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A Week of More Lovely Lions in Photos

Chad Cocking | A Week In Pictures

Greetings all, and I trust that all of you that celebrate Easter had a wonderful weekend with friends and loved ones. Long weekends tend to be a busier time for us here in the Timbavati, and this weekend past was no exception. I ended up not being on drive for quite as long as expected, but still spent a wonderful four days on a drive with my guests and almost showed them the Super 7 during that time – not bad for their first-ever safari. Despite the cool mornings, the daytime temperatures this past weekend crept up into the mid-30s for several days in a row, and suddenly we realised that summer hasn’t left us just yet.

As seems to be a common trend of late, the lions of the western Timbavati held center stage. The Giraffe Pride continued to operate on the plains around Plains Camp with pleasing regularity. I returned to drive to hear that Tristan and Glen had found the pride with a fresh zebra kill in the morning, but by the time we headed out in the afternoon, the kill was no more, but the pride was still resting around a nearby waterhole. The next day they spent the day on plains, and after two days just south of our concession, they returned to the plains to end off the week on a high. In the two days that the Giraffe Pride were away (although we did have one single lioness from the pride wandering the plains one evening), the Sark Breakaway and Vuyela males were worthy substitutes. We found the pride one morning by pure chance – we were heading east for a change of scenery when Glen spotted two dogs on the access road some distance away. A glance with my binoculars confirmed that they weren’t hyenas, and were definitely of a canid nature…we started heading there a little quicker to relocate and almost missed a male lion that was in the long grass right next to the road. We had a quick look at the smaller Vuyela male making a rapid entry into Giraffe Pride territory as he followed the scent trail of something. We opted to leave him and head for the wild dogs instead but were soon returning to look for the lion as the wild dogs turned out to be two jackals. We headed onto a small clearing when the sound of fighting lions quickly led to us relocating on the lions in a thicket; the reason for his sniffing around was that there were eight members of the Sark Breakaway Pride hidden in the thicket, as well as three other Vuyela males. The arrival of the fourth male led to some fighting and growling, and he soon decided that it wasn’t worth hanging around and wandered back east. The pride remained around for another day before heading north into the Klaserie. The Mayambula Pride was not active within our concession this week, but the River Pride lionesses were seen on a couple of occasions in the eastern block to round off a great week of lion viewing.

Sadly, the presence of the lions once again seemed to impact our leopard viewing, but there was some bad luck involved in my guests and me missing out on these spotted beauties to close off our Super 7 for the week. Glen was following up on fresh tracks for what looked like Savannah and her son around the dam after which she was named – a dead impala in the water was no doubt what drew her in – but she remained out of sight in the thickets. Whilst we were searching for her, the other guides were enjoying a sighting of Sunset female and a fat-bellied Ntsongwaan male mating a little further east. When my backup plan got upgraded to the main plan after our unsuccessful tracking effort, we headed off towards the two cats, excited to see mating leopards for the first time in a long time. Frustratingly though, the pair managed to give the guide that was following them the slip, and this left Scotch and me scratching our heads as to how that happened. We sat and listened for close to half an hour, but no guttural mating calls or even flirtatious growls could be heard, and we had to leave the area empty-handed…I guess that is the way the bush goes sometimes! Not that we could complain about the other sightings we had enjoyed during the previous few days. Later in the week, Scotch found Nyeleti female wandering around close to Tanda Tula Safari Camp on one of his trips to the east.

The highlight of the week was that of a gorgeous female cheetah in the east; she was found on the plains to the east of Safari Camp one morning but lost as she moved through a thicket; as I was on the opposite side of our concession, I opted not to take a chance and was “relieved” that she was lost and I hadn’t wasted my time. Amazingly, the guides did relocate her to the middle of a massive block of land, and she had a young impala kill. As I wanted to take my guests to see Safari Camp anyway, we headed out to see her after breakfast and had a lovely time spent with her as she constantly scanned around waiting for the expectant scavengers that didn’t arrive. Later in the afternoon she abandoned the carcass just before sunset and headed off back east towards the Kruger Park.

On the wild dog front, other than our two faux-dogs, we did get to enjoy two different packs of wild dogs in the area this week; the pack of 20-odd spent three or four days around, and I managed to track them down on the first afternoon I was on the drive and spent some time with them as they chased impalas and regrouped following an unsuccessful hunt. The next morning the Blue Canyon pack of 13 members (the ones that denned just outside the reserve last year) were around on the access road, and we had a brief sighting of them later that evening again. The small pack of four also spent a day on our airstrip, but then they disappeared into the vast wilderness and weren’t seen again.

For the first few days, it felt like we only had elephant bulls around Plains Camp, even necessitating a trip to Safari Camp to see the numerous breeding herds that were active in that area. After that trip, we had daily sightings of breeding herds of elephants in the western and central regions, as well as some lovely time spent with a few big elephant bulls in the area. The buffalo sightings this week were once again limited to buffalo bulls, with there being no reports of any herds in the area.

The birding highlight for the week was seeing a male African jacana with a new clutch of chicks at one of our pans, and how he was carrying the little cuties under his wings.

And that folks is that. I will be back next week with one more blog update before heading on leave for a couple of weeks, so be sure to check back next week to see what has been happening here in the Timbavati

Until next time, cheers!





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