Welcome back to another week of photographic highlights from Tanda Tula Safari Camp. Never in my life did I think that I would be posting a picture of a narina trogon as this week’s feature image! For those that saw it and simply thought “that’s a nice bird”, you are not wrong! But for those of you more familiar with the birds of this area, you will have immediately appreciated what a rare and special sighting it was – and to have is spending several days right in the middle of our camp was a treat I didn’t even dream of! It was the first time I had ever seen a trogon, and although not uncommon in their preferred habitats of montane and riparian forests, the surrounds of the Timbavati are definitely not considered ideal trogon habitat. As such, sightings of these birds are few and far between, with none of our long-standing guides ever having seen one at Tanda Tula before. It did take me three days to eventually see it (after one family of guests had seen it first and photographed it around camp for two days!), but luckily on the third day the guests were standing at the front of camp waiting to tell me that my chance had finally arrived, and the bird was once again sitting in the trees amongst the tents, completely unphased by all the attention. It definitely brought a much-needed splash of colour to what had been a dull, drab and cold weekend!
It was just was well we had a feathered friend stealing the show this week, as the previous weeks’ staple stars were largely MIA this week. Following a couple of sightings of the River Pride around Machaton Dam, the females moved the cubs all the way back to the south-eastern corners of our concession, and with the dense banks of the Machaton Riverbed providing ideal spots to rest in, the pride made themselves very difficult to view, even though we knew exactly where they were. On the last evening of the week, the pride did re-emerge near Machaton Dam, with cubs in tow, but as it was already after sunset, the guides had to leave them and hope that they hung around until the morning. The Nharhu males were more active, and their tracks criss-crossed the central Timbavati, but with so many tracks around one morning, we actually weren’t even sure exactly who had been walking around. The Sark Pride were reported in the west, as well as two other young male lions late in the week. There was also a sighting of what appeared to be the Vuyela males and a lioness one evening on our access road; the next day their tracks were trailing a large herd of buffalo in the west, but despite finding the buffalos, the guides didn’t manage to locate on the lions.
One positive aspect of the lions moving to a different area was that Thumbela and her son showed themselves more often, although as has been the trend of late, they frustratingly only came out on the days I wasn’t out driving. I did find Thumbela strolling around in the east one morning and she showed her versatility as a hunter in catching a francolin in the long grass. Nyeleti too was showing that not only is she a good huntress, but also a good mother, and she was found taking Xigodo back to yet another impala kill. The young male seems as though he is getting an extended lease-agreement on his mother’s feeding services despite being old enough for a life of independence. I also spotted Marula Jnr resting up a marula tree on my way into Hoedspruit one afternoon, and it seems as though she is living up to her name. The Tamboti male has also made a re-appearance this week and was found on two occasions in our central regions, and on both occasions, he was very relaxed with the vehicles. In addition to the leopards, there were also signs of wild dogs and cheetah in the area that the lions have been living in for the last few weeks, but sadly neither of these rare predators were found.
Another highlight of the week was seeing the return of a large breeding herd of buffalos to our western sections – it had been so long since I had seen a big herd of buffalos that I even made the trip down west to see them one afternoon. It was very difficult to gauge the size of the herd as they were spread out in the thick woodlands, but I estimate that there must have been between 300-400 members in the herd! Combined with regular sightings of buffalo bulls around the central area, it actually made it a good week for the buffalos. It wasn’t only their herds that returned, but also those of the elephants; following a day of cold, windy weather all the herds in the area seemed to descend upon our area and it felt like the good old days of elephant activity! One morning around a dam just west of Safari Camp, there must have been around a hundred elephants gathered in the area to drink. Even our giraffe and zebra herds seemed more abundant this week, and it made for a very pleasant seven days out there, even if our lion cubs were not on show on a daily basis.
Another rare sighting this week was a herd of brand new Land Rover Defenders! As much as we love our new fleet of Land Cruisers, it is always great to see some Land Rovers in the wilds of the Timbavati again, and our group of guests last weekend were all part of a Land Rover Experience and took these incredible machines for a drive around some of our bush roads.
For now though, that is all we have for you – be sure to go see some more images on our Facebook page, and we will see you again next week! Until next time, take care!
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