With the cold front a thing of the past, this week in the heart of the Greater Krugerwas a slightly warmer one, and the animals seemed to relish this fact. They put themselves on show which meant that it has been a wonderful few days here. One where the animals came to us more than we went out looking for them, which made a nice change.
Last week, I said that I would go and spend a couple of days sitting at a waterhole to see what came and went over the course of a few days – something that I have been threatening to do as long as I have been coming to the bush. While my initial plan of spending four successive days at the dam didn’t quite come to fruition (I had to learn about something called “laundry” – I recall that my mother mentioned this once, but I can’t be sure).
On Tuesday morning I headed out with my cooler box (full of fruit and water before you start thinking that I’m enjoying a holiday out here!) and arrived at the dam around sunrise. I set up my chair and suddenly regretted not having brought a blanket. The first two hours were quiet, and I was preparing myself for a long day of sitting and watching doves when it was as if word got out that I was waiting for wildlife, and suddenly they all came out. It started with a few wildebeest and zebras arriving for the first drink just after 9am, and then the steady stream of animals didn’t stop until well after 2pm. Herd after herd of zebras, a group of almost 30 wildebeest, constant coming and going of impalas, rhino, wallowing warthogs, curious giraffes, cautious kudus, more zebras, more wildebeest. It was simply fantastic, and all that I had wanted it to be; the elephants were audible nearby before one young bull eventually arrived. The giraffes came racing out of the thickets into which they had earlier disappeared, and my interest was piqued, but I didn’t drive to see what had disturbed them; instead, I sat and waited.
About ten minutes later the reasons for their panic presented themselves when two fat-bellied male lions emerged from the same woodland and came to drink! It all seemed too good to be true, and so the next day I embarked on the same journey expecting amazing things, but as is the nature of the bush, it has a way of bringing you back down to earth. There were no elephants, no lions, no kudus. Only one giraffe came past and the herds of wildebeest were represented by a lone bull; such a change from yesterday! That is not to say it was a quiet day – lovely birds and dozens and dozens of zebras kept me entertained throughout, and although I waited for my leopard to arrive, the closest I got was hearing one calling near the dam. It just goes to show that no two days are the same in the bush, but they are always enjoyable. Go see the video on our Youtube Channel.
The next morning I had planned on doing a third day at the dam, but as the three Nharhu male lions and a couple of River Pride lionesses had made a kill in camp the night before (outside Foreman’s house), I thought I should have a look for them. My search proved successful and I found two of the Nharhu males with all four River Pride lionesses. The cubs were also present, and it was the first time in over two weeks that I had seen them, but perhaps the reason for their scarcity of late was evidenced by the fact that only four cubs were present. Two of the older cubs were not with the pride, and it would be very unusual for only two of them to be left behind somewhere. I hate making predictions about situations that I don’t know enough about, but sadly I do fear that their absence may be permanent.
The Mbiri males were reported wandering around in the northern Timbavati,and could be heard calling to the east this week – perhaps they made a turn through the area with dire consequences? Hyenas, leopards, injuries; all are potential answers to their absence, but only time will tell if it is permanent or not. This was not the first time we had seen the pride this week, and earlier in the week, all seven adults were found together and on the hunt in the southern part of their territory. It was the next day that I found the fat-bellied males drinking at the dam and it seemed as though they may still have had a kill in that area based on the fact that after their drink, they returned in the direction from which they came. Sadly, I couldn’t find them again, so it is not known if the whole pride was present at the kill, or just the males. Regardless of the fate of the cubs, it is good to know that the pride is hunting well and are once more active in the central part of their territory.
While the leopards may not have come to visit me at the dam, we did manage to capture them on our camera traps coming into camp. Marula Jnr was also found with an impala kill hoisted up a tree overhanging the verandah of a neighbouring camp, and we got to view her for the first time since lockdown started! It was encouraging to see that she had not only caught a large impala, but also succeeded in hoisting it safely out of harm’s way. She was very relaxed with the vehicles and this is an incredibly positive sign for the future. Even more positive was the fact that Luke and Brittany got to see Nthombi’s two cubs with their mom last weekend. Both cubs are doing well and still seem very comfortable with the vehicles. They were quite deep within our concession, so we can only hope that we will start getting to see more of them over the coming weeks. The only concern was that as the week drew to a close, I found an old, large, nomadic male leopard (known as the Goya Rd male) from the northern Timbavatiand Umbabat region, moving around in the very spot that Nthombi was seen with the cubs. Nthombi had been heard mating around a neighbouring lodge, and it is possible that she was merely trying to lure this male (or perhaps another?) away from the area in which her cubs are hidden. We will keep our finger’s crossed that her cubs are fine.
The buffalos that avoided us last week were back in force, and one particular herd was by my count, not far off 300 members strong! It is quite a sight to see so many buffalos arrive at a waterhole to drink. Multiple elephant herds also spent the week within our concession (even if they didn’t come visit me at the dam), particularly concentrating around the west and central regions. As mentioned, the east was full of zebras, wildebeest and good herds of giraffes.
Despite all this great viewing, there was only one highlight of the week, and that was last weekend when a rare pangolin was found to the west of Tanda Tula Safari Camp.I was lucky enough not to be sleeping in (a rare weekend treat for me!) on that day. To be able to sit and watch one of the most remarkable mammals in the Timbavati walking around, in its armoured coat, is a sight not many people are lucky enough to witness. Be sure to check out our Youtube Channelfor some fantastic footage of this incredible mammal.
Until next time, keep well!