A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A GAME RANGER by Chad Cocking

Not many people would guess that hyenas would be able to dominate lions in an area, but as is often the case, these mostly misunderstood predators are hugely underrated. Given their complex social organisations and the fact that their clans regularly number twenty five or more members, their dominance in such systems should not come as such a surprise.
 

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A GAME RANGER by Chad Cocking

11 JUNE 2018 A weekend of new introductions
 

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A GAME RANGER by Chad Cocking

1 June 2018 - A week of green landscape in photos
After a little over two weeks of leave spent exploring some of Zimbabawe’s national parks, it was wonderful to return to the wilds of the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve and see what had been happening at Tanda Tula whilst I was away. One thing was quite apparent upon my return, summer was still not willing to let go of its grip on the landscape, and quite unlike the Kruger National Park, just north of the Timbavati, the bush was still infused with a great deal of greenery. Other than some yellowing grasses, the shades of autumn remain absent.
 

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A GAME RANGER by Luke Street

Sharing fellow Tanda Tula’s ranger Luke Street’s beautiful photography.
 

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A GAME RANGER by Chad Cocking

It has been another exciting week at Tanda Tula Safari Camp. Chad’s pictures give a real perspective to the variety of species that have been seen in just a few days. If you cannot be on safari in the Timbavati yourself, you could live precariously through his beautiful images!
 

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A GAME RANGER by Chad Cocking

Understanding Exposure 
By courtesy of the Tanda Tula Safari Camp http://www.tandatula.com/blog/posts/photographer-s-focus
 

DAY IN THE LIFE OF A GAME RANGER By Chad Cocking

Courtesy of the Tanda Tula Safari Camp http://www.tandatula.com/blog/posts/photographer-s-focus
 

DAY IN THE LIFE OF A GAME RANGER By Chad Cocking

Courtesy of the Tanda Tula Safari Camp http://www.tandatula.com/blog/posts/photographer-s-focus
 

DAY IN THE LIFE OF A GAME RANGER By Chad Cocking

Courtesy of the Tanda Tula Safari Camp http://www.tandatula.com/blog/posts/photographer-s-focus

17 APRIL 2018
Photographer’s focus: What makes a good wildlife photographer?

Almost every guest that comes on a safari these days has a camera of sorts in his or her possession. Some carry their cameras to capture the memories of their holiday in Africa, others bring them hoping to capture a once-in-a-lifetime shot of some extraordinary wildlife scene, and others bring them just because it seemed like the right thing to do!

Whatever your reason for lugging your camera halfway across the world, this series of blogs has been written in an attempt to assist you with getting the most out of your equipment in order to capture the wonders of Africa in a way that will hopefully make your friends jealous enough to plan their own trips here!

There are many books and blogs that have been written by professional wildlife photographers that allow one to better understand the art. This blog series serves to supplement these by making specific reference to the photographic conditions that you, as a guest, are likely to encounter here at Tanda Tula Safari Camp.

Many of these professional books begin by discussing what it takes to make a good wildlife photographer, and how to get those incredible images that we so often see floating around on social media these days. Although there is not one simple answer, the question of what makes a good wildlife photographer serves as an excellent point of departure, and as you will see, it takes a load more than simply having a good camera and big lens!

The truth is, these is no single element that will make you a good wildlife photographer, but rather, it is a combination of many different factors that all need to come together to collectively produce some outstanding wildlife images.

Good Knowledge of Your Photographic Equipment
If you have recently unpacked a new camera, you may or may not have noticed that little white book you tossed aside called the Instruction Manual and thought that it would only come in handy if ever you were struggling to fall asleep one evening. Well, think again! Between those two covers is just about everything you need to know about how that machine in your hands works (with all of its buttons and dials).

Knowing this will allow you to get the most out of your camera and will save you a lot of frustration when it comes to changing and choosing the correct settings whilst out on safari. When this becomes second nature, it allows you to focus on getting photos rather than fiddling around trying to make the camera work!
An equally important aspect of understanding one's camera, is also knowing what its limitations are, and being able to – when conditions are beyond the camera’s ability – put the camera down and just enjoy the sighting regardless of its photographic potential. Trying to take images in such conditions will simply lead to a great deal of frustration and detract from the chance to simply spend time enjoying watching the animals.

Good Quality Equipment
One would only be fooling themselves if they said that good camera equipment does not make taking good wildlife photographs easier; plain and simple, it does! This however should never be misinterpreted to mean that only good cameras take good photos, as this is definitely not the truth! Having an expensive camera is not automatically going to lead to taking great photos.

Whilst all cameras have their limitations, the better the equipment, the wider apart these limits become, and the old adage that you get what you pay for is particularly true of photographic equipment. All of this is of no use to you though, if you don’t understand the basics of photography.

