Lioness - Tanda Tula in the Timbavati Game Reserve, part of the Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa - Photo credit: Chad Cocking
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A week of green

Chad Cocking | A Week In Pictures

Another week, and more wonderful rain fell here in the central Timbavati.  We had 10 to 20mm of rain across our concession.  Last weekend the temperatures dropped and the jackets came out, but as the sun got higher in the sky, so the layers of clothing were removed.  The temperatures were soaring to the high 30s by the end of the week and the sprouts of green that show the promise of summer started to emerge all over the show.  With a bit of moisture and the energy from the sun, the bush took on a visibly greener appearance on a daily basis, even if it was only the grasses that were sprouting as opposed to new leaves budding on all the trees.  Even still, my guests all commented on how incredible it was to see this change even during their 3- or 4-day stays.

Lioness - Tanda Tula in the Timbavati Game Reserve, part of the Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa - Photo credit: Chad Cocking

It was a week that saw our lion sightings improve tremendously from the week before, and it started off with the fat-bellied Mayambula lionesses making a reappearance as they were found following a buffalo herd in the eastern sections.  In fact, they spent the whole week looking fat-bellied and continued to show themselves as incredible eating machines.  Despite this, we only ever saw the aftermath of their efforts in the form of bulging bellies and panting mouths, and didn’t see them with any of their kills.  The pride did disappear for two days, but spent the rest of the week within the concession and ended off with a stunning sighting of two lionesses mating with the two Skorro males about 100m apart – after each mating session the respective young lionesses would start roaring – this triggered a response from the mating male, and ultimately resulted in all the members of the pride beginning to serenade us with their powerful roars.

Lions - Tanda Tula in the Timbavati Game Reserve, part of the Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa - Photo credit: Chad Cocking

Lions mating - Tanda Tula in the Timbavati Game Reserve, part of the Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa - Photo credit: Chad Cocking

In addition to the Mayambula Pride, the River Pride with the last remaining Nharhu male made a reappearance and the pride was found with the remains of a zebra kill close to our western boundary one afternoon.  I sadly didn’t make it to the sighting (opting for the Mayambula Pride instead), but it sounds like the pride is looking in good shape.  I was hoping that they may stick around, but the next day we received word that they were on another zebra kill about 4km north of our concession in what is looking like their new home.  We also got to enjoy the presence of the Giraffe Pride on a couple of occasions this week; first with five lionesses and the Sumatra and Hercules males as they made their way to a nearby dam to drink (also looking fat-bellied), and then a few days later the five lionesses were much further west and we spent some time with them again.  One lioness still had suckle-marks, and two others looked pregnant, so it cannot be too long until we start seeing the pride settling in the area of where their cubs are/will be born.

After a fairly long absence, we caught up with Nyeleti this week when Civilized found her with an impala kill to the west of Tanda Tula Safari Camp, and she spent three days feeding on the carcass at her own leisure.  For a change, Xigodo didn’t pitch up at the kill, and in fact, for the first time in what feels like forever, we didn’t actually see the young male this week.  The good news is that Nyeleti is looking increasingly pregnant, and we are now waiting patiently for signs to indicate that she has had cubs, which will hopefully be within the next few weeks.  Thumbela made a couple of appearances in the east, although I had terrible luck with her; on two occasions as I was approaching the sighting, she disappeared into areas that were just too thick to follow and I didn’t even get to see as much as her tail disappearing.  Then on the one afternoon that we did find her at Machaton dam, she went bounding across the open area as the warthogs she was stalking trotted off and we just weren’t able to find her again.  That same evening Dale did pick up on a slightly shy young leopard at the dam, and although he thought it looked like a female, I suspect that it may have been Thumbela’s son.

Leopard portrait - Tanda Tula in the Timbavati Game Reserve, part of the Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa - Photo credit: Chad Cocking

The week was looking like it was going to be a wild-dog-free one until a report was received that there was audio for some wild dog activity reported on our southern boundary, a few kilometres from Nkhari Homestead.  Both Civilized and I were watching some mating lions in the north when this update came through and we decided to head off in that direction in the off chance that the pack could be within our concession.  Luckily, Civilized found the pack as they were coming into Nkhari Homestead and I wasn’t too far off, so joined him as the pack with their pups arrived at a small pan to cool down.  My first impression was that it was the pack with the 12 pups that we had spoiling us two weeks ago, but it didn’t take long to see that it was another pack from the southern Timbavati that consisted of 11 adults and ten pups.  The last time we saw the pack was back in April this year when they consisted of 18 adults, including a very pregnant alpha female.  The pack has likely splintered and only 11 adults have remained with this year’s pups (about 5 months old), including the alpha female and the floppy-eared alpha male.

Wild dog pups - Tanda Tula in the Timbavati Game Reserve, part of the Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa - Photo credit: Chad Cocking

The great general game sightings that filled our scenes last week seem to have dispersed to a degree as the rain that fell left enough water in small pools and pans across the Greater Kruger, allowing these herds to start moving into the surrounding areas that had been too dry to venture into over the past several months.  That being said, we still saw lots of giraffe, good zebras and wildebeest, a fair number of warthogs, plenty of kudus and some nice elephants (albeit not in the numbers we have been used to lately).  The buffalo herds moved on, and only two herds were seen in the eastern areas this week (but these are some of the first herds to have moved around in the east for several months now).  The few groups of bachelor buffalo bulls did, however, allow our guests to tick off their Big 5 this week.

On a birding front, there wasn’t much news to report, but it has been nice to hear the square-tailed nightjars calling at night, as well as hearing the Klaas’s cuckoo becoming increasingly vocal.  I also ticked off an African Jacana in one of the pans this week – the first time I have seen one here at Tanda Tula.

It was another fantastic week here in the heart of the Timbavati and as more and more greenery starts to pop up, it can only get better!  Be sure to check back again same time next week to see what our animals have been up to!

Until next time!

Cheers

Chad

Elephant - Tanda Tula in the Timbavati Game Reserve, part of the Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa - Photo credit: Chad Cocking

Zebra portrait - Tanda Tula in the Timbavati Game Reserve, part of the Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa - Photo credit: Chad Cocking

Elephant trunk - Tanda Tula in the Timbavati Game Reserve, part of the Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa - Photo credit: Chad Cocking

Necking Giraffes - Tanda Tula in the Timbavati Game Reserve, part of the Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa - Photo credit: Chad Cocking

Yellow billed Oxpecker - Tanda Tula in the Timbavati Game Reserve, part of the Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa - Photo credit: Chad Cocking

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