Tuningi Newsletter October 2008

By gavintonkinson on October 1, 2008

A warm hallo to you once again!

In Africa, the month of October is often known as the ‘suicide month’. This is because, before the first rains, every body and every animal living in the bush gets to deal with the harsh reality of drought, hunger, thirst and sometimes even death. In South Africa the drought seldom hits us as hard as it does nearer to the Equator and things don’t tend to get as out of hand here as it does up there.

In Madikwe, it is now the time of the year when everyone is looking up at the sky constantly with unsinkable optimism; longing for a fabulous, cooling, dust settling, life giving thundershower. We never get to the point of giving up hope as the fat bellies of all the very pregnant animals and the Marula trees and Knob Thorns pushing out fresh green leaves even under these harsh circumstances, reminds us that it WILL RAIN SOON.

Oh, how we long for the big white voluptuous clouds to appear on the horizon, the wind picking up, blowing them towards us, the thunder rumbling closer and closer and then…….. the first smell of a fat raindrop hitting the sand road. There is absolutely nothing more exciting than that!!

In the meantime, we are pumping water into all the water holes in the reserve to keep the thirst at bay and luckily for us, with the fantastic wet year last year, the green grass is pushing through the burnt areas regardless of new rain and bringing welcome nourishment for all the grazers and the new spring shoots on the trees are appearing everywhere to great surprise of the browsers.

As you all know by now, the dryer conditions in the bush is great for game viewing. Our water hole at the lodge has attracted every kind of living species you can imagine this month. We even had the elusive leopard drinking at the lodge twice in two days during dinner time! On one evening, three of them came to drink at once, even though there were about forty elephants around at the same time. Although leopards are usually solitary animals, this was a mother with her two half grown cubs. Just last night they were spotted again on an Impala kill very close to Tuningi!

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The leopard sightings on game drives have also picked up significantly. Almost every guest had the opportunity to watch these gracious animals go about their business. One evening we were all stunned when two lions appeared out of the blue at a leopard sighting and stole the poor girl’s freshly caught Impala right from under her nose. A leopard would never try and defend themselves against lions under these circumstances as they have to avoid injury at all cost. So she just had to sneak away and accept defeat. Sometimes Nature can be very cruel.

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The most exciting event of the month happened three days ago! The wild dog pack of thirteen dogs, which had babies four months ago decided that it was time to bring them out of their den at last! Talk about patience…. We have all known about the pups, but they have been hidden so well that absolutely nobody has even had a glimpse of them for four solid months! Well, they decided to come and show them off right here at Tuningi Lodge, running up and down the valley in front of room 6 and 7 and then stopping for a quick drink at the water hole for all to see in broad daylight. We counted eight pups all together which brings the pack to 21. This is just great and with them being such a huge pack it will make it very easy for the rangers to track them from now on. You will just have to make a plan to come and see them!

As usual, we bring you a page or two from one of our ranger’s diaries.
This month Grant recaps on a honeymoon couple’s five night stay during October.

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Safari on honeymoon from termites to elephants

The last 5 days I had a honeymoon couple and 2 ladies join me on my vehicle. They were great fun and they saw the most amazing things. Apart from all the big stuff, we had great sightings of all the antelope and the smaller things in life like the String of Stars (small white flowers) and termites; all very interesting too! The honeymooners arrived by plane and the first thing they saw was white rhino on their way to the lodge. I knew then that they were going to see the most amazing animals and it was their first safari! On the afternoon safari we saw the old boys the Batia brothers and loads of elephants. The Sereti females were with the Batia’s for a while, but have now been relocated to different reserves and so the Batias are alone. These old lions are going to find it a bit difficult getting food without the lioness’ help.