Good Knowledge of Photographic Principles
Understanding the basic principles of photography will go a long way in allowing you to create the kind of images that you wish to produce. Although terms like aperture, spot metering, exposure compensation and ISO might seem a little daunting at first, the quicker that one gets to grips with understanding them, and understands how they impact your images, the sooner you will be able to take control of your photography. This series of blogs will deal with such photographic principles to allow you to get more out of your camera to attain better wildlife images.

Knowledge of Your Subject
Unlike landscapes and models, wild animals have minds - and wills - of their own, and from experience, seldom do exactly what we wish for them to do! That being said, having a fair idea of what an animal is likely to do next can greatly stack the odds in your favour in terms of anticipating a potential shot.

A leopard about to ascend a tree will usually glance up at it as it is approaching; if you see that look, get ready, as you might get a shot of the leopard springing up the tree trunk. Similarly, eagles will usually defecate just before they take to flight; wait for that moment and then get ready. This sometimes takes years of observation to pick up and understand, but that is where the experience of the guiding team at Tanda Tula can greatly assist you.

Patience
Any true photographer will tell you that patience, patience and more patience is the key to getting good wildlife images! And while patience is of immense importance, when one is visiting a game reserve for only several hours a day over the course of a few nights, sometimes we need a little more than patience to get that shot, which leads me onto the last element of what makes a good wildlife photographer...
... a fair amount of LUCK!

You can have the fanciest camera on the market (and have read its manual), have attended numerous photographic courses, spent years observing wild animals, and you may even be in a position to sit all day waiting for the right moment to click the shutter, but without that little element of luck that brings everything together, at the right moment, chances are you may not get the shot. So, whatever the case is, most great wildlife photographs will require some element of luck!!!
So, now that you know what it will take to get some good wildlife images next time you are on safari at Tanda Tula, we hope that you will keep on following this series of blogs as it guides you through gaining a greater understanding of wildlife photography.
 

DAY IN THE LIFE OF A GAME RANGER By Chad Cocking

Courtesy of the Tanda Tula Safari Camp http://www.tandatula.com/blog/posts/photographer-s-focus

17 APRIL 2018
Photographer’s focus: What makes a good wildlife photographer?

Almost every guest that comes on a safari these days has a camera of sorts in his or her possession. Some carry their cameras to capture the memories of their holiday in Africa, others bring them hoping to capture a once-in-a-lifetime shot of some extraordinary wildlife scene, and others bring them just because it seemed like the right thing to do!

Whatever your reason for lugging your camera halfway across the world, this series of blogs has been written in an attempt to assist you with getting the most out of your equipment in order to capture the wonders of Africa in a way that will hopefully make your friends jealous enough to plan their own trips here!

There are many books and blogs that have been written by professional wildlife photographers that allow one to better understand the art. This blog series serves to supplement these by making specific reference to the photographic conditions that you, as a guest, are likely to encounter here at Tanda Tula Safari Camp.

Many of these professional books begin by discussing what it takes to make a good wildlife photographer, and how to get those incredible images that we so often see floating around on social media these days. Although there is not one simple answer, the question of what makes a good wildlife photographer serves as an excellent point of departure, and as you will see, it takes a load more than simply having a good camera and big lens!

The truth is, these is no single element that will make you a good wildlife photographer, but rather, it is a combination of many different factors that all need to come together to collectively produce some outstanding wildlife images.

Good Knowledge of Your Photographic Equipment
If you have recently unpacked a new camera, you may or may not have noticed that little white book you tossed aside called the Instruction Manual and thought that it would only come in handy if ever you were struggling to fall asleep one evening. Well, think again! Between those two covers is just about everything you need to know about how that machine in your hands works (with all of its buttons and dials).

Knowing this will allow you to get the most out of your camera and will save you a lot of frustration when it comes to changing and choosing the correct settings whilst out on safari. When this becomes second nature, it allows you to focus on getting photos rather than fiddling around trying to make the camera work!
An equally important aspect of understanding one's camera, is also knowing what its limitations are, and being able to – when conditions are beyond the camera’s ability – put the camera down and just enjoy the sighting regardless of its photographic potential. Trying to take images in such conditions will simply lead to a great deal of frustration and detract from the chance to simply spend time enjoying watching the animals.

Good Quality Equipment
One would only be fooling themselves if they said that good camera equipment does not make taking good wildlife photographs easier; plain and simple, it does! This however should never be misinterpreted to mean that only good cameras take good photos, as this is definitely not the truth! Having an expensive camera is not automatically going to lead to taking great photos.

Whilst all cameras have their limitations, the better the equipment, the wider apart these limits become, and the old adage that you get what you pay for is particularly true of photographic equipment. All of this is of no use to you though, if you don’t understand the basics of photography.

