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 The Old Year

Chad Cocking | A Week In Pictures

It has been so long since I sat down to write a blog that I almost feel like I need to reintroduce myself. 

I trust that you all had happy holidays with your loved ones, and a good end to 2021.  We also want to wish each and every one of you all the best for the year ahead – one with lots of love, happiness, good health and plenty of travel.  As always, you can sit back and look forward to many more blog posts in 2022 filled with stories, updates and loads of photographs of the animals that make Tanda Tula their homes.   

We enjoyed a very pleasant festive season with our guests, and got to see in the new year with a wonderful group too. It seems as though the animals were as happy to be sharing in these special times with the guests as we were, and really came to the party!  It is very difficult to summarise four weeks’ worth of sightings into one blog, so I will do my best to cover the best sightings but ensure that you aren’t reading this blog until next year!   

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

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

The lions were possibly the least cooperative of the bunch (actually wait, that honour definitely goes to the buffalos), and did make us work hard for our sightings.  The early part of the reporting period saw the Mayambula pride taking a leave of absence, but the River Pride popped in on a few occasions and even caught a baby wildebeest close to the camp one afternoon.  The Mayambula’s then did make a return just before Christmas and stayed until shortly before New Year, with one female leading us to believe that she may even have dropped her cubs on Christmas day, but this still needs confirmation.   

As the new year arrived, only the Skorro males made an appearance when they arrived to steal a zebra kill from some hyenas one evening before resting up for the day.  The lionesses from the Mayambula Pride remained alarmingly absent with only the tracks of a single lioness showing up in the area of the suspected den site occasionally.  The Ross and Hercules females were seen a few times in the western and central sections.  The best sighting was a showdown between these two cats and a clan of hyenas; the females did well to hold their ground, and without any food to fight over, the hyenas soon lost interest and moved off.  We could hear the Vuyela males roaring on a few occasions, but it seems as though they are reluctant to cross from the Klaserie and into the Timbavati. However, with the Ross and Hercules spending more time in our area, they may start making moves deeper into our concession as the year progresses. 

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

As is usually the case, with the absence of the lions, the other predators showed off, and we got to enjoy regular sightings of leopards, wild dogs and cheetah over the past few weeks.  The leopards in particular provided for some very good viewing as 2021 drew to a close.  Nyeleti’s den site with the two cubs was located and provided us with occasional glimpses when she was around.  One sighting saw us checking on an empty den site, but as we left and were checking the area to see if she was around, an unusually white object lying on the verge of the road caught my attention.  I had no idea what it was, but as I drew closer, I suddenly realised it was a leopard’s tail sticking out of the long grass (and boy, with the good rains we have had lately, it is long and green!) and slammed on brakes – fortunately my tracker had the presence of mind to hold on tight to avoid sliding off his seat and straight into the leopard and all ended well!  The leopard happened to be Nyeleti, and we followed her back to her new den and got another glimpse of the cubs.   

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

N’weti female was seen on a few occasions, and Xigodo young male made a return of sorts and graced us with his presence on several days.  Ntsongwaan was quite active in the far west, and the long-lost Xidulu male also seems to be making a return when the guides randomly bumped into him heading back to camp one morning.  He truly is a relaxed and special cat, and we are keeping our fingers crossed that he hangs around more and more in 2022.  Thumbela and her son spent good time around Machaton Dam and treated us to some lovely viewing when they were around. 

The leopard story of the month goes to a “brand new” female that arrived on Christmas Day close to Nkhari.  She had a kill near the camp, and seemed to be somewhat relaxed as she rested in a marula tree.  When she did stand up, she showed signs of lactating with suckle marks clearly evident.  Scotch’s guests named her Khisimusi female (it means “Christmas” in Xitsonga), and it turns out that her once off appearance was not the best gift, she gave us.  Steven and Hemut were following up on leopard tracks one morning along the Mapono riverbed in the south when they found her; upon arriving in the area, they noticed some small cubs scuttling off into a rocky outcrop in the bank.  Over the coming days as they monitored the den site, they saw not one…not two…but three young cubs belonging to Khisimusi!  Talk about a fantastic Christmas gift – we hope that our sensitive approach will allow both mother and cubs to become fully relaxed and habituated around our vehicles. 

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

The other spotted cat, the cheetah, also did very well in terms of putting on a show.  The first cheetah we were seeing was a somewhat shy cat that the guides found no fewer than three times, but each time, it simply moved off as soon as it saw the vehicle.  So, when after a quiet start to my first drive of 2022 my guest exclaimed “cheetah”, I fully expected it to just turn and run off.  Amazingly, it didn’t and it happened to be the return of our gorgeous and relaxed single female that pops in from time to time.  She spent the days leading up to this blog in the area, and provided us with some lovely sightings.   

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

Not to be outdone by the cats, the wild dogs also put in some regular appearances with three different packs moving through the area over the weeks; our regular pack of 21 from the north, the pack of 24 from the south, and a third pack of a similar size came in from the Kruger National Park.  One morning Civ’s guests got to watch the pack catch five baby impalas as they wrought havoc around Nkhari Homestead. 

The elephants were abundant throughout the weeks closing off the year and it was only the buffalos that failed to play along.  The general game stuck around in the area, with zebras, impalas, wildebeest, warthogs and even some giraffes all sporting some tiny young.   

It wasn’t only the large game that got us excited, but our feathered friends also spoilt us. Aside from the myriad of regular migrants fluttering through the area (European rollers, barn swallows, woodland kingfishers and carmine bee-eaters), we also got to see some very special birds.  For me, the highlight has been the presence of a flock of blue-cheeked bee-eaters that have settled on Tortillis Plains in the east; a first for me after all of these years, as was a sighting of a European honey buzzard. 

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

So that is how we ended off 2021 and kicked off the first few days of 2022.  It is great to be able to share these moments and images with you all again, so be sure to keep a look out for more blogs and stories as the weeks tick on by. 

 Until next time, take care and stay safe 

Cheers 

Chad 

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

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

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

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

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