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A Week of Stunning Sightings of the Super Seven in Photos

Chad Cocking | A Week In Pictures

Another week of winter has passed us by, and although the mornings are still somewhat chilly, the daytime temperatures have been most pleasant over the past few days.  The generally clear blue skies looked down upon a wonderful array of game this week, and our guests were spoilt with some super sightings throughout the week. 

The general game around Plains Camp was once again fantastic, and it so wonderful to see the bountiful herbivores around the plains; one afternoon drive saw us ticking off the following species around camp during the drive: elephant, buffalo, giraffe, zebra, impala, wildebeest, steenbuck, nyala, kudu, baboons, hippo, hyena, black-backed jackal, civet, dwarf mongoose and a male lion – we also saw wild dogs from some distance off, but sadly they had disappeared by the time we got closer!  In addition to the plentiful plains game, my guests were also lucky enough to have ticked off the Super Seven during their 5-night stay! 

 

The trip got off to a great start when as we were getting ready to jump aboard the vehicle news came that some of our staff had seen a pack of eleven wild dogs running along the access road towards camp!  The guests shot into the vehicle, and we rushed around to relocate the pack as they were on the hunt – they stopped off at a small hyena den to harass the hyena cubs that remained safely inside their protective hole (a culvert under the road); the adult hyenas were not quite as lucky and the wild dogs got hold of one of the clan members and gave its butt more than a few nips!  The impalas were lucky enough to escape on this afternoon before the pack returned to their den site sitting on a small property outside of the reserve.  The pack did show up briefly later in the week again, but it will not be long before they start moving around with their pups and hopefully provide for some longer sightings. 

On the lion front, we did manage to get a couple of good sightings of some of our large prides – the Mayambula Pride were seen regularly to the east of Tanda Tula Safari Camp this week, and we were spoilt one afternoon when all 20 members of the pride – including the two Skorro males – were found together!  The seven lionesses left the cubs as it got dark to go hunting, and it was some sight to bump into these gals walking down the road…I cannot wait until the whole pride starts moving around like this; it will make for a memorable traffic jam!  The following morning, we got a bonus lion sighting when Scotch found all seventeen members of the Giraffe Pride feasting on a recently caught zebra just to the east of Plains Camp.  The sounds of seventeen lions fighting over the carcass was something not easily forgotten.  Sadly, these lions moved back south and only the cubs popped up once more during the week.  We did also hear the contact calls of a lion near the plains early one morning and followed up to briefly find a male lion moving into a thicket; despite trying to relocate him for most of the morning, he gave us the slip.  We did manage to find him close to Savannah Dam in the evening, but I am still waiting a positive ID on this guy, as he didn’t appear to be either the Hercules or Sumatra males, yet he was roaring and scent-marking, so I am sure I just misidentified him.  The week ended off with the Mayambula Pride again making their presence known around Machaton Dam in the east. 

We got to see the Savannah leopardess close to camp another couple of times this week, and I can see why the guides in this area are big fans of her!  She is not only gorgeous, but also an incredibly relaxed cat!  We watched her stalking a duiker one afternoon but sadly for the leopard, the antelope got away.  Thumbela female shifted her activity to the area around Safari Camp once again, just as she did when she was pregnant with her last cub.  She is still looking a little frail, but I am sure she will bounce back soon.  We also got to see a young male leopard in that area too, and the day after he was found with an impala kill near Safari Camp, but sadly he was a little nervous and didn’t provide for any good sightings.  The guides did also get to see another unidentified young male leopard of a somewhat similar nature with an impala kill close to Nkhari Homestead, but this guy did provide for good viewing after dark.  As the week drew to a close, Ginger got to see Sunset female a couple of times this week, including a sighting of her and her daughter on the move one morning. 

My few days of cat sightings, and our Super 7 was brought to a wonderful conclusion when the two cheetah brothers made a welcome return!  Steven had found their tracks one afternoon but wasn’t having luck finding them until they popped out of a thicket later in the afternoon.  My guests had cheetah as their last “wish”, so the next morning we headed into the open areas of the east and drove around in search of these two cats.  We spent the morning checking on the open areas but weren’t even finding any tracks.  I opted to stop on one of the large sodic sites (a flat, open area) for coffee hoping they would pop out, but alas, there was no sign.  I thought I would try one last set of open grasslands when the radio call from a colleague came across that he had found them…right where we had been having our coffee!  The two brothers crossed the Machaton Riverbed onto one of the large open areas and we followed them as they strolled across the clearing to round off a fantastic week of game viewing! 

The week was also filled with good sightings of some large buffalo herds (we saw four of the five large herds moving in the area this past week) including the large herd that has the non-binary buffalo with the incredibly wide horns; in addition, there were some great elephant sightings as the herds seemed to make their presence a little more well known.   

With the game viewing being as good as it is, I am a little sad to see that I won’t be on game drive for the next few days, but will definitely try and pop out on a few occasions to get some photos – so be sure to check back in on what we got to see next week! 

 

Until then, cheers! 

 

Chad 

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