Duba Plains: A Spectacular Day of Rarities!

From Brendon Cremer

What a day of rarities!

Getting out to the Plains really early was a priority for us this morning. Firstly, the beautiful golden misty conditions allow us to take truly magnificent photographs and we wanted to catch up with the large pride of lions. We knew that they would still be resting after that kill two days ago, and we were keen to catch the early morning family interactions as the pride awakened.

They did not disappoint.

As we arrived, most of the lions were already awake, and a few decided to have some more of their meal. However, by this morning there was very little left, and tremendous tussles broke out as lionesses, cubs and subadults all vied for bits and scraps. Snarls, swatting, snatching, clawing, mock attacks, and intimidating growls kept us all entertained as our cameras worked busily to catch the dynamics.

When the interaction started to calm down, we moved off and almost immediately encountered a hyena. Obviously interested in the nearby kill, it snuffled around, but did not dare to approach the large pride of lions too closely. We managed some excellent photographs in the beautiful setting, and then headed back to the lions.

By now the pride was quite tired and had retired to various shady spots.

And then a vulture feast began. Hooded Vultures, White Headed, Lappet Faced, dozens of each, seemed to fly in droves from every direction. They would descend on the carcass and settle down to eat. And as they settled, one or two of the subadult lions would charge, and the entire mass of vultures lifted into the air like one huge beast. They flew around or settled on nearby trees until the lions seemed to go back to rest. Then it would start again. The vultures would settle into their meal and along would come another lion. This continued for ages, and we all managed amazing action shots of the vultures feeding, flying, the lions charging, and all the dust and scurry that accompanied the scene.

We decided to follow a water channel to see if we could find the buffalo herd. We enjoyed that drive so much, with Jackalberry trees, cranes, crakes, other water birds, lechwe, tsesebe, and the lovely bushveld.

Then we found a Pel’s Fishing-owl! What a spectacular sighting. He sat clearly in a tree for us to capture some super shots again. Then, while our cameras were still trained on him, he spread his wings and flew to the next tree! Who could ask for better!

Knowing that the buffalo have moved quite a distance away meant that we now returned to the Lodge for lunch, after which we headed out again, and decided to take a totally different route.

Almost immediately we spotted the tracks of an adult and a younger leopard. We decided to follow these, although the tracks were about a day old. As leopard in this area are extremely shy, and had not been spotted since early 2009, we knew that there was little or no chance of an encounter.

Wrong!

We found the younger leopard lying relaxed and comfortably in a tree. It was totally unconcerned as the ODP vehicles positioned themselves for different shots from different angles. Even our trackers were excited, having seen little other than tracks for three or four years! And of course, we filled our memory cards with images of this truly magnificent cat!

On the way home, the birders again had a field day. Two Giant Eagle Owls in a tree were hooting at each other, and the quality of the light meant that even more fabulous shots were taken.

Sitting around the camp this evening, everyone decided that this has to be earmarked as one of the most amazing days for wildlife, rarities and absolutely spectacular photography. All agreed that even if we see nothing at all in the next days, today will make this trip worthwhile.

Talking about tomorrow … we are thinking of looking for Silver-Eye. She and her pride have not been seen for a while now …