Welcome back to another weekly highlight package of what has been keeping our guests here at Tanda Tula Safari camp entertained. While they are enjoying the stunning surrounds of the central Timbavati, which, despite no more rain (other than a light drizzle yesterday), are still looking incredibly green and lush! The week was a relatively mild one temperature-wise, at least by summer’s usual standards, yet despite a couple of cooler days, it didn’t bring the game out quite as we had expected.
There are very few vehicles out here at the moment, and the price one occasionally pays for the blissful solitude is that it is up to you and your tracker to find the game! Luckily, our guests are in good hands at Tanda Tula, and this week once again produced multiple sightings of the Big 7, all the usual suspects, as well as a species of mammal that one of our most experienced trackers, Jack, had never seen before! I was only driving guests for a couple of days and so was able to spend some of the end part of the week out and about recording a new episode of Sofa Safari (go check out our YouTube channel for the past episodes), and as a result, got to enjoy many of the sightings on offer.
It is such a treat to be talking about cheetah sightings for the fourth week in row and, once again, it was the two cheetah brothers that kept the guests’ cameras clicking. After a couple of drives out in the south-east with no sign of them, I was just about to lose hope that they would stick around when a colleague called to say that he had found them not too far from Tanda Tula Safari Camp. I was not too far off and arrived to find the most wonderful sight of the two cheetahs sitting atop a fallen tree – just as I had always imagined! They descended the tree and dragged us through some very ‘un-cheetah-like’ terrain, but we managed to relocate them as they arrived on some more open woodland patches, luckily Civilized’s guests got to see them too.
The next afternoon, the two were once again found resting on a termite mound in the more open woodlands of the east, and their fatter bellies told of some hunting success during the day. Perhaps it was the roaring of the nearby Nharhu males that caused the cheetahs to move west, but the following morning they were found again, but this time heading towards Klaserie, then they were lost. It was bittersweet moment as these movements showed us that they could be including much of our concession within their territory, but it also meant that there was now not always such a high chance of finding them in the east. Still, it was a wonderful week of cheetah viewing, and I sincerely hope that I will be reporting back with further sightings next week!
We also enjoyed two sightings of the pack of 13 wild dogs this week, once at the start and the other at the end of the week, although strangely, both sightings were in exactly the same location. The pack was finishing off a kill on the first occasion with the company of some hyenas, and when they were hunting the next time, they had the permanent company of four hyenas following on their tails. Sadly, they didn’t have any hunting success during the morning.
The lions were a relatively constant feature this week in their various forms. The Nharhu males were most evident, and started the week completing a four-day mating period with the older female from the River Pride. Despite disappearing into the Kruger National Park early in the week, the other two River lionesses and the cub did make a reappearance later in the week. The week ended with all three Nharhu males being found on Giraffe Plains. Oddly though, when the limping male arrived in the morning, he lay down about 100m from them and didn’t go and greet them as I thought he would; in the afternoon he had moved off and didn’t even join in with their roaring session. This was strange because their roars were a direct response to the roars of some unknown male lions roaring to the west of the Timbavati. Civilized also got to see the Giraffe Plains pride down in the west later on in the week.
It was this trip to the west that also produced a sighting of Ntsongwaan male leopard after he had lost his warthog kill to some pesky hyenas. This was a welcomed sighting, as leopards proved very difficult to come by this week – the thick bush is doing its best to conceal the kings and queens of camouflage. Despite lots of time and effort spent looking for these gorgeous cats, only Nyeleti female showed herself prior to Civ’s sighting.
We spent a lovely morning with her as she walked around scent-marking and patrolling the most southern portions of her territory and was generally a very busy girl! Another report of leopard was when one of the visitors coming in saw Marula Jnr catching a leopard in front of him on his way into the camp. Sadly, despite his efforts to direct us to the location (and Jack walking around that area for over an hour), no leopard, and no kill could be found. Such is the nature of the bush!
The last members of the Big 7 also played along well: after a few days of relative absence, the elephant herds returned in big numbers towards the end of the week with many young calves in tow. There were a few groups of buffalo bulls that remained in the area too, but the breeding herds remain scarce in this part of the Greater Kruger. Giraffe, zebra, kudu, wildebeest and impala were all on show on a daily basis, but it was a much smaller creature that was probably my highlight of the week (well, maybe tied with the cheetahs on the tree).
We were driving past the camp on the way back to camp one evening when Jack’s spotlight caught some very bright eyes of a nocturnal creature. They were bright enough to be those of a cat, but the creature was way too small, so Jack didn’t seem convinced about what it was. As we got closer, Jack’s light froze on the animal, but he said nothing. At this point, I still wasn’t sure what it was until it started jumping away… just like a kangaroo! Okay okay, we don’t get ‘roos down here, but this is Africa’s rodent equivalent – at least from a jumping point of view – a nocturnal springhare! I had only ever seen one before in the Timbavati, but it was Jack’s first in 27 years!!! He didn’t even know what it was! How special is that? This place has the ability to still surprise someone who you would have thought had seen it all!