After so many weeks away from the Week In Pictures blog posts, I almost feel the need to reintroduce myself (I am the guide that keeps getting stuck, for those that have forgotten me)!
After a few days of wonderful leave, and some time spent off-drive at Tanda Tula Safari Camp,it was a welcomed change to be back in the saddle and out on drive. To say that the bush is looking somewhat different to what it was when I headed on leave – is a slight understatement. To begin with, I was driving a Land Rover that was actually moving and not stuck in a riverbed somewhere, but more importantly, the bush had dried out quite markedly since the big rains of May. With practically no rain since the floods, the seep lines have all but stopped flowing (some of the larger ones are still sponging out some life-giving water). The Nhlaralumi is dry along the majority of its course, and the grasses are slowly giving into the autumn shades as subtle golden hues mix with the greens of late summer. Even the temperatures are a far cry from heat that stayed with us for most of the summer period.
Despite the bush drying, the condition of the veld in this part of the Greater Krugeris still very healthy, and we are surrounded by dense stands of tall grass, much to the delight of the elephants, rhinos and buffalos! It has made for more-challenging-than-usual viewing conditions, but despite this, the guests have enjoyed some good game viewing over the past week. It certainly helps having the lions tied to a couple of den sites, and the River Pride lioness with her three cubs were seen several times this week, when she brought the two-month old bundles of joy out into the Nhlaralumi to play. However, she always made sure that after play time, they returned to the thickets on the bank to hide for the day. There wasn’t as much action at the other lionesses den site, but we suspect that they will only start providing more regular views of her cubs once they get a week or two older.
The Nharhu males remained ever-present in the area and this served to keep any competition at bay. Word on the Mayambula Pride suggests that they are still spending much of their time to the south of our concession, but their sojourns north have been more regular over the past few weeks, so I am confident that we will get to see them a little more regularly over the coming months. In the west, the Black Dam male seems to have held off the challenge of his sons (although some question whether it’s a challenge so much as a quest to form a larger coalition between father and sons), and was reported in the western section of the concession on a regular basis.
The leopards proved to be the most elusive this past week, with conditions suiting them down to a T; fortunately, our eagle-eyed and super-skilled trackers did still manage to locate, on several individuals, this past week. I had a pleasing sighting of Marula Jnr casually walking down our access road early one afternoon, and she barely even paused to turn around and look at us – a far cry from the nervous cub she was, and a positive sign for the future, especially as she is still spending her time within her mother’s former territory.
Nthombi seems to have moved back towards the traditional central regions of her territory, and the distinctive suckle marks around her teats confirmed what we believed to be true, and that is the fact that she has indeed given birth, and that her cub(s) is alive and well. Nyeleti is also doing a good job with her three-and-a-half-month-old youngster, and the pair were seen briefly one evening after Jack’s epic tracking efforts. An unidentified young male leopard spent a couple of days with an impala kill in the east; although he was very shy during the day, he was quite confident after dark. His kill drew the attention of one River Pride lioness and a Nharhu male one morning, but they left without getting anything from it.
With there being food and water everywhere, the herbivorous species have been able to disperse far and wide, and our usual concentrations of game have been a little lacking, particularly on the elephant front. That being said, we’ve still had some relaxed breeding herds, as well as the odd large bull pulling through. I actually had more buffalo sightings over the past couple of days than elephant sightings, and it has been a long time since I could say that! There have been several buffalo bulls scattered around, and we also enjoyed a small breeding herd moving through the south-western sections during the week. Giraffes remained quite evident, and the eastern sections still produced sightings of zebra, impala and wildebeest, but as the smaller natural pans start to dry, we can expect these species to become increasingly more prevalent.
As I was only on drive for a few drives of the reporting period, Luke has very kindly shared some of his images to this week’s blog, so thank you for that Luke!
We will be back again next week with more news and images from the heart of the Timbavati, so until next time, cheers!