Chad Cocking | A Week In Pictures
Hello hello, and welcome back to Tanda Tula’s weekly highlights blog, and what a week it was. In true form, the game viewing was outstanding around Plains Camp when I was on leave last week, with the pack of 22 wild dogs and the entire Giraffe Pride spending almost the entire week around the property. I returned to work last weekend and fully expected all of the animals to disappear as soon as I was out on game drives, but as you will see from this week’s selection of photos, it was quite the opposite. The week was a mild one in terms of weather and most mornings were somewhat cloudy which kept the heat at bay, but by the time the sun broke through later in the day the mercury had started rising. Although we had a few sprinklings of rain, the forecasts suggest that next week should see us getting our first proper rains of the summer, and if this materializes, you will be able to see the transformation in the bush between this week’s somewhat drab surrounds and the verdant greens that are going to start popping through within days of the rain falling. That is however getting a little ahead of ourselves, and putting a great deal of trust in the weatherman’s ability to predict rain.
I usually like to start with my highlight of the week, but there were just so many magical moments during my week of driving that it will be difficult to choose a favorite. So, I guess I will start the way I usually do with the lions, and the fact that the Giraffe Pride continued to spend time within our concession was no doubt a highlight. By the time they eventually moved off the property, they had spent almost two full weeks in our concession. Considering that they usually only pop in for a few hours at a time, it was an absolute treat to have them as a daily presence on the game drive. What has undoubtedly led to this behavior was that the seven little cubs of the pride are now getting more mobile and moving with the pride, and being taken to kill. Following these kills, the pride usually returns to a nearby waterhole and spends time around there, leaving the cubs in the vicinity when they go off hunting again, only to return to the cubs to fetch them for a kill, or to give them milk. With the addition of the seven cubs, the pride is now standing at 25 members – two males, six females, ten sub-adults, and seven cubs – and an absolute treat to spend time with, as there are lions everywhere. The wildebeest and zebra herds are probably less excited about their presence, and the pride was found with the remains of one of each of them during the week, as well as other occasions when they simply had full bellies, but no kill was found. Towards the end of the week, the pride did leave the seven cubs on our side and move off but returned to fetch them and take them to a zebra kill they had made.
It was just as well that the Giraffe Pride was so cooperative, as the Mayambula Pride in the east was far less so. Reports were received that one of the adult lionesses has a seriously injured – possibly broken – leg and is very immobile about a kilometer to the south of our boundary. With her in this state, the pride has been spending its time outside of our concession, and we can only hope that she makes a recovery and the pride begin moving within our area again. The Skorro males did make a few trips north and deeper into our area of the Timbavati, and it is a good idea that they do, as both the Vuyela (three males) and Birmingham Breakaways (six males) were seen walking around in the western part of their territory. The Vuyela males were found finishing off the remains of a kill that they had possibly stolen from the Birmingham Breakaways. The River Pride also spent two days in the area to round off a great week of lion viewing in central Timbavati.
As is often the case, when the lions are active the leopards go into hiding, but we still had some good viewing of these spotted beauties. Nyeleti was very active around Tanda Tula Safari Camp this week and was seen with a couple of kills over the week, and had both cubs in attendance. She was also seen out and about on her territorial patrols during the week. In the west, a Savannah female was found feeding on a black-backed jackal close to Plains Camp at the beginning of the week and then only resurfaced in the area towards the end of the week. Scotch also found a young female leopard resting up a marula tree on his way to Bush Breakfast one morning, but sadly she was not the most relaxed individual and moved off when some mongooses started shouting at her.
The leopards were not the only spotted beauties to show up this week, and we were all delighted to hear the report of our two male cheetahs being found on Tortillis Plains near Safari Camp early in the week. It was even sweeter as my guests had (amongst their never-ending list) asked to see cheetah. I kept the sighting a surprise from them as we headed to the east and ended up getting there as they were still clearly on the hunt. We were about to leave them when a family of warthogs pitched up ahead of the pair, and they immediately began stalking. The cheetahs then ran off after the young warthogs before going into a full sprint but disappearing from view; we waited dead still and quietly until we heard the unmistakable squeal of an unfortunate warthog being caught. We raced off in the direction where the cheetahs were last seen but found nothing. Unfortunately for the cheetahs, a hyena had heard the same squeal and came charging in, so we decided to follow her instead and she soon led us straight to the two males suffocating the warthog. Amazingly, the cheetahs didn’t just run off but fought for their share of the kill and after the hyena eventually killed the warthog, the trio settled down to feed together. The hyena guzzled her way through her section of the kill before eventually deciding that she had had enough of sharing and chased the cheetahs off. What an incredible time we had with the pair, and after all of my years of guiding, this turned out to be my first cheetah kill. On another plus side, we did make it back in time for brunch.
The pack of 22 wild dogs that had been so present last week began the week with a similar level of presence and were around for the first two mornings of my time back on the drive, but after that, they moved off to the north and didn’t pop back into the area. Still, they gave us some great viewing when they were around, and enjoyed harassing the wildlife on the plains in front of Plains Camp. Later in the week we also caught up with a smaller pack of just four wild dogs in the east, but with their full bellies, they didn’t get up to too much.
Rounding off the week’s great viewing was another contender for highlight of the week. The elephant herds had started moving back into the area in a big way towards the end of the week, and we enjoyed a wonderful time with big, relaxed herds, many of which had some very small calves with them (only a few weeks old). On my last drive for the week, Glen pointed out a herd of elephants just off the plains, so we made our way closer and noticed that the herd was gathered around a small calf, and we immediately knew that it must have been a newborn. Getting a little closer, we could not only see the fresh blood down the back of mom’s legs, but the calf still had some of the placenta hanging off its back. We sat in awe as we watched the youngster find his feet and stumble around as the herd gathered to investigate their newest addition.
Although a few buffalo bulls spent time in the area (around the Klaserie River), there were some big herds in the area too. The eastern sections had a couple of herds around with one herd that side numbering at least 300 members, and later in the week an even larger herd returned to the western sections and graced us with their presence as hundreds of them grazed through the area. When this same herd was around earlier in the week, they also drew the attention of four of the Vuyela males before both parties moved out of the concession.
And that folks, was that. What a stunning week it was (so sorry for all the photos), and with me going on leave again this coming week (and before you ask, yes, I do occasionally do some work), I can only imagine that in my absence there will be some more great viewing. Tristan will be giving you an update – cheeky comments about my absence included – next week, so until then, have a great week.
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