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

A WEEK OF LEOPARDS AND CUBS - 8 March 2019

The Timbavati never fails to amaze me. This Greater Kruger area has so much to offer and just when one thinks it can't get any better, it does just that. Over the last couple of months I have not been driving all that much as I am more office based, so being back in the safari saddle again is incredible! After all who could complain for a single second when there are 10 new lion cubs in the area?  

The rains have finally arrived in all their glory after 3 years of essentially experiencing a drought. All of us are thrilled. This last week saw a couple of light drizzles, just enough to wet the floor again and keep the incredibly lush, green grass topped up and growing. I don’t think I have ever seen the Lowveld looking this green or gorgeous. What accentuates the surrounding landscape are the many pools found everywhere, especially in the river beds. It is seriously stunning at Tanda Tula at the moment, especially from a photography point of view. The greenery and water colours the landscape palette beautifully, but sadly the overcast conditions haven’t quite got the memo.  

In other news, there are ten lion cubs! They are all incredibly cute and it has been absolutely amazing to spend time with them. To be fair,  I have only seen eight of them so far and this group of eight seems to be split into a group of 5 older cubs and 3 younger cubs. The last two are brand new and while one of our trackers has been lucky enough to see them, they are not yet ready to be viewed by vehicle. I am sure they will be introduced to the rest of the pride in the next week or so. The dynamics that eight, energy-filled lion cubs create when all interacting with each other is completely on another level. The images below only give a small impression of what I mean. 

Unbelievably, over the course of the week we have seen 7 different leopards! The first sighting was of Nyaleti (Star) and her beautiful, blue-eyed cub who we are thinking about naming N’weti which means ‘moon’. The two of them were just lazing about on a fallen over knob thorn acacia with their kudu kill hanging in a tree nearby. Of course, the obligatory hyena or two lingering around too. The next leopard we found was the famous Marula and we followed her as she maneuvered through the long grass until she finally found a large marula tree to jump into in order to escape the almost 4-foot high turf. 

We saw Marula again later in the week, this time with her cubs, but sadly the little ones were being a little coy and decided to stay out of view. They lay hidden under a bush while feeding on a steenbok their mother had just killed so we could not get any great images. We also saw Thumbela’s daughter who seems to have finally gone off on her own. This enchanting leopard is proving to be very self-sufficient and I look forward to watching her become a great leopardess, just like her mother. Lastly, we came across the ‘Prince’ himself, Mazinyo, the big dominant male of the area, but he didn’t really do anything that warranted a photograph - typical of a lazy male! 

The many pools, ponds and mud wallows are proving to be a huge attraction for the elephants at the moment. We had such a great sighting of the gentle giants as they rolled around in the mud to their hearts content before heading back into the bush and out of sight. For those of you that have been wanting a bit of an update on our local male lion coalition, the Mbiri’s, they have been seen a number of times throughout the week and continue to guard the many, many cubs and females they now defend. You will be glad to hear that the younger of the two males has almost fully recovered from the injuries he sustained to his right eye a few months ago. The swelling has gone down and the eye seems to be perfectly fine (and now has a few more hardcore scars to add to his list of battle wounds). 

What a fabulous time of year and what incredible scenes this week has brought, even the general game has been wonderful. I really look forward to watching all these cubs grow up, hoping everyday they make it in the long run. We will keep you updated on all the amazing happenings here via these weekly blogs and through the images. 

Until next time, happy snapping - Luke Street

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

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