I am back, and what a wonderful week of game viewing to return to from my leave; not that I wandered too far for my break as I spent it in the northern part of the Timbavati. It was also a week that made us realise that despite some of the green touches splashed across the reserve, winter is definitely on its way, and by the end of the week the warm woollies and hot water bottles were out to keep us cosier during the first chilly hour of the drive.
The River Pride had been moving erratically in the eastern and south-eastern portions of the concession and had crossed off both our eastern and southern boundaries during this period, but thankfully the core of their present activity remained within the eastern portions of Tanda Tula, and after a couple of days absence their tracks could once more be seen littering the roads. When they returned from one slightly longer-than-normal absence, the mother of the little cubs was showing signs of having been in a serious fight and her back was full of bite marks. As we know of no other lion pride activity to the eastern boundary with the Kruger Park, I can only assume that the bites were inflicted by hyenas. Fortunately, the wounds were all superficial and the mom – as well as the cubs – were generally in good shape. Morning concerning though, there was no sign of the oldest lioness during the course of the week, and we fear that we may not see her again. The Nharhu males were very active and patrolling the extended area of the pride’s territory, one morning this brought them into contact with two members of the Sark breakaway pride. The two lions had killed a big male warthog, but the hyena activity surrounding the kill brought in the Nharhu males to investigate and they promptly set about chasing the Sark breakways from the area. Fortunately, they didn’t come into contact with the small pride, and the two members managed to escape back to the west none the worse for wear.
It was another pleasant week for leopard viewing and began with N’weti being found on two occasions with kills hoisted safely into trees in the east. The first kill provided some lovely viewing, but following a windy day, she spent the next sighting sleeping in long grass to get out of the breezy conditions. Last week we had Nyeleti arrive at one of our ‘Magic Moment’ drink stops, and as we were arriving at one this week, a chorus of alarm-calling impalas close to the drink stop led to us investigating and we found Xigodo male walking around looking very guilty. After we left him Nyeleti joined him and walked him straight north as if guiding him back to a kill just off of our northern boundary. Later in the week we caught up with Nyeleti just outside Tanda Tula Safari Camp on her own, and when we found her next, she had a large impala ram hoisted up a Knobthorn tree. Despite spending a couple of days with the kill, she didn’t make any effort to go and fetch Xigodo, and this could be the moment that signals the end of their bond. Nyeleti was covered in small wounds indicating that she too had been in a fight, and this may well have been further interactions with the new pale-eyed dominant male of the area. As he is not the father of Xigodo, we cannot imagine that he will be tolerated in the area for too much longer, and we might not be seeing this stunning young male too much in the future. Xidulu male paid us a rare visit in the north when he was found resting on a termite mound late one evening before heading back north, and Glen also managed to track down Thumbela and her son one morning, but when we relocated Thumbela with the Land Cruiser, there was no sign of the boy – he really has been avoiding me for a couple of months now, but maybe my fortunes with him change in the coming weeks?
There was news that the pack of 12 wild dogs has settled down to den in the thick mopane woodlands a few kilometres north of our concession, in the same area that they have used in previous years, and we await to hear news on just how many pups they have. We had a brief visit from a small pack of six wild dogs from the northern Sabi Sands region when a collared male from the Pungwe pack pitched up for an afternoon. As the dogs seem to be denning early this year (possibly a result of the good rains?), the coming months will make seeing these energetic predators a little tougher, as we will only be exposed to hunting parties on the prowl before they return to the den. That being said, on my one afternoon spent looking for wild dogs in the west, we found tracks for one pack that we followed for several kilometres before they crossed south into the southern Timbavati, and on the way back north, could hear members of another pack calling on our north-western boundary, but as it was already after dark, we couldn’t search for them.
Buffalo sightings were amazingly good this week – not only did a herd of around 80 of these bovids spend several days in the central parts of the concession, but a sojourn west saw us find one sizeable herd in the full moon conditions, as well as track another large herd back into Klaserie. The next day another herd moved into the concession from the south, and there were reports of a large herd in the northern Timbavati too. Considering the low buffalo numbers in the central Kruger region, it was most encouraging to see signs of so many herds moving around the area again. In addition, we had several groups of buffalo bulls that could be found around the waterholes on most days. The elephants were much more active this week, especially in the east where as many as a hundred elephants could be seen gathering together around the few big dams. Most drives saw us locating at least one herd in the vicinity of Machaton Dam, it is always so joyous to spend time in the company of these gentle giants.
Other than the big game, we saw decent zebra and wildebeest sightings in east, and a few large gatherings of giraffes in the west. The kudu bulls were prominently on show this week as they move into their mating season and follow the herds around, whilst despite the full moon, the impala rut seems to be dying down, with the peak having been during last month’s full moon; this should result in earlier births this November, as it was an early rut. We also saw a good number of hyenas this week, and even had the pack kill a nyala in the riverbed in front of the tents at 3am one morning – a noisy affair to say the least!
For now, though, that is the week that was. Do check out our Facebook page for more images and be sure to stay up to date with sightings and videos on our Instagram page too. Until next time, take care!
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