Good Knowledge of Photographic Principles
Understanding the basic principles of photography will go a long way in allowing you to create the kind of images that you wish to produce. Although terms like aperture, spot metering, exposure compensation and ISO might seem a little daunting at first, the quicker that one gets to grips with understanding them, and understands how they impact your images, the sooner you will be able to take control of your photography. This series of blogs will deal with such photographic principles to allow you to get more out of your camera to attain better wildlife images.

Knowledge of Your Subject
Unlike landscapes and models, wild animals have minds - and wills - of their own, and from experience, seldom do exactly what we wish for them to do! That being said, having a fair idea of what an animal is likely to do next can greatly stack the odds in your favour in terms of anticipating a potential shot.

A leopard about to ascend a tree will usually glance up at it as it is approaching; if you see that look, get ready, as you might get a shot of the leopard springing up the tree trunk. Similarly, eagles will usually defecate just before they take to flight; wait for that moment and then get ready. This sometimes takes years of observation to pick up and understand, but that is where the experience of the guiding team at Tanda Tula can greatly assist you.

Patience
Any true photographer will tell you that patience, patience and more patience is the key to getting good wildlife images! And while patience is of immense importance, when one is visiting a game reserve for only several hours a day over the course of a few nights, sometimes we need a little more than patience to get that shot, which leads me onto the last element of what makes a good wildlife photographer...
... a fair amount of LUCK!

You can have the fanciest camera on the market (and have read its manual), have attended numerous photographic courses, spent years observing wild animals, and you may even be in a position to sit all day waiting for the right moment to click the shutter, but without that little element of luck that brings everything together, at the right moment, chances are you may not get the shot. So, whatever the case is, most great wildlife photographs will require some element of luck!!!
So, now that you know what it will take to get some good wildlife images next time you are on safari at Tanda Tula, we hope that you will keep on following this series of blogs as it guides you through gaining a greater understanding of wildlife photography.
 

DAY IN THE LIFE OF A GAME RANGER By Chad Cocking

6 APRIL 2018 - A week of skies and landscapes
 

DAY IN THE LIFE OF A GAME RANGER By Chad Cocking

29 MARCH 2018 - Four seasons in one week

Even in the limited number of hours that a single week posseses, Mother Nature has somehow managed to cram in all four seasons! We went from sweltering summer afternoons to cold, windy days that forced us to don jackets and crank up the heaters (even us guides had to give in and put on a pair of long trousers!). The Timbavati may have had it all on the weather-front, but I can tell you it wasn’t half-bad on the animal front either!

The lions remained very prominent in the first part of the week, with the Ross females and Mbiri males spending time in the area around Tanda Tula Safari Camp. However,as the weather conditions worsened, they became a bit more difficult to track down with certain areas becoming muddy and water drenched which makes it almost impossible to go off road and follow these big cats.

It was a good week for leopards, the highlight being the aging Nthombi female who was found mating with a new male. We are referring to him as the Tamboti male and it seems that he is starting to establish himself in the area. Guests were extremely fortunate as the Marula female was viewed several times over the past few days, regardless of the weather conditions. Then, incredibly, the Madzinyo male leopard was found one morning with a young wildebeest kill, but nature is harsh and sadly he was chased off his feast by some hyena.

On the large mammal front, the elephant herds remained very active in the central and western areas of the Timbavati. We were also treated to the return of a large buffalo herd, a group of between 250 and 300 animals, who spent most of the week in our concession, eventually moving out when the Mbiri male lions found them. Unfortunately for the lions, even after a couple of attempts they failed to catch one.

With the arrival of a further 27 mm of rain later in week, the general game returned to the eastern sections. There were giraffe and zebra aplenty across the reserve as the natural pans once again filled up. The late rain also brought out a number of insects, supplying a feast for the migratory birds and allowing them to build up their energy reserves as they prepare for their imminent long flights back north.

My only disappointment this week was my failure to get a photograph of a stunning, albeit brief, daytime viewing of a gorgeous caracal a few days back! Some alarm-calling Guinea fowl alerted us to the area, and upon investigating we were surprised by a brief glimpse of one of these rare cats. It was my first sighting since 2007 so I was happy to forgo the picture and just celebrate the rarity of seeing such a beautiful and scarce creature!
 

DAY IN THE LIFE OF A GAME RANGER - 26 MARCH 2018 By Chad Cocking

Day of the Dog

Last Friday was just one of those fantastic days at Tanda Tula. The Timbavati was literally heaving as the guides were spoilt for choice as to which animals to go and show their guests.

