Hello hello, and welcome back to another glimpse of the week that was at Tanda Tula Safari Camp.Following on from last week’s incredible run of good fortune, this week was always going to be up against it, and to say that I had very little hope for this week’s game viewing (at least in comparison to last’s) would be an understatement. However, Mother Nature once again proved me wrong, and she did this in no more an emphatic way than giving us two leopards that had been chased up a tree by wild dogs as soon as we left camp at the start of the new week – thank you very much!!
It was Nyeleti and her son who had somehow crossed paths with some wild dogs, at first we thought the dogs had stolen their kill, but with the pack out of sight already, the leopards jumped down and Nyeleti led her son to a small nyala kill that she had safely hoisted up a nearby marula tree. It only lasted them the morning before they moved on. We failed to catch up with the wild dogs that morning but did get to enjoy some time with a very well fed Nharhu male lion as he walked around looking for his brothers. My guests checked out that morning, and I feared that this would be the end of our run of luck, but that notion was quickly dispelled as I went and sat at Machaton Dam for a well-deserved G&T that afternoon. While chatting to Monique and Grant from Kings, Grant casually asked ‘have you seen the wild dogs over there?’, and upon looking over my shoulder, the pack of 13 were resting in the shade on the other side of the dam. They headed off east for the hunt, but some members soon ran back around and ended up killing an impala less than 80m away while, by the sounds of it, the rest of the pack got another kill about 200m on the other side. As pack members ran backwards and forwards to one another, we sat quietly enjoying our sundowner as the dogs didn’t pay the least bit of attention to us – pure magic!
The next morning while out filming a Sofa Safari (be sure to check out this Sunday’s episode for the video highlights of last week’s unbelievable sightings), I could hear the guides talking about some cheetah in the south-east. As I wasn’t with guests, and thinking it was the two brothers again, I wasn’t too fussed about heading that side and carried on doing what I needed to do. Only the next day did I hear that it wasn’t the two males that Ginger had found, but rather a mother with three young cubs! I haven’t seen cheetah cubs in the Timbavatifor over a decade and could have kicked myself for not making an effort to see them. Luckily, it seems as though the two brothers are quite enjoying this area, and one morning while out looking for the mother and cubs, Jack spotted the two cheetahs resting in the shade of a bush out in the open – such a magical treat to be able to see these rare cats on a more regular basis, and we are all keeping fingers crossed that it lasts! Despite it being a very good sighting of the cats, this wasn’t even the highlight of the drive. No, that belonged to another sighting of Thumbela and her cub after Scotch found her heading to a new den site. It’s another well concealed site – perfect for mom and baby (we only saw one) – but challenging for us to get a clear view. However, the cub showed no interest in our presence and allowed us a glimpse into an intimate moment in the secretive lives of mother leopards.
As for the rest of the week, it was one that delivered on almost every drive. The River Pride remained split into two fragments for most of the week; the mother and cub with one other lioness, and then the other two females (including the welcome signs that the youngest lioness is eventually pregnant again and will soon give birth to more cubs) on their own. All Nharhu males were seen in various combinations this week, but they gave us some good roaring and mating performances throughout. The pride continues to be settled in their new part of their territory to the south-east of Tanda Tula.
On the leopard front, other than Thumbela, Nyeleti also showed herself again when she was found hanging around the Tamboti male’s baboon kill, but with the big dominant male in attendance, her one attempt to get some of the kill failed and he chased her off before taking guard over the remains of a rare kill here in the Timbavati.It is only the third time I have seen a leopard with a baboon kill in all these years. There was also a report of Marula Jnr this week out in the west.
Elephants continued to use all parts of our concession, and with temperatures reaching into the mid-30s on a daily basis, these pachyderms were never far from waterholes and mud wallows and could be found on every drive. There was also the pleasing presence of a large group of more than a dozen buffalo bulls hanging around the water points near Tanda Tula, and our rhino viewing was also encouraging, including my first proper views of a young rhino calf – always encouraging to see when it comes to a species in such peril.
On the general game front, zebras were very quiet this week – possibly having headed off to other areas of fresh, sprouting grass – but we had decent giraffes (mostly males), wildebeest and pregnant impalas aplenty. Our cuckoo species became very vocal in and around camp as they arrive from around the world, and the monotonous larks and common quails, along with our rare Shelley’s francolin all took up residence on the grassy areas of the eastern portion of our concession to round off yet another wonderful week of game viewing here in the Greater Kruger.
Until next time, take care