For a change, my weatherman got his forecast for the week spot on, and as promised, we spent the week wrapped up in jackets, gloves, beanies and blankets (that was on the days when we were brave enough to even leave our beds!). Further inland, we had snow, and even parts of Johannesburg (including the city centre!) recorded snow settling on the ground. Whilst we didn’t quite get that cold, it was not the most pleasant week of conditions that we have received this year, and the weather did take its toll on sightings (although, the biggest effect was no doubt the fact that it kept us off drive on several occasions). That being said, we still had a couple of lovely highlights this week.
Last weekend, we supported a good friend and colleague from the neighbouring camp, King’s Camp. Grant embarked on his annual ultramarathon (90,1km) endeavour last weekend. However, rather than running the usual Comrades Marathon route from Pietermaritzburg to Durban, this year, he ran it within the Timbavati.Britt, Luke and I were on hand to film and photograph the day, and along with great support from the other lodges in the reserve, we had a fantastic day cheering Grant on. It wasn’t just about having a good day out, but Grant was also undertaking the run as part of a charity drive to raise money for the K-9 unit that helps keep the Timbavati’swildlife safe, as well as a wildlife rehabilitation centre within the area. Some of the landowners also undertook a 21km walk along the same route that Grant was running and had the fantastic experience of encountering our long-lost Mayambula Pride on their walk! The pride was resting right on the unfenced boundary with the Kruger National Park, but it is encouraging to know that they are still around and doing well.
Our other lions were a bit of an enigma this week and our efforts to locate them intensified as the week progressed, but sadly our luck remained stagnant, and we failed in all of our efforts. There was a report of the whole pride resting together a few kilometres north of Tanda Tula Safari Campduring one of the cold, windy days that kept us out of action, but we missed out on our chance to see them. Other reports from the week suggested that the two Ross lionesses and their cubs have also been active in the area around our south-western Rothsay property. We didn’t get that side of the reserve this week, but hopefully with The Scotts and Jacksons spending the upcoming weekend on that property, they will have some luck in finding them.
The highlight of the week for us was as the windy weather died down and after a relatively quiet (and wet) morning, we found a fresh drag mark in the heart of Nthombi’s territory! We followed up and found the leopard sitting up a jackalberry tree feasting on an impala kill. We were talking about the chances of her going to fetch her cubs when I suddenly noticed that there was movement on a branch near Nthombi, and that she had already brought the cubs to the kill! Sadly though, on closer inspection, we realised that the use of the term “cubs” in its plural form was incorrect, and that only one cub was present. As the rain was falling and we had just arrived, we hoped that it was merely a case of the other cub hiding somewhere else out of the rain. Dishearteningly though, a couple of drives later and the status quo had still not changed. Although my first impression was that it was the little female that was present, after checking my photos, the cub that was with her is the larger and more confident of the cubs, and sadly appears to be yet another male. I am hoping that there might be a reason why the second cub wasn’t seen, but logic tells me that there is only one answer to that, and it is not the answer we want to hear. Other than that, we didn’t have much joy with the leopards this week, but whilst typing this blog, Xisiwana male leopard came walking through camp right behind our houses and went down into the riverbed in front of Tent 1!
The elephants were very active this week and most evenings saw us listening to their calls as they fed in the areas around Tanda Tula. Even on drive we were encountering multiple herds on most drives, with the odd bull wandering around in their own worlds.
We also enjoyed the company of a herd of a hundred-odd buffalos spending a few days within the central regions of the concession before we lost track of them. It proved a difficult task trying to keep up with all the different animals this week as the only game driver out there! In fact, our solitude led to us missing many potential opportunities of game viewing as later in the week, we also found a spot where a pack of wild dogs had been running all over where we had driven the morning before.This just went to show that although we might have viewed it as a quieter than normal week, the animals are still all there, we just didn’t have as much luck on our side this time around.
However, for every quiet drive we have out there, you do know that Mother Nature will reward us with cracker of a drive very soon…so let’s see just what she is going to throw our way next week!