Tinga Game Reserve – July 2008

Life Blood of the Kruger” vs “River of Fear”Rivers are an integral part of the Kruger system. Geographically, they are used to delineate the border of the park. Initially, it was the area between the Crocodile and the Sabie, but Stevenson- Hamilton (first warden of the Kruger) managed to extend the northern boundary to the Limpopo a river eloquently described by Rudyard Kipling as “the great, grey-green greasy river lined with fever trees”.So far, the Sabie river is the only river in the Kruger that has never stopped flowing, and the water quality remains excellent. Despite a myriad of land-use activities upstream of the Kruger, it remains a biologically rich river, and is considered to be the least affected by activities outside the Park. The origin of the name for the Sabie river comes from the Tsonga (Shangaan ) word “saba” meaning “fear”. The Sabie river was known as “the river of fear” because of its strong currents and the large crocodile population. However, perspective is always dependent on the position of the observer, which is why the Sabie river can also be seen as the lifeblood of the southern Kruger. In winter months, when most surface water disappears, the wildlife concentrates along the river. The compulsive urge to slake a thirst forces the resident herbivores to run the gauntlet of predators lying in wait for just such an opportunity.The Sabie river is an integral part of the Tinga experience. Many of the safaris involve slowly driving the roads running parallel to the water course. I always enjoy these, as there is always the sense of anticipation, as you never know what you will see around the next bend. Equally pleasurable is the opportunity to while away an hour or two in a suite, sitting quietly on the private deck , watching the resident wildlife. The birdlife along the river is excellent, and even those who are not “twitchers” will still appreciate the flashes of colour from the purple-crested touracos, white-fronted bee-eaters and green pigeons. The lordly fish eagle will often make an appearance, its evocative call echoing up the waterways. Equally intriguing is the call of the trumpeter hornbill, a common resident in the area, with flocks often seen flying clumsily between the riverine vegetation. In the days of yore, the elusive Pels fishing owl was recorded along the Sabie, but none have been seen in recent times. Senior management from Tinga recently assisted with a census of these rare birds along the Olifants river, using the Cybertracker system, and we remain ever hopeful that one day, the Pels will return to the Sabie.In our marketing material, we often refer to the fact that the Sabie river valley has the highest recorded density of leopards in Africa, as a result of the high numbers of impala in the area. In the last two weeks, we had two extraordinary leopard sightings

As guests at Narina had just departed on the afternoon safari, a movement below the main deck caught the eye of the lodge manager. It was a male and female leopard. They walked slowly off, right past suites 5, 4 ,3 , 2 and 1. A couple of days later, guides picked up two male leopards fighting in the river, just west of Narina. Perhaps the female being on heat had attracted a male from a neighbouring territory being fiercely territorial, the resident male was no doubt handing out an eviction order! Sadly, the action took place in and out of the reeds, with the two antagonists constantly on the move, so photography was a bit difficult.

The Sabie river area is also known for its high lion density, as a result of the high density of prey in the area. As a result, the territories are smaller in size than other areas. The territories are jealously guarded, sometimes overlapping, and never vacant. For three years, a coalition of three male lions held sway in the area, but it appears their tenure has come to an end. Three weeks previously, two males were seen boldly crossing the Tinga wooden bridge, perhaps a symbolic gesture of their intention to stake a claim to this area. They are often heard roaring defiantly in the vicinity of the two lodges the silence which has answered their challenge is doubtless of a signal of the acquiescence of the former rulers of these prized lands. They have been christened Romulus and Regulus Romulus slew his brother Remus in a dispute over the naming of Rome. Regulus is the brightest star in the constellation Leo!.Romulus has a black mane, and Regulus has a blonde mane.

Other exciting lion sightings includedA pride of lions chasing a buffalo in the river bed opposite suite 1 at NarinaA pride of lions moving down to the river between suites 1 and 2 at Narina, were blocked by a herd of elephants, who felt the pride were a threat to the many youngsters in the herd.The big black-maned lion, Romulus, was seen in front of suite 5 at Legends, before joining the rest of his pride by the bridge.Last, but not least, a sighting which has nothing to do with the Sabie river, but definitely deserves a mention. In the past, we have mentioned that Tinga is fortunate to have frequent black rhino sightings. However, in late June, Tinga guests were fortunate enough to see a group of eight yes, eight of these endangered animals!Until next time, fambani gahle

Courtesy of Tinga Game Reserve

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