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A Weekend of Cracking Cats in Photos

Chad Cocking | A Week In Pictures

It feels like ages ago that I sat down to write a Week in Pictures blog, and I guess after over two weeks off drive, it has been a veritable age. As usual, there were some great sightings in my absence; the Giraffe Pride made a surprise and potentially unprecedented visit to Nkhari when they were found there with a zebra kill. That afternoon the guides found them in the area once again, but their presence was eclipsed by sightings of both a pangolin and a black rhino near the lions. Jack told me that they also saw two Vuyela male lions feasting on a young elephant, but no one is sure whether they caught it themselves or found it dead. The Giraffe Pride spent much of the period on the plains and around camp, even popping up to the waterhole for a drink one evening. My most envious moment whilst away was hearing that the guides found a cheetah on the plains – it was the first cheetah seen on the plains since our move to Plains Camp…and naturally, I wasn’t there to see it. 

I returned to work on Friday, just in time for a few days of guiding over the weekend, and whilst out training for the Timbavati Traverse, listened to the radio with more than a tinge of envy as the guides found the lions that I could hear roaring on Nkhari… and one of the males happened to be a white lion. Some consolation was seeing an ostrich and a secretary bird whilst out on my own; I have seen more white lions in the Timbavati than secretary birds… fortunately, I was heading out in the afternoon with some long-time return guests and we headed straight over to Nkhari hoping to get luck with the white lion ourselves. It was a tough choice, as the Giraffe Pride were resting on the plains near Plains Camp, but I was confident that we would get another chance to see them, so headed to the Birmingham males instead. Luckily for us, their fat bellies meant that they had not been overly active during the day and were found resting not far from where they had settled in the morning. It was a sight to see a growing male white lion in our area. Although the Birmingham males (including the white male) have been seen in the area a few times over the past year, this was the first time they have entered the area and been brave enough to roar. With the territory partially occupied by the Vuyela males, their roars could have led to trouble, but it appears as though the Vuyela males had been out of earshot and did not respond to the intrusion. Whilst it is nice to dream of the white male settling in the central Timbavati, with the other large coalitions also moving around the area, the three Birmingham males are not likely to end up settling down this side. Still, we hope that they continue to visit the area from time to time. 

The Giraffe pride did end up staying around for the weekend, and we got to see twenty of them on the first day, and then a portion of the pride on the plains the day after, after they had woken us up with their roaring in front of camp. The River Pride lionesses remained active close to Safari Camp over the weekend.

On the leopard front, we got spoilt and saw 5 different leopards throughout our four drives; the first was the young male on Nkhari that we were seeing regularly last year – he was reasonably relaxed when we caught up with him one evening close to the white lion. The next afternoon we had a large male crossing over the access road into the Klaserie but weren’t too bothered as we were on our way to see Nyeleti and her two cubs. These two have relaxed incredibly since my last sighting of them, and will hopefully provide some good viewing for years to come. Nyeleti had led them to a steenbuck kill just north of Safari Camp, but between three large leopards, this didn’t even last them until the afternoon and after resting off their meal, all three ambled off to the north again.

The weekend of cats was only going to get better; on his way home from bush breakfast, Scotch bumped into the single female cheetah walking east away from the plains! We had just finished our meal when the message came through, so rushed off to enjoy a lovely sighting of this girl. She is the same female we saw just before I headed on leave – it would be great if she could become a regular fixture in the area. 

It wasn’t only the cats out and about; there were also two packs of wild dogs on the show this weekend. Scotch found the small pack of four feeding on an impala before going into the Klaserie, and I managed to catch up with a pack of 22 members on our airstrip one afternoon. The alpha female is incredibly pregnant, but sadly the pack headed 10km north of us the next day. We are thus keeping our fingers crossed that the four dogs decide to den in the area if the bigger packs den elsewhere.

Add to that a constant chorus of rutting impalas, rhinos, good numbers of elephants, and some fairly good general game, it turned out to be quite a welcome return to the Timbavati for me.

I am on drive for a few days next week, so I am hoping that this great game viewing streak continues for a little longer.

Until next time!






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