Pride of lion
Just when we were starting to think that summer had left us and the Timbavati was entering an early autumn, the sun had some other ideas and has spent the past week beating down on us with some of the warmest weather of the season so far. The odd cloud and rumble of thunder reminded us that there is still time for more rain. One cloud burst dropped 40mm in the southern Timbavati and not even 40 drops over Tanda Tula Safari Camp, and we recorded a mere 2mm on the weekend, but despite the high seasonal rainfall that we have been blessed with, the bush has become very dry indeed, with only the grasses getting browner by the day as the heat sucks out their moisture. That being said, it will only take one good downpour to enliven it once again, but the short-term forecasts are suggesting we might still have to wait a couple of weeks for this to arrive.
The heat has led to some lethargic-looking lions, and despite seeing the River Pride regularly this past week, they waited until after sunset before getting active on almost all occasions. The pride wasn’t seen with any kills this week, and it is starting to show on certain pride members, especially the old girl who was looking like she could do with a good meal – nothing to be concerned by just yet, as old lions are usually in this state, but even the younger lionesses were very slender around the waist. The cub and sub-adult are both in good shape, as is the limping male of the Nharus. We didn’t see the third male, so cannot give you an update on his condition this week. Despite it being a tough week for the pride, they are a joy to watch, especially with the little cub always providing good entertainment as she moves from one pride member to another looking for a play partner. It won’t be long until the fourth lioness brings her cubs to the pride, and we caught up with her on a mission a couple of days back as she presumably made her way back to the cubs who are most likely hidden in the Machaton. With the River Pride seldom pushing past Machaton Dam, the Balule lionesses and the Dundee male pushed further east into old River Pride territory on the weekend and were found with a wildebeest kill on the edge of Cheetah Plains with more than a dozen hyenas hoping to get their share of the spoils, but with the Dundee male present, they didn’t get a sniff at the kill. They spent a couple of days in the area before moving back west. There was a report of a lion pride in the west a few days back that may have been the Sark Breakaway Pride, as the Giraffe Pride were still hanging around close to the access gate for the Timbavati on our very western boundary.
Leopards were a bit of a struggle for me this week, and after a couple of days of trying we assisted in tracking down Nyeleti with an impala kill a few hundred metres from Tanda Tula Safari Camp. Despite the hyenas having eaten most of it, she still went to fetch Xigodo and the two leopards provided some good viewing for the guests over the course of a couple of days. Civilized found another two leopards with an impala kill close to Nkhari, but sadly they were a nervous pair and disappeared as he approached. Marula Jnr was also reported with a large impala kill on our access road one morning, and confident that she would be there in the afternoon, I didn’t rush over there. A guide had checked on her just before afternoon drive and she was still resting up the marula tree with her prize as the hyenas waited below, but when he checked on her 40 minutes later, she had somehow managed to drop the kill and both leopard and hyenas were gone!
The leopards were not the only spots seen this week, and whilst Scotch was tracking rhinos with guests staying at our Field Camp, he and Ginger came across the pair of male cheetahs resting in the shade. They then proceeded to get up and slowly walk off to find a new spot, seemingly unphased by the presence of the guests on foot – what a great experience. Dale popped out in a Land Cruiser to see them and found them resting in the same place they were left before they got up, walked past the small clearing adjacent to Nkhari Homestead and off to the north-west. Sadly, they weren’t seen again this week, and appeared to have moved into the Klaserie.
The elephants were once again a little on the scarce side, with only the odd herd moving through this part of the Greater Kruger – goodness knows where they may have moved off to, but you can rest assured that it won’t be long before the large herds return. I am not sure if the same can be said regarding the buffalos and another week has passed without any signs of large herds moving back into the area; fortunately, the buffalo bulls have been enjoying the waterholes and pans as places to cool off during the long, hot days.
Until next time, take care!