I am back! After a most enjoyable break, I returned to the paradise that is Tanda Tula, and arrived to a surprisingly cold and wet Timbavati. The Easter weekend was a wet one to say the least, and although we only received 44mm (I say only, it is actually a great amount for this time of year), it was a weekend that saw it raining for almost 48 hours straight. The damp conditions, together with a howling wind that persisted for a few days after the rains stopped did mean that we had to dig out the hot water bottles and fleeces, but we made the most of it. As the week drew to a close, the warm and sunny conditions returned and the fresh verdant growth brought about by the late summer rains was clear to see.
I was out on drive for the second half of the week, so missed most of the rain, but the conditions were not the most favourable for game viewing, but despite the challenges presented, we still managed to get some very good sightings. The leopards that had been hiding, or more likely hidden face first in an impala somewhere out of view, for most of the week but came out at the end of the rainy period. I got to see Sunset female’s daughter for the first time. Glen spotted her tucked up amongst some grass on the top of a termite mound one afternoon, and she lay there posing for us. We did need to exercise some patience for her to move her head out of the grass, but once she did, we were reminded of her stunning good looks. We hope that she sticks around and will definitely become a star of the Timbavati. We also found Sunset female a little later that evening after some impalas gave her presence away. Scotch found the daughter posing in a Marula tree the next day to round off some good leopard viewing for the last bit of the week. There had also been a sighting of Thumbela close to Tanda Tula Safari Camp one morning, but she moved off into a thicket and couldn’t be followed.
On the lion front, the Mayambula Pride continued to hang out in as two separate entities in the east, with the three females and eight cubs being seen a couple of times. The younger lionesses remain active around the den site of the youngest cubs and we are still waiting on our first views of them. Although the River Pride did come down as far south as Safari Camp (and we found where they had made a kill right on the camp fence line), the next day they were tracked into an area that was just too wet to get to after the rain.
Luckily the Timbavati spoilt us with a few surprises towards the end of the week. The first came in the form of the long-lost Monwana male and the young Giraffe Pride male. The Monwana male and his brother dominated the Giraffe Pride until early last year when the other Monwana male was killed and the Hercules/Sumatra coalition took over the Giraffe Pride. The Monwana male had a terrible limp and we didn’t give him much chance of survival, but after spending months trying to chase the young Giraffe male from the pride, this young male has become the lifeline of the injured Monwana male, and the two seem to have established a coalition of sorts. Although both lions appear to have been sired by the Black Dam male, and are “half-brothers”, they have no idea of their relatedness, and simply utilised their situations to form a coalition to better improve both of their own chances of survival. They were trailing buffalo, but the next day the Vuyela males pitched up and appeared to be chasing some lions, which may or may not have been the Monwana/Giraffe boys. Four of the five Vuyela males were then found with a buffalo kill the next day, all sporting enormous bellies! In between that, we also caught up with a lone Sark breakaway lioness near Nkhari Homestead to round off a week of good lion viewing despite our regulars not playing along so well.
The wild dogs were around in the first part of the week, but sadly remained north of our concession for the remainder of the week.
We had a great week of buffalo viewing with a large herd of around 200-plus buffalos spending much of the week close to Plains Camp, and another large herd spent a few days close to Nkhari. The elephants were a little scarcer in the area, but we had daily sightings of bulls and small breeding herds. The late rains will once again serve to disperse both the of these larger herbivores, but also has an impact on the local movements of the zebras, wildebeest and giraffes. The late flush of green on the plains in the west should do a good job in keeping the abundant general game in the area around Plains Camp.
Since my last blog, the majority of the migratory birds have begun their journeys back north, and I only saw one woodland kingfisher this week, along with numerous barn swallows. I didn’t personally see any other migrants, so have to assume that most have set off on their long trips despite the late rains.
I will be on drive for the next couple of weeks, so look forward to bringing you many more photos and hopefully some exciting stories…and maybe even some new lion cubs!
Until next time, keep safe.
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