The next morning we went south. The morning started off very quietly; a lot of wind and then we bumped into two white rhino right next to the road, they got quite a fright but luckily they moved in the opposite direction from the cruiser. Half an hour later in an open clearing we saw some black rhino, a female and her calf. She was a bit skittish but we could clearly see her and the calf and all the distinct features of the black rhino. After breakfast I took Gary and Suzy to some lions that were feasting on a wildebeest. On every drive something exiting happened. Going out is always different no matter where you go and it is always a challenge looking for game. In the afternoon myself, Gavin and Zede were tracking lions on foot, after walking in a few circles we found them. They saw us long before we saw them. Every time you get lions on foot it sounds like a Harley Davidson starting up and gradually picking up revs…….great feeling! After the revs you see that golden beast mock charge you, then you swear in all the languages you know. The best expression is ‘FOERTSEK, FOERTSEK, FOERTSEK’ and clapping your hands until they become numb and more shouting. 99% of the time it works (Foertsek means get lost). Once we had found them the chances that they would move off was big so I pulled the short straw to stay with them while Gavin went back to fetch the vehicle. The five minutes I was alone with them was something special, just the fact that they allowed me to share their space and be that close to them was incredible. When we left that sighting we got a call on the radio that there were some more lions, the Tshabas, at Tau dam. Very unusual for them to come this far south; their territory is in the north western section, but we think they got chased by the three Serety males; a very powerful coalition. We got there with the sun just disappearing on the horizon. While watching them two big dagga boys came to drink (old buffalo bulls that have been kicked out of the herd). The six lions didn’t pay too much attention to them because their tummies were full to the brim. On our way back we saw some elephant but just ignored them, because they get quite edgy at night with the spotlight. Driving along looking for that ‘elusive spotted one’, I saw some big eyes reflecting back from the runway and thought it was our lucky night. Then two more sets popped out and I knew it was spotted hyena making a move on some wildebeest but they lost interest very quickly and strolled off into the darkness. Another great day in Madikwe! So we went home for dinner and a few drinks and reminisced about the great sightings we had had so far………

After the 5:45am coffee we went in pursuit of the leopard again with great determination. Driving along Diperoro road (meaning waterfall in Tswana) I found some fresh leopard tracks and feces; they were heading towards our neighboring lodge. I called Lucas and he said a young male had been at the water early that morning but had moved towards the valley, not good for us. But, not losing faith, we carried on to the elephant boma where the Serety female is held. Lots of big male lion tracks around the boma………….got a call the wild dogs were busy killing a kudu, so we turned around and went there straight away. I told my guests to hold on and off we went on a real Ferrari safari for the next 15 minutes but it was worth it. They had killed a kudu but by the time we got there it had been demolished, the dogs were busy picking clean the bones. Wild dogs make sure there is nothing left behind for any of the scavengers. We stayed with them for about 20 minutes before the first vehicles came in to the area.

That afternoon we went to Thlou dam to see the Etali youngsters, two young lion brother and sister. We just enjoyed the scenery with the lions on the wall and the ellies drinking water. After the elephants left it became quiet and all of a sudden a big herd of buffalo approached us from the east; +- 100 of them in total. There motive was clearly visible and that was to drink. The lions didn’t even move a muscle with all the commotion going on; what a brilliant sighting at the dam. We moved on for sundowners so relaxed after so many amazing things so you can imagine our surprise when we spotted a leopard in a Leadwood tree! A leopard at last and when we least expected it.

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The next morning after drive, we saw 4 of the big 5 again…..just thought I’d mention that. I took Gary and Suzy on a bush walk after breakfast and told them with the briefing that chances of seeing anything are slim, so we are going to concentrate on the smaller things, but you never know what is lurking out there. I was busy making them a toothbrush from the kwarrie bush and we discussed elephant dung and then all hell almost broke out. A herd of elephants thrashed through the bush about 80 m from us. We immediately backed off and got on the right side of the wind. One bull came towards us. I stood my ground and had a stand-off with him with the guests safely behind me. What an afternoon! We skipped the afternoon drive and instead went to a bird hide for the afternoon and had some more amazing sightings like a Caracal that came down for a very reluctant drink. We also saw elephant, jackal and spotted hyena. The 8th of October was our last morning drive and we just thought we were going to take it easy. Started of slowly but ended with a big bang. Driving along Wonderboom road I saw something in the distance lying in the road; it was a leopard! As we got closer he looked at us once and kept on cleaning himself then got up and strolled off into the thick bush. That made up for the other night when we only saw the silhouette in the tree.

Coming on safari for your honeymoon is a great treat, just do it on the first leg of your honeymoon, because it is hard work……………… all the early mornings I mean.

I‘ve got a saying: “When you come on safari always expect the unexpected and you won’t be disappointed”.

Hope you enjoyed the recap of our 5 day honeymoon safari at Tuningi
Till next time

Well, there you have it straight from the Ranger’s pen. We suggest that you start planning your next trip to Tuningi right now, as no matter which time of the year you come for a visit, each month holds its own special secrets and treats.

We were once again very lucky to have lots of kids around this month so don’t forget to have a look at our beautiful kids’ art gallery!
Till we meet again
With kindest regards
The T- TeamReturn to Main Website


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