Hello, hello, hello! It has been a month since I last sat down to write a weekly update for you folks, and I must say, it’s great to be in a position to be able to do so once again. The past month has been a very busy one with all sorts of activities around camp. Excitingly, this past week saw the opening up of intra-provincial leisure travel in South Africa and as a result, we were able to welcome our first guests since the pandemic forced the country into lockdown back in March. Man, what a treat it was for us to be able to head out on drive and share these experiences in person – I had almost forgotten how much I missed it! An added benefit of having guests was that our skilled trackers were also back in action and it has made the world of difference in finding big game. It was also a week that started feeling a lot like Spring, with temperatures rising into the 30s and the big jackets and gloves that previously stayed on all morning now only making brief appearances each day.
The River Pride featured rather prominently in our sightings last week, which was fantastic. The pride went on a very successful run of hunting, with three kills in three successive nights (an impala, followed by two zebras). Despite their fat bellies, the pride remained surprisingly mobile, something that has seemingly become the norm since the loss of five of their six cubs (check out our latest Sofa Safari on our Youtube channel where I discuss their fate a little more). Their movements kept taking them to the north of the concession for a couple of days at a time, before their inevitable return and the roars of the three Nharhu males that so often woke us in the early morning hours during lockdown now feel like a distant memory. One consequence of this shift north is that the southern Mayambula Pride may start pushing further north in the absence of these territorial adverts. Although I kept on seeing the tracks of this mighty pride during lockdown, they remained frustratingly elusive, but this week saw my fortunes change when the pride spent a couple of days within our concession and I got to spend some time with all sixteen members of the pride, including the two impressive Mbiri males. The ten subadults are now all the size of their mothers, and I can only imagine how much a pride of that size must be eating to keep all the members looking so good. The Giraffe Pride also popped up in the western parts of the concession this past week, and Civilized made the long trip to go and see them.
Another positive aspect of the lions being slightly less active in the area around camp is that the leopards have started to feel more at home again, and this week saw some excellent leopard viewing, very close to Tanda Tula Safari Camp. One morning after dropping the tea trays off at the tents, the rasping call of a leopardess to the south was followed by alarm-calling monkeys on the northern side – and not long afterwards, Nyeleti came strolling along the banks of the Nhlaralumi opposite the tents. We followed and managed to find her not far off, but she was clearly a little irritated by the other leopard calling and as she walked, she kept stopping to look behind her. Later in the morning, Thumbela was found on the riverbed south of camp to complete the story. In fact, Thumbela has been spending much of her time in the western part of her territory and was heard and found calling in the same area a few days later (with tracks for a male leopard following her). Earlier in the week she was also found with a kill to the north of Safari Camp before a male leopard ran in and stole it. Glen also tracked down Hlangana one morning, but he was in no mood to cooperate with us. Similarly, a very brief tracking episode led to us finding Xisiwana male (brief in that we had no sooner jumped out the vehicle to look at his tracks and he jumped out of the grass 30m away!). So, all in all, it was a good week of leopard viewing. The only slight concern is that despite more activity on the reserve this week, there were an alarming absence of signs of Nthombi. Now that she has cubs, she should be very active within the core of her territory. This core is the same area that the River Pride cubs died in, and as a result of this, the lions spent a lot of time walking in that area a few weeks ago. Lions and leopards do not get on, so we are keeping our fingers crossed that our beloved cats didn’t bump into one another during this time…
Our elephant sightings approached their usual winter abundance, and herds could be found across the concession on a daily basis – and as the temperatures start to climb over the coming week, the water points will become ever more active with pachyderm activity. We also had the treat of having a large herd (around 300) of buffalo focused on a water hole to the south of camp, and these large bovids made daily visits to the dam to drink.
This week also saw a drastic increase in the number of giraffes within the area, and this is hopefully a precursor to the flowering of the knobthorns which will serve to draw in even more. The zebra herds were also quite abundant, as were impalas and kudus. The sparsely vegetated bush is no doubt assisting with the visibility, so it has just been wonderful driving around and seeing so much game in all shapes and sizes. If the above wasn’t enough, we also saw baboons, waterbuck, nyalas, jackals, hyenas, honey badgers, ostrich, civet (I don’t think I’ve seen one since moving to Tanda Tula, despite seeing their tracks every single morning), African wild cat, and we even found two male African wild dogs running around looking for the rest of the pack (or possibly a splinter pack of females) in the eastern sections.
All in all, it was a wonderful week to be back on game drives and to share them with the local guests. It was also equally great to be able to be back out there capturing some images and being able to share them with you, so we trust that you will enjoy this update.
As always, be sure to keep up to date with other sightings, photos and videos on our other social media channels.
Until next time, stay safe!