Despite the cloudy and cool conditions outside my house as I sit and type this blog, the week that has just past, was anything but cloudy and cool. It was the first week of hot weather that we have had this year (and in fairness, it still wasn’t that hot, with the mercury not even going close to forty degrees Celsius).
It was, however, hot enough to cause a very evident drying out of the bush. Within a few short days, the lush greens that have been blanketing the central Timbavatitook an a distinctly autumn shade. The higher levels of humidity that hung in the air for the week, did however, point to the fact that the rains were not too far away – we ended off the week with a light sprinkling of 4mm of rain. But, from what the weatherman tells us, that is just a taste of what the next five days will bring. If his forecasts are even half correct, we will be reporting back on a much cooler, wetter and greener bush this time next week.
The leopard viewing over the past week was fantastic, with no fewer than four kills being located within the concession, allowing for some great viewing of these, sometimes, elusive cats. The two sightings that stand out were both in the east close to Machaton Dam. The first sighting was after a couple of days and began on my last morning drive with guests who were keen to end off their stay with a leopard sighting. Glen found some fresh tracks for Xidulu male at the dam and began tracking as he walked in circles, but whilst tracking, Glen radioed to say that it sounded like something was being killed in a thicket close to where he was. We returned to the area with a Land Rover, but the bush was way too thick to get in there. However, on trying to find more sign of what went on, Given and Glen were convinced that the sound they heard was not something being killed, but rather two leopards – a male and a female – having a fight.
The tracks moved to the north and sadly we ran out of time. The next day, Given followed up in the area again and got more than he bargained for when he not only found Thumbela female with an impala kill in the very same thicket, but both Xidulu male and the long-lost Madzinyo male situated close to the kill! This sighting carried on into the next day when we found that two of the River Pride lionesses had arrived and stolen the kill away from Thumbela and sent her scurrying for safety up a nearby tree.
A few days later whilst checking on lion and leopard tracks in that same area, panicked alarm calls of a herd of impala led Ginger to finding N’weti leopardess after she had just caught, but not yet killed, a female impala! Later than morning, he also found Xisiwana male leopard resting near camp with a young impala kill. Other than that, Nthombi and her pregnant belly had a kill in the west, whilst there was a brief sighting of Nyeleti female moving into a thicket that housed her cubs – although they weren’t seen, they could be heard. There was also a sighting of Marula Jnr female wandering around in the west this week – always positive to see that both of Marula’s youngsters are still doing well.
The lion sightings were quieter than they have been of late, with the River Pride being scarcer during the second half of the week. The week started off with Glen tracking down two of the River Pride lionesses in the company of two Nharhu males in the morning, but by the afternoon, one of the males had paired off and was found mating with the oldest River Pride lioness. They spent three days in the same area and provided for wonderful nights spent listening to their roaring close to camp. The remainder of the pride could also be heard roaring to the north of us to make it a stereophonic experience. The following day the pride (sans the nursing lionesses) were found much further south than they normally venture, but later they all made their way back to the den site. The two mothers did move the den to a far less accessible area during the week, but all three Nharhu males and the other two lionesses, made a welcome return as the week drew to a close. They announced their return with a chorus or roars to the east of Tanda Tula Safari Camp.
Further west, the Black Dam males and some members of the Giraffe Pride were seen on a couple of days this past week, but with lions on our doorstep, we didn’t need to make the trip west. Some interesting news of the arrival of two new male lions did emerge from the western sectors of our concession this past week, but we are still waiting on a positive ID on the lions to figure out where they might have come from.
The highlight of the week for me, though, had to be the return of our large 21-member wild dog pack and the sightings they spoilt us with over the course of three days. It took a while to track them down when they returned, but when we did eventually catch up with them, they had caught themselves a young kudu. The next morning, we found them not too far from Safari Campbefore they settled down, but in the afternoon, they made up for their quieter morning by making two kills at Reflection Dam whilst Antony and his guests were trying to enjoy their sundowners there!
Another stand-out moment of the week for me was a particular sighting of more than fifty zebras gathered together in the late afternoon light on the western fringes of our traversing core. We had been struggling to see giraffes with my guests, so we headed to the west and got spoilt, not only with several giraffe herds, but the most zebra herds I had seen in some time, with the large group being the cherry on top.
With the rains forecast to return this coming week, I am sure that these groups will once more make an eastward move as the rains nourish the more open grasslands of that area….assuming of course, that our weather man is not horribly wrong with his predictions!
Until next time, cheers!