Well, I moaned about it being a cold week last week, and with snow falling on the higher parts of our country this week, that run of chilly winter weather persisted. For once, I was secretly delighted that I was cuddled up under a blanket until the sun decided to share at least some of its warmth. We even had another sprinkling of rain on the weekend, but once that passed the conditions did improve and I was brave enough to venture outside. Sadly though, between taking some time off, avoiding the cold and having a busy camp that didn’t leave me with a vehicle to drive around with, I only actually ventured out a couple of times late in the week when I received some new guests.
The good news was that the lions that had been so absent last week made a very welcome return, and it was good to see the River Pride on a daily basis once again. That being said, they didn’t make it easy, and despite the efforts of our skilled trackers, there were mornings where even a few hours of tracking during drive just weren’t enough and they had to venture out after drive again to finish the job. The pride even came as far west as the Nhlaralumi which they haven’t done for some time, and their proximity to camp ensured that we could hear the not-so-distant roars of the two Nharhu males on an almost nightly basis this past week. The whole pride is doing well, and it seems as though their efforts to find the old girl alive were unsuccessful, and they have resumed normal operations. They do, sadly, seem to have killed my favourite wildebeest from Machaton Dam, good ol’ “Billy” as I used to call him. The pride was seen eating a male wildebeest in the area, and since then, there hasn’t been any sign of Billy at the dam. RIP.
One evening whilst the pride was operating to the south of camp and seemed to be heading straight back to the cubs, another set of lion tracks were laid in an area that I couldn’t see them walking in – nobody followed up on those tracks as we had already found the River Pride at Machaton Dam, but it did leave me wondering if we maybe had another pride in the area? Since the altercation with the Nharhu males, there has sadly been no further signs of the Sark breakaway pride, and I had previously worried that their stay would be short-lived if the prides met. With the Nharhu males roaring to the east, I still hold hope that it will not be too long until the Sark pride settles down in the ample space that sits between the River Pride and Giraffe Pride’s territories.
Our cat fortunes were inversed this week with the leopards seemingly taking some time off. As always, Nyeleti and Xigodo proved to be our stalwarts and they were found on a couple of occasions, including Nyeleti walking along our access road as I was driving to camp with a group of guests that had just flown into our airstrip – not a bad way to start a visit! There was a confirmed report of our long-lost Madzinyo male leopard returning to the area – he was seen a kilometre or so north of our concession one evening, and it is the first time I have seen a confirmed report of him for a long time. It would be wonderful if he could push deeper into his old haunts and provide us with some of the great viewing he once did before being ousted from the area.
The elephants continued to be very active to the east of Tanda Tula Safari Camp, and other herds started to spend more time along the still-green banks of the Nhlaralumi Riverbed. As usual, at this time of year, these big family groups can regularly be seen drinking at the larger waterholes in the late morning and afternoon, providing endlessly good viewing. We also had a sizeable breeding herd of buffalo (maybe 150-200 individuals) moving between the waterpoints of the central Timbavati in the heart of our traversing area, and it made for a welcome change to see more than mere buffalo bulls in these parts.
The hyenas were once again very active in the west with the den site on the access road providing guaranteed sightings of the young hyenas lying on the sand-sealed road surface for warmth in the early mornings. The pack close to camp once again woke us up in the middle of the night with their eery calls as the clan fought over the remains of one of their own kills. The hyenas have also been spoilt with visits from the wild dog packs’ hunting party on several mornings this week and don’t take long to pick up on the wild dogs as they come hunting within our concession before heading back north. Even this morning we found the hind leg of an impala lying next to the road where the pack had killed earlier in the morning; the hyenas had obviously missed them that time around.
I should be on drive for a few more days of the coming week, so will have a few more photos to choose from for next week’s selection, but I do hope that these three drives’ worth of images are enough to bring a bit of Tanda Tula to you, wherever you may be.
Until next time, stay safe
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