So, it is official, we have returned to a lionless state in the northern Timbavati, and the last two days were rather tough in the absence of these big cats, and if we are honest, it was rather quiet in general compared to recent times – the hot weather has speeded up the drying out of the bush, and we are suddenly looking like it might be another tough, long winter for the animals.
Wednesday saw me heading east to see if our pride of seven lions might have returned, but it was rather quiet – we saw impala, steenbuck and a lovely herd of wildebeest with calves running around chasing one another before they headed to nearby pan to drink. After a lovely coffee stop at Lovers Leap, we checked a bit further west and saw impala, giraffe and zebra before finding a large elephant bull that was having a mud wallow on a warming day – we also enjoyed some of the smaller aspects of the bush to round off the day. There wasn’t much else out there during the morning.
In the afternoon I ventured south hoping for rhinos, and whilst we began by ticking off zebra, wildebeest and impala, the south remained quiet – Difference did manage to track down three rhinos and we spent time with them as the sun set on us. The Western Pride of nine lions had been at Ingwelala Bridge on our access route during the morning, so we headed home along the argyle Rd, hoping that they would move out onto the tar, but sadly, besides an elephant, the nearby rasping roar of a leopard and some fire flies, we didn’t have luck with the lions. Turing off to Motswari, we had a very brief sighting of a young female leopard, but she moved into a thicket and we were not going to follow her into that.
Thursday promised to be a hotter day, and with the thermometer reading a max of just shy of 39 degrees, the weather man wasn’t lying! We searched the wedge north of camp for any sign of lions or Shongile, but her kills were now both gone, and we only ticked off impala, kudu and a very nervous herd of elephants before moving towards Argyle Dam where we found another small group of elephants that were much more relaxed; impala, giraffe and waterbuck also popped up before we closed for coffee with some hippos and lovely birds late in the morning. The bush walk was rather warm, and produced some smaller aspects of the bush, and a couple of nyala bulls.
The afternoon was a warm one, and we headed towards Argyle Dam and found two herds of elephants that kept us entertained – the one larger herd all climbed into the dam for a swim in a stunning location and we spent good time with them before going in search of a herd of buffalo that we eventually found as the sun was setting. More elephant bulls and buffalo bulls popped out as we had our sundowner before heading to the eastern sections to chance our arm with lions, but besides wildebeest and impala, as well as three chameleons, the big cats remained absent. Only a female leopard (Shongile’s daughter?) showed up at Marula Pan next to the lodge – a pity we had already dropped our guests off at the camp for dinner, so they missed it…that leaves me one drive tomorrow morning to find the big cats!!!