Tanda Tula - male lion on a photographic safari
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Mid-winter in pictures

Chad Cocking | A Week In Pictures

Hello again to you all! I hope that this finds you well and that you’re keeping your spirits up!  Another week has come and gone. Following on some time off and my highlights of the lockdown so far, it’s back to giving you some weekly updates.  This week has been a cold one to say the least – azure skies have kept us company, but it has been those crystal clear nights blanketed in stars (but sadly not Comet Neowise for us down in the southern hemisphere) that have led to some teeth-chattering starts to our early morning safaris!  Last night’s temperature actually got very close to 0 degrees Celsius, but as I type this, the temperature is already up in the early 20s.  This could not be a more typical bushveld winter period if it tried.

Well, that might be a lie.  Winter is traditionally one of our best game viewing periods due to increased visibility and less available surface water, meaning that the game tends to be focused around the remaining water points.  Sadly, this week really tested my patience and tracking skills, and sadly the latter fell well short of the mark…and in the cold conditions, the former didn’t fare too well either!  Although signs for all the big game were evident across the reserve, finding the animals that were leaving the evidence, was another story.  Sitting enjoying a birthday-GnT on my verandah and watching the sun set, I could hear wild dogs contact calling to my left whilst lions roared to my right.  In fact, the lions could be heard roaring (somewhat distantly) most nights.  Every day we saw tracks for the Nharhu males and the odd River Pride lioness.  I even came across relatively fresh tracks for the Mayambula Pride moving as far north as Tortillis Plains in the East.  Leopard tracks were also seen on most of my drives.  The animals were out there, but perhaps it was the after effects of the GnTs that meant that for much of the week, the signs were all I was seeing!

Tanda Tula - wild dog eyeing Chad Cocking out on safari in the Timbavati

To rub salt in the wounds, whenever Dale went out with his family, he saw leopards!  Be it Marula Jnr female on our access road, or Hlangana male resting at Little Kariba.  If that wasn’t enough, even when he was in camp on the weekend, Nyeleti female leopard came casually strolling down the pathway in camp, walked through through the verandah and out the other side!

My lion luck wasn’t as bad, and we found the River Pride with their cubs on a couple of occasions. On one occasion, we followed up on their roaring to an area where vultures littered the trees like forgotten Christmas decorations.  It took a little searching, but eventually some growling led us to the pride that had finished off their kill and were moving with the males and cubs to a resting spot for the day.  Following that meal, the pride was surprisingly mobile this past week, and these wanderings started pushing them beyond the bounds of our concession for the first time in months. On a couple of occasions, they even crossed from the Timbavatiinto the Klaserie Private Nature Reserve.Although this was frustrating at times, it is movement that was fully expected as the cub are growing older and bigger, and now require more food.  The older cubs celebrated turning 6-months old this week, and the moms have done very well getting all six cubs to this age, but their jobs are far from over.  Sadly, we haven’t seen the youngest lioness to see whether or not she is showing signs of lactating, and thus providing confirmation as to our suspicions that she may have had cubs.  The lack of lone lioness tracks moving in and out of a common area are making me think that I have once again jumped the gun.  Time as always, will tell.

Tanda Tula - River Pride lion cubs on safari in the Timbavati

Tanda Tula - River Pride lioness on the prowl in the Greater Kruger

The Nharhu males are looking in good shape (well, except for the limping one whose limp is as bad as it has been since they set up base around Tanda Tula), and they are turning into proper lions now!  Since chasing the larger Mbiri males back out of their territory almost three weeks ago, it is as if their confidence has increased and their roars have gotten louder –  a great sign for a stable lion future in this area.

The one species that was not in short supply this week were the elephants, and on one afternoon bumble I must have passed over 150 elephants in the eastern portions of the concession; they were everywhere!  It is another one of those typical, predictable winter trends, and on some drives the elephants are more abundant than impalas.  Interesting to see is how much grass the elephants are still eating; usually by this time of year, they are feeding almost entirely on woody vegetation, but the excellent grass cover is obviously still providing enough nutrition to make it worth eating.

Tanda Tula - wildebeest and elephants on the best safari in South Africa

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

Tanda Tula - elephant herd in the Timbavati

The buffalo herds have been absent, but we have had a herd of half a dozen or more buffalo bulls making themselves very comfortable around Tanda Tula Safari Camp.The zebras have been a little scarce, but giraffes and wildebeest have been common sightings in the East.  One other species that has been leaving signs all over the show are hyenas – it is actually quite remarkable how many tracks can be found on almost every road each morning.  A couple of nights ago, we could hear the hyenas getting very excited across the riverbed from Safari Camp, and this was promptly followed by the sounds of a lion fighting with them!  Luckily, it wasn’t just tracks and sounds they were leaving for us – we got to see a number of them when a pack of 15 wild dogs spent a couple of days in the area, and they were almost always accompanied by several hyenas waiting for them to go and hunt.

That’s it from us for this week; enjoy the photos, and please be sure to have a look out at our Tanda Tula Online Shopif you have a chance.  Besides online learning experiences with Chef Ryan, Luke or myself, you can also browse the photo gallery for a chance to own one of the many images taken here at Tanda Tula, allowing you to bring a little piece of Africa into your home.

Until next time, stay safe!

Cheers
Chad

Tanda Tula - hyena on a photographic safari in the Timbavati

Tanda Tula - kudus in the full moon on safari

Tanda Tula - slender mongoose on safari in the Timbavati

Tanda Tula - hippo submerged in water on safari

Tanda Tula - giraffes on the best tented safari in South Africa

Tanda Tula - Kori bustard on a birding safari in South Africa

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