It is time for another batch of photographic highlights from the week that has just passed at Tanda Tula Safari Camp! And, following my cursed comments that last week was a comparatively mild week of weather, this week saw summer firming its grip on this part of the Greater Kruger. We had a proper weekend of summer weather with temperatures hanging in the high-30s (Celsius), if not creeping into the 40s! After half an inch of rain (13mm, followed by another 2mm later in the week), this warm weather gave the bush a real summer feel, and the refreshing pool at Safari Camp became the place to be!
The rest of the week was much milder, and I am typing this blog sitting in a jacket still thinking I possibly should have brought something warmer… Luckily, the sun hasn’t risen yet, so I am sure my decision to not dress too warmly will soon be vindicated! It was also a very special week for us at Tanda Tula, as we welcomed back our first international guest in eight months and this was quickly followed by the news that South Africa will be completely opening up its international borders to the world. We are all ready and unbelievably excited to be welcoming you back to the heart of the Timbavati very, very soon!
This week’s highlight was without a doubt about catching up with Thumbela and her cub again. She was located with a pregnant impala kill right by our two glorious sycamore figs east of camp, and surprisingly she brought her six-week-old cub to the kill, but it appeared that even though mom brought the impala’s fully-developed foetus down for the cub to feed on, mom’s milk was still the most appealing meal. Despite our initial belief that the cub was as relaxed as anything (it didn’t pay any attention to the vehicle during the previous sighting), it is now clear that its confidence is still a work in progress. However, with a bit of patience and sitting still, the cub was very happy to come and join Thumbela out in the open (it’s amazing what the promise of milk can do!), and I can tell you that this made our guests very happy too! Thumbela was found on the prowl a couple of times at the start of the week before she disappeared again. Aside from this blue-eyed beauty, our other spotted cats were a bit elusive.
Well, that is technically not true, the week began with the slender spotted cats, our two cheetah brothers, found feasting on an impala kill not far from our bush breakfast site. Despite thinking that the brothers had headed into Klaserie the week before, it appears as though they had made a U-turn back to our central and eastern sections and were tracked down one morning, after the rain, and found enjoying their breakfast. That afternoon I found them heading to the open areas of the east, but looking very nervous. As some lion tracks were seen in that area in the morning, we assumed it could have been the River Pride females, but when Ginger was coming to join me in the sighting, he found Thumbela walking around on their scent-trail! The cheetahs eventually settled in a nice open area where they felt safe enough to rest, knowing that should the leopard pitch up, they had enough open space to outrun it. After leaving the cheetahs and heading towards the leopard, we actually bumped into two of the River Pride lionesses – so within the space of 1km, we had seen lion, leopard and cheetah!
The lions were fairly present over the first few days of the week; following up on the cheetahs the next day, we found two Nharhu male lions resting in the same open area that the cheetahs had spent the night in, and the next day the two younger River Pride lionesses were found again. Sadly, they all moved east out of the concession the next day, and despite some tracks in the area a few days later, we didn’t catch up to them again this week. The Giraffe Pride were present in the western part of the concession early in the week too, and spent a couple of days around a zebra kill (and then sleeping it off). The week ended with the return of a long-lost face, the last remaining Sumatra male lion was found not too far from Tanda Tula with a buffalo calf kill. I say long lost, but Jack actually did track both the Sumatra and Hercules males down about five weeks ago, but he couldn’t identify them back then. It seems as though these two males have been displaced by the Mbiri males as the dominant males of a Kruger-based pride known as the Skorro pride. It may well have been their roars that we heard last week? They would roar to test the waters, and see if they drew any response from existing dominant male lions. If the roars remain unanswered, it is likely that the area is unoccupied by resident males. With the Nharhu males and River pride spending their time in the east, there may well be an opening for the Sumatra male to eke out an existence to the west of our concession. Only time will tell if he hangs around, or indeed if the Hercules male is still in a coalition with him.
It was likely their activity that drew the Sumatra male lion to the area, but with little left to fight for, he opted to grab himself a buffalo instead. We completed the predator suit for the week with a sighting of our pack of 13 wild dogs hunting one afternoon. We almost became unwilling participants in the hunt as one dog came seriously close to chasing a male impala right into our vehicle!
The elephant herds were much more in evidence in the latter half of the week, and once more became regular features on the drives. Two buffalo herds passed through the area too (one left with a member less); one smaller herd of 50-odd, and the other was reported to be a fair deal bigger. A great feature of the latter half of the week was the arrival of many, many giraffes into the area (especially the east), as well as the seeming return of some zebra (mostly in the west) and wildebeest herds. It is always super special to have great general game sightings in the area, as they do so much to compliment the big game sightings.
The other big news of the week was that we reported our first baby impalas of the season; some were reported in the north on the 10th, but our first confirmed sightings were babies that had already rejoined the herds seen on the 12th November. This is almost on par for our first sightings of the year, and although occasionally the woodland kingfishers beat them into the area, this year the baby impalas arrived first.
Next week will no doubt be filled with the sounds of one of our favourite migratory birds though. I am going to be away for the next couple of weeks, so will catch up with you all upon my return as Luke takes over the blogging duties for the next few editions. So until next time, take care!