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 missing out

Chad Cocking | A Week In Pictures

Hello all, and a welcome back to work to me!  I have just returned from a lovely two-week break. As is often the case, I was kept in a constant state of jealousy during my break as I saw what I was missing!  If I were management, I would pay me to stay away more often, as the sightings during my absence were nothing short of spectacular it seems, and I don’t really know where to even begin summarising them?

I guess following my standard recipe wouldn’t be a bad idea, especially as the lions featured so prominently during this period.  Scotch commented that his guests eventually asked to stop seeing lions as there were just so many sightings around!  Scotch said that on one run of drives there were no fewer than seven different lion sightings to choose from!!!  The Vuyela males continued to push further east, and three of the five males and a couple of females ended up with a buffalo kill close to Nkhari Homestead, and it seems as though just after this, the other two males had another buffalo kill in the same vicinity.

At the same time, the Sark Breakaway pride had a zebra kill west of Tanda Tula Safari Camp and the Giraffe Pride were on a giraffe kill further west, with some other lions on a second giraffe kill in the same area!  There were more unidentified lions on another kill on our boundary with Klaserie. The Mayambula Pride spent three days resting in a similar area in the east and the Skorro males patrolled their territory to the northeast.  Talk about being spoilt for choice.

The Giraffe Pride proved to be a great sighting as the lionesses showed off their cubs for the first time; there were two litters of three cubs, with the smallest being only 6-8 weeks old and incredibly tiny and full of cuteness.  Upon returning to work, I heard that the lions had all left, but this proved not to be true as Civilized found the well-fed Mayambula Pride resting up in the western part of their territory on my first drive, and the next morning we found one of the Skorro males searching for his brother in the east.

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

It wasn’t just the lions playing along, but the leopard sightings also sounded great – Nyeleti paid us a visit in camp on my last night before leave and we saw her walking down the pathway past the tents as we sat and enjoyed a barbeque at our house.  She was found the next day again and was apparently not looking pregnant anymore, leading to speculation that she has dropped her cubs, but we still aren’t 100 percent sure where.  N’weti was seen a few times during this time and had her cub on show for the guests during my absence.  Upon my return, Xigodo showed himself for the first time in over a month!  He had however forgotten how to act in front of guests and spent the morning sleeping off a fat belly in a stupidly thick bush, not allowing for much of a sighting.

Luckily Thumbela was a little better behaved and we saw her close to Safari Camp on our way home from Bush Breakfast yesterday morning.  This morning she was together with her son on an impala kill to the north of camp (but sadly my camera batteries died when they were posing together, so I missed a great shot!).  Further to these regulars, the Nsongwaan male also showed himself this morning in the west, and the young male around Nkhari was also seen a couple of times during the past weeks, but sadly he is still some way from being a very relaxed cat.

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

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

Sticking with the cats, the cheetahs also put in an appearance on several occasions during the past weeks.  The relaxed single female was seen on successive days in the open woodlands in the east, and a few days later, the two males were picked up in the same area, followed by her return the day before I got back to work.  Naturally, she hasn’t shown herself since I have been back on drive, but I am sure this is not the last we see of these cats at this time of the year.  The wild dogs were not as active, but a pack of 35-odd wild dogs did briefly move into the area from the west.

On the baby front, the first baby impalas were being seen from around the 7th November – about a week earlier than normal – and I even saw one sizeable lamb on my way back into work.  Since then, we have come across a few younger, newborn ones.  Scotch had an amazing sighting of a pair of black-backed jackals that had come across a newborn lamb and strategically and incessantly harassed the protective mother until eventually they got the lamb and dispatched it.  These same two jackals have still got their two fast-growing pups near Nkhari that are getting bigger by the week.  In addition to these babies, we also have our first active hyena den site in the area for many years!  Although with the number of hyenas we have I am sure there have been other dens that we have simply not found, the guides did locate one this week and we now have two two-month-old cubs at this new site.

Arriving back to work, it was also great to see so many buffalos around – I saw three different buffalo herds in yesterday afternoon’s drive, including a herd of 200 drinking at the waterhole by Tanda Tula, another about 3km to the south, and a small herd on Nkhari.  The zebras seem to have stayed in decent numbers in our central areas, including a few newborn foals.  The elephants were about the only ones that didn’t play along and there were times when they were simply not around. Upon my return they have been fairly active, and we even caught up with a herd with a tiny baby over the past couple of days of driving.  The enormous Apollo also made his return to the area for the first time in about a year, but far more amazing was the fact that one of the guides eventually found the tusk he broke off over three years ago!  The fire that burnt through the eastern sections where we knew he broke it left conditions far more visible and some good spotting saw a 20,4kg fragment of his broken right tusk being found!

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

And if that wasn’t enough, on my first morning of leave, my sleep-in was disturbed by a radio call form Civilized saying that he had found a black rhino!  Having only seen black rhinos a handful of times in all my years here, it didn’t take long for me to throw on some uniform and head out to go and spend some time with this guy.  It is a bull that we have seen before, but he has been dehorned for his own protection, hence our ability to share some photos of him.

De-horned Black Rhino at Tanda Tula in the Timbavati Game Reserve, part of the Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa - Photo credit: Chad Cocking

De-horned Black Rhino at Tanda Tula in the Timbavati Game Reserve, part of the Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa - Photo credit: Chad Cocking

So, as you can see, things have been pumping out there – I am back on drive for the foreseeable future, so I do hope that the run of game viewing continues and I look forward to bringing you more updates over the coming weeks.

Until next time, keep safe!

Cheers

Chad

 

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

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

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

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

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