, there has been no sign since she was seen a couple of weeks back sporting a pretty nasty gash on her cheek.
Amazingly this past week was a relatively good one for buffalo viewing – not only did we see buffalo bulls on a daily basis, but there were breeding herds moving around in both the southern and western areas. Elephant herds continue to move in and out of the area, but with the bush now drying at a rapid rate, it won’t be a long wait before they become resident in large numbers around the riverbeds and waterholes of the region. It was also pleasing to see zebra and giraffe numbers starting to pick up on the central and eastern regions of the concession after a slightly quiet period on the general game front.
Although the camp is moving slowly at the moment, we will keep you all up to date on what is happening in the world of the Timbavati, as I am sure it will be a welcome distraction from the news that is otherwise filling your screens.
Until next time!