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Ranger Diaries: November 2010

Posted by Game Rangers on Tue November 30, 2010.

“Umlani… African Magic”

If you would ask my wife and I which of all the camps in the Timbavati is the wildest and offers the most authentic bush experience, we would say without any hesitation, Umlani!

Lianne and I are wildlife filmmakers and we’ve been based in the Timbavati region of the Greater Kruger National park for 2,5 years. Since August last year we have had the privilege to compile a behavioural documentary about the white lions of the Timbavati. It’s a rare phenomenon in a magical place.

I’m writing this months ranger’s report on behalf of the amazing rangers and trackers of Umlani as for the last 6 months I acted as Relief Manager every time Kyle and Louise (the current managers) would go on their well-deserved breaks. In return, my wife and I had the privilege to spend time at the stunning Umlani Bush Camp…

To put things in perspective - the Timbavati is part of the open-system of the Kruger park, now with fences dropped between Mozambique and several private conservation areas, it comprises more than 4 million hectares. So, from the Umlani deck you look out over a vast, wild and mysterious place... To top this, the Peace Parks foundation has ensured the proclamation of a conservation area (The Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park), including the Greater Kruger Park, sized at 35,000 square kilometres – almost the size of the entire Netherlands! Imagine you find yourself amidst this astonishing wilderness. Well, you only need to spend a few nights at Umlani and the sounds of lions roaring, a leopard sawing and a scops owl calling in the distance, will overwhelm you with the true African magic!

As Umlani is situated in the heart of the Timbavati region its wildlife is phenomenal. This month proved once again that game drives in this part of the Greater Kruger Park are truly wild and enthralling!

Lianne and I have witnessed for ourselves how amazing the game sightings are. We are out in the bush almost every day to look for our special lion pride with two white cubs. They have an enormous home range, and so they often disappear into the wilderness surrounding the Timbavati. This month, Umlani has been honoured with their presence in close vicinity... Guests had the opportunity to see these very rare and special wild animals for themselves!

November is also the watershed-month in this part of the world – it’s the time when a very dry winter landscape awaits the arrival of the much needed summer rains. Mother nature has bestowed upon us that very promise of life. During this month we already received that very crucial rain and the bush reacted thankfully. Within a few days the dry bush was transformed into a lush, green environment. Impalas have dropped their lambs almost in a synchronised ballet and around every corner you see nurseries of ten to twenty youngsters running wild. The Acacia trees are in bloom and driving through the bush rewards you with the odours of subtle perfume and fragrances that Dolce and Armani can only dream of!

To highlight just a few special moments during the last month, I certainly recall the wedding ceremony of two very special guests. Ginger, our head ranger, took the couple into the bush where they got married - only after they managed to pass the three male lions resting peacefully at the nearby waterhole. On their return to Umlani they signed the wedding register (to make all the proceedings legal) in the bar area overlooking the Umlani waterhole. As the bride signed on the dotted line, the cameraman quietly moved closer and asked me what animal is drinking at the waterhole. In my utter amazement I immediately demanded everyone’s attention to the leopard that decided to grace us with his presence. A better and bigger wedding gift I cannot imagine, one that truly blessed this wedding…

Then I cannot end this rangers report without getting back to “our” white lions. The pride consists of 6 lions – two adult females with two cubs each - the one mother with 2 normal tawny cubs and the other with two white cubs. Needless to say, our focus falls on the two white female cubs. Following this pride for almost a year and a half has rewarded us with moments no words can describe! You cannot stop yourself to get personally attached to these very special and rare animals. Their white pelage is not because of albinism, but it’s due to a recessive gene that affects their pigmentation. Thus, these white lions are 100% like normal lions, with just one difference – they are white! Why the fuzz you still might ask? This is the only place in Africa where you can still find true white lions born and living wild! They are endemic to this region…

Perhaps one day you too might be blessed with the sighting of one of these utterly rare animals, but for that, you might need to plan your next holiday at Umlani.

The documentary on these incredible big cats will be broadcasted world wide – keep an eye on the Umlani website for the release of this compelling wildlife story.

Lianne and I cannot express more how much we love the wildness and magical atmosphere of Umlani…

Till we meet again

Will & Lianne
for Umlani Bush Camp

For more, see the Timbavati Nature Reserve blog