This past week was another one of those that proved you just don’t know what to expect when heading out on safari here at Tanda Tula Safari Camp. In fact, I only drove guests for one night this week and it was not five minutes into our first drive that provided one of the biggest surprises.
We had just headed out when Dale radioed to say that he had found something I had only seen three times in my 14 years here in the Timbavati, so after asking the guests if they minded if I selfishly responded to the sighting, and when I told them what it was, they had absolutely no issues! Dale had left the animal be, and we took a chance regardless, following up where he told us to, and fortunately Glen’s eagle eyes soon spotted the dark shape behind some bushes. We approached slowly and cautiously, as based on my previous sightings of these rare and endangered animals, they had a tendency to dash off at the first sign of a vehicle. He slowly appeared more clearly through the bushes, and simply stood there listening to us as our vehicle approached until we got a clear window of view, and there he was – my fourth ever black rhino in the Timbavati! However, this proved to be the most memorable as we got to spend at least half an hour in his company before we left him still wandering around in the area browsing on the green vegetation. It was a sighting that I won’t forget in a hurry!
Aside from that surprise, later in the week we got our other “surpr-eyes” after Scotch found Thumbela and her son leaving an area where she had been found with a kill the evening before, and they were in the company of what seemed to be N’weti leopardess. I had been on the opposite side of the reserve so by the time I got there it was just Thumbela and her son resting in the long grass. A colleague had asked what was wrong with the cub’s eye, as both looked fine to him? I had to wait patiently, but eventually the now very-relaxed young leopard sat up out of the long grass and I could see that he did indeed have two eyes! Despite the massive pessimism I showed towards his chances of recovering, here he was sitting and looking at me with two eyes! That being said, as much as the healing process exceeded our expectations, his right eye still doesn’t look too normal, and there is still doubt as to whether he will have any vision in it after all – the pupil seems very constricted, and almost appears to have a cataract over it. Time will tell how much further it recovers, but for now, it is just good to see him looking much better, and even if it is still painful for the little guy, it is far less painful for us to look at!
We also got surprised with a sighting of a new, large male leopard in the west – the guides initially identified the male as Ntsongwaan, but upon seeing him I noticed that he had a different spot pattern – he was a big, relaxed male sleeping up a marula with his kill towards the northern end of Ntsongwaan’s territory, so it was an easy mistake to make. It was right on the border with the Klaserie, so it is likely a male from there, but it will be interesting to see if he pushes further south into the Timbavati. There were also loads of male leopard tracks walking around the central and eastern parts of our concession close to Tanda Tula, but we are yet to see who is responsible for making the tracks – maybe the coming weeks have more surprises in store for us? Nyeleti and Xigodo were also seen a couple of times this week, although Nyeleti did have a steenbuck kill one day where she didn’t go and fetch him – maybe his days with mom are soon coming to an end?
The lions had their turn of being less active this week, and only the River Pride and Nharhu males were seen, but they didn’t make it easy for us and despite leaving tracks all over the eastern sections, they weren’t ever found together – one here, two there…they seem to have forgotten how to be a pride! There weren’t any sightings of the skinny Nharhu male, so I still cannot report on his condition, and I only saw the limping male this week; although later in the week he was also reported to be in a poor condition and in need of a meal. So not an easy period for the pride this week and we can only hope that better times return soon. Dale did see a Monwana male as well as three Giraffe Pride lionesses on a kill last weekend, but it was on a trip to the Timbavati museum and out of our concession, but good to know they are doing well.
Until next time, take care!