This past week once again showed us how no two weeks are ever the same here in the middle of the Greater Kruger Park. Glancing back at last week’s highlights (wild dogs, fires and loads of elephants) there is almost no resemblance to this week’s magic moments. The only pattern that repeated itself was the weather, and we again reached some sweltering highs before some cool, cloudy and windy weather moved in to dissipate the heat that had been building. Only a few millimetres of rain fell across the reserve, and the short-term forecast doesn’t seem to be promising anything of substance. I guess we will have to wait for November to bring the rains (as it usually does).
I will start out with a few firsts for me as a guide here in the Timbavati. First and foremost was a surprise sighting of an owl species that I had never seen before (well, one far-from-confirmed-and-more-like-a-guess sighting years ago), and that was of a marsh owl. Even the birders in the reserve hadn’t seen one for well over a decade, and here I stumbled across one sitting on the road on my way home from Nkarhi Homestead one evening. At first, I didn’t even pick it up as being an owl, but finding where it landed, Glen and I soon saw it was a bird that neither of us had seen before.
Secondly, Scotch told me that he had found a black-backed jackal den site in the area, and I got a glimpse of the pups one afternoon when I was with my guests. On my first afternoon off I headed out to the den and found the two pups outside their small burrow. The one pup immediately retreated to the safety of the burrow, but the other was very confident and spent the whole afternoon outside. The pair got more active and confident when dad arrived to clean them, but mom spent her time resting away from the den enjoying some peace and quiet.
My third “first” was that of getting to watch some cheetahs hunting. Although I have seen many cheetahs over the years, they are always either resting, walking, or eating their kills. This particular day, we managed to locate two male cheetahs that Scotch has seen earlier in the morning before they crossed a riverbed and disappeared. We found the pair staring at a herd of impalas, a pair of ostriches and a dazzle of zebras with a small foal. The pair seemed locked on the smallest member of the latter grouping and stalked after the zebras before giving chase, but much to our relief, the little foal managed to remain safely with the adults and escaped without harm. Despite not seeing the kill, it was just a treat and privilege to watch the world’s fastest land mammal in action.
In other news, our Mayambula Pride and Skorro males remained quite active in the eastern sections, and we could hear the roars of the male lions at Tanda Tula Safari Camp on most nights this week. The Sark Breakaways seem to be making a habit of daytime hunting, and we found them looking hungry and, on the prowl, late one morning. We left them heading towards a neighbouring camp and heard that later in the day they managed to catch themselves a kudu not far from where we left them! That afternoon there were another two members of the Sark pride in the same area, but they were in the presence of two of the five Vuyela males. Sadly, I was out in the far east so didn’t get to catch up with the coalition. I
A few days later I was very happy to hear that three of the Vuyela males were found in the main part of our concession, and planned on going out to see them in the afternoon. Uncharacteristically for lions, the three boys had gotten up and moved not just from their resting spot, but also off of our western boundary and into the Klaserie. They were however replaced in that spot by two Sark lionesses! It is encouraging to see this pride pushing deeper into the central Timbavati and into the void that the River Pride left.
The leopards remained a little scarce, although there were sightings of N’weti female near our northern boundary. It seems as though she is still keeping her cub just outside of our concession, but it won’t be long until she moves it into our area. Nyeleti spent another week without showing herself, and I am starting to think that she has dropped her litter of cubs, but as to where she had them, I have no idea!
For a change, Thumbela gave us a couple of sightings over the course of the week, and we had a lovely sighting of her stalking a pair of steenbuck one hot morning. She came very close, but the diminutive antelope’s quick responses allowed them to escape unharmed. The next day Glen pulled off a great spot to see this gorgeous cat resting up a marula tree on a very windy afternoon. And while I am typing this, I can hear that Civilized has just found her in the east once again. Hopefully it won’t be two months until I see her again.
As for the rest of the week, the zebra and giraffe sightings picked up again, but our elephant herds all but disappeared for several days. Whereas last week you couldn’t help but bump into a herd on a drive, this week saw the guides having to work hard to find them, and they all concentrated in the northern reaches of the concession. There was good elephant bull activity around Nkhari, but just no herds in the southern areas for the first half of the week. They did eventually start returning as the week came to a close, as did our large herd of buffalos to round off another good week of game viewing in the Timbavati.
And that as they say, is that. I am heading off on a two-week break, but I will be straight back into the driver’s seat upon my return, so will be able to resume with these updates then. Until such a time though, please enjoy these images, as well as those posted on our other social media platforms.
Until next time, keep safe!
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