Tanda Tula - leopard with cub on safari in South Africa
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A week of more rain, and a fantastic surprise in pictures

Chad Cocking | A Week In Pictures

Until about three hours ago, this was going to be a blog about how great it has been to have had a further 48mm of rain last weekend, and not much else!  The reason being that I have been on leave for a few days, and only managed to get out yesterday to film a Sofa Safari (don’t forget to follow our regular virtual safaris on our YouTube channel)without having a great deal of luck – although, that could just me being spoilt and wanting to see lions, leopards, and wild dogs! Fortunately, I was able to head out again this morning, and by sheer chance, I happened to end up in the right place at the very right moment.

We were all awoken to the sound of a male lion roaring closer and closer to camp at around 4am this morning, but his roars disappeared out to the south-east, which is where the River Pride has seemingly set up a base of late. They started the week that side as the pride rested off a large meal and spent much of the remainder of the week leaving tracks in this area of the Timbavatiadjacent to the Kruger National Park.After an hour and a bit, our trackers had briefly seen the Nharhu male and were busy with tracks for the River Pride lionesses and their cub, but it wasn’t building to anything special. Scotch suggested I go check-up towards Machaton Dam, and as I bumbled about, I saw a log that I needed to have a second look at as in my desperation to see a cat, I had imagined it to be a leopard.

I was busy berating myself for being as blind as I am and seeing things that weren’t there when my thoughts suddenly had to do a quick retreat, as walking up the road in front of me was indeed a cat, our blue-eyed Thumbela.  Since moving back to the east after her time spent near Tanda Tula Safari Camp,she has made the area around the Machaton Riverbed her home. As I have not seen her for some time, I was convinced that she had given birth back in her usual denning area, but as soon as she walked up the road and climbed onto some rocks, I could see she was lactating and had indeed given birth.  When she proceeded to walk to a thicket of bushes in the rocks, calling softly for the cubs, I almost couldn’t believe my luck.  The rocky nature of the area meant that I couldn’t get too close, but I could see her sitting between the rocks grooming something and was convinced that it was a cub. I let a colleague know of my find, but the more I watched, the less I saw of the ‘cub’, and all her tongue was licking was her leg.

Had I seen something that wasn’t there? It wouldn’t be the first time! I sat and waited and then saw the indistinctive movement of a blur of spots and was immediately convinced that there was a cub with her!  It was a moment that left me shaking with excitement, but it was only going to get better. Thumbela moved back to the rocks, and as I sat and waited, I could see her coming out into the open – what I wasn’t expecting was her to be carrying the cub in her mouth! In an almost identical manner to my only previous sighting of such a moment with Marula, Thumbela returned to the den to rearrange the delicate package in her mouth, and then she came out confidently carrying the cub on the very same path that she arrived along.  I left her to it as another guide followed her at a distance to a rocky outcrop in a dense thicket along a small drainage line, and we assume that she has moved the den to this location.  From her behaviour, I am also confident that she has another cub hidden on that side. It just goes to show, you never know what is waiting around the next corner here in the wilds of the Greater Kruger!

Tanda Tula - Thumbela leopard and her cub

Other news for the week was that the Giraffe Pride spent several days within our concession, and Scotch got to watch them catch a zebra and a kudu on two successive mornings, this followed on from a sighting of the pride on a wildebeest kill earlier in the week. As mentioned, the River Pride was out in the east, but with the ground being as wet as it was, getting sightings of them proved a challenge.  With no rain forecast for the coming week, we should be able to get more viewings of them over the coming days.

Elephants remained plentiful, especially in the areas adjacent to the riverbeds where the bush has greened up incredibly over the past week; this has also provided for some lovely viewings of the other herbivorous members of the Big Five. There were also tracks for a breeding herd of buffalo being active around Machaton Dam, which incidentally also has two hippos in it now. Zebras, wildebeest, giraffes, kudus and impalas were seen across the reserve as the game makes use of the abundant spread of water and sprouting green grass, budding leaves and blossoming flowers. The mopane pomegranates (Rhigozum zambesiacum) are the most eye-catching of the flowering species this week with their bright yellow flowers growing in a profusion of colour at present – it is amazing how such an innocuous bush can suddenly dominate for a short period at this time of year.

Tanda Tula - elephants in Nhlaralumi riverbed

Tanda Tula - elephant cow on the best safari in South Africa

Tanda Tula - zebras enjoying new grass growth

Tanda Tula - flowering mopane pomegranate

That is it for the week – I will be out on drives for a few more days over the coming week, so trust that I will have a bit more news to share with you all next week.

Until next time, take care

Cheers
Chad

Tanda Tula - wildebeest herd

Tanda Tula - seasonal pan in the Timbavati

Tanda Tula - budding knobthorn in the Greater Kruger

Tanda Tula - dung beetle on safari

Tanda Tula - red-crested korhaan on best birding safari in South Africa

Tanda Tula - zebras enjoying new grass growth

Tanda Tula - tree squirrel in the Timbavati

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