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Chad’s Curse

Chad Cocking | A Week In Pictures

As I sit on my deck overlooking the Mara River in Kenya’s Masai Mara typing this blog, my mind keeps drifting a few thousand kilometres back south to the Timbavati and wondering about how “my” animals are doing, and exactly what I am missing out on!  This got me thinking about my previous trip to the Masai Mara when I excitedly arrived hoping to have a feast of cheetah sightings on the vast open plains that make this area famous.  By the end of the week, I had only enjoyed one solitary cheetah sighting.  During that particular period, cheetahs were an absolute rarity in the northern Timbavati so I found it annoyingly ironic that during the week I travelled half way across Africa in search of cheetahs, the guides back at camp had more cheetah sightings in the woodlands of the Timbavati than I did in the Masai Mara!  If this were an isolated incident, I don’t think I would presently be suffering from too much FOMO (and before you ask Dad, that means ‘fear of missing out’) due to being away from my home for a month.  The truth is, a few years ago I was starting to think that I might actually have been cursed as it seemed as though the animals only came out once I left the reserve; some “friends” went as far as giving this phenomenon a name; Chad’s Curse. 

 Now I am far too scientifically-minded to be superstitious, but the regularity with which animals showed themselves in abundance when I went on leave was beginning to make it feel like there was definitely more to the trend than mere coincidence!  The pattern first started emerging when a particular pride of lions in the northern Timbavati began pitching up only during my leave period.  The first time this seemingly new pride arrived on the scene was during the middle of my leave when they killed a buffalo close to camp and spent several days feeding on it, before sleeping off their fat bellies for the next couple of days.  I arrived back and did get to see them at the camp waterhole the next day, but this was the last time the pride was seen during my subsequent 4-week work cycle.  My next leave cycle arrived, and who should pitch the day after I left the reserve?  This pride (now identified as a young splinter group from the Jacaranda Pride) once again spent the entire week of my absence in the area until I arrived back at work.  This time the pride was courteous enough to hang around for another two days before I caught up with their tails disappearing into the Kruger National Park and out of view.  There are no prizes for guessing when they next arrived on the scene!!!  Twice may have been a coincidence, but when they arrived back for the third time in a row as I departed for leave, I seriously started to get a complex about this curse of mine! 

 It wasn’t just these lions playing around with me, and it also wasn’t just me noticing this trend.  A few months later after a very quiet couple of drives, I headed on leave once again (some may simply argue that I am on leave too often!) and departed for the drive back to Johannesburg just before the afternoon game drives headed out, and exited the reserve half an hour into game drive time at around 4pm.  A friend who had been on game drive sent me a message as soon as he got back from game asking at what time I had left the reserve.  I found it a bit odd, but answered him by stating that it was at around 4pm, only for him to reply “that’s what I thought…thanks!”.  It turns out that it was at exactly this time that all the cats and critters suddenly popped out of hiding and completely spoilt the guests on their afternoon drive.  His next message was along the lines of asking how much the lodge would have to pay me to stay leave permanently in order for the guests to continue to have exceptional game viewing in my absence! 

 For those reading this that have an upcoming trip to Tanda Tula during the month of June the good news is that you are bound to be in for a cracking month of game viewing with me not only out of the reserve, but also out of the country!  I know that the mother cheetah and her two young cubs had been hanging around just before I departed, and I am almost certain that guests visiting the Timbavati this month are going to see more cheetah cubs there than I will see here in East Africa! 

So you must all enjoy the great game viewing that side, and I expect you to make me very jealous until I return! 

I will catch up again with the blogs and sightings (and what I missed out on!) when I return to South Africa next month, but until then, keep well!! 



 (and as I type this, a friend has just told me about the Mayambula Pride and their eleven cubs on a buffalo kill east of Tanda Tula Safari Camp, as well as the fact that the Giraffe Pride have had two giraffe kills closer to Plains Camp…interestingly, the last time this pride killed two giraffes I was also on leave – told you it was a curse!) 




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