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

A WEEK OF LIONS – 28th September 2018

For the first time in a long while we have had a week that was not dominated by the elephants in the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve. Instead, the Tanda Tula guests have been absolutely spoilt with some fantastic lion sightings over the past week, as can be seen by their prevalence in the images posted here!

This week saw no fewer than four different prides spending time within our concession. The sighting of the week belonged to the River Pride that succeeded in bringing down one of the resident buffalo bulls a mere 400m from Tanda Tula Safari Camp! I woke up to find the lions chasing the buffalos past my house, and shortly after dropping the coffee trays off at the guests’ luxury tents, we heard the unmistakable distress call of a buffalo being attacked by lions. My tracker Glen and I shot out and found all nine members of the River Pride bringing down the large buffalo. What unfolded over the next 24 hours or so was something special, and not wanting to take away from Luke’s upcoming blog about this incredible sighting, I will leave it at the fact that not only did the two Zebenine lionesses rock up at the scene with their two cubs, but two neighbouring clans of hyenas were also drawn to the kill! With two prides of lions and around forty hyenas all fighting one another, you can only begin to imagine the sounds that filled the night skies that evening! Both prior and subsequent to the buffalo kill, the River Pride had been very much in evidence, and this had led the Zebenine girls to move out of the area with the cubs. Since then, the Zebenine pride seem to have settled down in their old territory once more, and we have had some precious sightings of the two cubs along with their mother. Despite all the walking that they are doing, these cubs are looking in great shape still and are very comfortable with the vehicles. 

The Mbiri males temporarily took time away from mating with the four Mayambula females to also respond to the buffalo kill, but their interest in chasing the River Pride away was short lived and two hours later they were back mating with the lionesses who were drawing them back to the east. It appears as if three of the lionesses may already be pregnant, so we could soon have a real substantial pride emerging in the east! The last pride to show face was that of the two Ross lionesses that seem to have caught the undivided attention of the Black Dam male lion – a glorious boy who has moved into the area from the adjacent Thornybush Game Reserve. They spent several days mating out in the west before making their way further and further east. Needless to say, with us being spoilt for choice some days, we all got to enjoy some excellent lion viewing. 

Sadly, with the increased lion activity, the leopards were quieter than usual. Marula was seen a couple of times, and she is definitely looking quite heavily pregnant. Nthombi and her cub have been around the northern reaches of the concession and although the cub showed itself a couple of times, it still appears to be a little shy. Nthombi has not been having the best luck with hunting, possibly a result of the bright near-full moon of the past week, but with the moon now waning, nights should provide better conditions for her. Ntsongwaan showed face in the far west, and Thumbela’s son and daughter were seen along the Machaton in the east, but without mom around, they were very nervous. 

Although the lions dominated viewing, it is not to say that the elephants were not here and they are still a daily sight at Camp Dam in front of Tanda Tula Safari Camp, and most drives offer wonderful sightings of them. 

The beginning of the week also saw two large buffalo herds visiting the central concession, with one herd spending two days around the camp’s waterhole. Following the death of one of their herd members, the bachelor group of buffalo that had set up base in the camp have wisely moved on to different pastures. This week also saw the relative disappearance of giraffes. Don’t get me wrong, there are still many around, but having all but finished the available food on the flowering knobthorn trees (Senegalia nigrescens), they have had to move off to find better browsing along the riverbeds. Other general game has included wildebeest, many kudus and steenbuck, zebra herds, waterbuck and some good rhino viewing too. 

With many of the waterholes drying up they have become areas of incredible bird activity. Storks, herons and kingfishers have descended upon them to snap up the fish and frogs that are now just so much easier to catch in the drying puddles of water, proving that it is not only the big game that provides for entertaining viewing here in the Greater Kruger Park. 

Until next time! 

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

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