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A week of spots in pictures

Chad Cocking | A Week In Pictures

Welcome back to your weekly update on what has been happening in the lives of the animals of the central Timbavati.It has once again been a week of some wonderful game viewing that left all the guests at Tanda Tula Safari Campextremely happy! Despite the variation in weather over the past week (we went from 37C one day to 16C the next), our game viewing remained exceptionally good throughout; a day of extremely windy conditions once more played into the hands of the leopards, and this contributed to making it a week full of spots.

The morning after a blustery night saw the guides finding three different leopard kills within 2km of Safari Camp,and this helped set up three days of guaranteed leopard viewing close to the camp. However, it was the afternoon that the wind really blew in that took the cake. After a couple of days of hiding (with only Marula’s son being seen), and a morning spent tracking Nthombi with no luck, my tracker and I headed back into the area to see if we could have better luck in the afternoon.

It wasn’t long before Glen pointed out some tracks. He began tracking as I went to investigate an area where some giraffes had been staring at a little earlier. It didn’t take Glen long to call me, letting me know that he had located the leopard. It was indeed Nthombi who was once more moving into Marula’s old territory. We watched her using the windy conditions to try and stalk a herd of impalas, but they got wind of her, and she moved into the thickets.

Nthombi leopard

The first two guides that had been coming to see Nthombi both ended up finding leopards of their own on either side of my sighting – both Marula’s son and daughter. We went to see Marula’s son who was also on the prowl, and yet again, it amazed me just how confident he had grown with the vehicles over the past couple of weeks – he is now at the point where he clearly doesn’t care about our presence! Upon leaving him, we bumped into Marula’s daughter drinking at a drying pan not 300m away, but when she moved off after her drink, our fourth leopard for the afternoon popped into view. A hyena chased him up a tree on the edge of the pan. To my surprise, it was Nthombi’s son Hlangana who too, had ventured right into the heart of Marula’s territory. When it rains, it pours!

Marula leopards daughter

Marula leopard's son

With the windy night that followed, it was no surprise to find that a few leopards had enjoyed some hunting success. Nthombi killed a massive impala ram that kept her and Hlangana well fed for two days; a seemingly new, albeit skittish male leopard had an impala kill up a leadwood, just east of camp. Best of all, a pregnant-looking Nyeleti female was found with her own impala kill just on the southern side of camp in an area that had previously been part of Marula’s territory.

Unknown male leopard

Hlangana leopard

On the third day, when she finished the kill, rather than heading back north-east to her territory, Nyeleti carried on moving further westwards, and deeper into Marula’s territory. It seems that it hasn’t taken long for the neighbours to realise that there is some prime territory available for the taking. In other leopard news, it seems that Xidulu male leopard is still hanging around after some guides reported a sighting of him on the eastern boundary of our concession.

Nyeleti leopard

There was also a sighting of a massive male leopard at Machaton Dam, and upon seeing photos of him, I recognised him as an old dominant male leopard – from far northern sections of the Timbavati – called the Goya Rd male. Despite his size, this aged male (he is almost 14 years old) has clearly been displaced by younger, stronger competition in the form of Nthombi’s second son, Ntima. It will be interesting to see how long he hangs around for, or if he was just passing through.

This week, we eventually caught up with the fourteen members of the Mayambula Pride looking in good shape, but sadly, the pride headed straight back south after that visit and their last tracks were reportedly heading into the Kruger National Park.Fortunately, our lion dynamics remain interesting and we had a fairly good week of lion viewing. The four River Pride lionesses spent the early and late parts of the week within the concession; we tracked one of the lionesses all the way south where she evidently met up with the larger Mbiri male, only to turn around and draw him all the way into the northern part of our concession. We managed to catch up with this impressive male lion as he made his way back south towards the Mayambula Pride.

The five River Pride males also reunited briefly to the west of the concession, but later in the week, we managed to catch up with just one of them to the north-west of camp before he moved into the Klaserie.If these five boys continue to hang around, they are going to definitely start shaking things up for both the Mbiri males and the Black Dam male. This could well be the start of some serious changes in the lion dynamics of the central Timbavati.The two Zebenine lionesses wandered far and wide this week and were seen on both the western and south-eastern sections of our concession, both continue to defy the odds and are doing very well.

Mayambula cub

Mbiri male

Our pack of 24 wild dogs spoilt us for the first five days of the week, but following the day of wind, we lost track of them, and no further signs of the pack have been seen for the last couple of days. We are not sure if they are just camping in one of the large blocks of land in the middle of the concession, or if they possibly moved out of the area to the south. Fortunately, when they were around, they provided us with some excellent viewing from time spent hunting impalas in front of the guests, to pups getting a little too curious around some buffalo bulls! We will keep our fingers crossed that they return soon.

Wild dog pups

Speaking of buffalo, besides the buffalo bulls, we had a rare visit from some breeding herds of these bovids during the latter part of the week. A small herd of 50-odd individuals moved in, and a day later, a larger herd of close to 200 buffalos was also found (closely trailed by the River Pride male). As the lions didn’t put pressure on the herds, they ended up seeing out the week within our concession. The week also provided the usual high number of elephant and giraffe in the area, with a lot of these sightings happening in close proximity to Tanda Tula Safari Camp.

So, all in all, it was yet another fantastic week of game viewing for all of our guests, and we hope to share some more great sightings again with you next week.

Until next time!

Cheers
Chad

Buffalo

Zebra

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