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A Week of a New Moon and New Faces

Chad Cocking | A Week In Pictures

As another month of the calendar gets ripped off the wall,I had to pinch myself as I realised that we are almost half way through 2022 already!  Despite having to add an extra layer for the morning drives as winter approaches, the bush surrounding Tanda Tula Plains camp is still incredibly green for this time of year and more reminiscent of a summer scene than a typical autumn landscape. The animals seem to be enjoying it and provided us with another week of wonderful viewing.

The dark nights around the new moon allowed us to enjoy some spectacular sights of the heavens on a nightly basis. As the week drew to a close a little sliver of the crescent moon began to emerge as the next phase of this endless cycle is set in motion. As the full moon approaches, we can expect an intensification in the rutting behaviour in the male impalas. As it is, the nights are already filled with their roars and grunts and as a result, the predators’ bellies are usually filled with male impalas!  We saw several predators on kills this week, and each one was a male impala!

Tanda Tula - Timbavati - South Africa

The leopards were responsible for a few of those kills; we got to see the Mvubu leopardess and her cub on a few more occasions over the course of the week as they spent almost seven days feeding on the massive male impala she had killed!  Sadly, she remained viewable only at night and didn’t provide too many great sightings, but we will consider her “a work in progress”.  Another new face appeared this week when Scotch and Jack found an unknown male leopard on a male impala kill near Plains Camp.  During the day this male took a leaf out of the Mvubu female’s book and disappeared down the tree and into the thickets, but at night, he was incredibly relaxed and provided us with some great viewing for a few nights in a row.

The Mbilu leopardess also showed herself on three occasions around Plains Camp. We stumbled upon her resting up a marula tree one afternoon as we were talking about our plan to look for leopards, but sadly we were right next to the tree by the time her tail appeared. She watched us for a little while before descending and showing interest in a male warthog that was at least twice her size!  Discretion is the better valour, and she knew this and walked off in the opposite direction.  A few days later we had a lovely nocturnal sighting of her resting on fallen tree watching some guineafowls in the tree above.

Tanda Tula - Timbavati - South Africa

Tanda Tula - Timbavati - South Africa

Further to the east, the guides enjoyed a sighting of Nyeleti and her cubs who were found a couple of times. The young Xigodo male had a young impala kill in the north-east and spent a few days there – even Thumbela and her son rocked up at that sighting!  This same duo were picked up close to Machaton Dam a few days later, so it is good to know that she is still around.

On the lion front, the Mayambula Pride were active in the south-east, and we had a couple of good sightings of the pride with the cubs.  I have clearly cursed things by saying that the new cubs will soon show, as another week has passed without any sign of them.  The two young lionesses that have had cubs have not been with the pride this week, but the other non-mothers did join up with the rest of them briefly.

Tanda Tula - Timbavati - South Africa

Earlier in the week the two Skorro males were found feeding on a baby giraffe close to Tanda Tula Safari Camp, but they made quick work of that and headed back east.  The next day we found the cubs playing with the remains of another male impala kill.  The Giraffe and limping Monwana males spent most of the week in the central regions and succeeded in catching a sub-adult buffalo one evening as a large herd of 300-plus buffalos moved through the area.  Considering his ailment, the Monwana male is looking in good general shape, but is clearly reliant on the young Giraffe male for hunting.

Tracks for the Hercule’s and Sumatra males moved through the area a couple of times, and their roars could be heard to the south of Plains Camp, but the Giraffe Pride refused to play along this week.  Solitary lionesses from the Sark Pride were also seen, and a report of the Sark lionesses with their cubs moving from Klaserie into the Timbavati were received, but sadly they were not found.

We had a few sightings of the pack of 13 wild dogs in the west this week around Plains Camp, and I even saw them on our access road on the way to town this morning.  A small splinter pack of three dogs also spent a few days running around Nkhari, but they proved difficult to keep track of in such a small unit.  The northern pack of 20-odd members also paid a brief visit to the northern sections before moving west into Klaserie.  There was one report of a single cheetah on our southern boundary one morning, and with a 50/50 chance of it moving deeper into our concession, I headed over to try my luck (always worth it for a cheetah). Upon arriving we found that it had sadly headed further south into the Timbavati.

The hyenas continued to be very active not only around the den site, but in the area in general and they were a feature on almost every drive.  We also had sightings this week of lots of black-backed jackals, white tailed mongooses and wild cat (not including little Nova…who is a not so little anymore!).  Other nocturnal sightings included regular hippos grazing outside of the waterholes, bush babies and genets.  Guests were again delighted to see so many giraffes, zebras, wildebeest and warthogs around, once again making for a wonderful week of viewing in this part of the Greater Kruger Park.

Until next time, keep safe!

Cheers

Chad

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