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A Week of Big Cats in Photos

Chad Cocking | A Week In Pictures

A Week of Big Cats in Photos

Another wonderful week has passed us by here in the heart of the Timbavati, and it was once more a great few days of game viewing across the reserve. The week started with summer-like heat before a cold front moved in and brought some reprieve, as well as our first rains of the season, albeit only 9mm. Still, combined with the soil moisture still present from last year, the vegetation has started responding well, and more new green buds and blades of grass can be seen emerging from the still-very-brown surrounds. The lack of foliage continues to make for easier game viewing due to improved visibility so characteristic of this time of year. This fact was well reflected in our sightings this week that included sightings of the Super Seven, pangolin, honey badgers, and many more.

You read that correctly – I did casually drop a pangolin sighting there. On his way home one evening, Scotch found the elusive and incredibly odd mammal walking around on our access road. For once, I was on the drive and managed to join him and we spent some time with this almost reptilian-like creature before it eventually sought cover in a dense stand of grass, prompting us to leave her to her own devices.

Continuing with sightings of rarer creatures, we also had a few lovely sightings of a very relaxed honey badger spending time in the vicinity of Tanda Tula Plains Camp, both at the camp waterhole as well as on drive. Genets continue to be seen regularly during evening drives too.

On the big game side, we also had visits from our two rarer predators. The week began with a radio call that the two male cheetahs in the east were found feeding on a young impala late in the morning. The pair had finished their spoils by the time we got there, and we were able to see these usually elegant cats dragging their bulging bellies around as they sought a shady refuge to spend the rest of the day. And that’s just what they did as Scotch found them in the same place in the afternoon, but that was sadly the last we saw of them.

The wild dogs made a couple of appearances, and we are hoping that the pack from the north will begin spending more time in our area over the coming weeks. After a long absence, they have returned with their growing pups and spent time close to our northern boundary, running around the access road on most days, and invariably they popped off north or west into the Klaserie. I also found a single wild dog running around on its own one afternoon, but despite its solitary status, it didn’t deter the dog from chasing after the first herd of impalas it saw, sadly to no avail.

For the lions, it was a week of feasting. The River Pride made a return after a few absent months, but there were only six of the seven members present; when they got chased around by the Birmingham Breakaway males that night, I did wonder if their attention was not the reason that one of the young males was missing. The next day a few members of the Birmingham Breakaways were found with a large buffalo kill in the Zebenine Riverbed. I headed into the area the next day and we found that the majority of the Mayambula Pride had pitched up and stolen the buffalo kill from the Birminghams and were now feasting on it. Four of the six Birmingham Breakaways were resting at a nearby waterhole, but we caught up with them later in the morning sneaking up to the carcass to see if they could get it back, but upon seeing that the seventeen members of the Mayambula Pride were still there, they gave up. That evening the four males did get a chance to finish off the kill, but with the scent of the Mayambula Pride hanging in the air, the males were very nervous and moved off at the slightest disturbance.

The Mayambula Pride had a good week too and although we didn’t see them feeding on anything other than the buffalo, the pride walked around with full tummies for most of the week. They also spent the majority of the week within the concession which was a return to the norm. The two mothers of the youngest cubs moved their six cubs to the northern part of our concession and we were treated to a sighting of these bundles of joy on a couple of occasions. One morning we followed the two mothers back to the den, and the sounds of joy emanating from the cubs upon reuniting with their moms was just too cute for words.

Even the Giraffe Pride got in on the action this week, and after a couple of tracking efforts that saw their movements returning to the south of our concession, the pride was eventually found with a wildebeest kill on our boundary. Interestingly the pride had killed the wildebeest but had not yet begun feeding; instead, they were lying about 100m from it just watching. Later in the morning the nine members that were present eventually made their way to the kill, but even then there wasn’t the feeding frenzy one would expect from so many lions, with a few of the adults simply laying to the side resting. The Sark lioness also made one brief appearance this week.

Despite the lion activity in the area, we had a good week of leopard viewings too, although it seems as though it was only Savannah, a female, and her cub that wanted to play along. I viewed the duo drinking at a dam on our boundary at the start of the week but after that, they moved off south and out of the area. However a day or two later, Tristan found them coming back into our concession from the same spot. A failed stalk on some impalas led to the resident hyena clan racing in to investigate the commotion, and this sent the cub scampering up into the nearest tree to avoid too much attention. Savannah stayed sitting on a log but with half a dozen hyenas in the area, she too thought a tree was the best place to be. The next afternoon we tracked the pair down into a thicket where they were feeding on a guineafowl, and in the days that followed, Glen managed to spot the young male leopard no fewer than three times (and a further sighting spotted by our guests) to make for a good week of leopard viewing around Plains Camp. Sunset, Ntsongwaan, and almost all the other leopards failed to play along this week, but with two on our doorstep, we weren’t too fussed. I did find Nyelti female leopard on the prowl one morning when I headed to the east after our staff taxi reported seeing a leopard crossing the road; a little bit of searching saw us find this mother-of-two ambling down the road, scent-marking as she went. It does feel like an age since we saw her and the cubs, but from the odd reports of them, both cubs are still alive and well.

Another stand-out feature of this week was the number of giraffes still moving around the area. It wasn’t unusual to see a couple dozen giraffes during a drive, with these giants having a near-permanent presence on the plains close to camp.

Elephant viewing was good, and although the bulls around camp seem to have moved off, we did see several breeding herds this week. We also got to enjoy at least two different large breeding herds of buffalo (300-plus individuals in each herd) in the west, along with a group of ten buffalo bulls that hung around for most of the week. Add to this plenty of kudu, wildebeest, and good zebra sightings, along with ostriches, ground hornbills, vultures, eagles, and owls. Now you can see why it was such a good week in this part of the Greater Kruger.

Once again, we trust that you have enjoyed this week’s selection of photos, and be sure to check out our other social media platforms for even more.

Have a great week ahead, and be sure to check back in next Monday.

Until next time, cheers.

Chad

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