A Week of Short and Sweet in Pictures

So, it turns out that I still had a couple more days of guiding before going on leave – I don’t usually like basing a week in photos on two days of guiding, but as we had such a cracking couple of days out there, I had more than enough content for this blog – so welcome back to a short and sweet week in pictures! 

Following the crazy weekend of cheetah viewing last week – and knowing my usual luck with cheetahs – I fully expected them all to disappear in the days that followed.  It was thus music to my ears to hear that Tristan had seen the single male cheetah at Machaton Dam whilst checking the areas around where he had been the day before (remembering that the mother and two sub-adults had also been seen the previous afternoon).  I headed out in the afternoon hoping that the hot conditions would have kept this male tucked up in the shade, and sure enough, when Scotch went to check where he had been left, he was still relaxing in the coolness of the shade of a Mopane Tree on the edge of a clearing.   

However, despite this being a rare cheetah sighting in the Timbavati, there were other rare creatures to be seen.  In the morning I had been trying to burn off Chef Ryan’s delicious meals from the past week by making use of the treadmill in Tanda Tula Safari Camp’s gym and had to pause my session when I saw the zebras running around, and the impalas stotting all over the show.  I checked to see if there were wild dogs running around, but saw nothing, and dismissed their behaviour as early morning antics.  I shouldn’t have, as sitting in the riverbed close to our southernmost Safari Suite were 23 endangered African Wild Dogs – our big pack had returned to the core of our concession after an extended absence.  As the afternoon cooled down, we left the cheetah to go and spend time with the wild dogs that I guaranteed my guests would be more active – a bold statement, but as creatures of habit, a fairly safe bet.   

Before we got to the dogs though, we stopped in at Machaton dam and got to spend some time with two Vuyela male lions that came to quench their thirst in the late afternoon; earlier in the drive we had been with another Vuyela male still mating with the youngest River Pride female (and had to leave them to go and see the cheetah!).   

Knowing that the dogs were going to be active soon, we pulled ourselves away from the lions and headed towards camp when Dale radioed to say that there was one wild dog that had killed an impala at the camp dam – we arrived to find that he wasn’t alone, and was in fact sharing the kill with a single hyena; without the support of any other members of either pack or clan, but predators continued to eat the kill together.  Eventually the single dog ran off, and we surmised that the absence of the rest of the pack from the kill meant that they had a kill somewhere else, and so we went in search of that, and soon found another dozen or so pack members feeding on a large male impala on the road close to camp.  Whilst watching them, we heard yet another impala being killed in the thickets to the north of us but were unable to find how many wild dogs made that kill.  At least my ‘wild dog guarantee’ was fulfilled! 

The following morning the wild dogs were still milling around the same area – bellies bulging after three impala kills, and they settled at a natural pan next to our Bush Breakfast site.  We went in search of leopard and it looked as though we weren’t going to have any joy finding Nyeleti’s relaxed daughter, Dzindza, as she was moving around in a dense thicket.  After driving circles around the area, we stopped for coffee before going to check the area once more.  Passing Steven – who had the same idea – I joked that they would find her on the road I had just driven, and sure enough, not two minutes later, he radioed to tell me that she had popped up next to the road.  I was with an elephant, but headed towards the leopard and yet again, as I was approaching, she disappeared!  Fortunately, as Steven was leaving the area he found her walking down the road, and we pulled up to join this cat who has become increasingly relaxed over recent weeks.  The clouds were breaking, and the morning was heating up, but as Dzindza looked to be ready to ascend a marula tree, a squirrel ran out and she went chasing after it.  She eventually went and settled atop a rock under a shady Boer Bean Tree, and put my driving skills to the test, but we had a lovely view of her before heading back for a late breakfast. 


The afternoon was another warm one, and Machaton dam once more produced the goods with some lovely elephants coming to drink; impala, wildebeest, zebras, impalas and more could be seen close by to the dam.  I swung past the clearings to the south of the dam to see if the cheetah was still around, but all we saw were vultures in the area.  We returned to see the wild dogs as the afternoon cleared, and they were in the company of some large grey grazers, but only decided to get up and move off after the sun had set; with lions roaring to the north, we left the wild dogs and went to look for the lions. 


We were well rewarded with the sight and sound of two Vuyela males and two River Pride females roaring next to the vehicle.  The next morning we popped into Machaton dam, but didn’t see much, however not five minutes later the next guide that passed found the mating pair of lions approaching the dam, so we returned to see that the young lioness from the River Pride was now with another Vuyela male, and despite  not showing much interest in mating herself, the new male in attendance was clearly very eager and doing his best to persuade her. Interestingly, the lioness that gave birth earlier this month was seen mating again – and didn’t appear to be nursing, which could mean that they have lost yet another litter.  This lack of success of raising cubs is unusual for a pride with such a strong coalition of males, and the thought entered my mind that perhaps there was some foul play from within the Vuyela ranks?  Pure speculation, but time will tell if their luck improves.  After an extended absence this week, the lioness with the three 6-month-old cubs did eventually rejoin the pride and the guides got to see them a couple of days after my guests checked out. 

After the mating lions, we bumped into Mafufunyane leopardess stalking some impalas in an ideal area, but despite the thickets adjoining the herd – and the long grass – she was spotted by the alert antelopes and disappeared into the thickets after the alarm calls rang out.  Nyeleti female was found the previous afternoon with a warthog piglet kill, but she was finished by morning and only pitched up again a day later. 

The wild dogs continued to hang around for another couple of days, and Dale and Scotch had a great sighting of them when they caught an impala at another dam that drew the attention of the resident hippo who came out to investigate the commotion.  The next afternoon they were running around Nkhari airstrip before moving off south.  Nkhari proved to be quite a productive area towards the end of the week, and whilst Tristan and I were out doing some bush work, we heard that the mother cheetah and the two sub-adult cubs were seen there.  We couldn’t understand why the guide that found them didn’t spend too long with them, and no one showed interest in seeing them, but only later heard that the two male cheetahs had also been found in the east earlier in the morning, so everyone had got to see cheetahs already – I could really get used to this!  We popped past the area and managed to locate the trio of slender cats still on the move as the late morning heat beat down on the area, but they eventually settled on the westward journey.  It will be interesting to see how far west they push, or if they turn around and return to the more open areas of the east. 

Those are questions that will be answered over the next few weeks I guess, and I look forward to updating everyone when I do get back from leave, so be sure to check back in again soon. 


Until next time!