A two day walking safari turned out to be one of my best experiences ever in my career of 15 years in the African bush.
I would like to share an exceptional and truly once-in-a-life-time-story with you.
Tanda Tula Safari Camp is the only camp in the entire Timbavati Game Reserve offering an overnights walking safari experience. Standard game drives allow us to get guests really close to animals and we generally see more game in a limited time but let me tell you that walking makes one really appreciate the wilderness, an awareness that one just cannot get in a safari vehicle. The uniqueness of that feeling is so great that words are often inadequate to explain it.
But let me try.....
I took two great guests, father and son, on a 2 day Tanda Tula walking safari a few days ago. We camped out at the Machattan dam hide, a beautiful spot with a breathtaking view of the Machattan Dam waterhole.
The first afternoon we walked for just over 2 hours and returned back to the camps site just before a honey badger crossed our path. Seeing a honey badger in the wild is indeed a rarity! Dinner that evening was under the stars and Bishop the chef did a great job. We went to bed early and after a good night's rest we started the next day with a pot of hot coffee made on the same fire that we sat around that evening.
We had a very enjoyable 3 hour walk and after a wholesome brunch at the waterhole we all took time off to rest. My tent is set about 20 meters from the hide the guest stay at and just as I wanted to rest I heard a loud thump right at the entrance of my tent. When I opened the tent there she stood, an elephant a size of a mammoth. A large female elephant all on her own. I was amazed to learn how incredible relaxed and calm this elephant was. She could not be bothered about me fiddling to take a picture. What a nice surprise-visit.
After the afternoon walk we were back at our base camp to enjoy another delicious meal prepared by Bishop and retired to bed fairly early. A troop of Chacma baboons moved in late that evening keeping me awake with their chatter. I chased them to a nearby tree and finally dropped straight back in bed only to be woken up an hour later with another sound of the night. I could hear a hyena clan creating all kinds of commotion.
I unzipped my tent and walked with my torch toward them. And got a surprise - a mere 20 meters away I could see two lions which appeared to be feeding from a carcass and at least 15 hyenas standing around them trying very hard to get them to release their prey. It was very excited and so were the two guests who have been watching this event taking place for the last half hour and were now desperately trying to tell me that there is a lion 6 meters from me in a tree. This I failed to notice simply because I was so taken by what I have just seen! Well, that cannot get any more wild you would think but think again! In the corner of my eye I saw a young male lion looking at me. I am not sure who got a bigger fright. I ran back to my tent and he quickly moved down the tree, proceeded between me and the tent down the embankment and disappeared.
In the meantime the two young male lions hold off an impressive counter attack from the hyena clan.
Apparently it was their kill the lions took from them. Hyenas in Kruger Park hunt as much as 70 % of their own food. Lions are bigger thieves than what Hyenas are and this night we witnessed the proof to that. The guests later told me that the hyenas hunted impala by chasing it into the dam. No more than 4 minutes after they have killed the impala and started feeding 4 lions arrived and stole the kill from them. This brave move was short-lived and the hyenas successfully took their kill back. A few minutes later the lions made a second attempt out of desperation and luckily took the kill once again away from the hyenas. This is where it ended. The carcass which wasn’t large was consumer by both parties and the lions claimed the better part of it. But the hyenas won the fight as they were far more organized as the top apex predator of the African ecosystem.
Unfortunately I could not capture any images of the actual fight due to the time of night and trying to stay out of harm’s way with so much happening around me at that time. Anyway I would like to share a few images I took of the hyena clan which seemed to be a fun event in the same dam a few days earlier.
I hope you enjoyed the story as much as I did writing and re-living it. Come and join me on another walking safari at Tanda Tula Safari Camp!
Patrick O'Brien - Wildlife Photographer and Professional Guide.