Hello all, and welcome back to another weekly recap of the sightings that we have enjoyed here at Tanda Tula Safari Camp. We are only in the second week of the new year, and we already had a cracker of a week that saw us ticking off the Big 7 – not an easy feat considering how few vehicles have been out on game drives the past week, and the fact that following last week’s 62mm of rain, we had to wait for the ground to dry before we could start venturing off-road again.
It wasn’t long after I had finished typing up last week’s weekly blog that the Nhlarlaumi River came flooding down for the first time this summer! That is a remarkable fact considering that we have already received over 350mm of rain; but it’s a testament to just how good a quality the rainfall has been that despite a comparatively high amount, very little has actually run-off into the riverbed systems. Despite flowing at a good pace past the camp, the dry sands of the seasonal riverbed meant that the flood waters only made it another kilometre and a half downstream before the thirsty sands swallowed it up. The Machaton River came down much more strongly and flowed for at least a day before it too ceased to run. One of the highlights of the week for my guests were the events that followed the rains, and the smaller aspects of the bush that erupted, literally. The winged reproductives of the local termite colonies erupted on their nuptial flights, and not only was it amazing to see them emerging, but more impressive was one eruption that drew in over a hundred European rollers, cuckoos, hornbills, swallows, swifts, doves and spurfowls all gathered to feast on the nutritious termites. We also saw chameleons, terrapins, millipedes, tortoises, snails and frogs as they all rejoiced in the life-giving nature of the rains. However, it was without doubt the hundreds and hundreds of fireflies that emerged along the banks of the Machaton River that left us all speechless – it was by far the most fireflies I have seen for many, many years, and a memory that will live on for many more to come.
It is difficult to choose between my favourite big game sighting of the week; the first contender was when we got to see a gorgeous female cheetah on a couple of occasions; cheetah sightings are always treasured in the central Timbavati due to their rarity in the Greater Kruger Park. This particular female was quite relaxed with our presence when we found her one afternoon, we were actually looking for lions that had moved into the Machaton Riverbed when we found her running out of the riverbed, nervously looking back over her shoulder – no doubt due to having just encountered the lions. Despite special times spent with the cheetah, the best sighting has to go to the wild dogs. They spent several days in the area, and I actually think there may have been two packs in our concession this week. I saw the pack of 13 several times, including one morning when they were followed by more than a dozen hyenas, so it was no surprise that the impala kill that they did make was quickly stolen from them by the hyenas. A few days later they spent the night just outside Tanda Tula, and we followed them to their morning resting spot in the Zebenine River. That afternoon, whilst watching the pack slowly stirring for the afternoon hunt, one of the guests pointed out that there were two leopards sitting watching the wild dogs! It was Nyeleti and Xigodo, and being the energetic young male that he is, he began stalking the wild dogs as they got up to move off. Luckily, the wild dogs spotted him, gave the alarm, but rather than running away as the leopard expected, the whole pack turned on the leopard and sent him sprinting to the nearest tree! His mom was much wiser and as soon as the doodoo hit the fan she ascended a large tamboti tree, but Xigodo had to scamper up a not-so-suitable bushwillow to avoid the ire of the dogs! Luckily for the leopard, the wild dogs soon lost interest and went running off, allowing him time to go join his mother in the next tree, and that was where we left them as the sun set on another splendid day.
The lions were still active in the east, although we didn’t see them as often as would be expected, but it was mainly due to the fact that the pride appears to have spent their days down in the Machaton Riverbed close to the den site, and out of view of our prying eyes. We still haven’t seen the cubs, but I have no doubt that the first sighting will be before the end of the month. The Giraffe Pride were active in the far west again, and we once more heard roars of lions coming from the Klaserie to the west where it appears as though a “new” pride has moved into the area. A couple of weeks ago, a male lion and two young lioness from way north in the Klaserie were spotted in our concession, and it appears as though these lions are now nomadic and looking to set up a new territory. With the River Pride operating so far east, there is every chance that these new lions may start to venture into the Timbavati on a more regular basis.
The leopard sightings this week were represented by Nyeleti and Xigodo on a couple of occasions, as well as Thumbela and her cub. We found her the day after the rains making her way back to the Machaton Riverbed where she left the cub hidden for a couple of days before she was found with an impala kill on the banks of the riverbed. Sadly, a hyena stole the kill and the sighting didn’t last as long as we had been hoping. We can now confirm that the cub is indeed a little boy, and he is growing not only in size, but also slowly in confidence too.
The elephants moved back into the area in good numbers following the rains, and most herds had new-born babies in their midst’s which was a real treasure to see. We also had daily sightings of buffalo, both in the form of resident bachelor herds, but also with a couple of breeding herds too – one herd in the west was at least a couple of hundred members strong, whilst the one in the central region contained a few dozen herd members.
So, as you can see, it was once more a fantastic week of summer surprises, and we cannot wait to see what next week brings with it.
Until next time, take care!