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

A WEEK OF A WINTER WONDERLAND IN PICTURES

Despite fearing that our stunning run of game viewing would have to come to an end soon, I am once more happy to report that it is showing no signs of stopping! The past week has been pure bliss in the central Timbavati and we have once again been blessed with some fantastic game viewing. 

The Mayambula Pride continued their dominance of our lion sightings for most of the week, only moving out of the concession towards the end of the week. Following their consumption of a buffalo early in the week, they spent the week camped out near one of the waterholes in the central part of the concession and provided for stunning sightings as the well-fed cubs spent their mornings running around chasing one another with boundless energy. 

Sadly, some of this pride’s energy was directed towards the Zebenine Pride and an encounter between the two prides led to one of the Zebenine lionesses being on the receiving end of the attack; fortunately the Mbiri males were present and seemed to pacify the situation. That being said, following this incident, there was only a confirmed sighting of one lioness and the sub-adult female feeding on a kudu kill, but not of the mother of the new cubs that were born last week. Although it is a bit worrying, this is typical of a mother lioness with new cubs to separate from the rest of the pride to tend to her cubs, but I will feel much better once I have seen that all members are accounted for! The Mbiri males moved off after the buffalo kill and were not overly evident in the area in the days that followed. Five members of the River Pride made a brief appearance before moving north, and in the south, tracks for another unknown pride were seen, but there was no luck in locating them. 

The leopards that were a little scarce last week played along much better over the past seven days. Marula was spotted on her own a few times and ended the week in the company of one of her cubs; a report from the day before suggested that both cubs had been seen, so I am sure that all is still fine with them. Nthombi and her boy spent a couple of days with an impala kill on the banks of the Nhlaralumi, and despite sporting a large gash on her thigh, she was looking in good shape. Xidulu male was seen once again on our northern boundary, and he is quickly working his way up the list of my personal favourite leopards – besides being completely at ease with the vehicles, he is just simply a beautiful leopard! Now, that can be said of most leopards, but at 3.5 years old, male leopards hit an age that is – for me anyway – a point in their lives when the balance between beauty and brawn cannot be bettered! It was also great catching up with our blue-eyed beauty, Thumbela female, this week and to see that she is clearly lactating and nursing her new litter of cubs to the east of Tanda Tula Safari Camp; I just hope that this time around, it doesn’t take us seven months to get our first viewing of them. 

After a two-week absence, the wild dogs made a reappearance and were seen several times this past week as they made their way into our concession to hunt before returning north towards their den site. Due to the location of the den in a mopane woodland area, there is not a great deal of prey species in the immediate vicinity of the den, so we can hopefully expect more frequent hunting visits in our area as the growing pups start demanding more food!

To conclude the week of good predator viewing, we also had some lovely hyena viewing at the various kills, and it was great to get to spend some time with these misunderstood carnivores. 

This week also saw some of the better buffalo viewing we have had for some time; a large breeding herd spent much of the week in the far western side of the concession, but one small herd moved into the more central regions, much to the delight of the several groups of buffalo bulls that have taken up a permanent residence around the scattered waterpoints in the central Timbavati. These same waterpoints have been a magnet for the elephants and our wonderful winter viewing of these large pachyderms kicked off once again with some incredible sights of these gentle giants gathering around the pans to quench their thirsts. These herds have also started to visit the waterhole in front of the camp on a daily basis once more; a trend that should persist over the coming months. We had some excellent rhino viewing to compliment all the other great sightings that have abounded over this week.

All of this viewing made choosing twelve pictures to share with you all a very difficult challenge, but I trust that you will enjoy this selection as much as I enjoyed capturing them! 

Until next time ~ Chad

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

You can also follow Chad on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/chadcocking

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