Hello hello, and welcome back to another Week in Pictures blog. I must say, it is great to be back in the bush after a very restful couple of weeks break with the family, but it was a big surprise to return to such warm weather! Arriving back in the area on Tuesday, the mercury was touching 40 degrees Celsius, but the heat broke that evening as a cooling breeze brought in a change of weather, and the few days that of this week that I was out on drive were very pleasant to say the least – well, at least after the wind died down. Without having had any significant rain for several weeks now, and with the usual summer sun beating down on the bush, the bush has taken on a much more noticeable shade of brown. Sunday afternoon saw the western parts of the concession receiving a welcome downpour of more than an inch of rain, but the rest of the central Timbavati received the very little.
After a very quiet first drive back in the wind, I was a little worried that the animals had deserted us, but I should not have worried, because as soon as the calm conditions returned, the animals came out to play! I was the only vehicle out from Tanda Tula, and despite having just one other guide out on drive with me, we still managed to tick off some fantastic sightings over the course of two nights.The highlight was no doubt the wild dogs that spent the latter part of the week in the area. Upon returning to drive, I was told of a report of the large pack of 32 wild dogs seen moving along our western boundary in the morning, and upon checking up on the western side of the concession that afternoon, Steven pointed out tracks for a pack of wild dogs heading in the opposite direction to where the pack had been reported in the morning. Sadly, the sun had already set and we ran out of light, but the next morning we had intentions of going to follow up in the area. Fortunately, one of my colleagues had already located on what proved to the smaller pack of 13 wild dogs just west of Tanda Tula Safari Camp. They were giving us the run around, but we eventually caught up with them, followed them past Tanda Tula before they sped off after some impalas and, by the time we found them again, they had all but finished the baby impala that they caught. Not ten minutes later they were off again, and just as quickly, they had consumed yet another baby impala! Definitely not a good morning to be a newborn impala! The pack ran off once more, and we left them to go and see the three Nharhu male lions that were resting on an open area in the east, but their siesta had already begun, so we opted to move on and return that evening. On the way back to camp, Steven spotted a large male leopard with yet another baby impala kill up a marula tree. Sadly, it was the nervous pale-eyed male, and although he hung around for a few minutes, when we tried to reposition for a clearer view, he grabbed the lamb and moved off. Whilst with him, the other guide had stumbled upon N’weti leopardess, and after a quick breakfast, we popped out to see this gorgeous cat resting peacefully up a marula tree.
In the afternoon, we enjoyed some time with baby impalas (not in the jaws of predators this time), a family of elephants, and the pack of wild dogs as they began to stir as the sun was setting. With full bellies, they were not in need of a hunting session, and rather they ran around playing before settling on an open area for the night. With the male lions beginning to roar nearby, we left the wild dogs, had a short sundowner and went to spend some time being serenaded by our three gorgeous male lions, all of this under a stunning blanket of stars twinkling above us.
On the last morning, we decided to stick to the eastern sections that had been so good to us the day before, and we hoped would turn out some cheetah for us. Passing Machaton Dam and stopping to watch some jackals, we heard the alarm calls of some distant impala, and with the help of the other guide, managed to find N’weti on the prowl, but it seems as though she may have been on the prowl for another leopard as opposed to a meal. Her sniffing and scent-marking combined with the nearby alarm calls of other impalas suggested to me that she was on the trail of another leopard in the area. After she disappeared in a mopane thicket, we decided to carry on with the search for cheetah, but our plans were changed when we came across the pack of wild dogs again. It was clear that they had already eaten something small (read: another baby impala) but were still on the hunt. We followed the pack until they found a herd of impalas and gave chase, and the distress call of another lamb going down led us to finding them on yet other kill, but as with the previous ones, the small meal was all but complete by the time with caught up with them!!! They make me look like a slow-eater, and that is saying a lot! We ended off the morning with a rhino and some nice general game to complete a very enjoyable first couple of days back in the Greater Kruger.
It was also great to see that a number of the migratory birds had arrived back in the Timbavati – we saw red-backed and lesser-grey shrikes, the very vocal woodland kingfishers, and I believe that the European rollers are back too, but we didn’t get to see any yet. We did also see some of the first wildebeest calves of the season, so despite the rains having dried up, all the other signs of summer are still in there for all to see. Luckily, I will be around for the next several weeks, so will be able to bring you many more photos and updates of what is happening in the lives of our animals as 2020 draws to a close.
Until next time, take care