Climate and Landscape
The month of February finally brought summer’s long-expected rain. Throughout the month we had regular showers, varying from a couple of millimetres to a maximum of 60 mm in one day. We had a total of 190 mm of rain for the month.
The average temperatures this month were a minimum of 22° Celsius, reaching a maximum of 31° C. Our hottest day this month reached 35° C. Guests really enjoyed the warm days and the cooler nights during February.
It might be the rainy season and what some may consider to be low season here at Tubu Tree, but that didn’t make the wildlife sightings any less thrilling. In fact, this is arguably the best time of the year to see your favourite African animal. The floodplains are booming with a wide variety of herbivores and predators. Birds have flown in from all directions to feed on the insect blooms after the rains, and no matter how big or small your favourite animal is there is no better place to enjoy all this than at Tubu Tree Camp. You don’t even have to leave the camp to get your wildlife fix.
Just this month alone the floodplain in front of the main area provided some truly exciting sightings. From the comfort of a couch in our main area or a comfortable chair on the deck of one of our guest tents, visitors were witness to two lionesses taking down a fully-grown wildebeest early one morning, just 20 metres from our main area. After the kill they invited their three cubs to join them for breakfast. After this first meal they dragged the carcass into the bushes next to Tent 11 where they stayed for almost three days while feeding off the remains of the wildebeest, until they had licked the bones clean. During these nights the lions camped with us and we could hear what turned out to be four spotted hyaenas ‘laughing’. They were circling the carcass trying to steal what they consider to be their share.
Later that week four wild dogs ran past our main area while guests were enjoying their breakfast. On another occasion the wild dogs were seen making their way from Tubu Tree and on past the main area of neighbouring Little Tubu.
Other mammals seen from our main area were a large family of elephant, close to 20 giraffe parading by and big herds of impala, wildebeest, bushbuck and Cape buffalo. From our walkways to the rooms, warthogs, honey badgers, slender mongooses, baboons, vervet monkeys and banded mongooses were all regularly seen by guests and staff.
All this was great to whet guests’ appetites for animal sightings on a satisfying game drive. Would leopards do? Apparently yes, as guests were thrilled to see a female leopard relaxing with her two four-month-old cubs next to a large termite mound, while on another drive this mother was seen hunting a group of impalas. Another group saw a male leopard resting high up in a tree next to Thutwa Pan.
The lionesses that took down the wildebeest in front of camp were also seen by guests as they hunted and grabbed a baby warthog. They did not kill the warthog but instead released it near their cubs so the youngsters could practice their hunting technique. The guests were mesmerised by the display that seemed to take forever, but did feel a bit sorry for the baby warthog that was eventually killed and eaten by the cubs.
Two large male lions roam around in this area of the Delta as well. They were regularly spotted from game drives and one early morning were seen lying next to our airstrip contemplating whether to make a move on a herd of impala that was unaware of their presence.
A mammal that is rarely seen for several reasons, but mainly because of its tiny size, was a lesser red musk shrew. It had found its way into a small pit in the ground but was unable to climb out of it. This little insectivore was quickly brought to higher ground to search for its next meal and live another day.
Birds and Birding
For guests who had an interest in birds February proved to be a great month to polish up their binoculars during a visit to our camp. They spent spend days on end just in the area around Tubu Tree and saw a wide variety of bird species.
Do you like colourful birds? Most of the bee-eaters and kingfisher species, and all of the roller species, were seen regularly in and around camp while a couple of collared sunbirds put up a fascinating courtship display in the bushes next to one of our guest tents. Fire-finches were seen flying at great speed through the bushes, challenging any photographer to get the perfect shot.
This month was particularly great for birds of prey. An acrobatic aerial dispute between a brown snake eagle and a bateleur was witnessed above the main area of Little Tubu, with the brown snake eagle coming out as the winner and the bateleur flying off into the distance.
In the canopy of the many large trees around camp different species of goshawks, sparrowhawks and falcons were seen, while the presence of the resident African harrier-hawk (gymnogene) is often given away by the Burchells’s starlings that try to chase him away.
The floodplain in front of our main area filled up with scores of hungry marabou storks, white-backed vultures and a handful of lappet-faced vultures after the lionesses took down the wildebeest. Unfortunately for the birds their meal was quickly hidden in the bushes and after a few hours only a few hard-headed marabou storks were still around, hoping for easy pickings.
Other memorable sightings during this month were four southern ground-hornbills foraging in front of our main area and a kori bustard hiding from the rain, seen from a game drive; several guests returned with stunning pictures of saddle-billed storks.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Jared Zeelie, Philile Hlongwe, Marius Neuhoff, Piet Hein Stutterheim, Boitumelo Badubi
Guides: Kambango Sinimbo, Kelebogile “KB” Lesotho, Oduetse “Chaps” Ngenda, Kelebeng “Steve” Mahupe