My last safari… and it was a gory one (here is photographic proof)

*Disclaimer, this post contains a few grim photos of a dead buffalo being eaten by predators, but also some really beautiful photos of lion cubs*

It was always going to be nigh impossible to match Singita, my new favourite place in the world, which you can read about here – but equally, stick me anywhere which involves looking at wild animals from dawn until dusk and you’ve got a happy camper.

Tanda Tula was to be my sixth and final safari here in Africa. It’s a private lodge also situated in the Kruger National Park, and much smaller than Singita.

Tanda Tula, a small safari lodge nestled in the centre of the Kruger National Park
Tanda Tula, a small safari lodge nestled in the centre of the Kruger National Park

The game viewing here was actually surprisingly good.

Because it’s a lot deeper into the centre of the park than Signita, which flirts more around the edges, poaching has been far less of a problem. It’s much harder for the bastards to get inside and then back out again with their severed rhino horns.

Because of this, the animals are much less flighty. They aren’t as paranoid of vehicles and humans.

It was a pleasure, therefore, to see scores of rhino lounging around in swampy water close-by, and elephants with their newborns, usually so protective, who weren’t even considering charging our Land Rover.

The animals here are very calm in nature compared to lots of others I've seen, because poaching isn't very bad in this particular area
The animals here are very calm in nature compared to lots of others I’ve seen, because poaching isn’t very bad in this particular area 
Beautiful mpalas having a drink
Beautiful mpalas having a drink
A white Rhino, contemplating
A white Rhino, contemplating
Young elephants playing
Young elephants playing

This being my sixth safari in a month, I’ve got a bit smug and prattish with my animal knowledge. At one point here, for example, I caught myself doing one of the most infuriating things you can do in conversation, which was to interrupt our guide’s story and finish it for him, just to show off that I Knew Things.

“So there I am, standing stock still, and this lioness just keeps snarling and prowling towards me,” he was saying. “I did everything right. I very slowly backed up, holding eye contact, but with every step she kicked up the aggression.”

“Her cubs were behind you but you didn’t realize, did you? That’s the only rational explanation,” I interjected.

“Yes, Annabel. That’s correct. Here’s a gold star.” – he didn’t actually say that, but that’s what I was gunning for.

Splish splash splosh
Splish splash splosh 
A leopard prowling very close to our Land Rover
A leopard prowling very close to our Land Rover 
A pair of curious giraffes
A pair of curious giraffes
A buffalo cooling down
A buffalo cooling down

The last animal showdown I saw was the rather grizzly dispute between a male lion and a pack of 36 hyenas.

It went like this…

The male lion had recently taken down a buffalo. In fact, a pride of lionesses probably did, and he probably stole it from them. 

The lion, guarding his dinner

The lion was snoozing casually, and the buffalo was sprawled in this awful position with one leg twisted backwards, its teeth sinking into the sand and its bloated eyes resembling two cloudy gooseberries. IMG_1854

Later, as it approached dusk, we witnessed the lion tucking into this buffalo.

IMG_1896IMG_1900

An enormous pack of hyenas were scattered on the other side of the water, licking their lips.IMG_1958

A vulture sat perched on the tree above, eyeing up the prizeIMG_1930

Somewhere between that night and the next very early morning, the hyenas had fought the lion off the buffalo and taken it for themselves. They’re like that, hyenas. Much less graceful than wild dogs, but they get shit done. 

So by the morning, they were hungrily tearing the buffalo to shreds, chattering and yelping as they went (the noise they make really does sound like laughing, it’s hilarious).

IMG_1942IMG_1952

All rather grim, but very interesting to watch.

So the lodge at Tanda Tula was rustic and woody. The infinity pool was delightful. The chef, Ryan, was lovely in that he was extremely passionate and theatrical about his food.

He takes great relish in announcing his menu to his guests every evening, and also, he makes great cucumber relish.

I liked that there was a frog who lived behind the bar, eyeing people up from beside a bottle of Bombay Sapphire.

The bartender told me, when I enquired about the frog, “I was scared of him at first. I don’t like frogs. But then we decided to live in harmony.”

As usual, my only complaint about Tanda Tula was one of the guests, a dreadful Canadian woman who made it into the Awful Tourist Hall of Shame. You can read about her here.

I shall leave you with some non-gory photos of lions, as promised, to cancel the gory ones out.

Look at that cub, and those molten brown eyes
Look at that cub, and those molten brown eyes 
Look at this mother lion, and how beautiful she is
Look at this mother lion, and how beautiful she is 
Aren't they just sublime, these ruthless killers?
Aren’t they just sublime, these ruthless killers? 
Isn't it nice how affectionate they are with their head nudging?
Isn’t it nice how affectionate they are with their head nudging?
Look! A cub yawning. You're welcome
Look! A cub yawning. You’re welcome
A kleptomaniac hyena, snoozing
A kleptomaniac hyena, snoozing 
Yet another soul liquifying sunset
Yet another soul liquifying African sunset

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