Chad Cocking | A Week In Pictures
It’s another week and another return from leave for me. How on earth am I going to cope with two weeks of work before I head off on another break???
It appears, whilst the Giraffe Pride didn’t return in my absence, I did miss out on some good game viewing. I actually brought my family and friends for a little drive at Tanda Tula during my time off and we had a great morning out – starting late in the morning I was spoilt for choice with wild dogs, leopards, and lions on a zebra kill all being found close to one another. Instead, I opted to head east and see if the two cheetah brothers or Mayambula Pride had returned (both had been seen just east of our concession the days before), but neither showed so I had to settle for rhinos, elephants, and time with the Sark Breakaway Pride and their five “cubs” as they rested off near their zebra kill close to our western boundary. It was our first time seeing these youngsters in the Timbavati as the pride have been spending all of their time in the Klaserie.
Coming back to work, I was driving out of our Nkhari Homestead for the first few days of this slightly shorter reporting period, and it was wonderful to be able to spend more time in our old stomping ground… this was made better by some great game viewing, even if the weather was not “the best”. With cloudy, drizzly weather (bringing 17mm of rain, to go with last week’s 10mm) and a massive drop in temperatures, it didn’t feel very summery. The benefit of this was that it didn’t matter what time we went on the drive, so late morning and early afternoon drives were the order of the day, and man, did they deliver.
The Mayambula pride returned to the area after a two-week absence, and after spending time close to Tanda Tula Safari Camp moved a little to the north where we caught up with some very fat-bellied members of the pride, including the six small cubs all begging for more food. The mothers seemed more intent on locating the rest of the pride and we left them to it. The rains the next day made keeping track of the pride a little more difficult, but the lionesses, males, and sub-adults were found close to Nkhari late one afternoon, and we decided to follow up on them the next morning after another rainy night, and once more found a bunch of bulging bellies lying around and enjoying the cooler weather. With their hunting success, the pride didn’t move too far that night and the next morning they were making their way toward Marco’s Dam. It was our first sighting of the majority of the pride on the move, and we got to see the injured lioness that Tristan had referred to last week. It has been a relief to see that this young lioness has begun moving with the pride; reports were that after she injured her front left leg, she simply sat at a waterhole for several days as the pride moved off, and I didn’t think we would see her again. Despite this good news, the lioness is still far from fine. She can barely put any pressure on her massively swollen leg, and without any external injuries visible, we can only assume that there is some massive internal damage. Considering she has been like this for two weeks now and it isn’t getting noticeably better, we can assume that the injury may be a fracture in her leg bones (but then, I am no vet). For now, despite the difficulty of walking with three legs, the lioness is keeping pace with the pride and can get regular meals from them. With a great deal of luck, maybe she will be able to give the leg enough rest for her body to heal itself and maybe, just maybe, she can make a recovery. Towards the end of the week, the young cubs re-joined the pride, but only four of the six were present which was a bit worrying, but time will tell if something has happened to the others, or if they were just left hidden somewhere else.
The Giraffe Pride seems to have returned to old habits and didn’t show themselves yet again, but reports were received that they were on another dead buffalo carcass, but these claims weren’t substantiated. In their absence, Tristan and Jack did manage to find the five Vuyela males one evening and they were in the heart of Giraffe Pride territory. This is the first time we have seen these males move into this area, but fortunately for the Giraffe Pride, by the next morning, these impressive males had moved back north into Klaserie. Four of the six Birmingham Breakaways spent some more time in the area and were found with a buffalo kill in our north-western corner during the week.
Whilst our guests enjoyed some good leopard viewing last week (in my absence, you will note), this week these spotted cats were once again a little scarcer. Thumbela leopardess managed to get herself an impala kill close to Tanda Tula Safari Camp, but without the strength to get it into a tree, the hyenas had arrived to steal it from her within 24 hours. She is sadly not looking in great shape, and her 13 years of life are starting to show more and more clearly. She was sadly fast asleep during both sightings I had of her, so I never got to see how her wounds are doing, but with it appearing as though she has an equally severe wound on the other leg now, it will take a miracle for her to recover fully from this. In her desperation, she was seen trying to get into the endangered southern ground hornbill nest in the heart of her territory. Aside from that, there was a sighting of a young male leopard in the west, and tracks for Sunset and Savannah females, but sadly no sightings were reported.
I had a great few days at Nkhari when it came to other predators too; on one early afternoon drive, we were stopped to watch some kudus when four wild dogs suddenly came running into our sighting. We followed the pack until they successfully killed a female impala and managed to get a full feed before the hyenas found them.
On my guest’s last morning I had dropped them off at camp to have a quick breakfast and pack before their departure when Eric and I decided to go and remove a nearby tree that had been pushed over one of the roads about a kilometer from Nkhari. Whilst driving along, I looked up and almost couldn’t believe my eyes when there were two cheetahs standing next to the road. We radioed the camp and got them to bring the guests out to see them and got to enjoy a quick sighting of the two brothers before heading back to finish breakfast. The cheetahs did manage to make a kill during the day and were found resting in the same spot late in the afternoon with fat bellies. I have only driven out of Nkhari twice, and on both occasions, we managed to find cheetahs on our final morning…maybe I should do that more often.
The one species that was missing from my first few days back were the buffalos, and even the dagga boys were scarce in the central regions, but a large breeding herd of buffalo did arrive in the west close to Plains Camp and ended up spending the last few days of the week there. It is difficult to count buffalos, but this herd was massive, and I would guess that they were more than 700-800 buffalos, and because I drove through the heard for almost 1,5km, a little part of me wants to say that there could have been close to a thousand individuals, but for fear of exaggerating, I will stick to the original estimate. The elephants were quite active during the week, with herds being seen across the concession daily.
My first day back at Plains Camp was dominated by giraffes, and it was amazing to see just how many were hanging around the western Timbavati. Even around Nkhari, giraffes were plentiful, and it was a joy to see these gentle giants in good numbers. Zebras and wildebeest were common too, and we also enjoyed a few good honey badger sightings with my guests. The past two weeks we also welcomed back a few new migrants – Levaillant’s Cuckoo, Common Buzzards, Wood Sandpipers, Violet Backed Starlings and Lesser Spotted Eagles were all seen this week. Although just outside of our concession, it was amazing to receive reports of two Blue Cranes being found around a waterhole in the southern Timbavati – this is an incredibly rare tick for our area, and the first time our national bird has been recorded in the Timbavati.
That’s it from us for this week. There is some good rain predicted for next week, so we shall see if our weatherman’s predictions are correct for a change.
Until next time, Cheers!
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