A week of ample game viewing in pictures

Chad Cocking

Another week has come and gone in the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve, and it has been another fantastic few days of game viewing at Tanda Tula Safari Camp. Despite a week of rather chilly, windy and not overly-pleasant weather, the glorious Lowveld winter days have returned, and the big blue African skies are once more keeping us company.

Following the blog post about “Lion dynamics of Tanda Tula”, things remained interesting in this part of the Greater Kruger Park. For the majority of the period since my last report, the two Mbiri males have been absent from the Zebenine Pride’s territory. Their focus remains firmly on the Mayambula Pride with their distant roars only occasionally reaching our camp. The lack of their presence has once more allowed the River Pride to push deeper into the Zebenine Pride’s territory, and we yet again found the nine River Pride members close to the Zebenine lionesses den site. Fortunately though, after stealing an impala kill from a pack of African wild dogs, the River Pride moved off to the east and away from the den site.

The Zebenine lionesses are doing well, but remaining very much out of sight with the cubs. The cold weather no doubt making the dense riverine vegetation a great deal more appealing than sitting out in the open riverbed! When we have seen them, the two lionesses have been looking in great condition and are clearly feeding well. A couple of days back, they were found feeding on a large zebra that they had managed to catch. Sadly however, the hyenas succeeded in chasing them off the kill during the night and finished off whatever was left. This is another situation that could have been avoided if the Mbiri males had been around. Their visit the previous day didn’t bring them into contact with the lionesses before they headed back to the south-east. Good news is that they too are looking in good shape. All their wounds seem to have healed nicely, and simply add to their already impressive scar count.

The leopard sightings have been fairly sporadic across the concession over the last couple of weeks. We had several days of no sightings followed by nine different leopards being reported in only two drives. They really need to learn to spread their activities out more! The highlight was no doubt having Madzinyo male leopard back in the area only a couple of days after catching a warthog in front of our guests. If you haven’t seen the video of this,     check it out on the blog - Video: Madzinya’s warthog kill. Incredibly, only a few days later he was found on the same termite mound, and caught a second warthog. Fortunately for the young warthog, this time the mother returned to chase the leopard off.

The windy weather could not have been better for leopards to hunt in. We managed to see Thumbela female and her two youngsters on an impala kill, as well as Sunset female with an impala kill of her own in the west. Ntsogwaan was seen stalking a herd of buffalos during the windy weather, but ended up being chased away by the herd later in the evening. Marula female was criss-crossing the reserve on a regular basis, possibly looking for a male to mate with. Nthombi female still has her new litter of cubs hidden in the Nhlaralumi, but other than hearing them crying from a fallen tree stump, there have been no sightings of them. They are almost four weeks old now and we are slowly getting closer to a point where they may show themselves in the next couple of weeks.

Other predatory sightings included regular hyena viewings, a visit from a pack of nine African wild dogs that spent a couple of days on the property, as well as regular visits from the pack of 17 wild dogs in the west. They must be getting close to being ready to return to a nomadic lifestyle with their pups that are now approaching two months of age. Although no cheetahs were seen on drive, one sighting of three cheetahs on the aptly name Cheetah Plains was reported by a staff member of a neighbouring lodge. Sadly there were no confirmed sightings of these rare speedsters. However, as the dry season pushes on, I am sure that sightings will start increasing.

For once, we were not overwhelmed with elephants on a daily basis, but that is not to say that they were scarce. The herds are still moving around the area, spending a great deal of time in the central and eastern parts of our concession. One incredible morning coffee stop at Machaton Dam saw no fewer than 80 elephants in three herds filter past us! The most special elephant sighting this week has no doubt belonged to one of the emerging tuskers of the Kruger Park – an immensely impressive bull named Apollo. He arrived in full musth during this period and has set about following the herds looking for mating opportunities. Despite his testosterone-fuelled state, he was incredibly docile and has wowed all of our guests over the past week. It is not every day we get to see an elephant with such large tusks.

Although the elephant sightings might be down, the giraffe and zebra sightings have soared. There have been so many giraffes around lately that we have had to stop stopping for them if we want to get anywhere on drive! Scotch reported one group of over 40 giraffes together one morning, and it was not uncommon to see a few dozen giraffes per drive over the last week. The big buffalo herds have remained in the area, which has helped to round off another couple of weeks of great sightings and wonderful photographic opportunities.

As always, I trust that you will enjoy this little snippet into the lives of the wonderful wildlife that we see around our tented camp and on safari in the Timbavati.

Until next time, Cheers.


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