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

A WEEK OF THE SUPER SEVEN IN PICTURES - 31 May 2019

Hello hello! I am back in the wonderful winter wonderlands of the central Timbavati, and man alive, have the guests at Tanda Tula Safari Camp been treated to a truly special week of game viewing! I was most envious reading about the wonderful lion viewing in my absence, but I can tell you I would have been a considerable deal more aggrieved had I not been around to witness some of the sightings that we were spoilt with the past few days! 

Earlier in the week I had my “sighting of the week” all sorted, but then a radio call I wasn’t expecting came through and that all changed! I was sitting with a pack of African wild dogs that Given had tracked down in the morning when I heard Scotch talking about a “Xinkankanka”. This is not a word I hear very often on the radio, but it was enough for me to pull myself away from my favourite animals and make a very hasty move to the open areas of the east. About twenty minutes later I was pulling up next to Foreman and laying my eyes on two stunningly slender super models. The world’s fastest land mammals, two cheetahs. Every time I drive in the East I hope to see these rare cats, and at long last, here they were and even better they were as calm as anything! What was even more special was that the morning had so many sightings going on that we got to spend almost an hour with the cheetahs before going for a celebratory drink at bush breakfast!  

Until that point of the week, the highlight for me had no doubt been watching the four Mayambula lionesses on the hunt. It was a splendid tracking effort from Jack and Given, who had gone out after morning drive to carry on tracking the pride and managed to locate the lionesses with all ten cubs. Arriving in the afternoon, they had moved, and so the tracking resumed. The trackers back-tracked the lionesses and found the cubs, but as the lionesses were off hunting, we didn’t go view them. Jack and Given turned their attention to the lioness tracks and with the sun having already set, still managed to find them feeding on the remains of a warthog they had caught shortly before. As it was only a morsel to four hungry cats, they carried on hunting and soon stumbled upon a herd of zebras in a thicket. We turned off all lights and sat in silence as we could hear the zebras getting closer before the panicked sound of flailing hooves pierced the stillness of the night. A little squeal and a thud were all we heard and I thought that the zebras had gotten away. Given thought otherwise, and we drove forward only to find all four lionesses on a fully-grown zebra mare! Within minutes more than a dozen hyenas had arrived on the scene and the silence was permanently broken! The lions ran off to chase the hyenas away, and after a few skirmishes it appeared they had won. Sadly, when two of the lionesses went to fetch the cubs, the hyenas came in and stole the kill. The Mayambula pride moved south after that and we once more await their return. The Zebenine lionesses and Mbiri males added to the action this week; first when we watched them trying their luck, unsuccessfully, on a herd of buffalos, and later in the week when they were found feeding on a giraffe that they had brought down the night before! 

Not to be outdone, the leopards were also on show this week. Marula and her cubs spent three days on a large male impala kill in the west and gave me my best sighting of the youngsters since they were born. The little girl has pleasingly become completely relaxed with the vehicles and I can only see good things coming from this trio over the coming months! Nthombi showed herself on several occasions this past week and was seen on four of the seven days. The last couple of days saw both Nthombi and her daughter enjoying an impala kill not too far down river from Tanda Tula Safari Camp. The Tamboti male leopard showed himself near the camp a couple of times too and his tracks were regularly seen walking along the pathways past the tents! Although the leopards were quiet in the east (we even found a baboon kill, but sadly not the leopard responsible for it), a rare visit from Sunset female in the far west was very welcome news on the leopard front. To end things off, I found a leopard with a kill near camp on my last bush walk of the week, so we really can’t have any complaints about their presence this week. 

As mentioned earlier, the wild dogs have also been around, with daily sightings of these endangered species occurring over the latter half of the week. Most impressive was the fact that we had not one, but three different packs in the area! A pack of 13 with an extremely pregnant alpha female, they spent three days hanging around to the point where we started getting excited about the prospect of them having eyed out a den site in the area, as she really cannot be more than a few days away from giving birth. Additionally, a small pack of four, and a splinter pack of seven male wild dogs were seen over the course of the week. 

Away from the predators, we had elephants aplenty – one amazing sighting was over almost a hundred elephants descending upon Machaton dam for a late morning drink. The herds are also starting to pay more frequent visits to the camp, something we see every winter here. Two buffalo herds spent time in the central region of our concession until the lions picked up on them and chased them out the area, but we are hoping that this is only a brief absence from the area. To complete a week full of Super Seven (that is the Big 5, plus wild dogs and cheetahs), we were also absolutely spoilt with rhino sightings like we haven’t had for some time. 

It was a week of game viewing that won’t be repeated anytime soon, but it isn’t showing any signs of slowing down, so fingers crossed that I shall be sharing some equally exciting stories with you again next week! 

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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