Our first full week has come to an end at Tanda Tula Plains Camp. It has been a a fantastic week filled with loads of mothers and babies! The first week of March passed without any rain, and the short-term forecasts seem to indicate that our summer rains have come to an end. This is rather disappointing considering how good the rains had been up to the end of January. Many of the waterholes in the east had yet to fill up, and won’t make it through the winter months, which should have an interesting effect on animal distributions that side. Fortunately, in the western sections, our waterholes are all looking great, so should be very productive as the dry winter months set in.
Despite the dryness, it was another warm week in the Timbavati with daytime temperatures reaching mid-thirties, but with lovely fresh mornings and evenings.
These conditions allowed for some good game across the reserve. It was a week that gave us more time to explore the surrounds of Plains Camp, and the open areas around the camp never failed to produce on the game front. Each visit is almost guaranteed to be filled with hundreds of animals made up of the resident herds of impalas, zebras, wildebeest, giraffe and kudus. The local hyena clan is very active on the plains and can usually be found loitering around the waterholes, with the families of jackals not too far off. Add to this the hippos in the dams, the active hyena den with two adorable cubs, and abundant bird life and it is possible to spend a couple of hours just enjoying the happenings on the plains. Which is just what we did on several occasions this past week.
On the big cat front, we enjoyed some great sightings. Sadly, the Giraffe Pride did not venture back into our concession this week, but the Mayambula Pride parked themselves off at Park Pan on our very eastern boundary and had their eight cubs on display which was a treat to say the least. I made the long trip on a couple of occasions and was rewarded with time spent with the quickly growing bundles of energy!
The lionesses and the two males were also quite active around the den, but most of them opted to move off when the cubs came close, leaving the patient mothers to deal with their boundless energy. When mom wasn’t game, they turned on one another, or resorted to climbing trees. They weren’t the only ones active around the den, and Thumbela leopardess was seen near the den on two occasions. The River Pride were also active in the north east, and we saw them on a couple of occasions.
Civilized and his guests were lucky enough to arrive at one particular sighting just after the pride had caught a large warthog late in the morning. Later in the week the pride were seen again after having chased Nyeleti up a tree on the banks of the Nhlaralumi, but due to the fact that the tracks indicated that her cubs were in the area, the guides decided to close the sighting so as not to put any of the cats at risk. We also found the Ross and Hercules lionesses resting on our access road to the east of Plains Camp – they popped into our area for a a quick visit but had disappeared again by the afternoon.
The leopards were not as cooperative this week, or at least not for my guests and me. The other guides did a lot better, and now that I think of all the sightings they had, I would have to correctly say that it was a good week of leopard viewing!
The young male with his kill that concluded last week’s report hung around for a couple of days but sadly didn’t get any more relaxed. He was definitely not the same young male we have been seeing on Nkhari of late, but Scotch had a good view of him one evening when he went to a nearby pan to drink. My week started off with a lovely sighting of the Sunset female in the west, she had unfortunately unsuccessfully stalked a herd of impalas. We followed her for a while as she walked about searching for a meal. Later in the week she was successful, and Scotch had a brief view of her leading her sub-adult cub back to the carcass; sadly when we checked the next morning the kill was done and they had headed out of the area.
Civilised found another large male with an impala kill in the east, but he was a little too skittish and finished his kill in one afternoon. Ginger also picked up on a known but unnamed male in the west as he rested up a marula before he headed off on his merry way. There was also a sighting of a young leopard at a waterhole on the plains, and one evening as the guests were sitting on the veranda for dinner, a leopard arrived to drink at the camp’s waterhole!
The other predator highlights of the week were of two different packs of wild dogs that popped into the area. The first was a pack of 10 that we aren’t familiar with who spent much of the week in the eastern sections of the concession. We found that they did den in the southern Timbavati last year. The second pack came in towards the end of the week from the north-east, and we spent a lovely late afternoon with the 20-odd members as they got active in the evening. With somewhat full bellies from the morning, they didn’t put a great deal of effort into their afternoon hunt. They soon settled in at Machaton Dam for the night and eight hyenas came to join them.
The elephants kept us entertained across the concession as both breeding herds and bulls occupied the area. On the buffalo front it was only the bulls that were present for this week. However, as the bush dries out over the coming weeks and months, we can expect to see more of the breeding herds moving around the area in the west, especially due to the abundance of waterholes and grazing this size.
Another animal worth pointing out this week was the number of warthogs in the area, this species struggled a bit after the drought. It was so wonderful seeing them on almost every drive, and also scattered across the area – something we did not see very often from Safari Camp. The best family of warthogs has to be the ones that are sharing the den site with the hyenas just outside camp! It appears the mother hyena went for one of the piglets, and naturally bore the brunt of the sow’s anger and is not sporting a deep gash on her muzzle.
Another little highlight for me was a rather random moment when a red-billed oxpecker came and landed on one of guest’s back during one morning game drive! It’s the first time I had ever seen something like that and had a good chuckle at the oddity of the situation.
So, that is the week that was, and we look forward to seeing what the next seven days bring!
Until next time, stay safe!
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