Another week, and another month has passed us by – where is the time going? This week went even quicker than most as we had a comparatively full camp. It was lovely to be able to share the Timbavati with the Tanda Tula Safari Camp guests, as well as Nkhari Homestead, and the game played along rather nicely once again, although an unexpected storm over the weekend did temporarily make things a little more challenging. With the forecast being for between 5-10mm, I wasn’t too worried about it, but as reports of hail in the south filtered in and the southern skies grew increasingly darker, I realised that this was not merely going to blow over. We ended up with 24mm at Tanda Tula, with some other parts of the traversing getting up to 40mm. It was a nice last downpour (perhaps?) to ease us into the dry winter with a little top up of the waterpoints, and enough rain to get one last little flush of green showing in the grasses before the verdant shades become a distant memory.
For not the first time of late, it was the lions that took centre stage and these large, social cats could be seen on every drive this week if we desired. It was nice to see that it wasn’t just the River Pride that had set up base this week; the Sark Breakaway pride spent much of the week in the areas to the west of Safari Camp and near Nkhari, and they seem to be making themselves very much at home of late. Sadly, the older lioness that recently rejoined the pride is not looking in great shape and is a bit on the skinny side, with the concern being that she is not very well. Time will tell if she can overcome this ailment, but for now the pride is still doing well. Tracks for the Balule females were found late in the week, but no sightings were had. Meanwhile the Giraffe Pride were reported on a number of occasions in the far west.
One evening whilst returning to camp from the south-western sections we did come across a lone lioness that we suspected was from the Giraffe Pride, but we couldn’t get a positive ID. However, despite these other lions being around, it was the presence of the River Pride anchored around our Machaton Dam that provided the best viewing. Having fed well last week before moving to the dam for a drink, I began the week knowing that they would still be resting off their fat bellies at the dam, but I didn’t expect to arrive there the first morning and find the pride tucking into yet another kill! Well, technically it was the Nharhu male that was enjoying the meal of an unfortunate male impala that they must have killed only 10-15 minutes before we arrived, and based on how muddy the lionesses were, they clearly caught the poor thing in the dam, only for the very non-muddied male to steal it from them and drag it off to enjoy his spoils. Fortunately, the pride was still well fed from the kudu the day before, so they were not at too much of a loss. The pride remained in the area for a few more days before we helped track them down one morning only to find them with a wildebeest kill. After finishing that, they went back to Machaton Dam before settling in their new favourite spot on Tortillis Plains just south of the dam. The cubs are getting bigger by the week, which isn’t a surprise considering the amount of food the adults are bringing in at the moment.
The leopards once more frustrated me this week, but that is not to say they weren’t around… they just weren’t around when I was around. After another week of searching, the one morning I didn’t go out on drive, Thumbela and her cub showed themselves for the first time in almost two weeks! Marula Jnr was found very close to Tanda Tula Safari Camp one morning trying to get her kill back from some hyenas that had stolen it from her – this is the furthest east she has been for some time. Xigodo was also found one afternoon resting in the Zebenine Riverbed, but he and Nyeleti were very quiet this week. Two other leopards were found with kills – one was a new, large dominant male in the west, and the other was a first sighting of a young female close to Nkhari. Ginger found her resting in a marula tree, and she was still up there when I arrived half an hour later – she did eventually climb down and on trying to follow her I found a fresh impala kill. Despite looking very relaxed up the tree, we were unable to see her again with the kill which leads me to believe she is actually not all that comfortable with vehicles. Hopefully, with a bit more exposure, she will grow in confidence around us.
18 wild dogs spent four days in the area and based on their colouration and the very pregnant alpha female, we assume they are not part of the large pack of 31 who we usually see (who are very dark and had an alpha pair mating only last month). The pack came from the south, made it all the way to the northern reaches of our concession before heading back south. With the amount of hyena pressure they faced each time they successfully got a kill, it is no surprise that they moved on.
Excitingly, there were tracks for cheetah in the more open woodlands in the east, but no further sightings were had this week.
Away from the big game, we did have a slightly tougher time with the other game – or at least I did on my drives! I spent most of my week in the east without much in the way of general game, but on the drives where I went west then the east was full of elephants and giraffes! The constant presence of the lions has no doubt affected the plains game in the east, but large herds can still be found around the reserve. Buffalo bulls seemed settled around select points, including our camp’s dam, and the elephants came and went, but not in the numbers that we have come to expect at this time of year. As the natural pans dry, you can rest assured that they will become less dispersed and concentrate their activities around the permanent water in the area. A sure sign that winter is coming is that our territorial male ostrich has returned to the east, something that he does every dry season, and we hope that the females follow suit soon too!
For now though, enjoy these images on the blog, and be sure to check out our Facebook page for more!
Until next time, take care!
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