Did they want to go and see the two gorgeous Mbiri male lions resting in the Nhlaralumi riverbed a little downstream from camp? Or the Marula female leopard living up to her name in a Marula tree, west of the camp? There was also the option to go to the copious number of elephants moving all over the concession, or make a trip to the west and see a large herd of buffalo. But the real draw card was the possibility of finding Africa’s second most endangered predator, and my personal favourite, the African wild dog. As we had enjoyed some fantastic sightings over the last few drives, we decided to be bold and make a move towards the ominous looking clouds in the west in the hope that our luck would continue.

The safari started well with us finding that Marula was having a lazy day. She was still resting in the same Marula tree that she had ascended late in the morning. As she was showing no signs of waking up any time soon, we decided to carry on west. Once in that part of our concession, we were treated to stunning sightings of a herd of elephants, zebras, giraffes, wildebeest, impala, hyena and kudu before we eventually made it to an area where a large buffalo herd had just moved into a thicket near one of the dams. While quietly enjoying the buffalo, we were rudely interrupted by a crash of rhinos that arrived to drink at the dam.We were watching the rhinos when Antony radioed to let us know that his hunch had been correct, and the African wild dogs that he had come looking for had showed up, just at the very spot he had decided to turn off and wait for them. Needless to say, his guests were speechless!

One of the reasons I love spending time with wild dogs is because of their active behaviour when they are on the hunt, and this afternoon was no different. Antony had already seen them chasing after impala, wildebeest and baby giraffes before we arrived. When we joined them, a nearby herd of impalas began scattering in all directions as the wild dogs set off after them,. Sadly for one young ewe, the pack’s incredible hunting efficiency struck and we found two of the 18 dogs with the kill right next to the road! It was as peaceful a scene as one could get considering exactly what we were watching. That was until a hyena suddenly stormed the scene and dashed in to grab the carcass off the two wild dogs. Chaos erupted! The dogs tried their best to get their kill back, but with only two of them, they didn’t stand much chance. Although, this didn’t stop them from nipping at the hyenas vulnerable rear end as it ran off with their hard earned meal.

Two weeks ago we read Luke’s blog about the incredibly rare and tragic sighting that he and his guests witnessed when a pack of hyenas killed and ate a wild dog (if you want to read this story click here). This time around, the rest of the pack were close at hand to come and give their two members some assistance in retrieving their kill from the hyenas. Within seconds, wild dogs came running in from all directions, and they immediately began harassing the hyenas to the point where they were able to retrieve the meal. The power of team work amongst the dogs was clear to see, and even though half a dozen larger hyenas came to investigate the commotion, without the same coordination as the wild dogs, they were never going to win this fight! The antics between these two apex predators carried on until it was too dark to view them anymore, and with the rumble of thunder getting louder, we decided to call it a night and started making our way back to camp.

It had to have been one of the best wild dog and hyena encounters I had ever seen, which helps explain why the guests were absolutely elated with what we had just witnessed; so much so that not even the rain on the way home could dampen our spirits!
 

DIARY OF A GAME RANGER – CHAD COCKING - 2 MARCH 2018

Tomorrow, the 3rd of March 2018, is the UN-sponsored World Wildlife Day with the theme, “Big Cats - Predators Under Threat”. In South Africa we try to celebrate and focus on these animals constantly, as well as any other species that need protection. In light of this, we have dedicate today's blog: “The Week In Photos” to celebrating the Big Cats that call Tanda Tula their home.

Despite our regular encounters with various big cats in the Greater Kruger Park area, we sometimes forget that these species face threats from many sides. It is imperative to raise awareness of the pressures being placed on big cats today throughout the world mainly through habitat fragmentation and loss. We support the UN’s goal to celebrate our planet’s beautiful and diverse wildlife whose intrinsic value provides so much to ecological, social, economic, scientific, cultural, recreational and aesthetic aspects of our human well-being and sustainable development.

The following images of some of the big cats found in the Timbavati over the last seven days were taken by Chad Cocking. We hope that by showcasing these beautiful big cats on World Wildlife Day we can help create awareness.
 

Python Sandwich for a Leopard

Courtesy of the Tanda Tula Safari Camp where Chad Cocking is a Game Ranger http://www.tandatula.com/blog
 

16 February 2018 : Another day in the Life of a Game Ranger. God’s creation in the wild.

 

Colin’s Wise Wednesday’s - 7th February 2018

God will go before me Ps 59:10 NIV
 

09 January 2018 : Another day in the Life of a Game Ranger. God’s creation in the wild.

09 January
 

Another day in the Life of a Game Ranger. God’s creation in the wild.

Sunday saw us waking up in the middle of the night to the arrival of the cold front, and the gusty winds didn’t bode well for a day of game viewing…
 

18 November 2017 : Another day in the Life of a Game Ranger.

Saturday was just one of those days in the bush where I could have been out there all day, and with all that was going on, I don’t think you can blame me! We started off by heading to Tshwukunyana male leopard not too far from the lodge to see if he was still with the impala kill he had stolen...