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A Week of a Growing Cubs in Pictures

Chad Cocking | A Week In Pictures

Welcome back to your weekly update from the central Timbavati, and with the approach of winter, the mornings are taking on a crisper feeling with each passing day. Slowly more and more layers are being added to keep us comfortable until the sun’s warming rays emerge to do their job.  We had a small amount of rain last weekend when some thunder and lightning rolled across this part of the Greater Kruger, but it only dropped a few millimetres of rain – still, the bush kept its verdant coat for another week. 


This week was a good one for our lion viewing, and just yesterday morning I had four separate lion sightings whilst driving from Nkhari Homestead.  The Mayambula pride were particularly active this week, and three of the lionesses even killed a large kudu bull very close to Tanda Tula Field Camp one night.  In the morning a clan of hyena had stolen it from the girls, but the lionesses soon came charging back and reclaimed what was left for themselves…or so they thought!  The commotion soon drew in the two Skorro male lions who came in to claim the scant remains before leaving to follow the girls back to the den site.  We followed behind as the pride marched some 5km to the east before the eight cubs suddenly popped out of a thicket and greeted the pride.  They were located again the next afternoon after another kudu kill, and I decided to try for them the following day.  On the way to the area, we bumped into two of the younger Mayambula lionesses, with one female looking very pregnant, so maybe even more cubs on the way (and yes, we are still waiting to see the newest ones!).  The lionesses headed into a thick area, so we opted to go and check on the other cubs and got lucky and found them in a similar area to where they had been the day before, we got spoilt with a wonderful sighting of some very playful cubs as the pride moved across an open area and back down towards the riverbed for the day.  A little later, we saw one of the Skorro male lions resting near Machaton Dam.  Combine those sightings with an earlier sighting of a single Sark Pride lioness, and it was a good morning of lion viewing.  The guides from Plains Camp also had luck in finding two Giraffe Pride lionesses with the Sumatra and Hercules males, and this group spent the day close to our bush breakfast site and put on a roaring display in the evening. 


It wasn’t just the lions that played along, but we enjoyed some good leopard viewing this week too.  Nyeleti and her cubs spent two days on a large male impala kill before Xigodo arrived to steal it from them, but it appears that overnight he too ended up losing out to the hyenas.  Mbilu female was active around Plains Camp, and other than walking past the waterhole during morning coffee yesterday, we also found her with a scrub hare kill close to camp. Guy spent a good part of the morning following her during the week when he also picked her up just outside camp.  We also had a view of another young male leopard resting up a Marula tree a little further to the east; he too had a large impala kill but as so often happens, the hyenas got most of it and he only managed to salvage a small part.  Ginger also found Sunset’s daughter one morning, as well as another skittish leopard showing that as the bush dries ever so slightly, our leopard viewing is starting to get better and better. 


There were a load of elephant bulls hanging around near Plains Camp this week, with at least two groups of 8-12 induvials being seen.  It is not all that usual for us to see bachelor groups of elephants like this in the central Timbavati, as breeding herds with the calves are a far more common sight, but it made for a lovely change…although based on all the pushed over trees, I think the vegetation would disagree!!!  A large breeding herd of buffalo returned to the area too this week to add to our good megaherbivore viewing. 

I may sound like a broken-down record, but it is still such a treat to see the proliferation of plains game around the camp at the moment, with herds of 20-plus giraffes, loads of zebras and wildebeest, grunting hippos and ever-entertaining hyena seen most days.  The impalas are entering the height of their rutting season, and the roars of the rams fill the night sky; it is particularly noisy on the plains, and it is no surprise as the herds of female impala close to the river number well into the hundreds! 

Speaking of the river, it delivered my favourite sighting of the week when I had a brief sighting of a bird called an African Finfoot – it was the first time I had seen one in the Timbavati, and was not even on my Timbavati wish list!  Sadly, it was too far for a photo, but I do hope to see this secretive aquatic bird again this year.  Dale and I also went further south in the Timbavati to see another very rare bird for our region, a pair of Three Banded Coursers.  These birds are known to occur in northern Kruger, and further north into Zimbabwe and Botswana, but this remains a rare record for us in this area! 

That is it from me; I am off for a few days, but will update you all once again next week, so until next time, keep safe! 





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