Well, what can I say about the week that was other than it has to rate as one of my favourite weeks of guiding.
It wasn’t necessarily filled with mind-blowing sightings, but consistently good game viewing coupled with a quiet reserve with not many vehicles around. On an almost daily basis, Jack (my tracker for the week) and I, were finding lions, leopards, elephants, buffalos, rhinos and loads, loads more. We didn’t have to rely on others to find sightings for us and the majority of our sightings were found as we drove around the beautiful eastern section of the Timbavati.
On the three occasions we did opt to venture west of the Nhlaralumi, we found our own lion sightings on each of the occasions and because the reserve was so quiet, we basically got to spend as much time as we wanted with the animals which made for the most stress-free week I have had in ages. Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, the drying summer landscapes that I was worried about last week are also a distant memory. An incredible 75mm rain fell last Friday to enliven the sumptuous summer scenery and bring the all of the rivers gushing down in full force. Pure Timbavatibliss.
The big news of the week was on the leopard front. We had our first sighting of Nyeleti female’s cubs. Following a rain-drenched Friday morning, we were limited to on-road driving for a couple of days, but it made almost no difference to our sightings as all the animals showed themselves close to the road, including Nyeleti who Scotch found walking along a road near the flowing Machaton River. She left the road as he followed and walked to a mass of fallen branches and called for her cubs, which popped out very soon afterwards!
Sadly, she had settled to nurse them out of view by the time I got there, but a couple of days later, we found her resting under the fallen tree with one of the cubs milling around nearby. Scotch and his guests saw two cubs, but I only got to see one of them. Regardless, it was still awesome to see a glimpse of the newest additions to the Timbavati’sleopard population.
The east remained a leopard hot spot and we found Xidulu male leopard on several occasions, often resting up a large tree, including with an impala lamb kill on the last occasion. N’weti female was also quite evident this week and we found her resting up perfectly selected trees on a couple of occasions – she is turning into a stunningly beautiful leopardess and is seemingly quite intent on taking over the eastern sections of her mother’s territory based on the scent-marking she was doing.
The most beautiful cat of the east, the blue-eyed Thumbela, also showed herself on a couple of occasions this week, and although she wasn’t overly active on those occasions, when she did get up, it did appear as though she was still nursing some cubs so hopefully she has better luck this time around. We also got to see Xisiwana (Marula’s son) when he spent the day of the floods walking around in front of the camp, and even Hlangana male leopard was seen hassling some zebras towards the end of the week.
The lions provided us with daily sightings, mostly in the form of the Nharhu males who spent the majority of the week to the east of Tanda Tula Safari Camp,but we did catch up with all three them roaring their dominance out in the western sector a few days after the rains.
The River Pride lionesses were alarmingly absent for much of the week, but as it drew to a close, Jack managed to track them down not too far east of camp and the next day one of the pregnant lionesses had separated and was found along the banks of the Nhlaralumi Riverbed, possibly in anticipation of the arrival of the cubs!
A wonderful surprise was a visit of a pride of lions that I had not personally seen before, and that was when we bumped into the six members of the Vuyela Pride shortly after they had crossed into our concession from the Klaserie Private Nature Reserve.This impressive pride – consisting of five young males and one lioness, treated us to an attempted sunset hunt, but unfortunately they were spotted before they could get close enough to make a charge. All six of the lions looked to be in fantastic shape, and their presence on the periphery of the River Pride’s territory is a slight concern, but only time will tell how long they choose to hang around before moving back west. Although the Mayambula Pride remained absent once again, there were at least some positive reports of their presence on the Kruger boundary to the south of our concession. All sixteen members are reported to be in great shape!
Following the rains, the elephant herds dispersed across the reserve. Their numbers ebbed and flowed in the central regions, but as the week moved on they became far more evident and several large herds (of around 40-50 individuals) graced us with their gentle presence. Pleasingly, the buffalo herds (yes, plural) also spent much of the week enjoying the luscious green grasses of the central Timbavatiand at least three big herds were seen across the concession, including one that came to drink at the camp’s waterhole yesterday evening.
My week was rounded off with a lovely sighting of a pack of wild dogs at the beginning of the week; although I only saw the smaller pack of 17-odd, one of the trackers from a neighbouring lodge told me that he had counted more than 50 wild dogs running around on our access road that morning! Sadly, no more confirmed sightings were had of those dogs, but the only explanation I can come up with would be that both our resident packs – the larger pack (30 plus) and the smaller pack – bumped into one another before parting company again. These interactions are not usually friendly, but as we weren’t there to see it, this is nothing but speculation.
If I had to make one complaint about the past week, it was that the giraffes and zebras had vacated the eastern sections for some reason and spent their time frequenting the western parts of our concession – this meant that when we did venture west, we got treated to some spectacular scenes of open areas full of impalas, zebras and wildebeest. This is not to say that the east was devoid of general game (there were plenty of impala and wildebeest around), however, I found it odd that all the zebras moved westward after the rains fell. Perhaps tomorrow’s forecast rain will show a reversal of their movements…just as long as it doesn’t mess with everything else that has made this week one to remember!
Until next time, cheers!