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

CHANGING OF THE SEASONS – 21st December 2018

A question that I am often asked by guests is “what is your favourite time of year?” and although it took me ten years to come up with an answer, this past week at Tanda Tula Safari Camp has once more entrenched within me the fact that I no longer need to think about the answer, and can simply say “summer”! 

If you have been reading our latest blogs, you will be aware that this part of the Greater Kruger National Park has received some nice early summer rains, and it has brought about such a wonderful transformation in the bush, that I couldn’t resist dedicating a blog to it! 

For the vast majority of the year, the surrounds are dabbed with a touch of brown; a dryness that starts off slowly as April draws to a close and becomes ever more pronounced as the weeks pass. By the end of October, many guests are astounded by the fact that the wildlife can still make ends meet in an environment that doesn’t appear to have enough food to support all of the inhabitants. The starkness of the bush at the driest part of a year has a beauty of its own, but once the rains fall as we move into November, the change in appearance of the wild environment in a short space of time can be described as nothing short of remarkable. 

There was one week where seemingly barren soils housed nothing more than leafless trees and shrubs, and dry grasses devoid of moisture and sustenance. The next, the early signs of the coming summer could be seen sprouting new life everywhere. A week or two down the line, and the Timbavati - Timbavati landscape is carpeted in a lush green blanket that is filled with life, both big and small. As I type this blog, we are in that very period, and almost every drive over the past week has been absolutely crammed full of animals. Even if they weren’t around, to simply drive around and see this temporarily green oasis glisten in the summer sun is an experience in itself. 

Every little pan has some bird life – Plovers, Sandpipers or Hamerkops – while others have larger inhabitants on a hot afternoon. On another afternoon, we sat at one pan enjoying rhino, buffalo, elephant and giraffe all at the same time (the day before we had rhino, leopard and elephant all at once). In the open acacia, grasslands have giraffe and zebra’s herds scattered across them, and the baby impalas seem to be everywhere. Lift your eyes up from the greenery, and European Rollers, Amur Falcons, and Barn Swallows flock overhead in the blue skies. Pay a closer look at the ground, and dung beetles busily burrow beneath the soils to bury the dung balls that they so tirelessly rolled away from the nearby elephant dung. 

Close your eyes and the bush is filled with the sounds of cicadas, mating calls of Korhaans, and a myriad of other bird songs that just scream of life. 

A picture painted like this, and one can clearly understand why this time of year is so special. That being said, summer is not totally perfect - the bushes and trees that did little to hide the wildlife moving behind their branches last month now have an almost mystical ability to make even elephant herds disappear. It is all well and good when the animals are showing themselves, but the greenery does conceal many a species from our prying eyes. However, we have proven time and again, we are actually still able to find them, but it just requires a little more effort. 

The chance of rain can put a literal dampen on a game drive, but one of my favourite lion sightings of the whole year was enjoyed during a down pour last week. And then, there is the heat! Yes, summer is warm, but with temperatures in the high thirties by mid-afternoon, it also means that hitting any water point is bound to produce some good game viewing, and besides, a hot afternoon provides a perfect excuse to hit the pool with an ice-cold gin and tonic in hand! 

Please enjoy this selection of summer images, and for those that cannot quite believe this change can be so remarkable, have a look at the comparative landscape shots that showcase just what a different experience it can be visiting Tanda Tula during the different seasons across the year!

By courtesy of the Tanda Tula Safari Camphttp://www.tandatula.com/blog/

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