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

A Week at the Waterhole - 7 September 2018

It’s Friday, so that means that another week has come and gone in the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve, and as has been the trend this winter, it has been a week dominated by elephants! Once more, these gentle giants have been a daily feature at the waterhole in front of Tanda Tula Safari Camp, and with the temperatures rising to the mid-thirties on a daily basis, the large breeding herds of elephants are visiting the dams and pans across the reserve almost every afternoon making for some excellent viewing, and endless photographic opportunities. With the last of the natural, rain-fed pans having dried up in the past week, the animals are now going to be a little bit more limited in terms of where they can get their water from, and the dams that are supplied with water year-round are going to pick-up in their activity. We have also seen that the large breeding herds of buffalos are having to cover bigger distances to find food and water, and this is starting to bring them deeper and deeper into out concession. There is presently a herd of around 300-400 Cape buffalo moving around within the concession which is always a fantastic sight to behold.  

From reports to the north, it sounds as though the pack of wild dogs from the west has eventually left their dens site, and a large pack with thirteen pups has been seen moving just out of our area, but with a general southerly slant to their movement, we are hoping that this will bring them towards Tanda Tula in the coming days. On the baby front, the Zebenine Pride are still doing well and have now moved the two young cubs to a new area along the Nhlaralumi riverbed, a few kilometres to the south of camp. The lionesses are hunting well, and with a constant supply of milk, the little ones are growing quickly! The Mbiri males have not changed their behaviour much, and are still preoccupied with the Mayambula females in the south-east; however, with one of the Zebenine females having lost her cubs, she is going to be coming into estrus again, and as a result, we can expect the males to once more show some interest in the pride. They have however been doing a good enough job keeping the River Pride at bay, and no sign has been seen of them in our concession for some weeks. The two Ross females have been spotted in the south-central region of the concession, but subsequently moved back to the west.

Our spotted cats have been fairly evident, but it has been Marula and Nthombi again that have been dominating the sightings. Marula has spent a few days on an impala kill just west of camp, providing some fantastic viewing as she fed on her kill high up in a knobthorn tree. Nthombi’s own hunting success has also shown through, and she is seen regularly moving between our concession and her cub’s den site further to the north. Scotch found Thumbela female with a large impala kill in the east on the weekend, but sadly it appeared as though one of the youngsters dropped the carcass to the waiting hyenas and when we tried to see her in the morning, she was gone. 

Other than the big cats, the bush is still full of giraffes – the knobthorns are in full flower, and besides giving the landscapes a stunning yellowy-tinge, they are keeping the high numbers of giraffes well fed! We are also seeing the long-tailed cassias (or sjambok pods, Cassia abbreviata) starting to bloom and leaving their sweet fragrances across the reserve, all in all contributing to making September a very special time to visit the Greater Kruger Park.

For now though, please enjoy some of my photographic highlights from the week that was.

Until next time!

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

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