It’s that time of the week for another update about the happenings of the wildlife surrounding Tanda Tula Safari Camp.The fantastic news is that despite the awful happenings around the world, our animals are carrying on with their business as usual. It has been a treat, to say the least, being locked down here in the Timbavatiand still able to get out there to follow the animal’s daily lives. For those wanting to follow it more closely, be sure to check out our Sofa Safaris by clicking here.
As you can tell from the feature image of this blog, we had some special visitors in our area this week, and for once, I was around to see them! After almost twelve months of moaning about the lack of cheetah sightings (when I was around, of course) my luck was reset a couple of mornings ago. The afternoon before, as we drove through the more open woodlands of the east, I commented that this was an excellent area for cheetahs, to which point the question came “do you see them often here?”.
Although the answer was an emphatic “no”, it is still always nice to think you might see them. You can imagine my dismay when, about 40 minutes after passing the area, a manager from the neighbouring camp radioed to tell me that he had just bumped into two cheetahs on the open areas! Sadly for him, the sun had set, so he couldn’t even spend time with them, but this meant that the next day, we headed out half an hour before sunrise to go and find these buggers.
Three hours of driving later, and almost all of the “typical-cheetah-spots” checked, we were feeling like this was another case of close but no cigar. Glancing up at a Bateleur eagle perched in a dead tree, I joked that he was waiting for scraps from the cheetah’s kill. Not a minute later, who do we find walking through a very typical cheetah area? None other than two extremely relaxed and confident male cheetahs who obligingly settled right next to the road and spent the next couple of hours in the shade watching the world go by. As special as it was to sit in their presence, it was bitter-sweet as we didn’t have anyone else to share the sighting with! Luckily, The Scotts, Jacksons and Mathebulas all managed to get themselves and the kids into a Land Cruiser and get down to see this rare treat with all of us.
This was about as good as the spotted cats got for us this week, as the leopards were not on show for much of the it. Tracks were seen on a daily basis but finding these kings and queens of camouflage without trackers or the assistance of other guides proved far more difficult than last week! Nthombi’s two cubs were still seen at the den, and her tracks continued to make their way to and from the den site, but we just never timed it right to find her there. Late in the week there was a report of her walking around on a windy morning before she disappeared into a thicket. In fact, the presence of three windy days out of the week no doubt led to the scarcity of leopards, as with such conditions on offer, it is almost certain that our cats had some luck with making kills, which is most likely what kept them out of our view.
The lions were far more cooperative, at least the Nharhu males were. They could be heard roaring most evenings (well, except the windy ones!), and were on offer to find most days if we chose to look for them. Luke had sightings of the River Pride females, but they disappeared off the radar until the last morning of the week when I managed to pick up the mother lioness and the cubs at another (nearby) den site on the Nhlaralumi. Sadly, it was a brief and distant sighting of them heading into the thickets on a windy morning, but they will surely be out and about over the coming week. I picked up tracks for the Mbiri male lions in the east, but tracked them off the concession – it was good to know that they are still around. As no one ventured west, we have no idea what has been happening out in those parts of the reserve on the lion-front – or any other front for that matter!
We once again had the fortune of sighting a large breeding herd of buffalos spending several days within our concession, and they even came to drink at the waterhole in front of Tanda Tula a couple of times. The elephants were less active at the waterhole, but we started to see increasing signs and sightings of these pachyderms this week. With the surrounding areas of the Greater Kruger starting to dry up (the 6mm of rain this week did nothing more than settle the dust), we can once more expect an influx of elephants (and maybe even more buffalos?) into the Timbavati over the coming months. The general game seems to be picking up nicely too, and one stunning scene in the south-west saw some 18 giraffes, 30 wildebeest, 25 zebras and countless impalas scattered around one scene all loving life!
The highlight of the week for me however, was a simple one, but not a common one. It was a sighting of a bird that I (and other guides) have heard calling for a few months now, but as yet, no sightings have been had of the bird. That all changed one afternoon when I heard it calling, and most pleasingly, found him doing so from a large rock right next to the road! The majestic Shelley’s francolin! So not only did I get a “lifer” (it’s what we call it when we see a species we have never seen before), but I also managed to get more than just a record shot of one!
That is all from us for now, so stay safe, stay positive and keep up the great work in being part of the solution that will get all of us through these crazy times!
Until next time…