Chad Cocking | A Week In Pictures
What a difference a week makes! Although we only got a further 10mm of rain this week (when we were woken by a proper bushveld thunderstorm in the early hours of the morning), the sun’s energising warmth combined with the moisture from last week’s rain led to an environment that seemed to get greener by the day! The areas that burnt over the past months have a luminous green glow to them as nutritious, fresh grass is popping up from the earth, and even those areas that still have a thick layer of last season’s brown grasses are starting to turn green.
The amur falcons, European rollers and woodland kingfishers were far more evident as a myriad of insects emerged in the warm conditions following the rain. The evenings have been filled with the competing choruses of cicada beetles and frogs. The temperatures stayed warm to hot through the day, and late morning and afternoon drives enjoyed good sightings around the numerous mud wallows across the central Timbavati. Combine these great weather elements with the fact that baby impalas abounded, tawny wildebeest calves were running with their herds, and all the herds of elephants had some tiny babies in their midst meant that this was the first week that truly felt like summer, and man, what a feeling that is!
The lion activity died down a little after the first part of the week when three of the Vuyela males were found on Nkhari and were in the company of an unidentified lioness. Following this the Vuyela boys headed straight north and apparently had a run in with the River Pride, but reports later in the week confirmed that all cubs of the River Pride are still alive and well, albeit some distance north of our concession. The rest of the week belonged to the Mayambula Pride who, despite a couple of days of absence following the rain, made up the bulk of our sightings. All members were seen, with a few mating pairs amongst them. The older pregnant lionesses are clearly producing more milk, so we hope that the cubs will be coming in the not-too-distant future. The pride remained well fed through the week, but again, their ravenous appetite means that their kills are always done by the time we find them. One morning when Glen tracked them down, they were still chewing on some bones when he found them, but by the time we got there 10 minutes later they were done!
Thumbela represented the leopards well this week and she was seen on several occasions, including a day with her boy. Sadly, without much vehicle attention of late, he is rather shy and moves off quite quickly, which doesn’t bode well for having many more sightings of him as his time as a dependent leopard slowly draws to a close. My other sightings of leopards this week followed a similar pattern, and I found two different male leopards on successive drives, but sadly neither provided for good viewing due to their shy nature. The first appeared to be the pale eyed male whom we found near Nyeleti’s den site (trackers from a neighbouring camp had a sighting of two cubs along the Nhlaralumi riverbed this week), and whilst he didn’t run away, he did keep moving, so we left him to it. The next morning, whilst watching some rhinos, Glen casually pointed out a leopard with a baby impala kill in a tree some 200m away, but even at this distance the leopard wasn’t too pleased by our presence in the area and descended the tree with the kill and disappeared.
The elephants were out in full force around Tanda Tula Safari Camp throughout the week, and could be seen bathing in the dams and splashing in the wallows on a daily basis. The number of tiny new born babies was quite something to see, and we even got to see one that could not have been more than a half hour old, as it struggled to find its feet under the protective watch of the mother. By the time we left it, it had managed to achieve a standing position, but was still not old enough to be able to walk around – quite a special sighting to see one so young. A very large herd of buffalo spent several days in the central regions, and we also got to see the first baby buffalos of the season within a portion of the herd.
It was also delightful to see so many more baby impalas in the area, as well as very healthy numbers of zebras and giraffes. All these animals, combined with the scenic beauty of a summer landscape, as well as the abundance of smaller life made for a fantastic week. And whilst some might scoff at the smaller things, one of the highlights of the week for my guests was watching more than a hundred large copper dung beetles descend upon a single pile of elephant dung. The way that these beetles so clumsily just stopped flying and dropped into the poo had them in fits of laughter!
There is a forecast for more rain over the coming week, so we can only look forward to an even stronger transformation as we approach the end of 2021. But until then, keep safe and we will see you again next week!
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