A Weekend of Cheetahs Aplenty Pictures

It had to happen, didn’t it?  After a couple of weeks on drive and no cheetahs, they were bound to show up when I was off drive this week!  Sure enough, two joined Steven and his guests for sundowners one evening as they enjoyed a drink on one of the clearings to the east of Tanda Tula Safari Camp.  Fortunately, I was back on drive a day later, so I had hope that the two male cheetahs that had been seen the evening before would grace us with their presence.  Despite checking the clearings in the east on the first couple of drives, I came up empty handed.  A late morning radio call that the two males were found with an impala kill on our southern boundary close to the Kruger Park gave me hope that they would possibly move into our concession later in the day.  Heading out for the afternoon drive with our group of guests, it was music to my ears to hear that the guides had already established a cheetah sighting in one of the open areas, and I wasted no time in heading straight to the area.  We arrived, and to my surprise, there was only one male cheetah, and he clearly hadn’t spent the day feasting on an impala as his belly was rather empty.  We sat and enjoyed his presence as he rolled around and started getting active before he sauntered off over the large sodic site and crossed the Machaton riverbed to where Scotch and Tristan were waiting to enjoy him.  I decided to take a long loop around to the opposite side of the river bed to spend some more time with him later in the drive, but wanted to see if our other two male cheetahs had maybe come to one of the waterholes for a drink.   

Approaching the pan, I saw what looked like a cat sitting in the open, and soon enough, I saw that it wasn’t just one, nor two, but three cheetahs!  A mother with two cubs around eight to ten months old, but they appeared a little nervous and moved into some long grass off of another sodic area.  Being very sensitive, we couldn’t drive off road to get closer, but our patience was well rewarded when the trio eventually got up and came towards a small pan near the road and had a drink!  Much more comfortable with our presence now, we had a cracking sighting of such an unexpected trio.  We spent some good time with them as their fullish bellies slowly ambled off to the south – we actually saw where they had the remains of an impala kill at the waterhole, but it was all but done, and they moved out of the immediate vicinity of the kill.  As it was getting dark, we left them and headed towards the other guests to join them for a drink.  What was particularly interesting about this mother cheetah was that she had a tracking collar on!  With no cheetah research taking place in the area, I reached out to the Timbavati’s ecologist, who suspected she might have come from the Karingani Nature Reserve in Mozambique, on the eastern border of the Kruger National Park.  Sure enough, when their researchers got back to him, they confirmed that she had indeed moved across an international border, as well as the 70 km width of the Kruger National Park, to end up in the Timbavati!  This once again highlights the value of these transfrontier conservation areas and shows how animals without borders can freely move between reserves and regions.  It also showcased to our guests why visiting the Timbavati is such a magical experience – you just don’t know what you could find out there!   

To top the cheetah sightings off, we got to see the single male cheetah again this morning on another clearing shortly after he caught himself a young impala for breakfast.  We will keep our fingers crossed that he, as well as the five other cheetahs seen this weekend, can keep up this level of performance for a long time to come! 

Aside from the cheetahs, the weekend was filled with lions – three of the Vuyela males spent their time in the east, putting on daily roaring displays for our guests.  The youngest River Pride lioness was once again coming into estrus and “mating” with one of the Vuyela males.  I use the quotation marks as he was doing the work, but she clearly wasn’t interested – very unusual, but the same MO as the last time she was seen mating for over a week.  If this pattern repeats itself, she should get more into it over the coming days.  The mother of older cubs was seen in the area too, and on one afternoon, the three 6-month old cubs came out to join the Vuyela males before returning to their hiding spot.  The Giraffe Pride was seen in various fractions in the far west, but I don’t believe that there was much evidence of the Sark Breakaway Pride in the latter half of the week; they started the week in the west, with the four cubs and their mother spending a couple of days around one of the waterholes there, but we are not sure where they got to after that. 

The rosetted cats – the leopards – continued to frustrate us, but I did manage to find a large male leopard on the prowl on my first evening out this past weekend. 

Although everyone else was finding elephants across the reserve, I had to chuckle at the fact that my guests had more cheetah sightings than elephant sightings this weekend – not that anyone was complaining! 

With a couple of weeks of leave coming up for me, I can only imagine that the cheetahs will hang around, and the guides and guests will once again be enjoying some magical sightings in my absence! 

I shall be back with weekly updates upon my return, so be sure to check back in again soon. 

Until next time!