Another week, and another opportunity to welcome more guests to Tanda Tula Safari Camphere in the Timbavati.With South Africa moving into Level 2 of lockdown, local tourism is open again and we had a couple of groups of guests join us during the course of the week. This gave us an opportunity to finally share the splendour of this special part of the Greater Kruger Parkwith them again.
Although I only spent a few days on drive this week, it was a week that saw all three species of big cats. The week started off with a surprise radio call notifying us that two male cheetahs had been found on our western boundary. That was all I needed to put my admin work on hold to go and have a look at them. It was a windy day, but with full bellies, the brothers didn’t get up too much despite ideal hunting conditions. These two males proved to be the same coalition that showed up at the start of lockdown in early April, and no doubt were the same two leaving their tracks across our southern sections a month ago. Interestingly, the day afterwards we found tracks for a lone male cheetah walking through the open areas of the east, although we sadly didn’t get to see him. Hopefully this is a positive sign for more cheetah viewing over the coming months.
On the lion front, the Giraffe Pride and Monwana males were seen in the far western portions and spent a day standing off against a herd of buffalos. Once more though, it was the River Pride that took centre stage. They spent the entire week within our concession (a welcomed change following their recent erratic movements), but still, they walked some large distances during that time. The mother that lost her cubs spent last weekend mating with the Nharhu males as the rest of the lionesses and cub wandered around. They surprised us one evening when they came to drink at Camp dam while we were escorting the guests back to their tents. Following up the next day, Jack managed to track them down to a very fresh buffalo kill a couple of kilometres south of the camp. It was a pleasing find, not only because it gave us three days of guaranteed lion viewing, but also this was the first adult buffalo the pride had killed in almost a year, and they did it without the Nharhu males. Only the limping male was present when we found the kill and it took the other two males a couple of days to locate the pride. Despite that, by the end of the scene, all eight members of the pride were completely satiated following such a big meal. Tracks for the two Mbiri males were seen going to Machaton Dam, but we didn’t follow up to find them.
The same night that the lions came through camp, Innocent bumped into Thumbela leopardess walking past the staff houses and some good tracking from Dale, Foreman and Jack led to us locating her a little later in the morning. She gave us the slip in the morning, but I was confident that she would stick to her usual MO of late and be found along the banks of the Nhlaralumi in the afternoon. Sure enough, later that day Jack spotted her resting in the shade of the riverbank’s vegetation. She was walking around scent-marking and calling – she looks to be quite pregnant too! Although she usually gives birth to her cubs along the Machaton riverbed in the east, if this behaviour carries on and she persists in the area that she is presently using, she may well opt to use one of the many hiding spots along the Nhlaralumi to hide her new litter. This will be amazing for us, as it would greatly increase our chances of actually seeing these cubs.
We also had a couple of sightings of Marula Jnr this week, but sadly she still has some reservations around the vehicles and giving her the space she needs does make keeping up with her a little more challenging. However, with more regular sightings, it won’t take too long for her to become as comfortable around us as her brother and mother. Ginger did find a male leopard with a kill near Nkhari Homestead while he was following the River Pride in that area, but the kill was almost finished, and we didn’t catch up with him again.
The elephant herds stuck around over the past week, but with cooler conditions and cloudy weather blanketing the bush most days, they were not as active around the water points as they were last week. The buffalos this week were only represented by the groups of bachelors that spent time around the camp, Marco’s dam and Reflection dam. There was a slight drop in giraffe sightings this week as it appears that the Knobthorns are flowering at differing times across the reserve again, but I am sure that they will flourish in the near future.
And that rounds up the week! I will be out again for a few more days over the coming week, so be sure to check back again next week to see what has been happening here in the heart of the Timbavati.
Until next time, stay safe!