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A Week of Abundance on the Plains in Photos

Chad Cocking | A Week In Pictures

Hello again, and welcome back to another break from the reality that is a Monday at work. It has been another fantastic week here in the Timbavati, and with two groups occupying the whole camp for successive bookings, we have not only been busy but also had loads of happy guests here to enjoy the sights, sounds, smells, and wonders of the start of summer. Despite not receiving any rain this week, the generally mild conditions made for a pleasant week, and with loads of soil moisture available for the plants, the surrounding Greater Kruger seemed to get greener by the day.

This week the recap will not start with the big cats as it usually does, but rather the hundreds of new additions to the world that arrived in the past couple of weeks in the form of the newborn baby impalas, zebras, giraffes, and also our first wildebeest calf on the plains.  The baby impalas are still dropping, but the nursery herds are growing by the day as more and more mothers bring their week-old lambs to join the masses – it defies imagination that the little lambs can move their long limbs with enough coordination to get anywhere, but we saw many of them running around and practicing their evasive techniques that will be essential now that they are out of hiding. We also saw the first baby wildebeest on the plains, but as the days come and go, there will be more and more new calves running around in no time at all.

The plains themselves have been nothing short of spectacular this week; the abundance of the game from impala, zebras, wildebeest, giraffes, kudus, and warthogs to the addition of hippos and a decent-sized crocodile at one of the dams has made any trip around this short grassy well worth it. Add to that the fact that we have also seen buffalo, loads of elephants, wild dogs, and regular sightings of the Giraffe Pride of lions on the plains this week and you will know why we enjoyed this week of game viewing so much.

The Giraffe Pride spent the majority of the week in the area, no doubt drawn to the plains by the abundance of available prey. Despite the short grassy habitat, the pride did manage to catch a wildebeest near the bottom of the plains one evening before moving off to one of the drainage lines to rest off their full bellies (in the same place they had been resting a couple of days before). That afternoon whilst watching wildebeest, impalas, elephants, zebras, and giraffes, one of the male giraffes was drawn to an approaching competitor on the other side of the drainage line and almost walked smack bang into the middle of the pride, but he was lucky that it was only the sub-adults that paid any attention to him and he managed to escape with ease. The next evening the distress calls of an animal drew us out shortly after dinner to go and investigate and we found that the pride had managed to catch another wildebeest in the woodlands to the east of camp.

Earlier in the week we also saw one of the lionesses stalk and catch a baby impala when a herd caught her attention as the pride was resting at Sunset Dam. She didn’t hang around once she caught it and not even her pride mates could find her to get their share of her efforts. Despite the positive hunting results this week, the pride did fail in one major area, and that was when they somehow left one of the small cubs behind and it spent three days milling around Plains Camp waiting for the pride to return. By the end of the week, the pride had passed the area in which the cub had been lost, but we were unable to ascertain whether or not the cub was reunited with the pride.

In other lion news, the Mayambula Pride made only one appearance in the east this week having spent their time to the south of the concession. The Sark Breakaway Pride also spent a couple of days at one of the waterholes in the west towards the end of the week, whilst the mating pair that had been around last week began the week with a continuation of their honeymoon in the central regions. There was also a visit from a small pride of three young lionesses and a young male on Nkhari, and it appears as though this may have been a portion of the Avoca Pride making an exploratory trip into a new region. The four Birmingham Breakaway males spent most of the week north of our concession on a buffalo kill but did return south once they had finished. A fifth member was found wandering around on his own, and he came very close to reuniting with his brothers, but somehow missed the opportunity – this didn’t bother him much and he was found with a buffalo kill of his own the next day. To round off a great week of lion viewing, we also bumped into three of the Vuyela males resting on our main access road on the way back to camp one evening; this after already having seen the Giraffe Pride close to camp, as well as the lone Sark lioness.

I had a week of non-existent leopard viewing, but Ginger had better luck; he got to see Sunset females in the west as well as a couple of skittish individuals. Scotch also found a skittish individual in the northeast (where we aren’t used to leopards running away). One afternoon when our first group of guests was busy with a leadership activity, the impressive Ntsongwaan male spent the afternoon walking around patrolling his territory.

We were once again spoilt with some wonderful buffalo viewing during this week with a couple of herds hanging out in the west, as well as another couple of herds being reported in the east. One herd in the west joined us for a cup of coffee at Sunset Dam one morning and it was quite a treat to see around 500 members streaming in to have a drink before moving off into the distance.

The elephants were also out in full force this week and it was a delight to see both bachelor groups and breeding herds making themselves at home around Plains Camp again, as well as in the east around Safari Camp. With the bush being as lush and green as it is, they have food aplenty and it is no surprise that they are hanging around enjoying the spoils of summer.

Closing off the week, we continued to have some regular visits from the wild dogs, with no fewer than three packs being reported within our concession this week. We got to see the portions of the Blue Canyon pack of 23 in the west this week, although when we did see them they arrived without their sub-adults for some reason. This didn’t stop them from harassing both the rhinos and the buffalos that they encountered whilst we were following them. A couple of days later they were with the “pups” and pitched up in front of Plains Camp in the afternoon trying their luck on the newborn baby wildebeest on the plains, but the adults were having none of it and promptly chased the dogs away…they then tried for the zebra foals, but the result was the same. Sadly, as we were off having a drink at Sunset Dam, this was only enjoyed by the staff who stood on the verandah watching the drama unfold in front of them! There was also the pack of four in a similar area on the same day, and then a report of another large pack in the far east a day earlier. With the number of baby impalas popping into the world, these dogs do not need to travel far to find a meal, so we are hoping that they spend more time in the area in the coming weeks.

Another highlight of the week was seeing a flock of grey-headed gulls at Machaton Dam; although not an uncommon bird in South Africa, it is a very rare species for the Timbavati. They were not the only flying creatures to keep us entertained, as the abundance of fireflies flittering by in the evenings was something that also brought a massive smile to all of our faces.

And that is once again a wrap from us this week. Be sure to check back in again next Monday for our final weekly update of 2022.

Until next time, Cheers.





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