Welcome back! It has once again been an absolute treat being able to share safari experiences with guests again. It was a week that has once again proven that despite the crazy times we are living in, the Timbavatikeeps on delivering. The COVID-19 protocols that we have in place are doing nothing to dampen the guest’s enjoyment of being back in nature.
With another week coming and going and still no sign of Nthombi being found, we are growing ever more certain that the end of an incredible era with this queen of the central Timbavatihas arrived. To add fuel to the speculative fire, this week also saw Nyeleti spending a great deal of time in the heart of what was once Nthombi’s domain – a behaviour that would be unlikely if the old gal was still around. Last weekend Nyeleti was found leading her son to a kill right on the western boundary of the Klaserie Private Nature Reserve,but she had no sooner arrived when Xisiwana male ran in and stole the kill, sending Nyeleti’s cub scampering to the safety of the upper most branches of the apple leaf that housed the kill. A few days later, we found Nyeleti on the prowl again, but this time along the banks of the Zebenine Riverbed – a far distance away from her usual haunts. Interestingly though, she has still been keeping her cub there and walked him straight back to the Machaton Riverbed in the east after her meal.
In between these sightings, we also got to see the “new” skittish dominant male of that area with an impala kill. He is a male that has been around for about a year now and although he is a little less nervy than he has been in the past, he is still far from the confidence we like to see in our male leopards. Perhaps it is his presence that is pushing Nyeleti further west into Tamboti male’s territory, as we suspect that Tamboti is the most likely father of her cub.
Thumbela female was in her new territory too and once again, we had her roaring as she patrolled around our camp. On another afternoon, we had no sooner left camp on a windy afternoon when we found her stalking a herd of impalas with no luck. A day earlier, we had also tracked and found her with an impala kill on the banks of the Nhlaralumi to the south of camp. All of these behaviours are suggesting that she is not planning on going anywhere anytime soon. Sadly, that kill of hers was stolen by another nervous male leopard and we got to see him at a slight distance as he walked away from the area with a fat belly.
The big lion news this week was the sad update on the impressive Black Dam male from the far west of our concession who met an untimely end this week. An injury from a failed buffalo hunt seems to have left him as a sitting target for the Monwana males that finished the job the next day. Despite this loss, the new males are likely to provide some greater stability to the Giraffe Pride (they have already been seen mating with them for months) in the west. The River Pride continued to move large distances this week and despite seeing them with full bellies, we didn’t find them on any kills. Their wonderings also took them into relatively uncharted territory to the west, but based on all the roaring we could hear close to camp last night, it sounds like they returned to the heart of their territory after this sojourn. Tracks for the Mayambula Pride were only seen on the Kruger Boundary, but no sightings were had.
A special cat sighting this week was a day-time glimpse of a stunning caracal! I have only seen them a couple of times since arriving at Tanda Tula, but this one hung around for a couple of minutes, even allowing me to mess up a fantastic photo opportunity of the pointy-eared cat. Even Jack whipped around asking “did you get the shot?”. I looked at the photos and immediately wanted to cry when I saw I messed them up! We carried on searching for the caracal, and a few minutes later when Jack lifted his hand and pointed at a nearby termite mound, I was genuinely disappointed to see that it was a leopard and not the caracal again!!
Our buffalo bulls continued to live around the lodge and provide daily sightings at the camp’s waterhole, but the elephants were a little less active at the dam this week (although around 40 of them spent one afternoon at the dam). That being said, with good water available around the concession, they remained very active across the reserve and we were spoilt with many sightings of these gentle giants all week long.
One group of visitors to the waterhole this week was a pack of six wild dogs that arrived after dark one evening and settled next to camp. This meant that as we headed off the next morning, we bumped right into them and spent some excellent time with the pack, even into the afternoon. Towards the end of the week I was woken up with a wild dog contact calling near camp at 1am in the morning. I am not sure if it was part of the pack of six or a member of the 15 wild dogs that were also found on our northern boundary that morning.
The Knobthorns are continuing their slow sprouting of flowers (along with the first flowering long-tailed cassias of the season). This made for excellent giraffe viewing this week as dozens of these unique ungulates could be seen on a daily basis, including a few very small calves. As is typical of this time of year, all general game viewing was very good with wildebeest, nyala, zebra, kudu, impala, duiker, steenbuck and warthogs being seen throughout the reserve.
I am going to be heading off for a couple of weeks break. I am already excited to get back to the Timbavati to see what magic it has to offer, but until we catch up again next time, stay safe!