Kruger Park and Timbavati in 3 days
Kruger is truly one of the most amazing wildlife destinations!
In a period of 72 hours, Frank and I managed to see an inordinate amount of animals and spectacular scenery to our hearts content.
Starting off with a short drive from Eastgate airport, where Frank landed, we entered the Park at Orpen Gate and headed east to Satara where we stayed in a bungalow for 2 nights. During our drive in we noticed the greenery and muddy wallows which is very unseasonal due to the late rains we have had in early May. Still there were lots of wildebeest, zebra, warthog, impala, kudu and giraffe en route to Nsemani Dam where a pod of hippo greeted us. After checking in we took a leisurely drive along the famed “predator road”, the S100, following the Nwanetsi River eastwards to the Lebombo Mountains which forms the border between SA and Mozambique. At Gudzani Dam we noticed a bunch of vultures in a dead leadwood tree and scanned the area but to no avail.
Only the next morning early did we discover the 3 male lions who brought down a buffalo bull 3 days earlier. They were basking in the morning winter sun when suddenly they responded to a grunt emanating from further north of where they were. With a brisk trot they headed off and we leap-frogged ahead of them only to witness as they met up with yet another male! This coalition was 4-strong and they were in their prime. An impressive sight indeed!
The amount of waterbuck, zebra and wildebeest, giraffe and impala etc around the Satara region is astounding! We also found a nice herd of buffalo one morning where they were all laying down in the tall grass waiting for the sun to thaw them after a cold night.
A tiny Pearl-spotted Owlet perched atop a stick in the dawn hours of the morning as it utilised these hours to hunt before settling in for the day. We had great luck in having an ele bull drifting past allowing for a stark silhouette against the rising sun, a short while later there was also a large square-lipped rhino bull patrolling his territory and grasing on the lush grasses along the Timbavati River. Both these pachyderms were very relaxed and in great physical condition. It certainly looks like this winter won’t be too tough on the animals as the amount of good quality fodder available is staggering.
More lion activity! There were 2 males and 3 females resting up in the shade of a Knobthorn Acacia on a hot afternoon. All seemed fine until one of the lionesses got up and flirted with a male who then mated with her. Usually mating occurs separate from the group and only one pair is involved. Flopping down in the heat, they promptly fell asleep again and left us a bit confused... Later another female did the same with the other male...puzzling. Discussion drifted towards the “normal” behaviour and before we could come to some sort of conclusion, the 3rd female flirted with the first male and then in an instant the second male leapt to his feet and trotted in stiff-leggedly with a high and threatening posture! The lioness scampered away cowering and the male growlingly asserted his superiority! The first lioness also submitted straightaway indicating that there was a huge amount of tension amongst the males and females. I ventured a guess that these males are probably recent victors in a territorial take-over and are now asserting their dominance over the females in an aggressive way. The lionesses, in a bid to keep the larger stronger males happy, are allowing for copulation whilst ensuring their own safety. In time, 2 to 3 months, when these males prove to be worthy pride-males and provide a secure environment for the lionesses to bear young in, the females will ovulate and fall pregnant with their offspring. It is however rather disturbing to witness the initial forceful sexual subjugation of the females...
On a much lighter note, once we got to the Timbavati at Tanda Tula Tented Camp, the first sighting we managed to get to was that of a female leopard and her almost 12-month old son. After killing, and feeding on, an impala ram (this time of year the mating season starts and the males are too preoccupied to be vigilant) they sought shade and a breeze high up in a Marula tree. The Marula tree is also the bearer of the fruit which produces Amarula Liqueur.
As we departed the sighting, one of the other vehicles tracked down the pack of 7 Wilddogs which had been frequenting the area in the past weeks! We just managed to reach them before it got too dark and saw the last tidbits being consumed of yet another male impala. We were lucky enough to find them again the next morning...
After an amazing nights’ sleep in a very comfortable bed and a hearty cup of coffee enjoyed on the verandah, we headed out again for our last drive before the short safari came to an end. We tracked the Machatan Pride for a while and finally heard one of the males roaring quite close to us! After a short search we found 3 lionesses, 2 males and 4 cubs. They were in a river bed and provided some entertaining moments before heading off after a herd of buffalo.
The sightings were fantastic, the weather perfect and the company engaging. The sense of achievement at the end of the day when reviewing images, discussing sightings and behaviour whilst enjoying an adult beverage around the fire, makes for memorable times and a thirst for more...
Enjoy every moment of every day!
See you out there.